Jessica Chan

My primary work revolves around a eukaryotic pathway known as RNA interference (RNAi) where small RNA molecules regulate gene expression. As the main enzyme responsible for generating these small RNAs, Dicer measures and cleaves a diverse population of RNA molecules into mature fragments primed to control genes. The two main substrates are hairpin RNAswhich are cut into microRNAs (miRNAs)and long duplex RNAswhich are cut into small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Although many studies have analyzed Dicers ability to cleave RNA, there are still many unanswered questions about how Dicer selects its RNA substrates, which can lead to large changes into which genes are eventually regulated. Dicer is a large protein composed of many distinct parts. One elusive part of the protein is the helicase domain, which is involved in the processing of specific RNA substrates. My research aims to examine how the Dicers helicase domain recognizes the RNA substrates to influence […]

Akash Dixit

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

Mansee Desai

I will be working with the Murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (MHV68), a member of the Herpesviridae family consisting of over one hundred viruses capable of infecting a wide array of hosts. My gene of interest, muSOX, is a viral gene that targets and cleaves cytoplasmic host mRNAs and is the mouse analog of the SOX gene in the human gammaherpesvirus. A former graduate student constructed an MHV68 virus that is defective for host shutoff (HS). The HS virus has a single point mutation R443I and is incapable of targeting and degrading host cytoplasmic mRNAs. This summer, my job will be to confirm that phenotypes observed in the HS virus are due to only absence of host shutoff activity and not an unintended consequence of the R443I mutation. To do this, I will be creating another MHV68 virus that is defective for host shutoff and contains a different point mutation, L132F.

Joseph DeRose

Type Ia supernovae are the thermonuclear explosions of critical mass white dwarves which have reached the Chandrasekar mass through accretion of mass from their binary companion. The near constancy of their maximum intrinsic brightness is the key to the use of these events in cosmological studies. Unfortunately, systematic errors associated with the diversity of type Ia supernovae continue to limit their usefulness as standard candles. I will use a very large spectroscopic and photometric data set gathered by the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) in order to identify correlations between the stretch parameter of type Ia light curves and a variety of parameters derived from type Ia blackbody spectra. Combining the correlations between photometric and spectroscopic parameters I hope to obtain a new correction to type Ia maximum intrinsic luminosity. Furthermore, I would like to apply this new correction to obtain a new value for Hubbles constant using the PTF data.

Thamine Dalichaouch

The objective of this work is to study electric field noise from metallic surfaces at low frequencies observed in ultra-low temperature ion traps. This source of noise has been a major issue for ion trapping experiments because it heats up the cold ions several orders of magnitude faster than what was expected. This heating is a serious problem and hinders progress in the use of ions, as dependably controllable qubits, toward a scalable quantum computer. The expected benefits from this research is the determination of the frequency scaling of this anomalous heating, which will shed light on the origin of this noise and, in turn, on ways to mitigate it.

Kiara Covarrubias

The Chinese Exclusion Act is considered the most racist law in U.S. history; it entailed quarantining immigrants for up to two years on Angel Island, resulting in a collection of poetry carved by the detainees onto the walls of the detention barracks. Given the tumultuous history of immigration from south of the border, where is this poetry for Mexican and Central American immigrants? While immigration has been extensively studied through various academic perspectives, the literature from the immigrants themselves has largely remained untouched. By identifying the trajectory of literature by undocumented immigrants, I will analyze how policy may have driven the changes in language and style of this corpus of literature and, conversely, what the literature reveals about policy itself. In creating an aesthetic for The Literature of the Undocumented, I will argue for its differentiation from Chicano Literature, under which the literature is currently (mis)categorized.

Stephanie Fung

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was established in 2003 with the goal of trying those responsible for the horrors inflicted upon Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge between 1975-1979. Two of the original four Accused in Case 002 are currently being tried at this Khmer Rouge Tribunal, and as part of my research, I will be monitoring these trials at the ECCC on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. By observing these trials and interviewing experts on the ECCC and the Democratic Kampuchea period, I intend to examine the influence of the tribunal and other sites of historical importance, such as the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, on the development of a national collective memory of the Khmer Rouge era. Public consciousness is undoubtedly being molded by these trials and memorials, and my project will provide insight into how this history is being developed and […]

Parinaz Fozouni

All animals share a common ancestor that underwent a transition to evolve multicellularity. To better understand this transition, we compare animals to choanoflagellates, their closest living relatives. Multicellular animals faced many challenges not shared by their unicellular ancestors. One such challenge was the evolution of mechanisms to defend against pathogens seeking to exploit the new niches present in a multicellular organism. My project aims to lay the groundwork for asking whether Toll-like receptors (TLRs), critical components of the innate immune system, evolved in the earliest animals to answer this challenge. As little is understood about choanoflagellate innate immunity, characterizing the role of their putative TLRs will increase our knowledge about choanoflagellate immunity, especially in hypothesizing the changing role of immunity in the evolution of multicellularity. Characterizing the role of these TLRs in choanoflagellates would provide valuable insights into the basic immunological tool kit of the last common ancestor of animals.

Scott Farley

Wildfires annually burn hundreds of thousands of acres of the Western United States, forcing mass evacuations, burning residences and costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Using a Geographic Information System (GIS), my project aims to model the wildfire potential of the Angeles National Forest, a large and diverse natural area just outside the city of Los Angeles. Considering variables such as fuel type and moisture content, temperature, precipitation, slope, and winds, I will determine the areas of the forest most conducive to a destructive fire. Using these ‘hot spots,’ I will analyze the resource allocation of the fire fighting units surrounding the forest. By the end of my project, I intend to have developed a model capable of incorporating future climate scenarios and being applied to other areas of the state.

Alina Enoiu

Many communities in the San Francisco Bay Area struggle with food insecurity or the lack of access to healthy and affordable food, making them more likely to suffer from diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Because these communities have a base of corner stores where people already shop, such as liquor stores or other smaller-scale stores, bringing healthy options to local corner stores may be a more effective strategy than developing larger supermarkets. My project will examine whether the federal governments strategies of providing financial incentives to storeowners is an effective way of increasing the availability of healthy food. I will also learn how local and state governments can make the process of corner-store conversion not only more appealing but easier and less demanding for storeowners. My research will involve looking at government policies as well as interviewing storeowners and other key players in the healthy corner store movement.