Andrew Hong

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers nationwide, due to the dearth of effective treatment options. While KRAS oncogenic mutations are ubiquitous in pancreatic cancer, there is no anti-KRAS therapeutic for routine clinical use. One promising alternative may be boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), which entails the irradiation of internalized boron atoms in cancer cells. In particular, carborane compounds are clinically promising for serving as effective cytotoxic BNCT agents. Therefore, I propose to improve upon current carboranyl molecules to develop a highly boronated dendrimer which will be conjugated to an antibody targeting the CDCP1 protein, which is a biomarker for mutant KRAS. Subsequently, the conjugate will be delivered to in vitro and in vivo pancreatic cancer models and be evaluated on its ability to preferentially deliver boron to pancreatic cancer cells over non-pancreatic cancer cells. Through its efficacy and selectivity, the proposed bioconjugate may ultimately improve patient outcomes for […]

Sijia Zhang

Directed cell migration and axon guidance are critical for the assembly and connectivity of nervous systems. How neuronal cells are able to establish precise connectivity is a major challenge in developmental neurobiology. Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent model to address this question due to the simplicity of its nervous system and a well-characterized cell lineage. I will focus on the Hermaphrodite-Specific Neurons (HSN), which undergo extensive migrations during development. Proper navigation of the HSN growth cones, the structures that navigate through the nervous system to reach their targets, relies on their selective adhesion to pre-established neuron tracks. This selectivity is mediated through the cell adhesion molecule, FMI-1, an ortholog of the atypical cadherin family. How this navigation is mediated in a selective manner is unknown. I will investigate what neurons the HSNs use for specific contacts in order to migrate properly. Identifying the mechanisms that enable the HSNs to establish […]

Peter DePaola IV

The current treatment for cholera infection is hydration with sanitary water and salts to replenish the nutrients and water lost through diarrhea. The World Health Organization estimates that 120,000 people die each year from cholera infection alone, with the majority of deaths in developing countries which have neither the infrastructure nor resources to treat patients. Current vaccines are ineffective; therefore, researchers are turning to alternative ways to stop the spread of cholera. While trying to understand a unique genetic island that Vibrio Cholerae uses to protect itself from viral infection, we found two genes. The first was named TafA and is a seemingly harsh toxin for both the infected cell and neighboring V. Cholera around it. TafB, the second gene, when co-expressed with TafA seems to detoxify TafA in an unknown mechanism. In my project, I will work to purify these proteins and analyze them to see how they interact […]

Metta Nicholson

Wetlands are habitats valued for their ecosystem services, nutrient cycling abilities, biodiversity, and buffering capacity, but have been rapidly declining since the eighteenth century. Only recent efforts have attempted to address wetland decline, and such large-scale analyses of wetland composition face complications regarding the difficulty of site access and the impacts that direct field investigations can have on vulnerable species. To address these difficulties, remote sensing tools can be used to map and analyze wetland vegetation. However, wetland biodiversity indicators from remote sensing data remain limited in strength and are heavily context-dependent. My project will work to fill this gap by analyzing the effects of two important confounding issuesdominance of alien species and woody vegetationon our ability to predict wetland biodiversity using satellite images, focusing on a unique national-scale sample of 1138 USA wetland sites. Although previous work has shown that both factors may affect spectral properties of wetlands, their […]

Hannah Cox

My research will serve as an inquiry into the particular language of the prosaic and poetic works of Armenian-French writer Shahan Shahnour, nom de plume Armen Lubin. Shahnour was a part of the Menk generation (so named after the Armenian word for “We”), a literary group of Armenian migrs living in Paris in the 1920’s, having survived the Armenian Genocide and fled the Ottoman Empire. Within the frame of exile and mourning a lost homeland, Shahnour’s novel in Armenian and Lubin’s later poems in French illuminate a unique language space that can be linked to French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari’s notion of a “littrature mineure.” Shahnour’s particular language parallels a symbolic third territory in which the writer finds himself displaced from both the country of origin and the country of residence. The creation of this conceptual in-between space operates on a technical level through unique syntactic constructions and […]

Joy Li

One of the major hallmarks of cancer is the evasion of the immune system; thus, current cancer immunotherapies aim to modify the host immune system to specifically target tumor cells and repress tumor progression. Recent studies have investigated an immune pathway called the cGAS-Stimulator of IFN genes (STING) that is involved in the induction of an anti-tumor response. STING pathway activators, such as cyclic dinucleotides, (CDN) have been shown to result in stable regressions of established tumors. Currently however, researchers mostly rely on subcutaneous tumor models, which is a limited approach since it does not accurately simulate real-life progression of tumor growth. I am planning to test effects of CDN on a genetically engineered mouse model that gives rise to spontaneous tumors, which are more akin to naturally-developing tumors. My project aims to investigate the immunological differences between the conventional transplanted tumor model and the spontaneous tumor model before and […]

Ryan Lehmkuhl

Machine learning classification is growing increasingly important for a variety of industries and applications, including medical imaging, spam detection, facial recognition, financial predictions, and more. As understanding of these systems advances, so do attacks which seek to exfiltrate information from exposed models. These models are often trained on confidential data and leakscan compromise user privacy. Additionally, users may wish to receive classifications on a modelwhile keeping their own input secret from the service provider. To address these concerns, I introduce the concept of secure prediction. Secure prediction defines a joint computation between the user and service provider where the user receives the classification of their information on the providers model, but neither side learns anything about each others input. Generally speaking, secure prediction protocols incur huge penalties in either computation, bandwidth, or latency compared to traditional prediction. My work combines several techniques in a novel protocol which cleverly manages these […]

Sanika Ganesh

Neuroplasticity describes how the brain learns from experience. A proposed type of plasticity, rapid homeostasis, may be necessary for stabilizing activity on a short-time scale across primary sensory-processing regions of the brain. A class of inhibitory neurons known as parvalbumin (PV) neurons are thought to implement rapid homeostatic plasticity, but the field lacks a mechanistic understanding of exactly how PV neurons may regulate plasticity. One way in which cells adapt to change is through varying protein expression. For example, recent studies suggest that neuregulins (NRGs) and tyrosine kinase receptors (ErbBs) mediate signaling pathways that are critical to establishing early visual plasticity in PV neurons. I am studying whether the expression of several genes, including genes encoding proteins from the NRG and ErbB families, drive rapid homeostatic plasticity in PV neurons of somatosensory cortex. I will use TRAP (translating ribosome affinity purification) methodology and RT-qPCR to analyze the RNA content of […]

Jewelia Yao

The human brain is characterized by ridges, or gyri, and indentations, or sulci. Individual differences in sulci have been shown to be related to aspects of cognition, which is important for our everyday functioning. Despite these findings that a) sulci develop and b) individual differences in sulci are linked to cognition in adults, no study has yet examined the relationship between the development of sulci and the development of an essential cognitive ability known as working memory. Working memory is the ability to maintain and manipulate information. It develops over childhood and has important implications for language comprehension, arithmetic skills, and educational achievement. Maintenance of working memory demonstrates activation in a brain region known as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, whereas the manipulation aspect of working memory exhibits activation in a region known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In my research, I propose to look at sulcal depth in these areas […]

Zoe Merz

Common cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, have harsh side effects because they damage both healthy and cancerous cells. Therapies that deliver drugs directly to cancer cells eliminate this issue. Protein nanocages, coupled with cancer targeting ligands, are attractive drug delivery vessels due to their biocompatibility and reduced toxicity. One such protein nanocage is the MS2 bacteriophage Virus Like Particle (VLP) coat protein. This 27 nm diameter protein shell has shown promise for delivery applications due to its thermostability and high modifiability. To be used as a drug delivery system, MS2 must be loaded with a cancer therapy and modified on the exterior with a cancer cell targeting ligand. One promising cancer therapy is Cyclic Dinucleotides (CDNs). When delivered to a cell, CDNs activate the STING pathway, which signals the immune system to destroy that cell. In my project, I will be modifying the MS2 coat protein with CDNs on the […]