Algorithmic Models for Intervention-Oriented Social Media Platforms

The California Report Card (CRC) is a social media platform that collects public feedback on timely issues and uses a peer-to-peer evaluation network to filter for the most constructive and insightful comments provided. Already successfully deployed with over 8000 visits, the CRC has already indicated high public interest in disaster preparedness. My lab is working to create a new version of the CRC focused on disaster preparedness. We hope to use the CRC as a tool to foster public awareness and dialogue around earthquake safety and wildfire prevention. Since the new platform is more educational/interventional by the nature of content, the deployment of this new platform raises questions about how the data collected can be used to assess and predict disaster readiness. I will work on developing algorithmic approaches that model and assess this.

...Read More about Amit Akula
Rose Hills

Characterizing Dopamine D1R and D2R expressing neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex

Many years of research have established dopamine as a key neuromodulator required for learning and adapting behavioral responses to a changing environment. Dopamine actions are mediated by two classes of receptors, with largely antagonistic effects: the D1 group mainly leads to excitation-like effects in neurons, while the D2 group has inhibition-like effects. Particularly, the medial prefrontal cortex contains neurons expressing both D1 and D2 receptors, which have been implicated in a large number of normal and pathological behaviors. Although recent research links dopamine receptor D1 expressing neurons to working memory in the PFC, most studies do not explain how normal dopamine release, acting through both D1 and D2 receptors is able to produce a coherent behavioral effect. How does dopaminergic neuromodulation in the medial prefrontal cortex lead to plasticity and learning? The goal of my project is to characterize the role of dopamine receptor D1 and D2 expressing neurons in […]

...Read More about Nadir Bilici
Rose Hills

Developing a Model of the Basal Ganglia and Cerebellum

Everyday actions require both the selection of the correct action and then the correct execution of this action. For example, when playing tennis, one has to both select the correct stroke to use and then correctly execute this stroke. The basal ganglia and cerebellum are two systems in the brain thought to be responsible for action selection and execution respectively. My research aims to develop a computational model of these two systems in order to investigate how they interact to produce complex motor actions. This model will be biologically constrained to best approximate actual biological function and will connect the two systems based on existing anatomical connections. By comparing the performance of this model with actual behavioral results, I hope to better understand the functional pathways in the brain that are responsible for producing actions as well as test hypotheses about how these two systems influence each other’s learning.

...Read More about Matthew Boggess
L&S Sciences

The Internal Gym: Engaging Internal & External Variables of Motivation in Exercise Self-Efficacy

In search of methods to best galvanize people into healthy action, our modern culture has turned health and fitness into an industry that focuses primarily on external factors such as weight, shape, and sex appeal. Though these aesthetics may work at getting people into the gym, they have not been as successful at helping them stick to their exercise routines. Statistics have consistently indicated that 50% of those who begin an exercise program abandon such regimens within three to six months. For this reason my research aims to identify which internal and external motivational factors deter and promote exercise adherence. I will do this by examining the roles that both social and physical exercise environments play in helping individuals maintain lasting habits of health. It is my hope that this project contributes to the body of knowledge in exercise psychology and ultimately aids in efforts to facilitate exercise environments that […]

...Read More about Berk Brown
Humanities and Social Science

Comparing Worker Experiences in Conventional and Cooperative Workplaces

My research project seeks to compare worker experiences from cooperatives and conventional businesses to discover whether a cooperative workplace is a more effective way to organize labor in regards to happiness and fulfillment. My research will utilize interviews and surveys of workers in comparable cooperative and conventional workplaces in Berkeley and Oakland in order to better understand how workplace structures influence and shape worker happiness and fulfillment. Theoretically, I am drawing from Marx’s arguments on alienation to examine these experiences. My hope is that my research will spur debate on workplace structures and question whether conventional workplaces are in fact the most effective way for workers to be happy and fulfilled. In a larger sense, I hope to demonstrate that there exist a variety of workplace structures and to dispel the myth that there is no alternative to capitalism.

...Read More about Jason Budge
Humanities and Social Science

Evaluating Chromatins Role in Sex-Specific Aging with Drosophila Lifespan AssaysDoris Bachtrog

While research concerning the molecular aspects of aging exists, there remain unanswered questions regarding aging differences between males and females. Differences in aging between males and females is a phenomenon that has been observed in many different animals with XY sex determination, including humans. These differences are manifested in the observation that females outlive males. Recent studies have provided insight into the potential role of sex-specific chromatin in aging. My project will focus on conducting lifespan assays for Drosophila flies with altered sex chromosome configurations to directly test the effect of chromatin on aging. By using males that lack a Y chromosome, females with a Y chromosome, and flies with varying degrees of X-linked genomes, I hope to elucidate the influence of Y and X-linked chromatin on sex-specific aging.

...Read More about Xiao Hua Chen
Rose Hills

Characterization of lipid droplet, nitric oxide, and cytokine production in primary macrophages from mice susceptible to Mycobacterium tuberculosis

A hallmark of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection in humans is a latency period where the bacteria remain dormant in granulomas. Lipid droplets within macrophages, a component of these granulomas, are hypothesized to be a source of energy for Mtb. Research suggests that lipid droplet formation may be mediated by large quantities of nitric oxide produced by infected macrophages. This project aims to characterize lipid droplet formation and nitric oxide production in macrophages from C3HeB/FeJ mice in the context of TLR stimulation, IFN-, and infection with Mycobacterium marinum, a close genetic relative of Mtb. I will also investigate whether enhanced IFN- and IL-10 production, cytokines believed to interfere with Mtb killing, is a general property of activated C3HeB/FeJ macrophages. Understanding Mtb dormancy will aid development of newer or more effective antibiotics for the treatment of infected patients.

...Read More about Katherine Chen
Rose Hills

Confirming the Presence of Functional CatSper Ion Channels in Primate and Rat Sperm Cells

There is an abundance of what humans consider to be pest animals in the world, such as a high population of rats or an uncontrollable populace of monkeys. These pest animals can often act as vectors for disease and they can damage property or endanger human life. It is crucial to control these growing populations in order to avoid these problems. One major way to control population growth is through effective and humane methods of sterilization. I intend to do this by creating an antibody vaccine against the principal calcium ion channel of sperm, CatSper. However in order to create a successful vaccine, it is crucial to first confirm the actual presence and functionality of CatSper in monkeys and rats, which is what my project aims to achieve. Through this project, I hope to lay the foundation for creating a sterilization vaccine to combat these excessive populations of pest animals.

...Read More about Sravya Chilukuri
Rose Hills

Albumin-Induced Reactive Astrocytosis Following Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption: A Model for Age- Related Seizure Susceptibility

Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE), occurring after brain insult, is one of the most common epilepsies, affecting millions of people worldwide. The progression of PTE is marked by a period of neuronal network reorganization in which post-injury inflammatory responses are thought to contribute to a hyperexcitable neural environment, ultimately leading to chronic and spontaneous seizures. Previous research found that the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) during injury allows the serum protein albumin from the blood to enter the brain. Serum protein albumin binds selectively to transforming growth factor beta receptors (TGF-R) on astroglia, causing inflammatory TGF- signaling and initiating a variety of effects including reactive astrocytosis, increased neuronal excitability and epileptogenesis. Over the summer, I will be investigating the identity of potentially epileptogenic astrocytes, along with probing their possible roles in causing susceptibility to seizure onset, which could elucidate the cellular and molecular factors underlying epileptogenesis.

...Read More about Gregory Chin
Rose Hills

Identifying Upstream Kinases in JUNB Macrophage Activation

Despite the rapid evolution of medicine and technology, half the global population still remains at risk for malaria, a common tropical disease that has been one of the leading causes of death in children. While public health and macro level efforts have been highly successful in attempting to curb the mosquito-borne disease, researchers have been looking into molecular and biological based defenses against malaria. Macrophages are an essential part of the immune system that promote elimination of malaria infected cells, so the immune systems regulation of such macrophages are of great interest to researchers. Through this project, I will investigate the specific transcription factor JUNB, which has been associated with macrophage regulation, and its underlying regulatory pathways. I will accomplish this by using pharmacological inhibitors of several kinase families associated with activation of members of the transcription factor family of which JUNB is a member and by generating bone marrow […]

...Read More about Me Ree Chung
Rose Hills

More Than Meets The Eye: A Textual Examination of Old English Color Resonances

A native English speaker will not, generally, be surprised to hear that the color pink is associated with love, or green with envy; we are naturally attuned to the color symbolism embedded within our own language. One challenge of working with the literary tradition of a reconstructed language like Old English, however, is that many such tacit symbolic resonances have been lost to us. This summer, I will analyze the contexts in which the Old English color words sweart, rad, and fealo appear in existing Old English literature, systematically tracking patterns of color association. Does rad, for example, in being used to depict both blood and gold, create an intuitive connection between wealth and violence? In exploring such resonances, I hope to contribute to the reestablishment of a frame of reference for Old English color symbolism, and thus to restore some small piece of what has been lost.

...Read More about Amy Clark
Humanities and Social Science

Photosystem II Assembly in Cyanobacteria

Nearly all life on Earth depends on oxygenic photosynthesis, the process by which light energy is used to create sugars and oxygen from water and carbon dioxide. In plants and algae, it is carried out in organelles called chloroplasts, which are cousins of photosynthetic bacteria known as cyanobacteria. Both chloroplasts and cyanobacteria contain membrane-enclosed sacs called thylakoids, and the light-dependent reactions of photosynthesis take place in the thylakoid membrane. Here, light hits the protein complex Photosystem II (PSII), and this energy is used to split water into oxygen, protons, and high-energy electrons, which are carried through a transport chain that ultimately produces NADPH and ATP. PSII is composed of 20-30 proteins and ~70 cofactors, and my project is to develop and characterize mutants in cyanobacteria where these are not correctly assembled. This includes rubA in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 and Thermosynechococcus elongatus BP-1, as well as slr1470 in Synechocystis.

...Read More about Ron Cook
L&S Sciences

Changing Views on Gun Control: The Effects of Moral Framing and Ingroup Conformity on Attitudes Towards Gun Laws

The debate over gun control has become an increasingly divisive political issue among Americans, so much so that both liberals and conservatives appear to be talking past each other. According to Moral Foundations Theory, such political schisms arise because liberals and conservatives hold different moral intuitions and respond to different forms of moral rhetoric. While the intuitive and discursive asymmetries between liberals and conservatives may seem insurmountable, recent research suggests that moral framing can actually persuade partisans to change their attitudes by appealing to their moral intuitions. Expanding on this new line of research, I intend to run an experiment that tests whether moral framing can change conservative and liberal attitudes toward gun control. I will recruit participants to read fake op-eds arguing for or against gun control. By employing moral rhetoric in the op-eds that resonates with conservative and liberal moral intuitions, I will attempt to persuade conservatives to […]

...Read More about Edgar Cook
Humanities and Social Science

Investigation of the ttr genes in C. elegans and their role in regulating development and lifespan, potentially through hormonal signaling

Antagonistic Pleiotropy, an evolutionary theory of aging, states that traits beneficial early in life are selected for even if they become detrimental later in life. Very few molecular examples of Antagonistic Pleiotropy have been observed, but our lab recently discovered a protein in C. elegans that fits the proposed theory. This protein, KGB-1, protects developing worms from environmental stress, but sensitizes worms in adulthood to the same stresses shortening lifespan; the cause of this switch is unknown. An observed change in gene expression was the result of this age-dependent switch; a prominent group among them was the transthyretin-like (ttr) genes, an expanded family of genes homologous to the single gene in humans. Transthyretin in humans transports hydrophobic thyroid hormone and retinol. Thus, the 58 ttr genes likely perform similar roles of transporting age-specific hormones in C. elegans, and through which potentially mediate some of KGB-1s age-dependent effects.

...Read More about Dustin Cox
Rose Hills

Charcoal Identification as Means of Central California Landscape Reconstruction

Paleoethnobotany is an archaeological research method which allows plant remains surviving from the archaeological past to be studied and identified. In doing so, researchers can analyze plants that were used by Native peoples and deposited in sites pre-European colonization. Utilizing this methodology, past landscapes can be reconstructed as means to determine how Native peoples interacted with their surroundings, as well as to hypothesize about landscape change over time. Using paleoethnobotanical methods, I will systematically study recovered charred wood remains from a prehistoric, Central California archaeological site and create a charcoal reference collection for the area. This project will allow me to identify the representative taxa (populations of organisms) of the site with the intent that these plants may be restored to the region in the future. By completing this project, it is my hope that a better understanding of human interactions with the pre-Contact Bay Area landscape can be reached.

...Read More about GeorgeAnn DeAntoni
Humanities and Social Science

Following Changes: A Study of Botanical Illustrations Modeled After Jacques Le Moyne de Morgue

I intend to look at three sets of botanical illustrations by three artists, all produced in Europe between 1585 and 1614 and all copied from the earliest of the three sets of illustrations, an album of watercolors by the French Artist Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues. The realm of botanical illustration is one which straddles the lines between art and science and as such these illustrations are ripe with assumptions about what artwork can do, how the artists related to the natural world and how to gain and communicate information about the natural world. I want to study the modifications made by each artist to the original subject matter to mold the illustrations to their particular purpose. In doing so I want to understand what exactly these artists wanted their art to do, how and if the illustrations carry scientific authority while still remaining aesthetically enticing, and the balance between […]

...Read More about Olivia Dill
Humanities and Social Science

Charge Transport in mK Ge and Si Detectors for the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search

Dark matter is ubiquitous in this universe yet has not been detected directly. The leading candidate particles for dark matter are Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search utilizes measurement of ionization and phonons in order to discriminate between background particles and rare WIMP interactions. Achieving complete charge collection by the ionization readout is challenging due to trapping within the low temperature Germanium and Silicon detectors. The charge transport experiment will provide great insight into the phenomenon of charge trapping and this information will have wide implications in low temperature semiconductor physics. Examining the trapping curves will also allow us to better understand the charge collection mechanism for the CDMS detectors. With this information we can more accurately distinguish between background particles and rare WIMP interactions, eventually leading to the detection of dark matter.

...Read More about Akash Dixit
Rose Hills

Interplay between LKB1 and mTOR in hepatocellular carcinoma cells

Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth, which is in part dependent on mTOR, a serine/threonine kinase that controls protein translation. Although mTOR is almost never mutated in cancer cells , mutations upstream of mTOR can influence the rate at which the cells grow. The Shokat lab has studied the effect of mTOR inhibitors in liver cancer cells, identifying the tumor suppressor kinase LKB1 as a potential modifier of mTOR inhibitor sensitivity. LKB1 has multiple targets with different effects on cancer cell behavior. Through pharmacological and signal transduction analysis, I aim to understand which targets of LKB1 can alter mTOR inhibitor sensitivity. My hope is that by understanding the molecular processes behind cancers response to chemical inhibitors, we can better target these drugs to patients who will benefit from them.

...Read More about Lisa Du
Rose Hills

Cell-Free Nucleic Acids as Biomarkers for Shock in Human Dengue

“Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease that places about three billion people at risk for infection yearly in tropical and sub-tropical regions worldwide. Infected individuals can be asymptomatic, or they can show clinical disease, including an acute debilitating fever (Dengue Fever) that can progress to life-threatening conditions of severe dengue, including Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS). The goal of this research is to investigate whether cell-free nucleic acids in patient serum can serve as biomarkers to distinguish between cases of mild and severe dengue disease. I will accomplish this by characterizing the population of circulating nucleic acids in individuals with mild dengue versus DSS using high-throughput sequencing methodologies and subsequent data analysis. The availability of such prognostic tools, combined with existing warning signs for DSS, would allow hospitals to better triage cases for intensive management, with a considerable economic impact on dengue healthcare and improvement in clinical management in endemic countries.”

...Read More about Meghana Eswarappa
L&S Sciences

Ultrafast Charge Separation in Carotenoid-Porphyrin-Quinone Molecular Triad, Tetrad and Pentad

A promising approach to generating clean and sustainable energy is artificial photosynthesis, which aims to mimic photosynthesis in plants or bacteria and improve upon its energy conversion efficiency. Charge separation is a key step in artificial photosynthesis, but its mechanism is not yet fully understood. Recent evidence for ultrafast (sub-picosecond) charge separation in a wide variety of organic donor-acceptor materials has revived interest in the topic. Since the timescale of ultrafast charge separation is comparable to typical decoherence timescales, quantum coherent effects may play a significant role in this process. The proposed research will assess the importance of delocalized orbitals and hot excitonic states for charge separation in model systems: a carotenoid-porphyrin-quinone molecular triad, tetrad and pentad. We will employ open system dynamics simulations based on a Markovian master equation with a basis set of delocalized states. Density functional theory (DFT) will be used to calculate Hamiltonian parameters.

...Read More about Michael Forsuelo
Rose Hills