Chris Yi

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, […]

Tiffany Tian

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 […]

Jianxiang Zhang

  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 […]

Ngoc-Thanh Tieu

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 […]

Alexander Toller

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 […]

Kenneth Trang

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 […]

Emilie Tu

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.

Connor Tumelty

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 […]

Katarina Vallero

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 […]

Joanna Veres

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 […]