Disease Ecology Within the Pear Tree Phyllosphere

Microbial communities are essential for plant development, growth, productivity, and health. Aerial parts of the plant, referred to as the phyllosphere, consist of multiple habitats for microorganisms to thrive, including beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. The vast and dynamic interactions among bacteria in the phyllosphere microbiome have the potential to significantly affect the fitness of plant populations; therefore, studying these relationships serves as a strong indicator of plant health. This project seeks to identify culturable bacteria within the pear tree phyllosphere and assemble a map of interactions between different members of the community in order to gain insight into their dynamics and how these plant-microbe interactions shape plant health. In this project, I will analyze the relationship between the phyllosphere microbiome and notable phytopathogens, such as Erwinia amylovora and Pseudomonas syringae, using direct microbe-microbe interactions through culturable methods and a bioassay in pear slices. E. amylovora and P. syringae are pathogens […]

...Read More about Sydney Abelson

“Post-Colonialism”: Traditional Foodway Loss and Health in Puerto Rico

Colonialism has displaced traditional foodways all over the globe. Moreover, even though we are in a mostly “post-colonial” world, colonialism and its effects still impact many countries. In the Caribbean, many countries have become independent, but some continue to have relationships with their previous colonizers. Puerto Rico, specifically, is still a U.S. territory and has been since 1898. Since then, traditional foodways in Puerto Rico have transformed through the decrease of subsistence agriculture as a result of U.S. intervention in Puerto Rican businesses. However, an issue that has been left unanswered by scholars is: How did U.S. colonialism over Puerto Rican foodways affect the health of Puerto Ricans? This project will analyze the health effects of U.S. colonialism on Puerto Rico’s foodways by relating foodway changes with an increase of food-related diseases in the country. Specifically, it will link high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cancer on the island to […]

...Read More about Olivia Agnew

Pollutant Effects on Reproduction in Frogs

I am investigating the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) using African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). EDCs are chemical contaminants that interfere with hormone synthesis and function. This interference can alter reproductive physiology and reproductive behavior. We have studied the effects of many EDCs in the laboratory in African clawed frogs, an invasive species in California that can therefore also be studied in the wild. I will study differences between frogs that are exposed to chemicals and frogs that are not exposed in the wild, along with the impact of chemicals on hormone differences and subsequent effects on reproductive physiology and mating behavior. I will also learn mock-recapture techniques using microchipped frogs, blood sample collection, hormone analysis through radioimmunoassay, and statistical analysis using R.

...Read More about Malik Alhadi

The Hidden Inheritance of Black Genealogies

The constellation of black genealogies begins and starts from black wombs. In essence, the womb provides safe incubation for a developing fetus and is, in essence, the location where you’re most connected with your source of life on a physical, emotional, and quantum spiritual level. The inhumane conditions of chattel slavery were rooted in control, regulation, and constant demand. The agents of white supremacy preyed on colonizing Black wombs by stripping autonomy, severing parent and child attachment bonds, surveillance, and assuming ownership of infants and children to supply the next generation of forced labor and enslavement. This constant supply and demand to restock plantation communities made Black wombs an inexhaustible commodity and money-making device. According to the statistics from the National Partnership of Women and their Families, “Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women in 2019, and Black women are […]

...Read More about Jessica Allen

Reorienting the Art Gallery: Service Labor and Community Care

What are the purposes, possibilities, and limitations of the traditional gallery space? Through understanding who has been excluded from the gallery, we aim to rethink what an exhibition space can and should be. Through our research, we will stage our own space on campus that subverts gallery conventions. We will present an alternative functionality, proposing that the gallery space should offer tangible assets to its community. Our work is a collaborative art project situated in the history of service labor, endurance art performances, gallery culture, and the history of subversive art spaces. The summer research will culminate as an artist booklet to accompany our thesis exhibition in Fall 2022: we will stage an alternative gallery on and around the UC campus in service of the local community. Our installation will center the act of cleaning community members dirty laundry, using the exhibition as a form of service to the local […]

...Read More about Lauren Anastasia

Ameliorating Alzheimer's Disease Effects via Novel Light Stimulation

Synchronous gamma wave brain oscillations, which oscillate at a frequency of 40 Hz, underlie healthy cognitive functioning and are disrupted in Alzheimer’s Disease, leading researchers to explore sensory stimuli delivered at 40 Hz as a potential therapy to resynchronize neuronal firing and thus slow cognitive decline. However, the stroboscopic nature of 40 Hz lighting makes it an unlikely treatment for humans. This project hopes to overcome the challenges posed by stroboscopic 40 Hz white-light by testing the efficacy of a novel invisible spectral flicker (ISF) light system, which masks the visible flicker of 40 Hz light by fusing two light waves together in antiphase. By examining the effects of ISF on cognition and microglia clearance of Aβ plaques, I hypothesize that ISF treatment will lead to synchrony of gamma oscillations in the brain, increased microglia activation, and a resulting decrease in Aβ concentration in our rodent models. Results from this […]

...Read More about Stephanie Ancheta

Gas Sensors: Identifying Electrical and Chemical Degradation Mechanisms

Chemiresistive sensors detect gas concentrations based on the change in resistance of a sensing material, providing low-cost detection in applications such as environmental monitoring. SnO2 is an industry-standard material system for chemiresistive sensing. SnO2-based sensors typically have high baseline resistance and slow dynamics at room temperature, and thus require on-board heaters to improve their sensitivity and response time. Although heating greatly improves the response of SnO2-based sensors, prolonged operation at requisite temperatures (200–300°C) results in baseline drift and changes in sensitivity over time. Such degradation is observed even in commercial SnO2-based sensors and is an open problem in chemical sensing. I propose to identify and characterize the mechanisms that underlie the degradation of SnO2-based sensors. Although the general mechanisms that govern how SnO2 responds to ambient gases, such as O2 and volatile organic compounds, have been studied, a definitive analysis that links the degradation of the electrical (i.e., chemiresistive) performance […]

...Read More about Veronica Arriaga

Inductive Coding of Provider Reports for the TranS-C Treatment Program

The specific question that my research investigates is how might we better understand and optimize implementation outcomes for a novel transdiagnostic sleep intervention designed for psychiatric populations. More specifically, the goal of this project is to inductively code providers evaluations of the Transdiagnostic Intervention for Sleep and Circadian Dysfunction (TranS-C), thus providing important insight into the efficacy of this sleep-focused program’s implementation. This project contributes new knowledge to the field of psychology by attempting to more deeply understand how to properly and effectively implement novel therapies, especially for those with severe mental illness (SMI) and in community-based health centers (CBHC). It is incredibly important to meet the needs of both patients and providers when creating and implementing a novel treatment, and this project aims to precisely understand to what extent the TranS-C program is doing so. Thus, my research will inductively code providers assessments of the TranS-C treatment for the […]

...Read More about Zia Bajwa

Tyrosinase-Mediated Oxidative Coupling

The purpose of this research is to identify tyrosinase enzymes that are able to carry out tyrosinase-mediated oxidative coupling. Tyrosinases have recently been identified as enzymes that are able to undergo oxidative coupling and are a much more efficient way to couple proteins, DNA, small molecule thiols, and difficult protein substrates. Previous methods produce unwanted by-products, are not site-specific in their targeting, and can result in unwanted protein degradation, which ruins the natural folding of the proteins. Tyrosinase-mediated coupling avoids such problems and allows the reaction to run in a short amount of time without complications. Specific tyrosinases are able to couple to different biomaterials and this diversity makes them integral in the development of drug therapeutics, especially antibody drug conjugates (ADCs). These can be used in cancer drug research and can allow patient-specific targeted therapeutics. The new tyrosinase species identified by this research can be used in the growing […]

...Read More about Nicole Balian

Frontoparietal Tertiary Sulci: Functional Cognitive Networks?

Human brains contain ridges (gyri) and indentations (sulci) that other species do not have – especially in evolutionarily expanded neuroanatomical locations, such as association cortices like the lateral prefrontal (LPFC) and lateral parietal cortices (LPC; Zilles et al., 2013; Van Essen, 2007; Voorhies et al., 2021). Indeed, many LPFC and LPC neuroanatomical features are specific to the human brain. For example, recent research has revealed that hominoid-specific tertiary sulci in LPFC serve as functional landmarks (Miller et al., 2021a,b) and their morphological features are predictive of cognition (Voorhies et al., 2021; Yao et al., 2022). Nevertheless, a main limitation of this previous work is that it was restricted to LPFC. Here, we aim to overcome this limitation by shifting the focus from lobular (e.g., within LPFC) to network (e.g., between LPFC and LPC) relationships. We focus on LPFC and LPC due to previously published work in pediatric and adult cohorts. […]

...Read More about Jatin Batta

How Much Black Wealth is “Acceptable” in America?

After embarking on the 100th anniversary of the decimation of the thriving African American community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also known as “Black Wall Street” (BWS), I was inspired to explore historical and modern wealth thresholds for Blacks/African Americans, leading to perceived threat or bias. My study aims to fill a gap in the literature by testing an unresearched inclination that “black wealth” is an aversive concept to white and perhaps also to black Americans.

...Read More about Ockemia Bean

Bioarchaeology of Portuguese Medieval Funerary Practices

Through the bioarchaeological analysis of Medieval Portuguese skeletons, my mentor and I will investigate the relationship between religious burial practices and the preservation of human remains. We will utilize histology to analyze the levels of chemical and physical degradation of bone. Our investigation starts with the macroscopic analysis of the skeletal remains and then the development of microscopic slides to categorize the degree of taphonomic damage. Once prepared, we will gather qualitative and quantitative data for assessment. Our goal is to uncover how different religious communities interacted with death during the Medieval period. Our data will reveal how funerary practices impact the preservation of remains and how this analysis allows bioarchaeologists to infer the state of degradation of human remains still underground. The taphonomic research of bioarchaeological remains is a field still in development. Through our research being conducted this summer, I am very eager to contribute to the emerging […]

...Read More about Ashley Blake

Decadent Conservatism and Queerness in T. S. Eliot's Writing

In 1947, T. S. Eliot announced to his epistolary companion, Emily Hale, that heterosexual sex was revolting. This may be incongruous with Eliot’s advocacy for a Christian conservative society, since, in the past fifty years, heterosexuality and political conservatism in the United States have become strongly associated. American conservatives hold political institutions and the reproductive family to be sacred. Conservative forefathers, however, do not consistently align with such political and sexual traditionalism. T.S. Eliot, a cornerstone of Anglo-American conservatism, combined traditionalism and the exploration of sexual deviance and celibacy. This study will examine how queer affect and conservatism intersect in Eliot’s writing, before America’s hardening as a “straight state” after World War II. I will read a selection of Eliot’s works and correspondence, hypothesizing that there is an unexplored realm at the intersection of queer theory and the history of conservatism. This project examines how sexual deviance and political conservatism […]

...Read More about Katherine Booska

A Case Study in Taphonomy from the Phillips Coal Ball Collection

The Pennsylvanian (323–299 million years ago) is a very unique time interval in Earth’s history. The Pennsylvanian tropics have one of the best plant-fossil records due to coal balls. These are carbonate nodules containing anatomically preserved fossil peat—deposits of partially decomposed plant material (Schopf, 1975). The Phillips Coal Ball Collection (PCBC) is one of the largest paleobotanical datasets in existence, containing 50,000 coal balls and 500,000 coal ball peels—thin, acetate sheets. From the peels, 800,000cm2 of plant material have been microscopically analyzed and identified at a tissue/organ level. While these fossils have been studied extensively, the link between plant diversity and taphonomy—the process of fossilization—remains underexplored. My plan is to develop an index of preservation decay and apply it to a case study of peels, examining the link between preservation and diversity. I expect lower species diversity in highly degraded peels. Any correlation I find could have major implications for […]

...Read More about Sydney Booth

Mexican Migration in the 21st Century: Demographic Changes of Migrants

How has Mexican migration changed over time? This project will tackle this question by studying migrant characteristics and flows from specific origins and destinations. It will explore the spatial redistribution of migrant flows and consider the extent to which gender is a defining trait in migration patterns. I will conduct a literature review of social science research on Mexican migration to the U.S., focusing on how migration research treats gender. I will also produce a summary of how migration policies in the U.S. and Mexico have changed over time and whether specific policies have affected gendered and family migration. Finally, I will collect and clean data on migrant counts, as well as various characteristics of Mexican municipalities and U.S. states.

...Read More about Rafa Borisonik

Silver Screen Sex Work: Depictions of Prostitution in 1960s Cinema

Films are cultural timestamps constructed to reflect the interests and beliefs of their audiences. The 1960s revolutionized the United States in more ways than one, and movies were not exempt from these changing tides. Over the course of the decade, sex work became a normalized narrative convention of several films, including Butterfield 8, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Walk on the Wild Side. This research project will seek to contextualize and explain this change in the cultural zeitgeist by examining the sociopolitical policy surrounding sex work at that time, in tandem with shifting understandings of gender and power in American society during this iconoclastic era. By understanding the changing social and legal realities of women and sex workers, these films can be understood as not only works of art, but as devices in a specific moment of cultural production that make larger arguments about women and labor. This project will draw […]

...Read More about Cassandra Branch

NMR Optimization and Application to MOFs

In the Ajoy Lab, we use a custom nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) apparatus that uses high-powered lasers and microwaves to hyperpolarize samples for signal enhancement. My project will work to optimize the microwave frequency, sweep rate, and bandwidth of our apparatus to increase the lifetime of a nanodiamond sample. Increasing the lifetime of the nanodiamond sample is beneficial to resolution, as it increases the amount of time we can collect data from milliseconds to minutes. This is relevant to the field as the optimization of the nanodiamond sample, and increase in the sample lifetime, improves resolution. This increased timescale is paramount in the field of NMR. While we currently work exclusively with nanodiamonds, we aspire to expand to other materials, such as pentacene-based metal organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs are used frequently due to their ability to be easily tailored with different metals and different linkers. For this expansion, I will […]

...Read More about Samantha Breuer

The Regulation of Metabolic Flexibility in Aging

Mitochondrial function and metabolic flexibility (the ability to switch back and forth between carbohydrate and lipid utilization in response to changing physiological conditions) degrade as a normal consequence of aging. Metabolic flexibility is regulated by several mechanisms that are affected by the capacity for lactate oxidation and, therefore, mitochondrial function. Previous studies have demonstrated that endurance training improves metabolic flexibility due to improvements in mitochondrial function and the capacity for lactate oxidation. The purpose of my research is to assess metabolic flexibility in older and younger, trained and untrained individuals by measuring blood lactate and substrate oxidation rates during postabsorptive rest. I will implement a resting oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) to analyze how blood lactate concentration interplays with carbohydrate and fatty acid oxidation rates as determined by gas exchange measurements. This method deviates from current methods of metabolic flexibility assessment by proposing a simpler and less invasive approach that […]

...Read More about Jennah Brown

Reactive Oxygen in the Locus Coeruleus

Sleep is a fundamental aspect of human health. One way that our body regulates sleep is through sleep pressure, the balance between sleep and wakefulness. The dysregulation of sleep pressure is a common occurrence in patients with Parkinson’s disease, manifesting in sleep disturbances such as insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. It is undetermined if sleep problems and neurodegeneration have common mechanisms, but one potential area of research is in reactive oxygen species (ROS), which have been implicated in Parkinson’s disease. Emerging evidence indicates that ROS accumulate during steady activity of norepinephrine-releasing neurons in the locus coeruleus. These neurons are crucial for arousal and being in a state of wakefulness, and they are among the first to degenerate in Parkinson’s disease. In this project, I will use immunohistochemistry to investigate the specific type of ROS accumulation during prolonged locus coeruleus neuron activity, such as during sleep deprivation, and determine whether recovery […]

...Read More about Lillie Bui

MmpL Transporters in M. abscessus Virulence and Impermeability

Incidence and deaths due to non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) have been increasing globally, in part due to their intrinsic drug resistance. Mycobacterium abscessus (Mabs) is a pathogenic and clinically challenging NTM species, causing devastating pulmonary disease and tissue infection. Drug resistance of Mabs partly results from its unique mycomembrane, which is a formidable permeability barrier. While the inner leaflet primarily consists of mycolic acids, the outer leaflet is poorly characterized. Some mycobacterial membrane protein Large (MmpL) transporters export lipid components of the mycomembrane, but the substrates and functions of most MmpLs remain unknown. The high number of MmpLs in Mabs leads to questions about each MmpL’s function as a lipid transporter or drug efflux pump, as well as its contribution to virulence and antibiotic resistance. My project will investigate each MmpL’s role in these important traits. I will create MmpL knockouts and test the mutants to evaluate each MmpL’s function in […]

...Read More about Vivian Bui

Bay Area Low-Income Suburban Households’ Housing and Transport Choices

I will work closely with my SURF-SMART mentor, Alex Pan, on her project “Qualitative Insights on the Housing and Transportation Choices of Low-Income Suburban Households in the San Francisco Bay.” While poverty has been a primarily urban issue, in recent years, focus has shifted to suburban areas. Suburban households under the poverty line face unique accessibility challenges, as they may be farther from employment opportunities and have fewer transportation options compared to urban areas. My mentor’s research uses a mixed-methods approach to understand the characteristics of households under the poverty line in suburban areas and the transportation and housing choices of the suburban poor. I will assist with qualitative data analysis of in-depth interviews and ethnographic shadowing fieldnotes. Working collaboratively, I will transcribe interview recordings, do qualitative coding, write coding memos, and compile a final written report. We will work closely in the qualitative data analysis process to interpret the […]

...Read More about Frida Calvo Huerta

Stress-Activated Transposable Elements in Mimulus guttatus

This project focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of transposable elements (TEs) within monkey flowers. Previously, TEs were thought to be virus-like, parasitic parts of genomes. With the use of supercomputers, we will compare the genomes of many monkey flower genome samples to a reference genome to identify variation that suggests adaptation. Our work will define the role of TEs more clearly, as many are associated with mutations and only arise during specific conditions, which suggests a form of adaptation.

...Read More about Victor Canta-Gallo

Investigating Flavivirus NS1's Role in Facilitating Viral Dissemination

Dengue virus (DENV) is a vector-borne virus that is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Typically found in tropical and sub-tropical regions in the world, DENV can cause mild disease manifestations like dengue fever; however, cases of severe dengue disease exist and are characterized by vascular leakage and shock, which is triggered by virus infection and an overactive immune response. Medically important viruses like flaviviruses (dengue, Zika, West Nile, and yellow fever viruses, etc.) must disseminate from the initial site of infection into diverse tissues throughout the body to cause disease. Therefore, my summer research project will focus on the role of dengue virus NS1-mediated leak in virus infection and dissemination in vivo.

...Read More about Bryan Castillo-Rojas

Baba Canm (Daddy Dearest)

This project explores the transfer of knowledge within familial systems. In 2014, a traditionalist administration took power in Turkey. This marked a change in the socio-cultural environment and created an opportunity for stories to be altered and values to shift. What stories are shifted or lost in the transfer of knowledge across generations? Queerness has always been present, but how has its existence been impacted by the dominant culture in Turkey? What were queer stories like in Turkey before the political push to an Islamic state, and how have they changed today? The goal of this project is to examine these questions by immersing myself in the stories of my Turkish relatives and identifying how these stories shift when the perspectives of women and queer individuals are centered. The final aspect of the project will be a Super 8mm documentary film, which I hope will add a unique perspective to […]

...Read More about Alina Çelik

Piobaireachd, Clans, and Colonialism: The Decline of Highland Society

In 1746, the Battle of Culloden ended in a defeat of the Jacobites and quickly spelled the end for the unique Gaelic-speaking society that had developed in the Scottish Highlands. This is the common narrative for the decline of Gaelic-speaking Scotland and the clan system that was associated with it. My project seeks to investigate how this narrative might be complicated because of the ways in which Highlanders and their culture had become increasingly Anglicized since the reign of King James IV, the last Gaelic-speaking King of Scotland. One of the ways this cultural shift will be investigated is through the analysis of shifts in Highland bagpiping from a more Gaelic tradition to a more typical Western tradition.

...Read More about Colin Chamberlin

The Effect of Deafferentation on the Sensorimotor System

Motor learning – the process of acquiring skilled movements – helps us learn to kick a ball and play piano. Among the many processes that enable motor learning, motor adaptation is of primary importance, enabling us to readily respond to changes in the body (e.g., muscle fatigue) and environment (e.g., a heavy jacket). A large body of work has emphasized how motor adaptation is driven by visual signals; however, the role of proprioception – one’s awareness about the location of the body – has been largely neglected. To fill this gap in the literature, I will examine the role of proprioception on motor adaptation. Through behavioral experiments (in-person and online), as well as a meta-analysis of the literature, I will compare motor performance between patients without proprioception – also known as deafferentation, an extremely rare neurological condition – with those of age-matched controls. These results will not only reveal how […]

...Read More about Anisha Chandy

Using DNA-Directed Patterning to Study EMT and MET in Breast Cancer

Invasive breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the US, with over 270,000 new cases diagnosed annually. With significant advancements in diagnosis and treatment, approximatey 90 percent of deaths are related to metastasis, the migration of cancer cells from the primary tumor to peripheral organs. Here, a subpopulation of tumor cells relies on phenotypic transitions to gain traits that aid in migration and invasion. This rare population of cells exists on a spectrum of phenotypes and is more resistant to treatment, highlighting the importance of increased investigation. The goal of my study is to investigate these rare intermediate phenotypes that are induced by the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and reverse mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET). I will pattern tumorigenic, breast epithelial cells with other tumor microenvironment (TME) cells and determine which activate EMT/MET in tumor cells. Knowing what induces EMT/MET will allow me to control breast cancer cell phenotype and study specific […]

...Read More about Zahir Chaudhry

How Does Memory Capacity Impact Motor Learning?

How does our memory capacity impact our ability to learn new motor skills, like dancing or playing an instrument? Specifically, why is it harder to learn many new movement patterns at once? Is it better to learn new movements sequentially, or is it better to learn new movements in parallel? Throughout the summer, my mentor and I will ask how memory capacity impacts motor learning. To test this, we will use a wide range of behavior experiment designs, observing how participants acquire and adapt their movements in response to feedback using high-resolution motion tracking. In addition, I will draw insights from these kinematic data using software packages like R or Python. By the end of the summer, we hope to gain insights into the relationship between memory capacity and motor learning.

...Read More about Yifei Chen

Social Modulation of Sickness Behavior in Prairie Voles

Challenges to the immune system mobilize immune resources to trigger physiological and behavioral changes in a host. Alongside fever and cytokine responses, organisms initiate “sickness behaviors” like lethargy, social withdrawal, and decreased food and water intake to facilitate recovery from illness and prevent disease transmission to conspecifics. Yet, some species mask their sickness behaviors in group contexts to take advantage of survival and reproductive benefits, a form of social modulation. Prairie voles are a unique model for human social behavior, as they form selective, enduring social preferences for opposite-sex mates and same-sex peers, unlike traditional laboratory rodents. However, little research has investigated sickness behavior in this species, particularly in its modulation by same-sex peers, who were previously shown to facilitate recovery from stressors. My research will investigate the extent to which a same-sex peer modulates sickness behavior in male and female prairie voles provide further insight into the impact of […]

...Read More about Diana Chernyak

Mitochondrial FNIP1 Recruitment in the Reductive Stress Response

Redox homeostasis is essential for cell health. It can be perturbed by an overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which leads to oxidative stress. The converse, reductive stress, is caused by mitochondrial inactivation and depletion of ROS. Persistent reductive stress impairs metazoan development and causes cancer, diabetes, and cardiomyopathy. Despite its central role in development and disease, how reductive stress is sensed and alleviated remains poorly understood. The Rape Lab recently identified the first pathway that can counteract reductive stress. Following reductive stress, the E3 ligase CUL2FEM1B marks the FNIP1 proteins for degradation at the outer mitochondrial membrane, which increases electron transport chain activity and resupplies cells with ROS. I hypothesize that localized FNIP1 degradation allows the reductive stress pathway to accurately sense mitochondrial ROS production. The primary goal of my SURF project is to determine how FNIP1 is recruited to the mitochondria. This is essential to understanding how a […]

...Read More about Joelle Chuang

Unearthing Deep Histories of Salt Using Online Archives

History critically enables us to go back into the past and recover the essential context necessary to understand our present, despite and in defiance of established colonial narratives that often seek to disperse and bury the truth. This project will explore the centrality of salt as a material, cultural, and political resource in North American Indigenous society, and the ways in which salt reserves became highly contested sites as European colonizers attempted to co-opt the body of profound environmental knowledge harbored by the Indigenous cultures with which they came into contact in an attempt to command control over this resource. Our research will draw on a range of archaeological, geological, and ethnographic materials to inform a more complete understanding of how salt was transformed into a tool for political power in mid-sixteenth-century North America. Throughout this project, with the guidance of my mentor, I will develop the ability to practice […]

...Read More about Ainsley Cunningham

Dance as a Tool for Building Healthy Communities

Research across artistic disciplines has demonstrated that participation in the arts has a profound positive impact on the life of an individual, and on communities at large. An ecological public health model even enlists access to the arts as a core factor in shaping an individuals response to their social determinants of health. The art form of ballet, however, is working against a 400-year history of exclusionary practices and elitism that challenges the its relevancy and solvency in contemporary society. Increasingly, ballet companies are designing programming to be accessible to more diverse populations, including neurodiverse communities; however, this is an understudied field. My research aims to fill this gap in knowledge with a specific focus on dance programs designed for neurodiverse communities. The goal of my research is to create a framework of practices, interventions, and strategies that can be adopted by ballet companies to increase accessibility of the art […]

...Read More about Alexandra Cunningham

Dark Matter Blob Signal Analysis

Currently, the nature of dark matter is a fascinating question for the field of physics. One promising candidate about the nature of dark matter is axions, which is a theoretical, lightweight particle filling all of space. According to theory, these light, axion-like particles behave like a field that oscillates at particular frequencies. However, this frequency can change over space, forming regions bounded by so-called domain walls. This year, I have been working on the Global Network of Optical Magnetometers for Exotic physics (GNOME) station at Berkeley, which uses optical techniques to measure the magnetic field in a vapor cell. According to theory, when the Earth crosses one of these axion domains, an effective magnetic field coupling will be detected in the magnetometer, so the presence of axions can be determined by analyzing the signal. To reduce noise, the GNOME collaboration operates multiple, independent magnetometers across the Earth, jointly analyzing the […]

...Read More about Nicholas Cutsail

The Role of the Sorghum Circadian Clock in Blue Light-Mediated Growth

Sorghum bicolor is a biofuel feedstock and staple food crop. My research focuses on understanding the role of a core circadian clock component, Sorghum bicolor Gigantea (SbGI), in modulating sorghum sensitivity to cryptochrome signaling at different times of the day. In related grasses, cryptochromes, activated by blue light, upregulate active gibberellin degradation genes to strategically cease plant elongation. Importantly, the SbGI mutant has a severe stunted-growth phenotype relative to the wild type, and preliminary protein interaction results suggest that SbGI and cryptochromes interact. These observations inform my hypothesis that SbGI is necessary for blocking cryptochrome activity to allow for active gibberellin to accumulate in a time-specific manner to drive diurnal growth. The confirmation of this mechanism would be the first documentation of a Gigantea-cryptochrome interaction and would inform us about how the circadian clock directly coordinates daily growth. If it is known when, under what conditions, and how growth is […]

...Read More about Samuel De Riseis

Rates of Chlamydia (Ct) and Gonorrhea (Ng) Within the Fijian Population

This summer, I will be traveling to Suva, Fiji with a research team from UCSF led by Dr. Deborah Dean. As part of a longitudinal study started in 2018, we aim to identify Ng antibiotic susceptibility patterns and determine current rates of resistance to antibiotics. With this in mind, we are also looking to determine the association of antibiotic resistance (AR) Ng strains with clinical signs and symptoms. In addition, we are looking at current Ng-Ct co-infection rates, in order to determine the longitudinal prevalence of Ng and STIs and other vaginal co-infections in Fiji, whose total healthcare expenditure is only 4.5% of GDP. Previous research has shown high rates of asymptomatic Ng and Ct infections and no diagnostic testing, indicating a high risk for transmission. My team’s research will be crucial in helping the Fijian Ministry of Health to develop interventions and treatment to advance antibiotic stewardship, and to […]

...Read More about Madison de Vere

Fluorescence Labeling Gut Commensal Bacteria of C. elegans

Our lab is working to understand the effects of host-microbe interactions in the powerful model organism C. elegans. In order to quantify the microbiome, we have previously used a single fluorescent bacterial strain that is a known gut commensal. However, only having access to this single strain limits the types of experiments we can do, as we are forced to include this strain in studies hoping to understand colonization levels in the worm gut. In order to remedy this issue, my project will attempt to introduce a fluorescent plasmid into the chromosome of other bacterial strains we are interested in studying. This will allow us to study the effects of these strains in the gut microbiota more effectively, while also clarifying the protocol for creating fluorescent bacteria in different families.

...Read More about Ethan Deller

Investigating Stellar Mass vs. Rotation Period Using K2 Space Telescope

The K2 telescope observed over half a million stars in the night sky. Some of these stars are in dense open clusters,” and all of the stars in an open cluster are assumed to be the same age. K2 generated composite images of these open clusters, and in this project we will analyze an open cluster called Ruprecht 147. The goal of this project is to measure how rapidly the stars in Ruprecht 147 are rotating and compare this to how massive they are. Then we will look at how this relationship between mass and rotation for the stars in Ruprecht 147 compares to those for other open clusters of different ages. This will tell us about how stellar populations change over time. The project involves generating time-series data from telescope images and searching for periodic signals in this data, querying a large database to extract stellar masses, and quantitatively […]

...Read More about Anmol Desai

Provocative and Fun: How Social Factors Influence Video Game Design

Children who are facing structural disadvantages such as poverty or racism are often left with few opportunities for change. This may result in consequences that directly impact their lifelong economic mobility and opportunities. Interventions such as cognitive behavioral-therapy (CBT), a form of therapy supporting change in thinking and behavior, are effective; yet, the success of these interventions relies entirely on engagement. For children, CBT may be found to be boring, consisting of homework, and not fun to participate in. By creating a video game as a novel form of intervention for behavioral challenges in “heated” (provoking) situations for children, these digital natives can be reached in their preferred medium: fun and engaging video games. But what in-game mechanics and social context are necessary for a game to achieve this? I aim to identify the elements that will be used to guide the development of a novel intervention through co-design playtests […]

...Read More about Valerie Ekko

Probing the CP Properties of the Top-Higgs Interaction

What is the universe made of? This fundamental question haunting us for thousands of years has been answered by the Standard Model (SM), which gives us the results with unprecedented accuracy. The SM provides a set of rules that governs elementary particle interactions, but there must be something missing. A big hint here is that SM doesnt explain the asymmetry between matter and antimatter, the nature of dark matter, and the quantum behavior of gravity. Physics beyond the Standard Model (BSM) must exist. The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) investigates a wide range of BSM physics. Measuring the properties of the Higgs boson is a powerful path. This project will focus on searching for single top Higgs production. Specifically, I will design analysis to measure the event rate of the tH process in which the Higgs boson has a high transverse momentum and decays to a pair […]

...Read More about Yuan Feng

Gene Silencing with a Novel RNAi Method in the Cassiopea Jellyfish

At night, the Cassiopea jellyfish slows its activity and enters a sleep state. Because sleep research focuses on models with centralized nervous systems, the sleep behavior of this brainless, decentralized jellyfish exposes a gap in the field that my project will address. In particular, I plan to test our novel RNA interference (RNAi) technique and use it to characterize the molecular mechanisms of sleep in Cassiopea. My lab recently developed the first RNAi protocol for jellyfish, a significant feat given that standard techniques are not easily applied to this nontraditional organism. First, I aim to develop positive control RNAi constructs to provide confidence in our future knockdowns. The constructs will target genes whose knockdown can be screened by eye: sphingosine kinase and microophthalmia-associated transcription factor. Second, I aim to silence an acetylcholine receptor subunit connected to sleep and activity using our method in sleep-deprived jellyfish. I will compare the resulting […]

...Read More about Diana Francis

Comparative Study of Naming Choices of Chinese and Indian Americans

My research seeks to answer why different ethnic groups of Asian Americans adopt American first names at distinct rates; to what extent first names affect one’s identification with one’s ethnic origin; and how gender moderates the naming process. The project was motivated by personal observations: I found that my East Asian peers all have Americanized first names, while most of my South Asian peers have first names that signal their ethnic origin – a pattern I subsequently confirmed using the California Birth Index. The quantitative discovery intrigued me enough to engage in further qualitative research. Through in-depth interviews with first- and second-generation Asian Americans of Chinese or Indian descent, I seek to uncover the motivations and consequences behind different naming practices. Given previous literature’s findings on the adverse effects of racially identifiable names and name-changing as an assimilation strategy, it is particularly interesting how two groups of immigrants display distinct […]

...Read More about Yike Gao

Implicit Bias & Perceived Disrespect: Latine Girls in the Classroom

My work aims to investigate how the intersection between ethnicity and gender may influence teachers’ perceptions of disrespect. Previous research has found a perceived desire for increased discipline for Black boys in the classroom relative to white boys. However, the same results could not be replicated for girls. I believe that by creating a study that is informed by Latine girls’ intersecting identities, I will find similar results for perceived disrespect. I have created a survey containing a student’s misbehavior that presents the participant with either a stereotypical Latine girl name or a stereotypical White girl name. Thereafter, participants are given survey questions that address perceived disrespect and their feelings toward the student. Participants’ responses will demonstrate whether there is greater perceived disrespect in the Latine girl condition compared to the White girl condition. These results could suggest a need for further research on how differential perceptions may affect the […]

...Read More about Alondra Garcia

Tipping Environment: Online Versus In-Person

If you have gone to a fast-casual restaurant within the last few years, you will be all too familiar with how the process of tipping works. After the cashier taps your order into the restaurant’s tablet device, they flip it around with tip options for you to select. The bubbles can range from percentages to dollar amounts, depending on the restaurant (e.g., 15%, 20%, 25%, $1, $2, $3, etc.). Unlike past studies on tipping, which look at situations in which the cashier leaves and returns to pick up your check, my research will focus on these new devices and their impact on the tips that customers leave. I predict that by banishing the “custom” tip amount option to the corner of the screen and having the cashier, and the line of people behind you, immediately see which option you select, customers are being pressured into choosing a higher option. Therefore, […]

...Read More about Arjun Grover

Challenging Immigrant Detention: Race, Class, and Collective Action

The United States has increasingly relied on human confinement and incarceration to manage immigration, despite a large body of evidence showing that it inflicts a wide degree of violence and harms upon our noncitizen community members and their families. How can we challenge this inhumane system? This summer, my mentor and I will try to answer this question. With a focus on the American electorate as a key mechanism for policy change, we will examine the social forces driving mass detention and explore actionable, evidence-based solutions intended to mitigate harm. Community-based case management alternatives offer a realistic pathway that may reshape the current system characterized by ineffective notions of punishment and deterrence that produce a profound human cost. The main study utilizes a nationwide survey experiment that examines whether race-class fusion communication strategies can spur collective action among the electorate in pursuit of an immigration system that preserves liberty, dignity, […]

...Read More about Agustin Guerrero

How and Why Students Select Their College Majors

My URAP Project “Choosing My Major” began in Fall 2021 with the purpose of assisting undergraduates students in choosing their major, as well as understanding why college students pick their majors. One of the main goals of this project was to collect real stories from current undergraduate students on how they came about choosing their major. Another goal was to develop a pilot survey in order to collect information from students on their decision-making process. This initial pilot survey was sent out to 78 undergraduate students, and they answered 30 questions on how they came about choosing their major. As a SURF fellow, I plan on continuing this research by modifying the survey and narrowing the questions to be more specific. Once the survey is completed and re-sent to the student body, I plan to analyze the data collected and write a report regarding the information gathered. Eventually, the information […]

...Read More about Vani Gupta

John Clare and the Poetics of Attention

This project analyzes the origins, uses, and effects of attention in the work of 19th-century poet John Clare in order to illuminate the nature of the relationship between poet and place. I will analyze his poetry for habits of attention not only in his acts of observation, but in the poetic techniques he uses to describe what he sees, and thus translate his heightened sense of attention. By approaching his body of work through the lens of the poetics of attention and his focus on his immediate surroundings, I aim to explore the complex relationship between the poet’s groundedness and the simultaneous sense of unsettledness or imprisonment that comes as a result of the intensely familiar connection to it. I seek to tease out how Clare’s habit of noticing and, importantly, his ability to continue to notice the minute and generally unnoticeable in nature contributes to an almost instinctual, reactionary […]

...Read More about Helen Halliwell

Accelerating Chemical Understanding

One of the difficulties in chemistry research comes from bridging the gap between the data collected by experimental chemists and the computational data analysis done by theoretical chemists. There can be a significant disparity of knowledge between the two branches of chemistry, which can hinder the progress of research and education on both sides. Furthermore, understanding the results of the chemical data can be a daunting task for newcomers to chemistry research. My intention is to bridge this gap by developing a computational framework that gives easily understandable statements on the fundamentals of materials and molecules and their corresponding X-ray spectral fingerprints. These statements will be based on the output of electronic structure and spectral calculations from Density Functional Theory (DFT) from data calculated in the Prendergast Group. The framework can then be generalized to many areas of chemistry research, particularly topics that are energy-relevant, such as catalysis, electrochemistry (e.g., […]

...Read More about Nabiha Hasan

Morphology of Sulci in OFC Predict Emotionally-Related Impulsivity

The characteristics of the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and measures of emotionally-related impulsivity (ERI) offer strong diagnostic potential in the identification of internalized and externalized disorders (Nakamura et al., 2020; Johnson et al., 2013). Yet, nearly two dozen papers attempted to locate the neural correlates of ERI with no success (Johnson et al., 2020) until recently, with the discovery of a morphological link between the OFC and measures of ERI (Elliott et al., 2021). Of interest to the present project, separate and prior work identified that the patterning of indentions (sulci) in OFC were different between healthy controls and neurodiverse populations, as well as predicted symptom severity and various outcomes (Nakamura et al., 2020). In the present study, we aim to link these two branches of research to understand the role of sulcal morphology in ERI. Preliminary results support both the qualitative perspective that the number of sulci and quantitative perspective […]

...Read More about William Hastings

Identifying Targets and Biological Mechanisms of Gymnastatins

Proteins are essential parts of our being, but are also at the root of many health conditions when misformed. One novel approach to treating such diseases is with molecular glues: small molecules that can cause targeted protein degradation or stabilization. My project focuses on a set of potential molecular glues known as gymnastatins, which are natural products originating from the fungal strain Gymnascella dankaliensis. The Nomura Research Group has demonstrated that gymnastatins have antiproliferative effects on breast cancer cells. Dankastatin B, the most potent gymnastatin against cancer cell viability, targets the mitochondrial membrane proteins VDAC2 and VDAC3. VDAC2 and VDAC3 were verified to be related to the proteins anticancer effects, but it is currently unknown how exactly these proteins are involved in intrinsic apoptosis (cell death). We hypothesize that dankastatin B acts as a molecular glue between VDAC2 and VDAC3, aiding in the initiation of apoptosis in cancer cells. This […]

...Read More about Emily Ho

The Role of Episodic Memory in Learning

Studying learning is crucial to understanding the human mind. Currently, active research is being done on the relationship between cognitive processes and memory systems. While most studies focus on the systems individually, much recent research shows that human learning can be better explained by considering multiple systems simultaneously. We focus on the RLWM framework, which suggests that reinforcement learning (RL) and working memory (WM) both contribute significantly to trial-and-error learning. It takes into account the limited capacity of memory, more efficiently accounting for dependence of learning on the number of items learned in parallel than only considering RL to model behavior. Recent literature has shown that episodic memory (EM) contributes to learning alongside RL and WM. However, no study has examined the role of all three systems (RL, WM, EM) jointly so far. This project, therefore, aims to find whether EM affects RLWM learning and how it contributes to the […]

...Read More about Soobin Hong

Optimization of Direct Air Capture in Environments of Steady Flow

Direct air capture (DAC) is the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere. While DAC is essential to achieving net zero carbon emissions and preventing irreversible damage from climate change, DAC plants require extensive energy input to draw in air. Dr. Klaus Lackner at the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University has developed a prototype of a MechanicalTreeTM that utilizes passive air flow to reduce required energy. Before these machines can be deployed, we need to determine the optimal configurations to place them based on local wind patterns. We want distributions that minimize surface area yet maximize the fraction of air molecules filtered. I will develop a model in MATLAB that utilizes multi-physics simulations paired with genetic algorithms (GA) to optimize the placement of DAC machines. With this model, we can make DAC feasible for implementation on a global scale to reverse the trend of […]

...Read More about Thomas Hosmer

Developing Analytic Tools for PDEs with Ideas from Geometric Flows

  Geometric flows, such as the Ricci flow, Yang-Mills flow, and harmonic map flow, are natural ways to smooth out geometric objects (metric, connection, and maps, respectively). In this project, we will explore the idea of using geometric flows to develop new analytic tools for studying geometric objects. A possible goal of this project is to use geometric flows to solve problems in dispersive PDEs that involve geometric objects.

...Read More about Yuming Huang

Investigating the Synergistic Anti-tumor Effect of Akkermansia and ICI

The gut microbiota plays a salient role in mediating host physiology and immunity. Several studies link immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) efficacy in extraintestinal cancers to gut microbiota composition, with commensals, such as Akkermansia muciniphila (A. muciniphila). Recently, studies found that A. muciniphila treatment during anti-PD1 immunotherapy showed potential clinical relevance; however, the differential effects on antitumor responses by the different strains of A. muciniphila are not yet elucidated. Becken et al. (2021) genotyped 71 strains of A. muciniphila, together representing the Am (A. muciniphila) I, AmII, and AmIV clades, and identified clade-specific characteristics that may influence interactions with the host immune system in vivo. Using the collection of A. muciniphila strains from the Valdivia Lab, I will test the hypothesis that A. muciniphila clade-specific traits can lead to varied effects on systemic anti-tumor responses. I will first examine whether gnotobiotic mice colonized with representative A. muciniphila strains from each of […]

...Read More about Chen Kai Huang

Impact of Sequences of Flavivirus Infections on Dengue Immunity

Dengue virus (DENV) is a viral disease endemic in subtropical and tropical regions that causes one of the most important mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans, with around 50 million cases annually. Infections are caused by four genetically related but distinct serotypes, DENV1-4, which can lead to individuals becoming infected with multiple serotypes during their lifespan. Primary DENV or ZIKV infections generate antibodies that protect against infection from the same serotype, but they also lead to generation of cross-reactive antibodies that can increase the risk of a secondary symptomatic DENV infection and enhance dengue disease severity. Importantly, the mechanism by which the host immune response provides either protection or enhancement of subsequent infection is not fully understood. My research project aims to describe the complex profile of antibodies generated after primary DENV and ZIKV infection and fill important knowledge gaps regarding the understanding and prediction of epidemics and the development and […]

...Read More about Julia Huffaker

Tuning 2D Electrochemical Properties via Heterointerface Effects

In recent years, the study of 2D materials consisting of atomically thin sheets of matter has exploded into a vibrant research area pursued by materials chemists and condensed matter physicists alike. The structures of these materials bring about many exotic properties which, in the near future, are projected to see groundbreaking applications in energy conversion and storage, as well as low-power computation. The behavior of electrons in 2D materials can be significantly altered by bringing flakes of differing chemical structures into contact. My project aims to better understand and exploit the consequences of introducing these heterointerfaces, in hopes of electrochemically inserting transition metal ions into the gap between the layers. Such a feat has proven extremely difficult, so I intend to make use of the unique properties of TMDs (transition metal dichalcogenides) and α-ruthenium chloride to produce an interface that welcomes the intercalation of such ions. Upon successful intercalation, I […]

...Read More about Rocky Hughes

Improving Cognition in Alzheimer's Disease through Light Stimulation

In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there is a clear relationship between reduced cognitive ability, asynchronous brain wave oscillations, and neuroinflammation. Microglia, the immune cells of the central nervous system, no longer efficiently target and clear amyloid-beta, leading to an accumulation of plaques that disrupt neuronal communication. This summer, my mentor and I are interested in manipulating oscillatory activity at the gamma wave frequency associated with optimal cognition (40Hz), as a target for therapeutic intervention. We will test a new invisible light-flicker technology on a mouse model of AD that pilot data suggests will synchronize brain wave activity and neuronal firing to induce healthy neuroimmune system functioning. We predict that with 40Hz stimulation, microglia will better function in clearing amyloid-beta plaque accumulation and improve cognition. By employing quantitative PCR, we will isolate microglia and characterize their cytokine profiles to increase our understanding of how non-invasive sensory stimuli can induce large-scale changes in […]

...Read More about Lucy Jiwu

Gut microbiota for E. faecalis Infection Resistance in C. elegans

The animal gastrointestinal tract is colonized by diverse microorganisms collectively termed the gut microbiota, of which bacteria are the most characterized. Gut bacteria play numerous roles in host physiology, from development to immune homeostasis. In recent years, there has been a significant rise in interest in understanding the role of gut microbiota in protecting the host from pathogen colonization. Past research has uncovered that gut microbiota can prevent pathogenic bacteria from colonizing the host gut by competing for resources, enhancing host immunity, or directly inhibiting pathogen proliferation. Yet, more research is required to better understand the modes in which gut bacteria help their hosts resist infections. I will take advantage of the Caenorhabditis elegans model to identify specific gut bacteria that increase host resistance to the pathogen Enterococcus faecalis, a bacterium responsible for many human infections. I hypothesize that common C. elegans gut microbiota members will confer protection against E. […]

...Read More about Da Kyung Jung

Investigating Genetic Determinants of Growth in C. aerofaciens

The gut bacteria Collinsella aerofaciens has two coexisting growth phenotypes in culture, and my research will identify genes driving these phenotypes. C. aerofaciens is a large component of the human gut microbiome, and is able to ferment and metabolize different carbohydrate sources, making it a crucial part of human nutrient metabolism. Looking at variation in growth (pellet versus suspension) will allow me to better understand the ways in which the bacteria respond to different growing conditions. We will use a combination of gene expression analysis and a forward genetic screen to identify the genetic loci that are responsible for the observed differences in growth. This project will contribute new information regarding C. aerofaciens’ growth as a bacteria crucial for metabolism and digestion of certain compounds, and for repression and modulation of pathogenicity in the human gut. Understanding bacterial growth in the gut will provide information as to the role of […]

...Read More about Haaris Kadri

Mechanics and Defensive Functions of Gastropod Shell Ornamentation

Mollusk shells have been objects of fascination throughout human history, in part due to their striking ornamentation in the form of knobs, ridges, and spines. These elaborate structures are hypothesized to be so prevalent among mollusks because they protect against breakage by shell-crushing predators. However, the mechanisms by which ornamentation contributes to defense remain largely unknown. This project will use compression tests of 3D-printed shell models to study the mechanical behavior of spines in gastropod mollusks, in order to better understand how spine morphology affects resistance to forces such as those applied by predators. Using 3D prints eliminates many of the confounding factors that typically accompany studies of biological specimens, allowing the influence of morphology to be isolated and investigated. These results will contribute to our understanding of the selective pressures driving mollusk evolution on geologic timescales and help to explain the high morphological disparity observed today. Knowledge of how […]

...Read More about Leah Kahn

The Involuntary Excluder Effect in Varying Group Size

When you get rejected by a member of your group, you may feel as if other members are also excluding you. Such a misconception in social exclusion is documented as the Involuntary Excluder Effect (IEE). Although IEE is known to be robust in one-person exclusion, its scope and mechanism remain unknown. Given the consequences of exclusion on ones emotions and workplace productivity, it is crucial to understand how IEE plays out in real-life situations. How does having more included or excluded members affect the level of IEE? What mechanisms explain it? In this study, I will measure the robustness of the IEE by varying the number of included and excluded members and test its mechanism by measuring how ones role as an included or rejected person changes ones construal of the ambiguous exclusion. This robustness check should increase the external validity of this research, given it is common for one-person […]

...Read More about Rinda Kawamoto

The Land Story

The Doctrine of Discovery precluded any non-Christian individual from having a legal claim to land under European colonial law. In the Spanish occupation of California, this Doctrine led to the establishment of the Mission system intended to indoctrinate the native people of California into becoming “responsible Christian landowners.” But, after the Mexican and then American occupation of California, these religious doctrines were largely abandoned. Yet, after each successive change in governance, control over land was redistributed. I will spend the summer examining documents housed at the Bancroft and State Library Archives and related to land claim disputes during early American occupation (1850–1870) in order to understand the causes, justifications, and circumstances by which native people were continually dispossessed, and by which land ownership was so radically altered between successive governmental regimes.

...Read More about Joshua Kay

A Duopoly of Violence: Conflict and Competition in Canada's Fur Trade

For two hundred years, the Hudson’s Bay Company exercised de facto colonial rule over most of central and western Canada. While many concessionary regions monopolizing extractive production have experienced negative developmental outcomes, Canada is one of the world’s most prosperous countries, and has a less negative record of native persecution. I seek to analyze whether this paradoxical result can be in part explained by the HBC’s competition with the French and several independent British firms during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which may have created “outside options” that increased indigenous bargaining power.

...Read More about Davis Kedrosky

Media as a Mother: Representations of Queerness in Children's Media

While many know the wicked sea witch Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, few understand that she was based on the drag queen Divine. Ursula is only one of a myriad of representations of queerness in children’s media. My project explores the evolution of queer representation in children’s media and the role it plays in transforming mainstream cultural norms, working as a tool to socialize children. From the demonization of queer characteristics resulting in queer-coded villains to same-sex kisses on animated television shows of the 21st century, queer representation in children’s media has evolved significantly since the mid 1900s. By critically engaging with representations of queerness in children’s media, my research will uncover the mechanisms by which media can more inclusively portray the complexities of sexual orientation and gender identity. Positive and explicit depictions of queerness can normalize gender fluidity and same-sex attraction, leading to identity affirmation in children. My […]

...Read More about Caitlin Keller

Blindness and Brilliance: Homer's Disability, Landscapes, and Language

Working from the traditional canon of Homeric work and analysis, this project will explore the implications of disability, particularly blindness, and its relationships to the landscapes and language of Homer. After broadly defining the classical interpretations of disability, the project will explore how blindness is linguistically represented in Homer’s work and analyze, through research, his life and the landscapes he occupied and illustrated. The project will employ the concept of enargeia, a Homeric idea translated by Alice Oswald as “bright unbearable reality,” to contextualize the representation of blindness as divinely manifested, physically mapped, and linguistically metaphorized in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, keeping in mind the likely apocryphal tradition of Homer as a blind poet. As the project analyzes Homeric simile and its relationship to physical landscapes and environments, it will attempt to edify the intersectionality of landscape, language, disability, and the navigation between them, both metaphorically and literally.

...Read More about Eva Kerins

Understanding Mechanisms Behind Memory Cells in PTSD Susceptibility

Memories in the brain are encoded in specialized neurons called “engram cells,” which are active during an initial event and the recall of that event. Little is known about how these cells form, but exposure to traumatic stress has previously been linked to an increase in the number of engram cells. The goal of my research is to examine the formation of engram cells in multiple areas of the brain after exposure to stress and determine if the increased presence of these cells results in PTSD-like behavior in mice. Understanding the beginning of engram formation will allow for a better understanding of how individuals respond to stress and the neural mechanism that results in maladaptive methods of handling stress. Over the summer, I will subject mice to stress by exposing them to a chronic social defeat stress paradigm, performing a series of behavior tests, and comparing the molecular markers for […]

...Read More about Ria Khera

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a degenerative change that occurs in the cervical spine and causes compression of the spinal cord. Patients with CSM can experience a wide range of symptoms, including weakness and numbness in the hands and arms, loss and balance and coordination, and neck pain. CSM is the most common spinal cord dysfunction in older persons and is likely to increase in incidence as the number of older persons in the United States increases. My research will focus on the diagnosis and treatment of CSM. More specifically, I will participate in data collection and analysis of CSM patients undergoing surgery at UCSF. I will also compare clinical outcomes and complications with various approaches, including anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), posterior cervical fusion (PCF), and laminoplasty. Ultimately, the findings from this research will hopefully help reveal the correct surgical technique that ensures the optimal clinical outcome for […]

...Read More about Jaeson Kim

Identification of a Novel Antimicrobial Compound from S. sasae

  Many of the antibiotics used today are natural products of bacterial secondary metabolism. Streptomyces spp., in particular, have been found to produce many secondary metabolites, including antifungals, antibiotics, antivirals, and antitumorals. The modern age is facing a problem of rapidly increasing antibiotic resistance coupled with a lack of discovery of new antimicrobial compounds. This project seeks to identify and investigate the spectrum of action of a potentially novel antifungal compound produced by a Streptomyces sasae isolate from burned soil plots in the Blodgett Research Forest. This compound has been shown to inhibit growth of the pyrophilous fungus Pyronema omphalodes, and preliminary investigation has found that it is likely a novel compound. Through purification and identification of this antifungal compound, my project has the potential to aid in the discovery of a novel antimicrobial, as well as expand our knowledge of metabolites produced specifically in burned-soil ecosystems.

...Read More about Nicole Kim

Dirt, Concrete, and Shifting Inequities on Bay Area Highways, 1910-2020

Since their inception, the role and cultural significance of highways have aligned with contemporary issues of inequity and have been vectors of harm. I will analyze the history of the Bay Area’s highways and examine the inequity that shaped and was built into the public understanding of the highways, as well as the structures themselves. Three main eras I will focus on are: 1910–1940, when highways were novel and their place in culture was being constructed; 1941–1980, when they were used as a tool to reshape communities and the dynamics of urban-suburban relationships; and 1980–present, when the adverse consequences of living near highways has come to be more recognized, which increasingly informs attitudes toward them, particularly in the Bay Area. Using Geographic Information Systems tools, I will investigate the impacts freeways have on quality of life and compare those to the demographics most affected by highways today to understand current […]

...Read More about Silas Kirsch

Determining if T2 Diabetes Predicts an Increase in Cortical Porosity

It is increasingly being recognized that diabetic bone disease, associated with an increased risk of bone fractures, cannot be detected effectively using traditional detection methods for osteoporosis. This is because patients with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), despite having normal or even high bone densities, are still prone to fractures. The Bone Quality Research Lab at UCSF has established that deficits in the cortical bone structure are associated with T2D and the increased fracture potential found in those with T2D. My research will further develop this finding by determining if T2D status, marrow, or vessel metrics predict longitudinal increase in porosity and decrease in strength. This work will contribute to further understanding of whether cortical pore content can be used as a predictor for cortical degradation, as well as furthering our understanding of how such degradation takes place and what potential targets exist for future therapeutic studies. With the number of […]

...Read More about Pranav Kolluri

Significance of Unique Rhamnolipid Production in Paraburkholderia sp.

I am interested in learning more about the unique rhamnolipid methyl esters (RMEs) produced by the pyrophilous bacterium Paraburkholderia sp. F3 and RMEs’ ecological significance. Previous endeavors in this project have uncovered the production of the unique RMEs by P. sp. F3, which first attracted attention due to its antibiotic activity against a pyrophilous fungus (Pyronema omphalodes) found in the same environment as P. sp. F3. After purification and identification of these antibiotic compounds, the RMEs were identified as analogs of the rhamnolipids produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a biosurfactant with applications in agricultural, pharmaceutical, food, cosmetics, and detergent industries. The small differences in the structures of the Pseudomonas rhamnolipids and the RMEs suggest that RMEs are stronger surfactants. If this is the case, learning more about RMEs and how to produce them could play a very important role in formulating better fire recovery strategies and also developing more effective surfactants […]

...Read More about Sara Koupaei

Geometric Flows

Geometric flows, such as the Ricci flow, Yang-Mills flow, and harmonic map flow, are natural ways to smooth out geometric objects (metric, connection, and maps, respectively). In this project, we will explore the idea of using geometric flows to develop new analytic tools for studying geometric objects. A possible goal of this project is to use geometric flows to solve problems in dispersive PDEs that involve geometric objects.

...Read More about Jacob Krantz

Front Limb Functional Morphology of Fox Squirrels During Landing

The ability to reliably leap and land on unfamiliar and unstable surfaces is instrumental to squirrels’ survival and navigation of arboreal environments. In previous studies, squirrels quickly learned to modify impulse generation upon repeated leaps from unfamiliar, compliant beams and rapidly adjusted foot placement to compensate for rotating rods. Understanding how squirrels adjust to unexpected landing conditions could not only help us better understand their morphological adaptations but could also provide innovative solutions in developing bio-inspired robots. Current jumping robots, such as UC Berkeley’s SALTO, are only capable of using their point foot to land on flat surfaces. Biological systems like squirrels can help inspire robots that can land on complex terrains. My study aims to quantify the key metrics in squirrel landing foot placement, in particular paw placement angles, contact area, front limb stance width, and toe span over different gap distances and landing rod diameters. By studying prominent […]

...Read More about Duyi (Tina) Kuang

The Multiscale Impact of Spaceflight on the Human Intervertebral Disc

As NASA prepares to send astronauts on long-duration space flight missions, it is critical that protocols are developed to mitigate the damaging effects of spaceflight on the human body. One area in need of development is spine health, as astronauts are three- to four-times more likely to experience a herniated disc than the general population. Using spaceflight and ground-based mice from the Rodent Research-10 spaceflight mission, this research project will investigate the multiscale effects of spaceflight on the intervertebral disc. Over the course of the project, skills will be practiced to characterize the material properties of the discs, examine bone microstructure, and complete an RNA sequencing analysis of the caudal discs through microCT analysis of rodent bone microstructure and mechanical testing of mouse intervertebral discs. Thus, the effects of space flight will be studied in the spinal discs of rodents to better understand the connection between spine health and space.

...Read More about Rachel Kui

Development of Difluorobenzyl Synthons for Cross-Coupling Chemistry

The benzylic methylene unit (Ar-CH2-R) is a common motif in drug candidates and pharmaceuticals. However, the propensity of its C-H bonds toward oxidation creates the challenge of metabolic stability. One solution is the substitution of this motif with the benzylic difluoromethylene or difluorobenzyl units (Ar-CF2-R), wherein the reactive C-H bonds are substituted with metabolically more stable C-F bonds. However, despite the potential advantage of such an approach, few pharmaceuticals containing this motif have been commercialized. This project focuses on the development of novel Ar-CF2-M synthons for C-C cross-coupling chemistry. First, the substrate scope of the difluorocarbene insertion into Au(I)-aryl bonds will be investigated. We envision that a variety of aryl and heteroaryl-Au(I) species can undergo the difluorocarbene insertion. Secondly, conditions to couple these synthons with sp2-electrophiles will be screened and optimized. Lastly, the mechanism of the formal difluorocarbene insertion and the stability of the new aryldifluoromethyl-Au(I) species will be investigated […]

...Read More about Alexander Kvitsinski

Neural Mechanisms of Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and strokes are ongoing public health crises, taking millions of lives annually and leaving survivors chronically disabled. They commonly affect the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an integrative center for the brain’s reward and decision-making circuit. Thus, damage to the OFC can cause behavioral deficits, including impulsivity and impaired decision-making. My research examines the brain’s capacity for compensatory and functional reorganization in intact tissue following injury or lesion, which is crucial to furthering the clinical potential of neurorehabilitation. Previous analyses done by the D’Esposito Lab have found that connectivity between two other subcortical reward regions, the midbrain and hippocampus, mediates impulsivity in OFC lesion patients. However, a baseline analysis with healthy subjects is needed to clarify whether these changes in hippocampal-subcortical connectivity are a direct compensatory response to OFC lesions or just spontaneous variations, which is the purpose of my research. If my hypothesis is correct, the relationship […]

...Read More about Erin Lee

Understanding Coexistence of the Hawaiian Tetragnatha Spiders

Understanding niche differentiation is fundamental for comprehending the complicated process of adaptive radiation, a process characterized by the rapid formation of many ecologically different species from a single ancestor. However, the way in which niche differentiation is achieved during the early stage of adaptive radiation is still highly debated among evolutionary biologists. On the one hand, through the process of character displacement, natural selection could facilitate differentiation and diversification between closely related species where they co-occur with no need for prior niche differentiation at the time of secondary contact. Alternatively, enough niche differentiation between species can be achieved in isolation, before range overlap, facilitating coexistence and reducing the chance for competitive exclusion. Therefore, the goal of this project is to conduct a comparative analysis between sympatric and allopatric populations of the two species of the green ecomorphs of Hawaiian Tetragnatha spiny-leg spiders (T. waikamoi and T. brevignatha) to answer how […]

...Read More about Jennifer Lee

Collaborative Eco-Archaeology: Indigenous Natural Resource Stewardship

With extreme wildfires plaguing California, examining Indigenous interactions with the environment over the past two thousand years is crucial for current land management and preparation for the future of the landscape and its residents. This summer, I will work with my mentor, Alec Apodaca, as part of an integrative historical ecology and archaeology project along the central California coast (Laguna Creek, Hastings Natural History Reserve, and San Vicente Redwoods). Through hands-on fieldwork, I will develop my skills in landscape surveying, data collection, and laboratory analytics of organic eco-archaeological remains. I plan to also use my background in art to document our team efforts, offering this scientific multidisciplinary work a humanistic, creative lens that encourages public awareness and engagement with the current field of archaeology and supports Indigenous leadership in natural resource management today.

...Read More about Marissa Lee

Paralog-Specific Functions of Rab27a and Rab27b in Exosome Secretion

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are membrane-bound compartments that are exported out of cells. There are two major subpopulations of EVs: microvesicles and exosomes. Exosomes have garnered particular interest in the scientific community due to recent studies suggesting a role for exosomes in intercellular communication in both normal and disease states. Additionally, exosomes can be utilized as diagnostic biomarkers for a variety of disease conditions. Despite broad interest in exosomes, little is known about how their release is regulated. Rab27a and Rab27b are two very closely related proteins that regulate different steps of exosome secretion. How such similar proteins can control separate steps of this pathway is not well understood. My proposed research aims to characterize the distinct mechanisms by which Rab27a and Rab27b control exosome secretion using both genetic and biochemical approaches. Obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of how Rab27a and Rab27b regulate exosome secretion will provide insight into how exosomes […]

...Read More about Isabelle Lehman

Constitutional Universities

This summer, I will be working one-on-one with my mentor, Michael Banerjee, a fourth-year graduate student here at UC Berkeley. Michael and I will spend the summer researching documents from the history of the UC system, mostly through UC Regents reports from as far back as 1868, in order to investigate and better understand the origin and power of the Constitutional University system. The goal of this research is to obtain a full understanding of this incredibly unique state-constitution based charter system that is only found in the Western United States. In doing so, I will be doing crucial research to assist Michael in writing his dissertation, but will also gain valuable experience in historical and bibliographic research. I will also have the opportunity to learn more about jurisprudence, a branch of history that I have not yet explored.

...Read More about Ben Leong

Using CRISPRi to Investigate BBSome Proteins in MC4R Neurons

  The melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) in neurons is critical for managing appetite and energy expenditure. Specifically, leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, signals to POMC neurons, which then activate MC4R neurons that induce satiety and increased energy usage. Disruptions in the MC4R pathway are known to cause dysfunctions in body weight management and lack of satiety. In fact, loss of function mutations in the MC4R gene is the leading cause of monogenic obesity. Our research project focuses on the location of MC4R on the primary cilium of neurons. Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS) is a genetic disorder characterized by early-onset severe obesity. BBS is caused by malfunctions in the BBsome protein complex, which disrupts protein trafficking at the primary cilia. Our research lab hypothesizes that mutations in BBSome genes impair localization of MC4R, resulting in obesity. My project aims to use CRISPRi technology to turn off BBSome genes in MC4R-expressing neurons […]

...Read More about Queenie Li

Quantum Material Study of Spintronics

Data loss is a major issue in modern electronics. Charged-based devices are vulnerable to ionizing radiation, while ferromagnetic-based memory devices are susceptible to data loss from external magnetic fields. However, Antiferromagnetic (AFM)-based memory devices are robust to both charge and magnetic field perturbations. There exist a few materials whose AFM spin textures can be electrically switched”: an applied current induces a spin polarization, exerting a spin-orbit torque on the magnetic domains. This torque rotates the conductivity tensor, providing a switch between distinct resistance states. My research seeks to leverage the correlated behavior of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD) that exhibit superconductivity, magnetism, charge density waves (CDW), and Mott physics. Magnetically intercalated TMDs can possess competing AFM orders, which can form a platform to build electrically switchable antiferromagnetic-based devices. Analogous to the AFM domains, we also seek to explore the possibility of electrically controlling the electronic charge order reconstruction of CDWs found […]

...Read More about Zhicheng Li

Bioengineering Plant NLR Immune Receptors: A Structural Approach

  Our research aim is to provide greater insights into the functions of NLR immune receptors, which are part of the second tier of the plant immune system, based on our current knowledge of their protein structure and mechanism. As we work toward this goal, we will answer basic research questions about how these highly conserved immune receptors detect pathogens and signal an immune response. More specifically, what region of the receptor recognizes the pathogen effector? Does this region also play a role in switching the receptor to the activated state? What other structural aspects may contribute to the transition to the immune signaling active state? This research will further our mechanistic understanding of how NLR immune receptors recognize pathogens and undergo structural changes to trigger the immune response. Current literature is hopeful that engineering disease resistance in crops has great potential to reduce yield loss and chemical treatments involved […]

...Read More about Lillian Litvak

Establishing a Mouse Model for Brain Arteriovenous Malformations

This project aims to establish and characterize a novel mouse model for hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). HHT is an autosomal dominant disorder known to be caused by mutations in the receptor activin receptor-like kinase (ALK1). Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are a hallmark of HHT, and brain AVMs (bAVMs) can be particularly risky as they can cause hemorrhagic stroke. HHT-bAVM formation mechanism is not well understood and there are no preventions or treatments. Animal models of Alk1 deficiency can facilitate the study of HHT-bAVM pathogenesis; however, existing HHT-Alk1 mouse models are limited in their ability to recapitulate clinical bAVM features. Thus, I propose to establish a superior HHT-bAVM mouse model, with genetics and symptoms closer to clinical HHT-bAVM and having high bAVM penetrance, as well as characterize the cellular parameters accompanying HHT-bAVM pathogenesis in these mice to better understand HHT-bAVM progression mechanism. Successfully completing this project will provide a crucial system and […]

...Read More about Cynthia Liu

Investigating Modified mRNA Stability and Translational Fidelity

mRNA has proven to be a promising novel therapeutic class due to its programmability, low barriers to synthesis, and rapid translation into protein in vivo. mRNA as a platform technology has led to the development of broad applications such as vaccines, therapeutic protein replacement, in vivo genome editing, and in vivo cellular reprogramming. Despite growing interest in mRNAs therapeutic potential, it suffers from low delivery rates due to its instability and short half-life, thereby limiting its clinical adoption. mRNA transcripts are vulnerable to various degradation mechanisms in the cell, as well as self-catalyzed cleavage. The proposed project aims to identify chemically modified nucleotides that can be incorporated into mRNA using in vitro transcription. The modified transcripts will subsequently be characterized by their stability as well as translational fidelity. Stabler versions of modified mRNA with similar or even greater translational efficiency would help alleviate bottlenecks in therapeutic delivery, thereby conferring near-term […]

...Read More about Kenneth Loi

The Impact of Inclusive Design on Perception of Disability in Courses

This summer, my graduate mentor, Taormina Lepore, and I will be working on a project aimed at understanding the effectiveness of inclusive design on disability perception in college paleobiology courses. Using student survey data collected from UC Berkeley and three other U.S. universities about experiences with an in-class digital inclusive design project, we will practice mixed methods of analysis with Microsoft Excel VLOOKUP functions, MaxQDA, and R-package software. For example, we will mark and code themes in a large body of survey response text and compile a thematic codebook product that can be used in peer-reviewed publications. The long-term goal of this project is to understand how inclusive, creative projects can help expand perceptions about disabled people in science, while at the same time also building skills in science pedagogy, disability advocacy, and education research. Throughout the summer, I will learn more about inclusive design methodologies and the impact of […]

...Read More about Jenny Lu

Identifying Photoinhibitory Quenching Recovery Genes in Green Algae

  Population growth is set to exceed the capacity of modern agricultural yields, but innovations in agricultural technologies have the potential to meet global food needs. One promising area of basic research is involves improving the biology of photosynthesis so the plants themselves can grow more efficiently. At a fundamental level, it is easy to think that more sunlight equates to more photosynthesis. However, plants often receive far more sunlight than they can use, which can be damaging to the cell. Plants and algae have evolved ingenious mechanisms to dissipate excess light, albeit rather imperfectly, as dissipation competes with photosynthesis. My research project focuses on discovering key factors involved in the photosynthetic recovery of the chloroplast after sustained exposure to excess light in the model alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Specifically, I will be using a mutant deficient in its ability to repair oversaturated photosynthetic machinery, in order to identify secondary mutations […]

...Read More about Sophia Ma

Modeling Diagenetic Effects on Marine Carbonate Clumped Isotope Values

The stable isotopic composition of marine carbonates is an exemplary standard for reconstructing past Cenozoic climate. But, a fundamental question is whether these carbonates faithfully record their original isotopic composition, and to what extent have they been modified during burial. The relative abundance of isotopologues of carbonate with two rare isotopes (clumped isotopes) is a function of formation temperature and is leveraged to understand how carbonate samples were formed and modified through time. Recent work to reconstruct paleotemperatures from carbonate clumped isotopes found that samples from below 1,000 meters below the sea floor appear to record either a warmer past or a more significant role of diagenetic alteration. My study will focus on measuring carbonate clumped isotopes in an ocean core from the Rio Grande Rise in the Atlantic Ocean. Alongside the measurements, I will also work on a model that characterizes how diagenetic alteration affects the isotopic composition of […]

...Read More about Forrest McCann

Investigating the Epigenetic Correlation Between Disease and Aging

DNA methylation (DNAme) refers to the addition of a methyl group to the cytosines of the CpG islands in the gene regulatory regions, which is involved in regulating transcription and chromatin structure, typically silencing the corresponding genetic locus. A lifetime of accumulated epigenetic changes has been proposed to contribute to the development of age-associated diseases. I aim to investigate the biological relevance of DNA methylation clocks via Elastic Net regression approaches and to develop a better model by which chronological age could be correlated with the disease through epigenetics. Meanwhile, DNAme changes with age in a direction that differs per individual, which suggests epigenetic variations to be higher among the elderly compared to younger individuals. I will examine the interindividual variation of DNAme using the output of DNAme arrays and annotate the age-variable CpGs to the candidate biological age-relevant genes/proteins based on the Conboy lab screens, by conventional and bio-orthogonal […]

...Read More about Xiaoyue Mei

Womxn and Queerness: A Fire Within a Revolution

How have womxn and queer people of color created nurturing communities based on mutual aid, care, and solidarity, amid structural violence? Throughout history, revolutions such as the Cuban Revolution and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, have become landmarks in the fight against colonialism and capitalism in Latin American, Central American, and Caribbean countries. However, there is a lack of research on the impact of womxn and queer people in the fight for revolutionary change. Over the course of the summer, my mentor Juana and I will collect data looking at how womxn and queer-identifying communities of color historically and in modern society, utilize abolitionist practices to organize and mobilize for social change. Through the lens of Cuban society, particularly communities of queer Cuban womxn, the experiences and demands of the most marginalized groups in society can be uplifted and shared. By understanding how womxn and queer community spaces weave […]

...Read More about Alejandra Merino

Role of Bin-Amphiphysin-Rvs Proteins in Clathrin-Mediated Endocytosis

Our project goal is to better understand the role of BAR (Bin-amphiphysin-Rvs) proteins in clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) and study their interaction with endocytic branched actin networks, using the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model organism. Most endocytic BAR proteins contain an N-terminal banana-shaped BAR domain that preferentially binds curved membranes and a C-terminal SRC-homology 3 (SH3) domain that interacts with numerous components of the endocytic machinery. BAR proteins are thought to stabilize and scaffold curved membranes as well as facilitate vesicle scission, but exact mechanisms of these functions remain unclear. Specifically, we aim to understand how the BAR protein complex Rvs161/167 facilitates vesicle scission, learn more about how this complexs SH3 domain influences endocytic actin dynamics, and see if this phenomenon is conserved among other similarly-structured endocytic BAR proteins, like the branched actin nucleator Bzz1.

...Read More about Arman Moayed

Community-Scale Air Quality Exposure Analysis for Health Disparities

What individual- and household-level interventions are most feasible for the mitigation of air pollution exposure in underserved and disproportionately impacted communities? This is a critically important question as exposure to ambient air pollution is a globally leading cause of adverse health and morbidity. Furthermore, underserved communities are limited economically, so it is important to co-develop feasible strategies for those with fewer resources. Centering on the needs of underserved populations in the Inland Empire, with potential global applications, this project will contextualize applications for air pollution emissions data in regions that have been severely impacted by exploitative economic practices (e.g., warehousing and rail expansion for goods movement, fossil fuel mining, etc.). Working within the constraints of an under-engaged population to come up with a practical solution helps them gain autonomy over their own exposure. This project has the potential to inform other researchers in air quality engineering and apply the findings […]

...Read More about Charlotte Mourad

Ghetto Ebraico: A Medieval History of the Jewish People of Bologna

In early January 2022, I arrived in Italy for the start of my semester abroad at the University of Bologna. While exploring Bologna, I discovered that I was living in what was the city’s Jewish ghetto in the Middle Ages. I was immediately intrigued and, upon conducting further research, was convinced that this important history should be the subject of a research project. This project will carefully construct and analyze a cohesive and holistic history of the Jewish community of Bologna during the Middle Ages. By using a variety of primary sources, I aim to paint a complete picture of the social, economic, intellectual, religious, and personal history of this community. Particularly, I hope to reveal how, despite facing oppression and limitations, the Jewish community of Medieval Bologna experienced a long period of prosperity and was embraced and valued by the general Bolognese population. I thus hope to connect this […]

...Read More about Tessa Mouw

The Effect of Lighting on Glucocorticoid Levels in Ctenomys sociabilis

Ambient light is essential to a wide variety of biological processes, including behavior, reproduction, and physiology. Accordingly, changes in ambient lighting may induce stress and thereby affect the health of an animal. Analysis of glucocorticoid (GC) hormones, the hormones that help mediate stress responses provides an important means of evaluating such effects. GCs increase blood glucose levels and stimulate glucose production to provide energy for the flight or fight response to stressors. My project seeks to understand how GC levels in colonial tuco-tucos (Ctenomys sociabilis) vary in response to different ambient light conditions, as well as how variation in glucose levels tracks acute stress (GC) responses. In the wild, these subterranean rodents spend the majority of their time in dark tunnels; in the lab, the animals are exposed to constant light during the daytime. By comparing GC and blood glucose levels in animals housed in clear versus red plastic caging, […]

...Read More about Jonathan Mui

Educational Equity: Undocumented Students Navigating Higher Ed

Undocumented students are an underrepresented group in higher education. One of their many challenges is having limited financial and academic opportunities as a result of their legal status. Institutions need to create intentional practices that expose undocumented students to resources and opportunities to dismantle inequalities in the college experience. This research study will seek to understand the degree to which community colleges assist undocumented students with navigating the education system by connecting them to opportunities and resources. I will also explore the extent to which undocumented students take advantage of these opportunities and how doing so impacts academic outcomes in terms of grades and college completion. The study will explain the importance of exposing undocumented students to productive activities that are designed to enrich their learning experiences and increase graduation rates.

...Read More about Ana Navidad Rayon

Developing Molecular Glue Degraders for Target Protein Degradation

Since the mid-20th century, the field of drug discovery for disease regulation has focused on the concept of occupancy-driven pharmacology. However, more than 90 percent of the proteome is currently deemed undruggable due to a lack of surface-lying ligandable hotspots. Many of these undruggable proteins, such as transcription factors and protein complexes, are implicated in disease but cannot be targeted through active site directed inhibitors, creating a need for new therapeutic modalities that can control protein function. One method for targeting undruggable proteins is through the use of molecular glue degraders, small molecules that chemically elicit target protein degradation. My project seeks to determine the essential chemical elements that define molecular glue degraders and use these findings to create guidelines for the creation of effective molecular glues. My project will make it easier to target disease-related proteins currently deemed undruggable by current pharmaceutical techniques.

...Read More about Kaila Nishikawa

Digital Analysis of How Linear Perspective Views Transform Real Space

From the 15th century onward, painters and architects produced views of real urban spaces like city squares using linear perspective. While it is universally accepted that linear perspective allowed these artists to imitate reality to a high degree, scholarship has largely overlooked the fact that these views artificially rectified the often irregular layout of the urban spaces they depict. My project seeks to discover whether there is a systematic difference between real urban spaces and the way in which they were depicted in the age of linear perspective drawing. With digital image processing, any drawing or painting may be compared to a photographic image of the actual space from the same viewpoint; but replicating these arbitrary viewpoints would require a 3D model of the space. Using the Capitoline Square in Rome as a case study, I plan to travel there to obtain a 3D model of the space using photogrammetry […]

...Read More about Yassin Oulad Daoud

Using Homeostatic Plasticity for Mitigating Neuropsychiatric Disease

The onset of neurodegenerative disease coincides with the destruction of synapses; simultaneously, endogenous self-correcting mechanisms are induced that turn up the gain of synaptic transmission, initially counteracting the effects of degeneration and preserving the flow of intercellular communication. This effect is termed homeostatic neuroprotection. Growing evidence has shown that homeostatic neuroprotection sustains neuronal structure and function, acting as a biochemical basis for cognitive resilience to degeneration and stress. Chronic stress is a major risk factor for the development of depression. The lateral habenula (LHb) has been implicated in the development of major depression; it has become recognized as the antireward center and targets all midbrain neuromodulatory systems, including serotonergic and dopaminergic circuits. Overall, this project aims to determine the therapeutic potential of homeostatic neuroprotection as a means to promote brain resilience by mitigating LHb hyperactivity, with direct relevance to the treatment of symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. There […]

...Read More about Peridot Park

Effects of Wildfire and Invasives on California Grassland Microbiomes

The devastation caused by intensifying wildfires in California over several decades has had increasingly detrimental effects on the diversity of native vegetation and the soil microbiome, which are critical in shaping plant growth and function. However, we still know very little about how native soil microbiomes are affected by wildfire and their role in host plant recovery. Specifically, we do not know how soil microbiomes of California grasslands (which evolved with periodic, low-intensity fires) mediate the recovery of native vegetation and how they may interact with non-native plants. As both fires and non-native plant invasion are major forces shaping grasslands, understanding their interaction is essential to improve restoration practices. In my research, I will investigate how pyrophilic bacteria and native pre-fire taxa change in their abundance in burned and unburned soils on sites that have been invaded or not by non-native plants at Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. Better understanding of […]

...Read More about Laura Powers

Tuning Effects of Plasmid Copy Number on E. coli Biosynthesis

Metabolically engineering living organisms to synthesize chemicals is an exciting alternative to traditional production pipelines, allowing for the sustainable and scalable production of a wide array of useful compounds. However, dramatically altering the fundamental chemical behavior of organisms by introducing new biosynthetic pathways can often have unintended consequences on cellular growth. The expression of an unnatural pathway consumes valuable cellular resources, an effect known as metabolic burden that ultimately limits overall production. My research project seeks to better characterize the effect metabolic burden has on an existing engineered biosynthetic pathway producing butanol, a next-generation biofuel. In order to accomplish this, we propose the development and application of a system to manually tune plasmid copy number within a cell. After examining the butanol pathway, we plan to expand the scope of our system to pathways producing 1,3 butanediol, 4-hydroxy-2-butanone, and amorphadiene. This work will offer a generalizable approach to optimizing production […]

...Read More about Albert Qiang

Increasing the Efficacy of Cognitive Reappraisal

I am interested in studying strategies to increase the efficacy of cognitive reappraisal, an emotion regulation strategy in which one alters thoughts about an event to modify one’s emotional response to that event. Cognitive reappraisal can be effective in down-regulating negative emotions in stressful, emotional situations. However, because cognitive reappraisal has been shown to deplete cognitive resources, implementing cognitive reappraisal can be difficult in emotional situations that are cognitively demanding. The project aims to study whether implementation intentions, a strategy known for its ability to automatize desired behaviors in goal achievement literature, can automatize cognitive reappraisal in the down-regulation of negative emotions. Over the summer, I plan to compare the emotional outcomes of cognitive reappraisal with cognitive reappraisal + implementation intentions in the presence of emotional stimuli to study whether implementation intentions will increase the automaticity of cognitive reappraisal, resulting in lower negative affect and less effortful regulation.

...Read More about Deborah Qu

Consequences of Mitochondrial Genome Loss in Cultured Human Cells

Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndromes (MdDSs) are a set of diseases characterized by severe pathological effects on the liver and brain. These syndromes are implicated by low/absent levels of mitochondrial genomes, circular strands of DNA housed in the mitochondria (mtDNA) that encode for proteins important for respiration. Thus, maintenance of this genome is thought to be critical for cellular health. However, the mechanism behind the tissue-specific pathologies of these syndromes remains unclear. Recent evidence suggests that the essentiality of mtDNA for cell viability and division may vary across different conditions. Recent experiments done in Dr. Samantha Lewis’s laboratory found that fibroblasts depleted of mtDNA are viable and may retain mitochondrial membrane potential. The goal of my project is to identify candidate genes that allow for the continued resilience of cells depleted of mtDNA. Data from my project will help determine the extent to which mtDNA and its expression is essential for […]

...Read More about Ryan Quan
RyanQuan

A Transborder Study of Chicana/Indigena Identity Formation

The livelihood of the Poblano community’s oral histories and traditions, “desde nuestros pueblos a los estados unidos” (from our pueblos to the U.S.), is telling of my community’s ancestral resistance. The survival of our heritage allows our families to build community and identity, a home in a country that rejects and displaces both our Mexican immigrant communities and ancestral knowledge and identities. My research project is a transborder study in which I will trace my Indigenous roots in Puebla, Mexico and construct a memoir of the oral histories of my Poblano communities in Los Angeles, CA and San Bartolome Hueyapan, PU. I will identify Poblano histories and traditions that have been preserved and passed across the U.S.-Mexico border and, through this, gain an understanding of how they play a role in identity formation among returning migrants and immigrants from my ancestral homeland. My research will be a reunification with my […]

...Read More about Diana Ramirez

Reimagining Inclusion: Embracing Trans Youth of Color in the Classroom

Instead of focusing on the interpersonal instances of transphobia, this project is curious about what circumstances allow for cultural shifts than transform the school experiences of transgender youth of color. By conducting interviews with transgender youth of color from the San Francisco Bay Area, this project is centered on a group that is often excluded and made invisible in academic work. Transgender youth and their allies are continually antagonized, even aside from quotidian bullying, increased risk for homelessness, and suicide. Legal protections do not translate to material safety for Trans youth, especially Trans youth of color, who are both marginalized in society and within the queer community. This project asks: How are transgender youth of color coming into their identities, and how have some been able to thrive? What can be learned directly from them, and how can this knowledge be translated to non-punitive changes in school culture and policy? […]

...Read More about Luna Ramos

Geometric Flows

Geometric flows, such as the Ricci flow, Yang-Mills flow, and harmonic map flow, are natural ways to smooth out geometric objects (metric, connection and maps, respectively). In this research project, we will explore the idea of using geometric flows to develop new analytic tools for studying geometric objects. A possible goal of this project is to use geometric flows to solve problems in dispersive PDEs that involve geometric objects.

...Read More about Alexander Richardson

UC Berkeley and the Realization of Black (Educational) Desires

This summer, my mentor, Caleb Dawson, and I will explore what Black students and staff members at UC Berkeley hope to gain from their pursuit of higher education or career in higher education. Over the course of eight weeks, I’ll be interviewing various students and faculty members to develop an understanding of what a quality education means to them. We’ll be exploring why Black students come to Cal and assume the responsibility of improving the student experience for other Black students. Additionally, well inquire if they would recommend Cal to younger Black scholars. I’ll be using a qualitative data analysis software, and an ethnographic perspective, to comparatively study the responses of interview participants. In all, this is a qualitative research project aimed at discovering the desires of Black people at UC Berkeley. I hope to take what I learn from this fellowship and apply it to my work in the […]

...Read More about Sydney Roberts

Reorienting the Art Gallery: Service Labor and Community Care

What are the purposes, possibilities, and limitations of the traditional gallery space? Through understanding who has been excluded from the gallery, we aim to rethink what an exhibition space can and should be. Through our research, we will stage our own space on campus that subverts gallery conventions. We will present an alternative functionality, proposing that the gallery space should offer tangible assets to its community. Our work is a collaborative art project situated in the history of service labor, endurance art performances, gallery culture, and the history of subversive art spaces. The summer research will culminate as an artist booklet to accompany our thesis exhibition in Fall 2022: we will stage an alternative gallery on and around the UC campus in service of the local community. Our installation will center the act of cleaning community members’ dirty laundry, using the exhibition as a form of service to the local […]

...Read More about Jacob Li Rosenberg

Explicit Non-Vanishing of Asymptotic Syzygies

Algebraic geometry is a rich area of mathematics that investigates the properties of geometric objects (like a variety the solution set of a system of polynomial equations) using their underlying algebraic structure. The closely related field of homological algebra studies how mappings between algebraic spaces (e.g., collections of polynomials) can be understood in terms of more concrete representations with tools from topology and algebra combined to understand the geometric structure of varieties. One homological invariant is a table of numbers called the Betti table, which captures nuanced geometric information about the variety. Despite being an active area of research since the 1980s, the Betti tables of higher dimensional varieties (i.e., varieties having dimension greater than 1) remain poorly understood. This research seeks to extend the understanding of Betti tables by investigating interesting cases in which Betti numbers are nonzero, namely for projective varieties where each point represents a line through […]

...Read More about Daniel Rostamloo

Unification and Information Paradoxes

My research asks what unification would mean in the realm of modern physics, and the nature of the current scientific paradigm. It could potentially induce discourse of a paradigm shift, a drastic change in how humans in general understand things. In addition, by viewing the information paradox from multiple lenses, we could better approach a solution and Grand unification of quantum gravity. Current research consists of solutions of the Hawking radiation paradox in the forms of mathematical corrections, firm beliefs from intuition, new theoretical scenarios, low-energy theories, and other theories about the universe. The solution to the information paradox is not yet known, and collecting all of such solutions and synthesizing/proposing a combined theory (of one or two of the aforementioned scenarios) would allow for advancements in the field in mathematical and theoretical development. There are more paradoxes that may arise from certain mathematical solutions, and I will attempt to […]

...Read More about Hong Joo Ryoo

Coercion, Consent, and Illicit Love in the Time of Abolition

What can be said of love created under duress and continued into freedom? This question will guide my research into interracial couples who began seeing each other under slavery and continued through Abolition in Louisiana. My research will straddle the two periods immediately preceding and following Abolition, in order to pinpoint couples who weathered unsteady sociocultural and legal realities out of a commitment to their love. This project will therefore fill a lacuna of ambiguity in the study of interracial love during slavery; rather than focusing on legal history, I will specifically tackle the possibility that coerced love may have eventually grown consensual and find instances in which the two scenarios existed at once. Using primarily court cases in which interracial couples were tried, as well as manumission documents and contemporary slave narratives, I will explore the topics of consent, love, coercion, and power within these relationships, ultimately uncovering the […]

...Read More about Tiger Schenkman

Mental Health Outcomes Among First-Generation College Students

First-generation college students (FGCS) experience many unique familial, cultural, social, and academic challenges as the first in the family to pursue a four-year degree. Previous research has found that these extra stressors may place FGCS at higher risk for mental health problems, lower retention rates, and lower graduation rates (House and Kolb, 2020). Yet, findings in the literature on the impacts of first-generation status on FGCS mental health are mixed, and no systematic review exists on this topic to reconcile the varied findings. This summer, I will expand upon this underdeveloped research area by creating the first-ever meta-analysis of FGCS mental health outcomes. My analysis will evaluate anxiety and depression outcomes in FGCS relative to non-FGCS and identify risk and protective factors for anxiety and depression outcomes in FGCS. This promising study will identify the most poignant factors affecting FGCS mental health status and offer promising interventions by identifying potential […]

...Read More about Jordan Serrano-Guedea

Validation of GBM Chemosensitizing Hits From in vivo CRISPRi Screen

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and lethal primary brain tumor in adults. Although research has enhanced GBM diagnosis and clinical stratification, overall patient outcome has not significantly improved. This is because GBM is incurable with current treatments, which include surgery, radiation therapy, and Temozolomide (TMZ) chemotherapy. The development of CRISPR-Cas9 systems presents opportunities to study human diseases, and it can be leveraged to create therapeutics. Specifically, CRISPR interference (CRISPRi)-based screens help study GBM dependencies and growth vulnerabilities without DNA damage. I have assisted with in vivo and in vitro parallel CRISPRi screens in combination with TMZ treatment in order to identify potential chemosensitizers for GBM. As a result, we identified multiple genes that warrant further study to determine if they can serve as therapeutic targets. I will begin with validating target knockdown in vitro using tissue culture and molecular biology techniques. Then, I will perform experiments with small molecule […]

...Read More about Mihir Shah

Double Source Lensing as a Cosmological Probe at High Lens Redshifts

Strong gravitational lenses (deflection of light into multiple images by gravitational field of mass concentrations like galaxies) have been used as cosmological probes. These techniques involve ratios of distances between the observers, lens, and source. DSPL systems involve two sources lensed by the same foreground mass concentration. They provide a unique cosmological geometric probe through distance ratios involving the source and lens. Cosmic acceleration has been described using a form of energy called dark energy. Previous work by my advisor has shown that the DSPL key distance ratio is nearly insensitive to lens modeling at low lens redshifts, unlike classic cosmological probes. This makes DSPL a great probe to study the dark energy equation of state, which determines the expansion history of the universe, at low lens redshifts. However, upcoming surveys, such as LSST and Euclid, are likely to find new DSPL systems at higher lens redshifts. Since no studies […]

...Read More about Divij Sharma

Investigating the Role of IgM Antibodies in the Dengue Immune Response

  Recent research regarding dengue virus serotypes 1-4 (DENV 1-4) has focused on the human immune systems production of antibodies after infection by the virus. IgG antibodies after primary infection can either protect or mediate viral replication to potentially cause severe dengue disease. These pathogenic antibodies are cross-reactive, but IgG-mediated protection for one serotype of dengue virus will not necessarily protect against the other three serotypes. Most dengue research has focused on IgG antibodies, since it was previously thought that IgM antibodies have low affinity for DENV and may not play a significant role in the DENV-specific immune response. However, recent studies suggest that IgM have potent antiviral and type-specific properties in early infection against multiple arboviruses. My research goal is to understand the role of IgM antibodies in response to DENV 1-4 infection and quantify the contribution of plasma IgM to DENV neutralization in early infection. Specifically, I want […]

...Read More about Rohan Shinkre

Interplay Between Protein Stability and Catalytic Activity in Kinases

Kinases are dynamic enzymes that carry out signal transduction in the cell. Many kinases rely on chaperones to protect them from unfolding and poise them for signaling. Chaperoning of kinases by HSP90/CDC37 has been shown to be critical for cancer cell growth and survival, and blocking this interaction could represent a new avenue of treatment for cancers. However, the biophysical nature of kinase chaperoning is not well understood. For my project, I plan to study the kinase BRAF, which, when mutated, is an important driver of oncogenesis and makes the kinase dependent on HSP90/CDC37 to protect it from degradation. In human cells, I will examine how other activating mutations affect BRAF chaperoning to understand how HSP90/CDC37 regulates client kinases. This work could reveal how mutations alter kinase structure to promote interaction with chaperones and inform the development of strategies to block this interaction therapeutically.

...Read More about Odilia Sianto

Expression of RickA and Sca2 in Rickettsia parkeri

The spotted fever group Rickettsiae (SFGR) are a collective group of Gram-negative obligate pathogens from Rickettesia spp. Most bacteria in the SFGR use two effectors to mediate actin-based motility (ABM). This is in contrast to other intracellular pathogens, which utilize only a single effector for ABM. The goal of my research project is to understand how Rickettsia parkeri, a member of the SFGR family, regulates the expression of two effectors that mediate ABM: RickA and Sca2. While both effectors are involved in mediating ABM, the regulation for both effectors and the dynamics of their expression have not been fully characterized. In this project, I will explore the role of transcription of the rickA and sca2 genes with respect to ABM on a single-cell level using live-cell microscopy. To look at the role of translation and secretion in regulating gene expression and activity, I will explore the localization of RickA and […]

...Read More about Tania Sodhi

Corruption in Collusion: Evidence from Public Procurement in China

Public procurement is an essential channel for government to buy items at the best possible price and quality. However, many developing countries lack a systematic track of public procurement, leaving space for wrongdoers to engage in improper behavior. Procurement expenditure contributes significantly to GDP, so it is vital to prevent corruption in public procurement and invest money wisely. This project aims to use econometric methodologies to highlight the existence of corruption and collusion problems in Chinese public procurement. This summer I will work under the supervision of Qianmiao Chen to detect the non-competitive behaviors of firms in public procurement in China and estimate the proportion of procurement in which the evidence of corrupt practice is present. I will collect and clean data on public procurement; investigate the relationship between procurement procedures and corruption indicators using regression analysis; and provide empirical evidence for future policy change in public procurement.

...Read More about Zan Song

Biochemical Characterization of Endogenous GFP-BRAF

My research focuses on a kinase in the MAPK/ERK pathway called BRAF, which is commonly mutated in cancer. This summer, I will isolate BRAF endogenously from 293FT cells and analyze their structure by native mass spectrometry and cryo-electron microscopy. This strategy differs from most conventional approaches, as I will not overexpress the protein. Rather, I aim to study BRAF isolated from its native stoichiometric environment, circumventing assumptions that must be made with overexpression. With this strategy, I seek to learn about BRAFs activation and native binding interactions. This knowledge could inform anti-cancer drug discovery by revealing new structure-informed strategies to inhibit BRAF and gain greater control over MAPK/ERK regulation. Considering that past attempts of BRAF inhibition have had mixed results clinically within the current constraints of structural understanding, BRAF poses potential as a hopeful drug target that has yet to be harnessed. Furthermore, the endogenous tagging approach being refined in […]

...Read More about Jessica Stewart

Incidence of Lung Cancer in Never-Smokers Within the Health System

Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death, even in those who have never smoked cigarettes. In the United States, about 10–15 percent of lung cancers arise in never-smokers, and approximately 17,000 to 26,000 never-smokers die annually from the disease. Despite this fact, knowledge about the epidemiology of lung cancer in never-smokers remains limited. Our proposed study will be the first to elucidate the incidence rates of lung cancer in never-smokers in our integrated health system, specifically addressing differences by sex and race that are not well established in the literature. Furthermore, our study will establish whether never-smoking women have a higher incidence rate of lung cancer relative to their male counterparts. Lastly, it will address whether lung cancer incidence in never-smokers has been increasing over time, at least within our study population. The study will help clinicians to become more cognizant about the risk of developing lung cancer […]

...Read More about Angela Sun

Identity Politics Online: Evidence from Chinese Social Media

How do political parties influence online posting behavior? Previous research attributed an individual’s utility from posting online to two major channels: contribution to public knowledge and identity boosting. In this project, I will develop a model of demonization that analyzes how a political party, using posts on social media as signals, interacts with its supporters via these two channels. Using a set of state-sponsored posts and comments about the 2022 Ukraine-Russia Crisis from Weibo, one of China’s largest social media platforms, I will test how topic distributions of the comment sections, modeled using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), respond to different types of political messages from the state. This also determines how the comment section evolves if the state strategically alters from posting about the ongoing event to attacking opposing political identities, or vice versa. Furthermore, by tracking the social media profiles of commenting users over time, I hope to investigate […]

...Read More about Le Sun

Highland Chontal Core Grammar in Language Revitalization

In my research project, I will create a partial grammatical description of Highland Chontal, a highly endangered indigenous language of Oaxaca, Mexico, through collaboration with elder master speakers. I will use this information to produce pedagogical materials for use in classrooms where the language is being taught. I will also conduct a workshop to train Chontal language activists and speakers in linguistics in order for them to understand and be able to use these materials, in addition to other skills such as literacy in the language, language documentation methods, and language revitalization methods.

...Read More about Jasper Talwani

Treating Nearsightedness with Atropine Eye Drop

People with high level of nearsightedness will have a 5- to 10-fold chance of developing glaucoma, cataract, and sight-threatening diseases such as retinal detachment later in life. Atropine eye drop is one of the most effective therapies for nearsightedness control. I will conduct a small-scaled randomized controlled trial to understand the impact of eye color on the effectiveness of atropine eye drop. Many studies on atropine have focused on Asian populations, and few studies have compared the effect of atropine between Asians and Europeans, who tend to have much lighter iris color and might respond to the drug differently. A prior animal study has shown that the effect of atropine diminishes quicker in rabbits with lighter iris color but has a more sustained and long-lasting effect on rabbits with darker iris color. Therefore, I aim to investigate if the drug has less therapeutic efficacy on light-irides subjects. and see if […]

...Read More about Jiayi Tan

Functional Significance of hox3 in Leech Posterior Growth Zone

In arthropods and vertebrates, Hox genes determine how an organism develops along the axis running from its head to its tail. Little is known of Hox function outside of these standard animal models, but studies in annelids (segmented worms) suggest that Hox genes not only play a conserved role in embryonic patterning, but are also deployed in ways specific to annelids. For example, hox3 is expressed around the posterior growth zone (PGZ), from which all new segments arise. I hypothesize that hox3 is a stem cell marker in annelids that is necessary for PGZ activity. I will examine this hypothesis with expression analysis and CRISPR mutagenesis of hox3 in Helobdella austinensis, a leech. My proposed research represents one of the first analyses of Hox function in a segmented animal that is not an arthropod or a vertebrate; it thus adds to our understanding of how developmental mechanisms evolved during the […]

...Read More about Tannya Tang

Discovering Covalent Ligand Inhibitors for Cancer-Driving Mutations

Currently, most chemotherapy drugs used for cancer treatment target specific upregulated or dysfunctional pathways, rather than specific cancer-driving mutations. This results in adverse side effects or reduced applicability, since the drug can also affect normal pathways of healthy cells. In many tumors, cancer-driving mutations alter amino acid residues into cysteines. Due to cysteine’s unique chemical properties, these mutations are an ideal target for covalently binding molecules. This approach is especially useful in undruggable proteins lacking traditionally targeted binding pockets. In this regard, the Nomura Research Group has applied target-based screening of its cysteine-reactive compound library to identify hit compounds that covalently bind target proteins. In this project, I will express, purify, and screen human proteins with common cancer-driving mutations. Subsequently, I intend to utilize established chemoproteomic platforms to characterize hit features like proteome-wide selectivity and on-target engagement. My project ultimately intends to identify and characterize therapeutically useful chemical compounds targeting […]

...Read More about Xavier Tao

ATP7B-/- Knockout Mice as a Model for Wilson's Disease Sleep Disorders

Up to half of Wilsons disease patients suffer from sleep disorders, including poor sleep quality, REM behavioral disorders (RBD), and cataplexy. However, the neural basis of these symptoms is poorly understood. My project this summer is to determine whether the ATP7B-/- knockout mouse is a good model system for studying the sleep disorders manifested in Wilsons disease, especially in the context of neural pathways involving copper homeostasis. Using automated sleep scoring methods, we will quantify sleep signatures in ATP7B-/- knockout and wildtype control mice. The brain copper changes in recorded mice will then be analyzed by laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to create a map of copper distribution from which key brain regions associated with sleep changes can be identified. The ATP7B-/- knockout mouse has the potential to be incredibly useful in studying neurological symptoms and sleep disorders in Wilsons disease patients, as well as for REM […]

...Read More about Tiffany Tian

Ethnic Variations of the Double Burden of Malnutrition in Vietnam

Vietnam’s demographic transition to increased urbanization and rapid economic development have led to a nutrition transition from traditional to nontraditional, processed diets. Vietnam endures a double burden of malnutrition, the simultaneous prevalence of childhood stunting, thinness, overweight, and obesity. However, these outcomes have not been distributed evenly, particularly when comparing child growth status between different ethnicities. There is a need to explore the prevalence of child malnutrition among Vietnam’s ethnicities, examine if there are significant differences between them, and, lastly, examine potential risk and/or protective factors associated with these outcomes. My research is a secondary analysis across five rounds on 1961 Vietnamese children from the Young Lives Cohort Study from 2002 to 2017. Community, household, and individual child characteristics (using variables modeled from the ecological framework) were collected from children aged 1, 5, 8, 12, and 15. I hope my research will encourage more research focused on recognizing each ethnic […]

...Read More about Ngoc-Thanh Tieu

Computing the Distribution of the Maximal Average of a Random Walk

Suppose that we have a (finite or infinite) series of independent, identically distributed real-valued random variables (increments of time). From this series, we can form a random walk. We can consider the partial sums of this series and analyze the average value of the walk the partial sum divided by the number of increments up to that point at each of its time increments. This project is focused on studying the distribution of the maximum average value of a random walk through a variety of computational algorithms. While there already exists an explicit formula for the probability that the maximum average value is at most any given real number 0 x 1, this formula presents computational challenges for small values of x. What is especially interesting is the asymptotic aspect: how quickly does the probability that the maximal average is at most x approach zero as x approaches zero from […]

...Read More about Alexander Toller

Characterization of the C. elegans Dauer Microbiome

Bacteria inhabit nearly every surface on Earth, from tabletops to hydrothermal vents. Thus, it is unsurprising that a diverse community of microbes, or microbiome, also inhabits the human gut. However, these residents arent simple stowaways, as gut bacteria actively modulate host development and physiology. Therefore, as different species of bacteria modulate host physiology differently, understanding the factors that determine which bacteria can and cannot colonize the gut is of increasing importance. Host genetics, diet, and geography were all shown to play important roles in determining microbiome composition. The goal of the proposed project is to examine the role of parental transmission to progeny, which, beyond its functional consequences, may have further implications for understanding the evolution of host-microbiome interactions. Last year, I characterized the ecological succession of Caenorhabditis elegans gut microbiome during larval development as part of my honors thesis project. This summer, I will explore the dauer larval stage […]

...Read More about Kenneth Trang

The Impact of Enriched Environment Rearing in Cntnap2 Knockout Mice

Contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) mutations are strongly associated with autism spectrum disorder, which presents with repetitive behaviors. Research has shown that mice lacking CNTNAP2 exhibit decreased numbers of GABAergic interneurons throughout the brain, and that the number and function of these interneurons in the striatum are associated with the presentation of repetitive behaviors. Recent work has shown that enriched environment rearing restores GABAergic interneuron numbers in the striatum and rescues behavioral deficits in rodent models of neuropsychiatric disorders. I will be looking at how different rearing conditions affect striatal gene expression and behaviors in CNTNAP2 knockout mice. My project will explore the interactions between genes and the environment, particularly the potential for environmental aspects to alter striatal interneuron cell types and the presence of repetitive behaviors. The goal of my project is to help provide insight into how environmental factors may influence neurodevelopmental disorders.

...Read More about Emilie Tu

Engineering Novel Epialleles via Directed DNA Methylation in Plants

Epigenetic information refers to chemical modifications to DNA and histones that can be inherited independently of the genetic sequence of a gene. These modifications control the expression of the gene and can alter the organism’s phenotype. In nature, a number of epialleles (alleles with identical sequences yet different epigenetic states) have been identified and often contribute to vast phenotypic diversity among a population of organisms. It is currently poorly understood whether epialleles can be engineered within plant systems. If possible, this could expand the toolbox available to plant breeders and engineers seeking to specify the phenotypes in their crops. I propose to perform an important proof-of-concept experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of engineering epialleles, using a visually obvious marker gene in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. I seek to understand if DNA methylation patterns can be engineered and if this epigenetic mark is stably inherited over multiple generations once it […]

...Read More about Connor Tumelty

Curatorial Interventions: Mapping MESÓTICA II at the MADC

In 1996, the Museum of Art and Design in San José, Costa Rica curated MESÓTICA II Centroamérica re-generación, which featured both emerging and well-established artists from Central America. The artworks in the exhibition were selected as a survey and investigation into the sentiments of regional artists in consideration of the earlier civil war era in Central America that lasted from the 1970s to the 1990s. A majority of the research for this project focuses on analyzing the archives from the exhibition and understanding the role of curatorial practice in the intervention of social and political issues, especially within its historical context. The project will be centered around the art of Patricia Belli and how her pieces are in conversation with the others in the exhibition. In researching the archives, we will also consider how the feminist perspective of Patricia Belli’s work was an important influence on the production of contemporary […]

...Read More about Katarina Vallero

The Effect of Microgravity on Murine Disc Mechanics

Living on Earth, gravity constantly exerts a mechanical load on the spine, which puts pressure on the discs and causes them to gradually lose height throughout the day. However, this constant mechanical load is greatly reduced while in environments with microgravity such as on the international space station. Due to long-term mechanical unloading in the presence of microgravity, astronauts have an incidence of disc herniation 4.3 times that of the general population. Being able to better describe the physiological changes to the IVD caused by prolonged time spent in microgravity would help the medical community understand the sensitivity of disc homeostasis to mechanical loading and therefore more fully know the role of mechanical loading in disc herniations. Given that 2 percent of the worlds population has herniated discs at any given time, having a better understanding of this affliction could be used to try and create preventative care in order […]

...Read More about Joanna Veres

Ana Castillos Black Dove: A Re-interpretation of Paloma Negra

This project interrogates narratology’s semiotic scope by decolonizing the various theories from a colonial perspective and exploring historical and cultural dynamics in Chicanx narratives. Through a close reading of Ana Castillo’s memoir Black Dove, I will contribute to existing literature concerning Chicanx narratives and Mexican ballads by deconstructing narrative theory and introducing a historically and culturally relevant perspective that offers an informed understanding of time and place into an analysis of how Chicanx narratives may work out the dynamics of Chicanx identity. I will conduct a comparative analysis of Castillo’s Black Dove with Mexico’s classic song “Paloma Negra” (Black Dove) to demonstrate how race and gender may continue to shape and reshape symbolic figures in narratives. This study exposes the urgency of research in Chicanx literature as narratology’s limited scope contributes to the erasure of Chicanx voices in literary conversation. My project will demonstrate to contemporary readers how Chicanx narrative […]

...Read More about Elizabeth Vergara

Uncovering Functional Domains of Dengue Virus Non-Structural Protein 1

Dengue virus (DENV) infects an estimated 105 million people every year. More than 500,000 of these cases develop into a severe form of disease characterized by leakage of plasma from the vasculature. If left untreated, these symptoms may progress to fatal outcomes such as hemorrhage, hypovolemic shock, and organ failure. Studies have suggested that DENV non-structural protein 1 (NS1) plays an important role in the pathogenesis of severe dengue through interactions with endothelial and immune cells. In addition, the Harris Lab has recently shown in vitro and in vivo that DENV NS1 activates the inflammasome, a family of cytosolic innate immune sensors, leading to a protective immune response to DENV in a murine model of DENV infection. However, the molecular mechanisms behind DENV NS1-induced inflammasome activation remain unknown. For my project, I plan to identify the functional protein domains of NS1 involved in inflammasome activation by using NS1 chimeras containing […]

...Read More about Phoebe Wang

Applying Proximity-Assisted Photoactivation to Study PTEF-b Regulation

  In humans, Positive Transcription Elongation Factor b (P-TEFb) is an RNA Polymerase II regulator crucial for proper gene expression. To execute its regulatory function, P-TEFb itself is precisely regulated via reversible interactions with an snRNP complex. Using biochemical techniques, past studies have confirmed LARP7, HEXIM1, and BRD4 to be protein partners of P-TEFb. My project aims to study the dynamic regulatory role of known protein partners LARP7, HEXIM1, and BRD4 in P-TEFb regulation. I will apply a new technique called proximity-assisted photoactivation (PAPA) to single particle tracking (SPT) and live cell imaging in order to examine protein-protein interactions between P-TEFb and each protein partner in human osteosarcoma cells. PAPA involves a sender fluorophore reactivating a receiver fluorophore when the two are in proximity. By tagging P-TEFb and each partner with these fluorophores, PAPA can be used to detect their interaction corresponding to the sub-population of protein complexes showing sender […]

...Read More about Britney Weng

The Role of Psychedelics in Associative Learning

  Psychedelics have been used medicinally for thousands of years by Native Americans, but research into their clinical effects and mechanisms was prematurely halted in the 1960s. Exploration of the effects of psychedelics is long overdue. Recent studies have found that single doses of psychedelics can have positive, long-lasting effects, but very few studies examine psychedelic effects on behavior. My project aims to discover how psychedelics influence associative learning behavior. Associative learning involves learning the association between a cue and an outcome. I hypothesize that mice treated with psychedelics will become better at associative learning. To test this hypothesis, I will condition mice in an enriched environment with novel flooring and then condition them in a non-enriched environment with a different flooring. Both conditions will isolate the mouse; the enriched environment is like a moude playground, whereas the non-enriched environment is a boring empty cage. If mice have learned the […]

...Read More about Katrina White

Relationship between Bitter Gustation and Mating Status in Drosophila

My project will investigate how mating status (virgin or mated females) affects how Drosophila, commonly known as fruit flies, will intake bitter substances when mixed in solutions with sugar. Because mated females have been shown to intake more nutrients like sugars or amino acids for the purpose of egg production, I want to investigate if mated females will also tolerate more intake of bitter (aversive) compounds that are mixed with sugars. This dynamic is super interesting because fruit flies have two different mechanisms to avoid aversive compounds: one activates bitter gustatory receptors, and the other inhibits sugar consumption. Together, these two processes allow fruit flies to avoid potentially toxic compounds, even in mixed solutions with both appetitive (sugar) and aversive (bitter) compounds. Furthermore, if this is true, then I want to investigate and illustrate the genetic and molecular mechanism that allows this process to occur, which would signify that mated […]

...Read More about Joshua Wong

Bay Area Midwifery Models of Care as Complex Sociotechnical Systems

This research project examines the rich history and future of midwives of color in the Bay Area through the novel implementation of Science, Technology and Society (STS) frameworks. By defining the midwifery model of care conceived by Bay Area midwives of color as a complex sociotechnical system, the process by which midwives of color have created their models of care can be explored at the intersection of the nation’s capitalistic healthcare system, historic attempts to destroy the knowledge produced by grand midwives in the antebellum period and broader African diaspora, California’s legal history, and the Bay Area’s geographical and political history of social justice activism. This research will implement a holistic STS and social justice approach that recognizes the unequal treatment and distribution of resources of Black midwives and their strength as owners of solutions through the construction of oral histories and archival work. By recognizing the importance of midwives […]

...Read More about Amy Wu

Simulation of BaCo2(AsO4)2 as a Kitaev Quantum Spin Liquid Candidate

My research project is simulating the layered honeycomb material BaCo2(AsO4)2 at low temperature and high applied in-plane magnetic field, since BaCo2(AsO4)2 is theorized by the Kitaev honeycomb model to exhibit Kitaev Quantum Spin Liquid (KQSL) behaviors. Currently, the Kitaev honeycomb model is still a very new theory to explain the quantum spin liquid states, and any simulations that corroborate or contradict the experimental results will be examined within the theoretical framework of this model in order to identify possible inconsistencies between the model and the experimental results. This topic will be part of my senior honors thesis project, which expands the simulation to other candidate materials of Kitaev physics. These simulations will help to provide explanations for the magnetic behaviors of BaCo2(AsO4)2 in experiments, and any discrepancy between simulation and experimental results will be examined to determine whether the discrepancy is the product of holes in the theoretical framework of […]

...Read More about Jinze Wu

Understanding How Solid-Phase Ligands Influence MET

Metastasis, responsible for >90 percent of cancer-related deaths, is a highly complex process that involves the migration of tumorigenic cells from the primary tumor to the secondary, distant site. Cells face a rigorous journey, from invasion into the surrounding tissue, intravasation into the surrounding blood vessels/lymphatic system, survival through the external system, extravasation at the secondary site, and eventual colonization. To assist in this process, tumor cells can undergo phenotypic transformations. Cancer cells hijack canonical (native) developmental pathways, the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) in order to gain phenotypic traits that are amenable to this metastatic process. My project will explore MET using triple negative breast cancer to model. I will employ a novel lithographic platform called high-throughput DNA-directed patterning (htDNA-dp) that enables spatial and temporal control of cells, ligands, and other biological species with high fidelity to explore various factors related to a number of ligands, […]

...Read More about Chris Yi

Identifying Essential Periaxin Domains for Proper Lens Function

  Cataract, a clouding of the eye lens, is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Periaxin (Prx) is a scaffold protein interacting with membrane/cytoskeletal networks in the lens and other cell types and has been implicated in cataract development. My project will investigate the functions of Prx variants in lens cells. Recent studies in the Gong Lab suggest that Prx is a genetic modifier regulating cataract severity in connexin 46 knockout (Cx46KO) mice. Four Prx missense variants have been identified between the 129SvJae (129) and the C57BL/6J (B6) mouse strains. Based on Prxs structural importance, I hypothesize that Prx variants interact differently with lens cytoskeletal proteins and subsequently affect their cellular distribution and lens cell structure integrity. I will determine how different Prx gene variants alter the distribution and function of cytoskeletal proteins in cultured lens cells, which will reveal new molecular information about how substituted amino acid residues in […]

...Read More about Jianxiang Zhang

Biocontrol Evolution in Tomato Seedlings

The phyllosphere, the microbiome of the leaf surface, is a highly tractable model system, and is particularly adept for empirical studies on microbial ecological and evolutionary dynamics. One open question is how prior local adaptation on a plant host influences the efficacy of microbial biological control agents. Using an experimental evolution approach, in which changes in populations are measured over multiple passaging events, a naturally occurring, defensive phyllosphere bacteria, Pantoea dispersa, was evolved on tomato seedlings. Preliminary assays found that this bacterium has evolved increasingly negative effects on seedling health, suggesting a potential degradation of protective traits. Over the summer, I will help conduct dose-response assays on tomato seedlings to examine how the defensive ability of P. dispersa against the common plant pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae, has evolved over time. Understanding these ecological-evolutionary dynamics in the plant phyllosphere is critical for the implementation of effective biocontrols.

...Read More about Luyang Zhang

Analyzing Neural Networks in the Context of Concept Learning Tasks

Neural network models have traditionally been viewed as a black box, with tremendous capabilities in a variety of domains, yet with inexplicable inner workings. Past attempts at analyzing neural networks include analyzing model results and learned weights in an effort to design explainable artificial intelligence, as well as early efforts to determine the full capabilities of neural network models. My project seeks to continue in this tradition by investigating the logic-building aspect of neural network models. More specifically, I aim to investigate whether a novel program synthesis neural network model builds internal logical structure during the course of a simple rule-learning task, and whether the model’s logic-building process shares similarities to humans, demonstrated in biases such as a preference for simplicity or brevity.

...Read More about Mellon Zhang

VIP-SOM Disinhibitory Circuit in V1 during Figure-Ground Perception

The perception of a stimulus is strongly influenced by the background surrounding it. In mammals, this figure-ground perception to identify stimuli from the environment is crucial for survival, such as detecting predators. My project aims to explore the neural mechanisms behind figure-ground perception, especially focusing on the role of vasointestinal peptide positive (VIP) and somatostatin (SOM) interneurons in the primary visual cortex (V1). To explore the mechanism, I will first develop a novel mice behavioral task that can accurately quantify figure-ground modulation. Then, I will use optogenetics to activate or silence VIP and SOM neurons to explore how these perturbations affect mices performance in the task. In doing so, I aim to uncover how VIP-SOM disinhibitory circuit contributes to figure-ground perception.

...Read More about Xiaozhou Zhang

The Impact of Mitochondrial Dysregulation in LC-NE Neurons on Sleep

Mitochondrial dysregulation has emerged as a cause for certain forms of Parkinson’s disease. Investigations of the mechanisms linking mitochondrial function to Parkinson’s have focused on the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc-DA neurons). Norepinephrine-releasing neurons in the locus coeruleus (LC-NE neurons) rely on mitochondria for their daily activity in healthy individuals and also severely degenerate in Parkinson’s. Both SNc-DA neurons and LC-NE neurons are crucial for maintaining various aspects of wakefulness, but it is unclear whether mitochondrial dysregulation in each neuron population distinctly impacts sleep disturbances characteristic of Parkinson’s. For my project, I will address the hypothesis that mitochondrial dysregulation in LC-NE neurons versus that in SNc-DA neurons will have different effects on sleep in a mouse model, which could provide insight for targeted therapies to improve sleep in patients. Toward this goal, I will study mice using a targeted genetic approach where a key […]

...Read More about Yufan Zhang

Functional Genetic Analysis of Foxc1 on Tooth Regeneration

  Understanding the genetic basis of organ regeneration remains a central challenge in the field of developmental biology. Teeth are a classic model for organogenesis, since many homologous ectodermal organs (e.g., teeth and hair) follow similar patterns of development and regeneration. Threespine stickleback fish are a powerful model organism for studying tooth regeneration in vertebrates because they possess the ancestral dental phenotype of polyphyodonty, in which teeth are continuously replaced throughout adult life. Past research has shown that Foxc1 regulates Bmp6, a gene important for viability, growth, and tooth patterning in threespine stickleback fish, and maintaining quiescence, a period of rest, in mouse hair follicle stem cells. My project aims to study whether Foxc1a and Foxc1b are required for regulating tooth regeneration in threespine sticklebacks. I hypothesize that Foxc1a and Foxc1b play homologous roles in reestablishing quiescence in fish tooth stem cells as Foxc1 does in past studies of mouse […]

...Read More about Emily Zhao