Investigating how mTORC1 Hyperactivity Affects Autophagy and Mitophagy in Dopamine Neurons

The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is a protein complex that activates protein synthesis, modulates cell growth and proliferation, and regulates autophagy. Loss-of-function mutations in the TSC1 or TSC2 genes, which negatively regulate mTORC1, result in complex hyperactivity causing the syndromic neurodevelopmental disorder Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). TSC patients have a wide variety of clinical presentations including high comorbidity rates with neuropsychiatric disorders in which the dopaminergic system has been implicated. Little is known about the impact of mTORC1 disruption on the dopaminergic system. Previous work showed that normal autophagy and mitophagy processes in cortical neuronal cultures are disrupted by mTORC1 hyperactivation. My project will explore how Tsc1 gene deletion in mouse dopamine neurons affects autophagy and mitochondrial function of this cell population. We consistently observe that Tsc1 knock-out dopamine neurons are very large in size, leading to the hypothesis that in addition to protein overproduction, these cells […]

...Read More about Kamran Ahmed
L&S Sciences

Mourning "Veils": Racialization through Gothic Tropes in the Writings of William Faulkner and Kazuo Ishiguro

My project will explore the ideological implications of racialization through gothic tropes in William Faulkners The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Kazuo Ishiguros first two novels, A Pale View of Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986). Specifically, I will reframe Faulkners use of the Southern Gothic genre to configure a postwar Asian Gothic through Ishiguros early work, generating a new cross-racial, trans-historical perspective on literary representations of racial melancholia. Why, I will ask, did the historical contexts of the postbellum American South and postwar Japan, both cultures of defeat (Schivelbusch) tasked with refiguring national identity, give rise to such eerie, macabre constructions of race in literature? Focusing on melancholia through the lens of oppressions perpetrators rather than its victims, I will analyze the gothic genres potential as a limited redeemer of historical trauma and provide a more nuanced account of W.E.B. Du Boiss notion of […]

...Read More about Mieko Kurata Anders
Humanities and Social Science

Stable isotope analysis of travertine carbonates

For SURF 2017, I studied a travertine fissure ridge in Bridgeport, California to characterize trace element partitioning between thermal spring water and travertine carbonates. I will further analyze this system to establish an empirical temperature-oxygen isotope relationship for regional paleotemperature reconstruction. For use in paleoclimate reconstruction, temporal changes in carbonate precipitation conditions and their effect on carbonate trace element and isotopic composition must be characterized. In my earlier study, bulk solids were analyzed to capture overall travertine system dynamics. Analysis of travertine fluids and instantaneous precipitates can reflect present conditions of travertine formation and composition. A comparative analysis of the isotopic and trace element composition of the bulk and instantaneous carbonates can constrain conditions of past travertine deposition. This is important for isolating isotope and trace element partitioning effects in terrestrial carbonates due to climate signals like temperature, from other effects like biotic activity and evaporation. Changes in the deposition […]

...Read More about Holly Barnhart
Rose Hills

Optimizing Our Search for Fast Radio Bursts with Realfast at the Very Large Array Telescope

The Very Large Array (VLA) radio interferometer in New Mexico is an excellent instrument to look for radio transients such as fast radio bursts (FRBs). FRBs are intense radio signals lasting milliseconds that do not yet have a confirmed origin. An interferometer employs an array of radio telescopes to observe radio frequencies. FRBs are a new major interest in radio astronomy because of their mysterious nature and increasing number of observations. Many radio telescopes are beginning to design and construct FRB pipelines that search incoming data in real time. Besides detecting FRBs, the software and signal processing techniques developed while implementing an FRB search pipeline have other important applications to the radio astronomy community. Real time pipelines are data intensive and improving the algorithms and learning how to best manage the flow of data will be very useful for other transient search pipelines. I will be exploring the accuracy and […]

...Read More about Sabrina Berger
L&S Sciences

Understanding IRES RNA-mediated mechanisms for controlling Hepatitis C Virus Translation

Under conditions of cellular stress, such as in times of starvation, infection, or exposure to potentially dangerous environmental agents, normal cellular processes are often compromised. One such process involves how the 5-cap structures of mRNA are used to recruit ribosomes, the cells translation machinery, to initiate protein synthesis. When this process is compromised, mRNAs use an element on their structure called Internal Ribosomal Entry Sites (IRES) to recruit ribosomes and initiate protein synthesis. Furthermore, it is believed that IRESs may initiate translation by interacting with the cells translation initiation factors, eIFs. Due to their unique ability to circumvent the cells regulation of translation, IRESs have been associated with tumorigenesis, as they may allow damaged cells, which could turn cancerous, to live by permitting them to continue synthesizing proteins necessary for growth and survival. To further elucidate how cellular IRESs may interact with eIFs to initiate translation, we plan on using […]

...Read More about Samar Bhat
Rose Hills

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too: Orange County's Backlash to "Communist" Textbooks (1945-1970)

No area is perhaps more synonymous with conservatism than Orange County, California. This region fell victim to Cold War paranoia of imposing Soviet threats and possible communist subversion. From the end of World War II to the late 1960s, Orange County residents engaged in local battles to protect their most precious individuals from socialist leanings: children. In an effort to reinforce American superiority, citizen organizations, parents, and school boards waged textbook wars to censure particular materials they believed subscribed to Soviet leanings. However, my study seeks to understand the viability of these claims of communist propaganda. Instead of dismissing these civilians discontent as a product of the second Red Scare, I will attempt to establish-with an examination of the contested textbooks themselves and the personal writings of these groups-if these texts did contain leftist leanings. Based on my conclusions, Orange County may have been unjustly labeled as a right-wing, chauvinistic, […]

...Read More about Emma Paulina Bianco
Humanities and Social Science

The Council for Mutual Economic Ignorance: The Lack of Integration of Eastern Bloc Markets

It is convenient to see the failure of the Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), the economic union of Eastern Bloc countries, as a verdict on command economies. Central planning is commonly understood to have reduced the competitiveness of these countries to the point where they could no longer provide themselves with the resources required to maintain a viable economic portfolio. But the Comecons lack of success to keep up with the West cannot be ascribed to the shortcomings of central planning alone. In this project, I argue that a major reason behind the demise of the Comecon was the systemic refusal of its economic actors to cooperate for a greater common benefit, as they played to their individual short-term interests instead. The shortcomings of central planning were exacerbated by the wastefulness of analogous efforts running in parallel: in other words, what appears to be a resource scarcity problem is […]

...Read More about Peter Birghoffer
Humanities and Social Science

Investigating the role of Ras proteins in TORC2 localization in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

In eukaryotes, an essential growth regulator is a multi-subunit, plasma membrane(PM)-associated protein kinase, the Target of Rapamycin Complex 2 (or TORC2). Work using Saccharomyces cerevisiae has established that TORC2 is responsible for controlling processes that preserve PM homeostasis and that regulate actin polymerization. Studies have shown that the localization of TORC2 to the plasma membrane is essential for the complex’s function. However, little is understood about the processes that regulate the assembly, maintenance and activity of TORC2 itself. Avo3, a TORC2 subunit necessary for maintaining stability of the complex, contains a RasGEFN domain, a structural motif typically found in Ras guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs). Ras proteins themselves are anchored to the PM via modification of their C-terminal end. Therefore, the RasGEFN domain of Avo3 may contribute to PM localization of yeast TORC2. My primary goal this summer is to use genetic methods and fluorescence microscopy to investigate the potential […]

...Read More about Jessica Bonnar
L&S Sciences

The Effect of Gender, Education, and Area of Residency on Division of Household Labor in Punjab, India

While the unbalanced sex-based division of labor has been explored in various parts of the developing world, it remains largely unstudied in Punjab (Northwest India). Punjab is a predominantly agricultural society with diverse family organizational forms, including joint and extended families. I will examine how the division of labor amongst heterosexual couples in Punjab, India is influenced by gender, religion, education, and area of residency. I will conduct 20 in-depth interviews in two cities and two to three rural villages, divided evenly into the following four groups: 1) rural and educated, 2) rural and uneducated, 3) urban and educated, and 4) urban and uneducated. In this research, I will seek to discover how gender, educational attainment, and area of residency affect the division of household labor among heterosexual couples in Punjab.

...Read More about Kiran Brar
Humanities and Social Science

Using Electrocorticographic Gamma Oscillation to Explore Models of Movement Preparation in Humans

Movement preparation and execution are central to our everyday experience, yet we do not yet understand how the complex motor computations required for these actions are performed. In an attempt to understand how movements are prepared, many models have been created–using brain activity to predict someones intended movement before it is executed–with limited efficacy. A recent breakthrough in primate research provides a potential framework for exploring these preparatory computations further, but due to technical and ethical constraints the development and evaluation of this model has been limited to research involving non-human primates. My research project makes use of previously recorded human electrocorticography (ECoG) data, obtained from microelectrodes implanted during neurosurgery, to evaluate the utility of this model in a human context. Together, this work should advance our understanding of the human brain and add to the brain-machine interface field, enabling better rehabilitation strategies for a variety of patients that have […]

...Read More about Connor William Brown
L&S Sciences

Characterizing the Function of Unique KSHV Genes

We are studying the eighth human herpes virus; Kaposis Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV). This is a sexually transmitted virus that establishes life-long infections. KSHV does not cause symptoms in most people but is known to cause three types of cancer (Kaposis Sarcoma, Pulmonary Effusion Lymphoma, and Multicentric Castleman Disease) in immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that 20-50% of people with HIV are also infected with KSHV. KSHV has several regions of DNA called open reading frames (ORFs) that are completely unique and their role in the KSHV lifecycle are not well understood. We are studying several of these unique ORFs more closely using modern gene editing techniques to generate mutants of the virus that lack these ORFs. By comparing the infection phenotypes of these mutant viruses to those of normal KSHV infections we will be able to characterize the roles these region play in the KSHV […]

...Read More about Nicholas Carey
Rose Hills

Criminal Record, Education, and Employment in the Era of Mass Incarceration

Recently, the U.S. has seen a growing increase in the number of programs advocating for more formerly incarcerated college students. In California, the Bay Area is home to a number of these programs. One prime example, the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI), is a pioneering program located at the University of California, Berkeley that focuses on creating a pathway into higher education for formerly incarcerated individuals. As a leading institution, UC Berkeley has seen an increasing number of formerly incarcerated students graduate with a Bachelors degree. USIs first graduation ceremony was held in May of 2016 and had a graduating class of fourteen students who were all formerly incarcerated and/or system-impacted. My project will test whether those with a criminal record and a Bachelors degree are harmed in the labor market for college degree jobs through an audit study of job application callbacks. I will expand on current research on criminal […]

...Read More about Michael Cerda-Jara
Humanities and Social Science

Synthesizing and Investigating the Magnetic properties of new Honeycomb Iridate, Ag2IrO3

Honeycomb iridates are a class of compounds that were theoretically predicted to be spin liquids, i.e. materials that lacked magnetic ordering due to their magnetic spin interactions. However, due to real-world deviations from theory, compounds like Lithium Iridate have been extensively studied to show fascinating forms of magnetism (like spiral and zig-zag orderings). Taking inspiration from this recent research, the goal of my project is to synthesize a new iridate – Ag2IrO3 (Silver Iridate). The motivation for this is to see how the metal, Ag, interacts with the underlying magnetism of the honeycomb lattice. Since the electronic energies of Ag are closer to those of Ir, it is possible that this material unlocks new energy interactions that will help further understand the way magnetism manifests in these materials. Once successfully synthesized, I shall use experimental probes such as magnetization and heat capacity to see signatures of these novel properties.

...Read More about Sanyum Channa
L&S Sciences

Identifying Regions Responsible for Sex Chromosome Drive in a Non-model Drosophila Species

Gregor Mendels law of equal segregation states that the two copies of each chromosome are transmitted with equal probability to the offspring. However, there are also genes, termed meiotic drivers, that manipulate the genome to be transmitted at greater than 50% frequency. Meiotic drivers have been identified across taxa (including insects, plants, fungi, and mammals), and have profound genomic, evolutionary, and ecological consequences. Moreover, the development of synthetic drive systems is the focus of multiple research groups as a means to control pest and disease vectors, since the >50% transmission distortion can be utilized to exterminate target populations and/or species. However, few meiotic drive systems have been characterized at the molecular genetic level, thus limiting the development of synthetic drivers. Over the summer, I will phenotype and genotype experimental males from a Drosophila miranda population with a putative meiotic driver and perform a Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) analysis to identify […]

...Read More about Percival Chen
Rose Hills

Analysis of Matrix Multiplication Complexity Using Properties of Tensors

Matrix multiplication is one of the most foundational mathematical operations, and has deep connections to many areas of math, including algebra, geometry, and combinatorics. There is huge incentive to improve the speed of matrix multiplication as well as understand the inherent bounds on its complexity, due to its importance in applied mathematics and the computational sciences. Many of the questions concerning the complexity of matrix multiplication are still unsettled, namely: how can we make it faster and how fast can it go? It is thought that intrinsic mathematical properties of matrices constrain the algorithmic possibilities for operations on them. This is the thesis of algebraic complexity theory. Such properties include the dimensions of certain functions of matrices, many of which are not known. The purpose of this project is to perform a systematic application of known techniques from algebraic complexity theory to understand simple cases which are still poorly understood […]

...Read More about Nathan Cheng
L&S Sciences

Construction and Testing the New MAPS Pixel Chips for the ALICE ITS

The ALICE detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN collides lead nuclei and observes the particles ejected from the collision to study quark-gluon plasma, a highly energetic state of matter that existed during the first microsecond after the Big Bang. ALICEs current systems have been successful in measuring a variety of aspects of quark-gluon plasma, but they are unable to produce the resolution and statistics necessary to observe every aspect of quark-gluon plasma or observe particles of all momenta. To reduce this limitation, the Large Hadron Collider will be upgraded during its 2018-2019 shutdown. The LHCs beam will be increased in intensity to provide more particles for statistics. To keep up with this increase, and to increase the detection resolution, ALICEs internal tracking system, which tracks the trajectories of charged particles subjected to a magnetic field, will be refitted with the new MAPS detector pixels, which have a […]

...Read More about Ivan Chernyshev
Rose Hills

Calcium-Dependent Neuronal Activity Visualisation via a Bioluminescent Reporter

My project aims to develop an improved method for reporting calcium influx in vitro and in vivo. Bioluminescent calcium sensing is aimed at allowing researchers to accurately and quantitatively observe neuronal activity. Compared to conventional fluorescent calcium sensing, bioluminescent calcium sensing does not produce any noise in the data, does not have crosstalk with opsins, and can be used in a lensless imaging system. This project uses a new combination of recently developed synthetic proteins in-vitro to assess the potential for in-vivo experiments. Specifically, I will culture neurons, express in them the bioluminescent protein complex, and quantify the levels of bioluminescence under varying conditions as the first step. Further on, I plan to express bioluminescent protein in-vivo and, using a lensless imaging system, verify the feasibility of this approach for ameliorating calcium sensing in-vivo. The method itself would be the major valuable product derived from this project, because any improvement […]

...Read More about Kirill Chesnov
L&S Sciences

Defining the transcriptional regulation of ATF5 isoforms during mitochondrial stress across multiple cell types

Mitochondria often decline in function as a normal part of aging. However, mitochondrial dysfunction often has severe consequences and has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and infection. Understanding the ways in which mitochondria recover when exposed to proteotoxic environments is therefore a crucial element in constructing better novel treatments to mitochondrial related disease such as Parkinsons. The mitochondrial unfolded protein response has been identified as a key stress signaling pathway regulated by the ATFS-1 transcription factor in the Caenorhabditis elegans model organism system. However, relatively little is known about the mammalian analog of this gene, ATF5. I propose to investigate the ATF5 genes three isoforms to uncover the differential roles of each isoforms upstream promoter. I hypothesize that these three promoters are differentially utilized to confer distinct responses under stress, and understanding these different cellular responses will reveal key insights into the mechanism behind mammalian mitochondrial recovery and, in […]

...Read More about Hannah Chi
Rose Hills

Investigating Molybdenum Disulfide Quantum Dot Blinking

Quantum dots are tiny, semiconducting particles with unique electronic properties that distinguish them from larger particles. Notably, quantum dots have discrete energy levels. Thus, by changing the size of the dot, the difference between these energy levels change. As the size of a quantum dot decreases, the energy difference increases between the highest and lowest bands. Thus, more energy is needed to excite the dot and more is released when it returns to its ground state. As a result, quantum dots can emit light of any frequency. Notably, two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides have been demonstrated to be made small enough to exhibit these properties. In particular, molybdenum disulfide exhibits interesting size dependent properties. My project this summer will investigate the dynamics of trapping and charging mechanisms of molybdenum disulfide quantum dots that cause fluorescent intermittency, known as quantum dot blinking, a phenomenon in which quantum dots turn their photoluminescence on […]

...Read More about Elizabeth Coda
Rose Hills

Think of the Children!: An Analysis of Queer Childhood

My research project is an analysis of queer childhoods. Taking as a starting-point Lee Edelmans notion of reproductive futurism, a term coined to refer to a cultural, political, and psychic investment in the figure of the Child who “remains the perpetual horizon of every acknowledged politics as the emblem of futuritys unquestioned value (No Future 3-4), I would like to consider representations of children who refuse the future we invest in them. Broadly, I am preoccupied with violent children those who spit in the face of the exhortation, Think of the children”; who use their nascent sexuality as a weapon; who fight to exist outside of capitalism, but cannot entirely cast off its chains; who beat and shoot and rape each other. Through synthesizing psychoanalysis, critical theory, and close readings of literary texts from various historical moments, I hope to better understand when the category of the child as someone […]

...Read More about Sarah Elisabeth Coduto
Humanities and Social Science