Lab Director Mark Hannum’s Neuroscience Lab, the only high school lab devoted to neuroscience research, now accommodates more students and a wider range of projects. Click here for a video.
“The number of students in our Lab has doubled in recent years, a trend that mirrors the growth in college-level neuroscience programs, which itself reflects the government’s commitment to making brain research a priority. Because our unique schedule doesn’t allow us to add sections — seniors in the Lab meet for two class periods for one semester rather than one class period for a full year — the only way to accommodate increased interest is to place more students in each section. The much larger room with its dedicated classroom space that we now occupy allows us to accommodate students’ growing interest in the field. The mobile lab benches we recently acquired have also been essential to supporting the Lab’s growth.
- Multiple projects studying the effect of neurotransmitters or environmental disturbances on crayfish aggression or habituation (right).
- The effect of cortisone, diphenhydramine, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) on the habituation of the sea slug Aplysia.
- High-frequency stimulation of the nerve chords of the Madagascar hissing cockroach (below) to test potential pain therapy; analyzing the effect on learning or memory of disrupting its circadian rhythm or altering its diet.
“Generous Campaign for TJ donations allowed the Lab to purchase a microelectrode array for use in specimen projects. The array, acquired last fall, has already allowed students to better visualize the spatial and temporal synaptic connections in developing neuronal networks and to record the tiny electrical impulses around groups of cultured cells.
“Some of this year’s Campaign donations are funding the Lab’s most exciting acquisitions in years, a $100,000 confocal microscope and a $50,000 upgrade to an existing scope to turn it into a fluorescence microscope, with the accompanying software, filters, imaging chambers, and cameras for both. These microscopes, which are due to arrive this Fall and will be shared with the Biotechnology Lab, will dramatically enhance our ability to closely observe cells and nerves, critical to so much of the work in this Lab.
“Other projects involve the area of research known as brain-machine interface. Students are integrating advanced Electroencephalograph (EEG) technology with machine-learning algorithms of their own design in order to translate users’ brain waves into wheelchair and other machine commands (top). Projects focus on optimizing user training or the artificial intelligence that translates thoughts into movement.
“Another research area is the exploding field of computational neuroscience: Students are using simplified differential-equation based neuron models to analyze neural network patterns (right).
“Senior Lucas Lin’s project improved upon existing mathematical models used to simulate populations of neurons, providing insight into how the collective behavior of neurons can be altered by changes in individual neurons, with potential applications for understanding conditions such as epilepsy. With his travel costs and fees covered by a Partnership Fund grant, Lucas was able to present his project at a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics conference in Snowbird, Utah, where it received top honors alongside the work of post-doctoral students (right).
“One of my long-term goals for the Lab is to use my background in computational neuroscience to help students compare the Lab’s various experiments against computational models, eventually using a feedback loop to keep the models informed by student-collected data. I hope to acquire a high-performance computer for the Lab to enhance our capability in this area.”
Mobile and Web Application Development Lab
Lab Director Paul Kosek talks about his new Research Lab. Click here for a video.
“The Mobile & Web Application Development Lab (Mobile App, for short) was created last year in response to increasing student interest in the field. Until the 2014-2015 school year, students interested in app development either worked on their project in the Computer Systems Lab or in extracurricular clubs. Now we are able to offer Mobile App Development and Web App Development electives, along with equipment purchased and arranged specifically for the purpose of supporting app development projects.
“Our new Lab gives students the ability to transform themselves from experienced users of the mobile technology that is increasingly part of their lives to the creators of it. As students become developers of behind-the-scenes network programming, they cease to take our growing inter-connectivity for granted and begin to think more about how they can add to and improve upon existing technology.
“In our Lab, students study software development and learn about interfaces for, and accessibility of, apps for smartphones, tablets, embedded systems, and the web. We investigate a wide array of topics involving interfaces, accessibility, human-computer interaction, user-centered design, privacy, security, and networking connectivity.
“The research and development we do follows all phases of the software development life-cycle: Students are planning and using requirements analyses, then designing, implementing, integrating, testing, deploying, and finally maintaining their work product. Moreover, because students do their development work with their product’s presumed target audience in mind, the process generates a feedback loop that reinforces learning and scientific communication skills.
“This year’s senior research projects include an app that generates sheet music from microphone input; an app that uses Bluetooth, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope to generate art from a figure skater’s movements (right); an analysis of computer vision techniques; a web app that autocorrects drawings; and another that performs sequence alignment on DNA samples.
“Thanks to generous Campaign for TJ donations, we will soon have enough tablets, graphics cards, and unlocked mobile phones for every student in the elective and research classes (it’s difficult to share devices when so much of the work must be done on the device itself). We also appreciate the Bluetooth beacons that will allow students to test apps that provide information tailored to the user’s precise location, for example, a specific department within a retail store.