May 16, 2022 | Lauren Perkins During Research Horizons Day and Research Week, undergraduate researchers from all disciplines at The University of Alabama in Huntsville participate in collaborative research and creative projects under the mentorship of faculty, researchers and staff. The College of Science would like to recognize its winners and showcase their excellent work. 1st Place - Areeb Mohammed, Department of Computer Science “Understanding Team Behavior and Response in Stressful Situations” Through his research, Areeb Mohammed aims to gain a deeper understanding of how teams behave and respond in stressful scenarios in order to identify factors that would result in high team performance, thus opening the door for optimization and better teamwork. As Mohammed explains, “My research is currently focusing on analyzing behavior in teams to find out what works. What do successful teams do that sets them apart and what do unsuccessful teams do that drags them down? I have been trying to find correlations between behaviors such as team member participation or language sentiment and team performance. By figuring out which behaviors result in higher performance, we can optimize how teams are trained to handle and respond to situations, especially stressful ones like first-response, combat scenarios, or operating rooms. Our end goal would be to analyze teams in real time to give feedback, resulting in more effective training.” Mohammed also admits his involvement in research wasn’t always a certainty. While a Master's degree through the JUMP program here at UAH was always a goal, he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue a course-work or thesis-based degree. Areeb is inquisitive, tenacious, dedicated and a critical thinker. He is always ready to undertake challenging research tasks, ask deep questions and learn machine learning and natural language processing topics that are above the undergraduate level. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Areeb. After reaching out to Dr. Veneetha Menon, he was able to get experience and familiarity with the research process. “She has been a fantastic mentor the whole time and I have learned a lot from her. I was surprised to find out how open-ended the research process is, especially in data science. However, I learned that visualizations can be a powerful tool to sort through large amounts of data and find meaningful relationships. After working as a research assistant, I am now much more open to the idea of doing a thesis,” he says. Through his research, Mohammed has been able to discover the links between teamwork and performance, coupled with findings that point towards the predictability of teamwork. 2nd Place - Christopher San Miguel, Department of Biological Sciences “Codon Optimization of Taq DNA Polymerase Overexpression in Escherichia Coli” The purpose of Christoper San Miguel’s research is to analyze the effects of codon optimization in regard to Taq expression and the amplification of DNA production. San Miguel states, “My research was focused on optimizing the production of a Taq DNA Polymerase in bacteria. Taq DNA Polymerase is commonly used to amplify the number of copies of DNA. This amplification of DNA is an essential process that is used in a variety of diagnostic tests such as COVID-19 PCR Tests. I initially became involved in research as a result of my passion to learn more about the world around me. As a result of my involvement in research, I have applied some of the concepts discussed in the classroom.” 3rd Place - Todd McKinney, Department of Atmospheric & Earth Science “Analysis of UAH Air Sources for 2021 using the NOAA HYSPLIT Model with Python” Todd McKinney’s research focuses on the trajectory analysis of air masses with the intent of discovering climate and pollution trends. In McKinney’s words, “Did you know our wintertime air can originate from Alaska? Using the University of Alabama in Huntsville as a starting point and Numerical Weather Prediction models, backward trajectories are run daily once an hour for the entire 2021 year. Using this data, variations of our local air are classified by season to demonstrate climate trends for the UAH/Huntsville area. This research will pave the way for future studies that link air locations to pollution sources.” McKinney became involved in research because he loves to learn through discovery. In connecting with Dr. Mike Newchurch, McKinney was able to expand his knowledge, not just of atmospheric principles, but of other core skills, such as computer programming and data visualization. Todd is intelligent, resourceful, persistent, and perceptive; but, I most appreciate his approach in doing things correctly without asking. Todd is an extraordinary individual; I feel very grateful to be able to work with him. UAH extends congratulations to all of the participants of Research Horizons Day and Research Week, but especially to these top three researchers for their outstanding accomplishments and dedication.