My research focuses on investigating the conditions that give rise to the emotion of envy both within individuals and within social groups. I am interested in how perceived social competition plays a role in determining the level of envy produced in both cases. As envy is a social comparative emotion that lies at the core of social hierarchy, I want to explore its dynamic and interrelated relationship within social structure (e.g. social class) in terms of how and why it arises as well as its consequences to the individuals and the society at large. I hope by situating basic emotion research within the larger social context, my project can shed some light into this important and yet insufficiently discussed issue.
An essential component to better understanding cellular electrical signaling is to address how the resting membrane potential in neurons is established and modified to affect excitability. Two-pore domain potassium (K2P) ion channels are directly involved in this process and comprise a unique protein family that is essential for the maintenance of this resting membrane potential. The TWIK-related spinal cord K+ channel (TRESK) is considered a major contributor to background K+ currents and is expressed abundantly in DRG neurons. This K2P channel is thought to be involved in pain sensation and sensory transduction, where its down-regulation may induce pain disorders such as allodynia and neuropathy, and loss of TRESK channel activity is strongly correlated to hereditary migraines with aura in humans. The goal of my research is to characterize the molecular structure of TRESK to understand the physical mechanism by which this channel operates.This characterization will begin with the expression and […]
In everyday life, seldom are the choices weve made reinforced by objective reward like food or water. Rather, we tend to set goals for ourselves, and actions leading to those goals are what are reinforced, even in the absence of reward. Theoretical work has suggested that treating goal achievement as a pseudo-reward is an effective means to learn complex behavior, which may require going through many intermediary, value-neutral sub-goals before leading to reward. There has been indirect evidence for pseudo-rewards when reaching subgoals in EEG and fMRI, but as of yet, few studies have directly compared the reinforcing effects of goals vs. rewards on value learning. This project stems from our previous behavioral results which supported that pseudo-rewards can have reinforcing properties. To complement this, I seek to find EEG markers of value learning during trials in which feedback is internally-defined as rewarding rather than being objectively so. The results […]
Motor preparation can be probed using both electroencephalography (EEG) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive brain stimulation technique which evokes a response called the motor-evoked potential (MEP) from the targeted muscle. However, recording MEPs is problematicthe MEP is highly variable from trial to trial, and the sources of fluctuations in MEP amplitude are debated. Some of this variability, as well as the temporal dynamics of the MEP, may be explained by neural oscillations, endogenous fluctuations in brain activity. During the preparatory period, both the MEP amplitude and beta power decrease on average, but it is unknown if the two are correlated trial-by-trial. By simultaneously recording MEPs and from EEG using a combined TMS-EEG method, my SURF project will test the hypothesis that MEP amplitude beta frequency band activity will have different patterns of correlation in early vs. late periods of motor preparation.
Woven into the intricate fabric of Oaklands Latinx population is a community of Maya immigrants. Many arrived as refugees, escaping genocide during the Guatemalan Civil War, and in part because of this traumatic history and their indigenous identity, Maya individuals face unique challenges in accessing health care. While both Latinx and Mayan populations may perceive a lack of access, no existing research analyzes how these perceptions differ, allowing for the assumption that both groups face the same challenges. My research investigates the distinct challenges that the Maya perceive in accessing healthcare and their experiences within the healthcare system of the United States. I will use concurrent mixed methods interviews, nonparticipant observation, and focus groups to conduct my study, which will culminate in a 60-80 page independent thesis and a published paper that pushes us to rethink how our healthcare system interacts with the indigenous immigrant community.
One of the most interesting components of the global carbon cycle is the movement of carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, where it is deposited as particulates, a process called the Biological Carbon Pump (BCP). The BCP combines physical oceanography and biology, as the majority of the carbon dioxide that is pulled from the atmosphere into our oceans for biological processes in the photic zone, and then moves from the surface to the deep ocean as zooplankton excrement. Using robotic devices to monitor this chemical and biological cycle, I hope to better understand the diurnal fluctuations in the BCP from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, and therefore better understand how surface zooplankton contribute to carbon cycling on our planet.
For decades, researchers have been experimenting with tools used for neural stimulation, modulation, and therapy. A greatly used and helpful tool includes optogenetics, which utilizes light waves to control cells expressing light-sensitive channels. While optogenetics is not an invasive recording technology, due to its dependence on visible light it cannot penetrate deep into the organisms tissue. The purpose of this project is to develop a wireless method similar to optogenetics which can overcome the issues optogenetics encounters. Rather than using light to manipulate neuronal behavior, an electromagnetic field will be provided as the stimulus source. The electromagnetic field will target specific cells that express heat-sensitive proteins, specifically the transient receptor potential channel TRPV1. This method of neural stimulation is ideal as it will reach cells deep within the tissue, and it will not expose the subject to exogenous particles.
Melanoma is among the most common and lethal forms of cancer and its incidence has greatly increased in the last 30 years. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) are a class of epigenetic regulatory molecules important to cancer development and progression, and can serve as tumor markers or even targets for therapy. My research is focused on two novel lncRNA important for the survival of NRAS mutant malignant melanoma. I aim to verify the effects of these lncRNA, as well as demonstrate that we can inhibit melanoma cell growth both in vitro and in vivo through targeting these lncRNA. Additionally, I hope to characterize the mechanisms of action of these lncRNA so see if they are viable targets for therapy.
Entomopthera muscae is a fungus that infects flies that can induce behavioral changes and subsequently cause morbidity Drosophila melanogaster. However, the mechanism behind this drastic modification is still largely unknown. My research aims to find a way to modify and flourescently tag a gene in the fungus using CRISPR/Cas9, which may allow us to better understand mechanisms of infection and subsequent behavioral modifications in the host organisms. By doing so, we will be able to track how the fungus can travel through and modify the function of the nervous system in the host organism. This will enable future research probing the mechanistic basis of behavioral changes in the fly host, and may allow for a further understanding of other animal’s nervous systems and associated diseases. My research also focuses on how to genetically altera non model and evolutionarily distant species in vivo and subsequently return an active culture to a […]
Many tandemly repeated histone gene clusters exist in the Drosophila Melanogaster genome and are subjected to complex regulation during the cell cycle. However, the exact mechanism of this regulation remains elusive. Using a variant of the CRISPR/Cas9 system, we have developed a DNA-pulldown technique that, when coupled to mass-spectrometry, is capable of identifying bound proteins on a given promoter, enhancer, or any other regulatory DNA sequence. Applying this technique to the D. Melanogaster histone cluster, the pulldown samples interestingly showed an enrichment of a particular protein domain – LisH. Found in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae SIF2 protein, this LisH domain is thought to be responsible for the formation of dimer/tetramers and could be an integral part of the recruitment complex necessary for efficient and proper histone gene transcription. Indeed, one of the LisH proteins identified in the pulldown, Multi sex combs (Mxc), has been shown previously to be involved in the […]