ACURA Projects 2017-2018

Science and Engineering


A Comparative Analysis of Marcellus Shale and Non

Marcellus Shale Aquatic Ecosystems and Local Food Production

Summary of Research Project This goal of this research is

to quantify the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water and soil in

Pennsylvania. I travel to Southwestern Pennsylvania, collect samples from

streams that flow adjacent to hydraulic fracturing operations, and deliver

them to Dr. Regina Lamendella at Juniata College in Central Pennsylvania,

where the samples are analyzed for microbial community structure. These

results will be compared to samples from non- Marcellus Shale streams. While

on the road I interview local food producers, including those with backyard

garden produce stands, truck gardens, chicken coops, goats and cows, geese

and turkeys, and beehives to determine changes in production between

Marcellus Shale and non- Marcellus Shale operations.

Requirements for Students? The student who participates in this research

should have a keen interest in Pennsylvania small farms, forests, streams and

rivers, how crucial they are to our sustainable water and food supply, and

the effects that natural gas drilling may have on their future. It is cold

and dirty work that could include overnight travel, or could be limited to

local day trips, depending on the student's schedule. The ideal student would

have willingness to attain a working knowledge of basic water chemistry,

creating spreadsheets, using GPS to log altitude, latitude and longitude,

field collection techniques, and reading maps, as well as organizational

skills, video documentation skills, and a willingness to listen to people


Faculty Member Name: Michele Grinar (Shelly)

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 484-744-5825

Faculty Member Office Location: W239



Investigation into the synthesis of white lead pigment

Summary of Research Project     The synthesis of white lead pigment, basic lead

carbonate, has been practiced for thousands of years.  An investigation into

the mechanism of the synthesis of white lead pigment will be conducted

through a literature review and selective syntheses based on this review.

Requirements for Students:

Faculty Member Name: Kevin Cannon

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone:

Faculty Member Office Location:


Engineering (Mechanical, Biomechanics)

Is there a link between walking variability and our risk of falling?

Summary of Research Project     Falls are a very common

complication of stroke and often result in injury and reduced quality of

life. Fall risk is correlated with increased variability in stride duration,

which in turn is caused by variability in leg joint movements. Since changes

in temporal parameters occur due to changes in joint movements, leg joint

variability may provide valuable information about fall risk. Joint

variability has been parameterized for young, healthy adults walking at their

self-selected speed but not for other populations. The goal of this project

is to determine how stroke status and walking speed affect joint variability.

Joint variability can be characterized using a type of mathematical function

called Fourier series and Gaussian (normal) distributions. Using existing

experimental gait data for stroke patients and speed-matched healthy

individuals collected in a clinical gait lab, we will determine how the joint

variability changes for people walking at different speeds who have and have

not had a stroke. Students will learn about human walking biomechanics, about

how stroke affects walking, and some numerical analysis techniques to

quantify aspects of walking – such as stability. This project will involve

analysis of gait data on the computer and may extend to running subsequent

analyses as well as possibly developing some additional experimental data and

analytical approaches to further understand how variability is related to


Requirements for Students?

An interest in human walking biomechanics

Ability to use computers to analyze data (specific skills will be taught -

but there will be considerable computer use involved)

Attention to detail

* This project can be used for 3 semester ACURA IF you will still be on this

campus in Spring 2019

 Faculty Member Name: Mukul Talaty

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 2158817916

Faculty Member Office Location: 217 Rydal


Engineering (Mechanical, Biomechanics)

Understanding contribution of prosthetic stiffness to walking stability

Summary of Research Project The risk of falling for persons

with lower limb amputation is higher than in the general able-bodied

population. There are many choices in components for leg prostheses but a

clear understanding between how the choices affect performance is missing.

Literature indicates there is a correlation between prosthetic stiffness and

gait performance. However, there has not been a direct study on how stiffness

contributes towards amputee’s stability. We use a custom

neuromusculoskeletal computer model of walking to explore how foot stiffness

affects walking stability. The custom model contains six joints, seven

segments and oriented in sagittal plane with unilateral ankle muscles removed

and replaced with a rotational spring representing an amputee with a

prosthesis. This model captures many important features of how real amputees

walk. We can run "experiments" to test out how different componentry or other

interventions affect walking by running simulations on the model. In this

project, we will apply growing random perturbations to the model and quantify

the model's performance in varying stiffness prosthetic feet. We will analyze

these experimental data to determine if a trend exists between prosthetic

stiffness and stability. Continuing to refine and run experiments on this

model could help to establish a more objective basis for clinicians to select

and prescribe prosthetic components and may ultimately help to reduce the

risk of amputee falls during walking.

Requirements for Students?

An interest in computer modeling, prosthetics, data analysis, running and

possibly wriging computer codes and analyzing data. No specific skills are

required - most can be learned as needed during the project. A careful

attention  to detail and lots of perseverance will help a LOT!

The 3 semester option is available (and preferred) IF you will still be on

this campus (or are in the GE-MDE program between here and Great Valley) in

Spring 2019.

Faculty Member Name: Mukul Talaty

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 2158817916

Faculty Member Office Location: 217 Rydal


Engineering (Mechanical, Biomechanics)

Suitability and Testing of 3D Printing Prosthetic Sockets

Summary of Research Project    Prostheses allow persons with

amputations to walk again after devastating injuries. A socket is the

interface between a residual limb and the functional prosthesis.

Conventionally, developing a test socket for a lower extremity prostheses is

a time-intensive, cumbersome, and messy process. This project will explore

recent developments in the use of 3D printing to assist the development of

prosthetic sockets. The goal of this project will be to use actual patient

image scans to develop real test sockets (SolidWorks) and to 3D print them.

We will subsequently evaluate the quality of that test socket on the bench.

Some aspects we will explore will be tolerances compared to the conventional

polypropylene socket, compliance, mechanical strength, etc. We have access to

a fully functioning (and staffed) prosthetic fabrication facility –

complete with a 3D body scanner as well as a number of 3D printers and other

mechanical fabrication equipment.

Requirements for Students?

Willingness to work hard and learn without being "taught". Ability to

motivate themselves to work without hard-fast deadlines. Ability to do

literature review and read journal articles to learn about recent

developments in the field.

The 3 semester option is available (and preferred) IF you will still be on

this campus (or are in the GE-MDE program between here and Great Valley) in

Spring 2019.

Faculty Member Name: Mukul Talaty

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7916

Faculty Member Office Location: Rydal 217



Oxidative Rearrangement Reactions

Project Description:

Our research focuses on developing new methods in organic synthesis and

applying them to synthesize useful organic molecules. Current projects

include: 1) investigation of new conditions for oxidative rearrangement

reactions involving sulfur-containing molecules and 2) application of new and

established methods to synthesize novel sulfur-containing polymers.

Student Requirements: Students must have successfully completed organic chemistry laboratory (CHEM 213). Students currently enrolled in CHEM 210 may also be considered.

Research in organic synthesis is time consuming. Students must be willing to

dedicate 4-6 hours a week for laboratory work.

Faculty Member Name: Ahmed Nuriye

Faculty Member

Faculty Member Office Phone:

Faculty Member Office Location:


Computer Science

Team Activity Recognition Using Kinect Depth Map and Optical Images

Summary of Research Project

Understanding of Group Activities (GA) involving humans and objects have

significant applications in civilian and military domains. The process of

understanding GA is typically involved with spatiotemporal analysis of

multi-modality sensor data. Video imagery is one popular sensing modality

that offers rich data. However, making sense out of video imagery is a real

challenge. In this research work, we would demonstrate applications of

optical and Kinect imagery data for characterization of indoor group

activities. Technical details of imagery techniques implemented for

detection, tracking, and characterization of atomic events will also be


Requirements for Students?

1. working knowledge in any programming language (MATLAB or python or C# or

C++) or an aptitude for learning a programming language

2. interest in learning fundamentals of data science and machine learning

Faculty Member Name: Vinayak Elangovan

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7852

Faculty Member Office Location: Rydal 212


Electrical Engineering

LIDAR Assist Spatial Sensing

Summary of Research Project   Echolocation enables people

with vision impairment to comprehend the surrounding spatial information

through reflected sound. However, this technique often requires substantial

training, and the accuracy of echolocation is subject to various conditions.

Furthermore, individuals who practice this sensing method must simultaneously

generate the outward sound and process the received information. This work

proposes and evaluates a conceptual framework for the LIDAR Assist Spatial

Sensing (LASS) system, which intends to overcome these restrictions by

obtaining the spatial information of the user’s surroundings through a

LIDAR sensor and translating the spatial information into stereo sound of

various pitch. The stereo sound of relative pitch relays information

regarding objects’ angular orientation and horizontal distance,

respectively, thus granting visually-impaired users an enhanced spatial

perception of his or her surrounding areas and potential obstacles.

Requirements for Students? Sufficient programming background

Faculty Member Name: Yi Yang

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7565

Faculty Member Office Location: Woodland 316


Information Sciences & Technology, Computer Science

Virtualization for High-Performance Cloud Networking

Summary of Research Project    Virtualization is expected to

be the key attribute in future networking and cloud computing. However, the

overhead introduced by virtualization brings in new challenges to

high-performance networking. The objective of this project is to study how to

improve virtualization performance for meeting the requirements of real-time

networking and cloud computing.

Requirements for Students? students who have taken IST 220 (networking and


Faculty Member Name: Qiang Duan

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 268-633-3317

Faculty Member Office Location: 311 Rydal Executive Plaza


Aerospace Engineering

Prototype Demonstration of CubeSat via Weather Balloon

Summary of Research Project:   Miniaturization of satellite is

considered a promising way to reduce the cost of doing science in outer

space. At Penn State Abington, we will develop a prototype of CubeSat, a

small satellite of the size of a grapefruit, and demonstrate its feasibility

by flying to 20-km altitude -- a lower edge of space -- via weather balloon.

This research project will pave a way to ultimately developing a space-rated

hardware at Penn State Abington.

Requirements for Students? This is a multi-disciplinary project involving

different kinds of work: hands-on building, software coding, technical

drawing, and tracking the device using GPS and radio. No one can do

everything, the team should include students from variety of disciplines,

skills, and interests. The team members may include students from freshmen to

seniors. Relevant topics are aerospace/mechanical/electrical engineering,

computer programming, and physics and space science.

Faculty Member Name: Dr. Masataka Okutsu

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: (215) 881-7562

Faculty Member Office Location: Rydal 217


Mechanical Engineering

Muscle activation during passive leg drop

Summary of Research Project:

A StepMeter device has been developed to allow assessment of barefoot slip

resistance. The device allows a seated subject’s leg to be raised and

dropped onto an inclined surface, allowing the heel to slip if the required

coefficient of friction is greater than the available coefficient of

friction. This device will allow us to quantify slip resistance of flooring

surfaces for barefoot pedestrians.

A question has arisen as to whether the subject’s leg is really

“passive” as it is dropped onto the test surface. If the subject’s

muscles are contracting, this may affect the measured slip resistance values.

We wish to test whether a seated subject’s muscles remain passive during a

drop test.

For this project, students will become familiar with EMG (electromyography,

the measurement of electrical signals from muscles), and will design and

carry out an experiment to determine whether the leg muscles (specifically

hamstrings, quadriceps and gastrocnemius) remain passive during a drop test,

or to quantify the amount of muscle activity found.

We will test our hypothesis on a small (n=20) population of volunteers.

Students will prepare the Human Subjects submission and consent form, will

devise and test the protocol, collect and analyze data, and report results.

Faculty Member Name: Marcus P. Besser

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7357

Faculty Member Office Location: 202 Rydal Bldg



Nucleophiles Novel Intramolecular Zincke Reaction

Summary of Research Project

We are interested in exploring the products of the intramolecular Zincke

reaction of methyl 2-methyl-3-thiocarboxylic acid

2-[1-(2-pyridyl)ethylidene]hydrazide (1).  This compound undergoes an

intramolecular Zincke reaction to form the pyridinium salt 2.  Reaction of 2

with active methylene compounds such as malononitrile should give the

Knoevenagel product 3.

Unusually Facile Ring-opening reaction in the Pyridine System

John P. Scovill, J. V. Silverton, Journal of Organic Chemistry, 45,

4372–4376 (1980).

Requirements for Students? Students should be taking organic chemistry.

Students will learn how to draw organic structures using BIOVIA Draw. We will

perform molecular orbital calculations on WebMO

Faculty Member Name: John P. Scovill

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 6104050408



Radio Astronomy Investigations 

Summary of Research Project :  Students will take data with radio telescopes at the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank WV and combine their results with archival data available from the telescope to analyze molecular clouds and neutral hydrogen clouds near the Milky Way.    A second project is to observe pulsar timings to support the Nanograv project.

Requirements for Students?

Completion of introductory math courses or a substantial math background from high school.  Please interview with the professors to determine your eligibility.  Students should be available for travel to the Green Bank Observatory during 3 days of the fall break. This project will accept students in January 2018 for 3 semesters.

Faculty Member Name: Ann Schmiedekamp, Dr. Carl Schmiedekamp

Faculty Member Email:,

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7572

Faculty Member Office Location: 217W



Effects of High-Dose Ascorbate (Vitamin C) on

breast epithelial cells and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) cells

Summary of Research Project     This project will investigate

the anti-proliferative effects of high-dose vitamin C (ascorbate) on breast

epithelial cells and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) cells.  We will

also investigate possible mechanisms for the anti-proliferative effect which

may include production of oxygen radicals (like hydrogen peroxide) and

induction of apoptosis.

Requirements for Students? Usually I do not take on research students until

they have successfully completed BIOL 230W. (This project is not taking more students in fall 2017.)

Faculty Member Name: Thomas McGuire

Faculty Member Email:

Faculty Member Office Phone: 215-881-7492

Faculty Member Office Location: Woodland 230