Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Curtis Beck

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In mammals, the Polycomb Repressive Complexes 1 and 2 (PRC1, PRC2) play crucial roles in maintaining gene expression patterns that enforce cell differentiation during embryonic development. Both complexes silence genes by post-translationally modifying the histone tails of nucleosomes, the smallest structural unit of chromatin. PRC1 plays a role in chromatin compaction by histone ubiquitination, whereas PRC2 reduces expression at the transcriptional level by histone methylation. The importance of these two complexes is emphasized by the fact that mutations in either complex results in embryonic lethality. While PRC1 and PRC2 are […]

Ravi Mandla

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The main goal of my project is to understand, genetically, how differences in heart rate have evolved such that large mammals have slower heart rates than smaller mammals. So far, I have found strong evidence that the activity of the pacemaker ion channel HCN4 in the sinoatrial node (SAN, the hearts natural pacemaker), correlates with the resting heart rate of different species. My central hypothesis for this heart rate scaling phenomenon is that differences in heart rates among different mammalian species are partially determined by sequence changes at HCN4 enhancer […]

Elizabeth Wang

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Gadolinium-based contrast agents (GBCAs), consisting of a chelating agent and gadolinium metal (Gd(III)), have been used to enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast for the last 30 years, with over 300 million procedures to date. Because of the electronic magnetic moment of the gadolinium and nearby water molecules, gadolinium can be imaged accurately when exposed to strong electromagnetic fields like those created by MRI machines, improving the image clarity of the bodys structures. Accurate diagnosis scans allow for the detection of inflammation, tumors, blood vessels, and blood supply, all of […]

Connor Tou

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Directed evolution takes advantage of repeated Darwinian cycles of genetic diversification and artificial selection to engineer novel biomolecular and cellular function. In the wet-lab, its success and extent is heavily dictated by the size of the genetic library that can be synthesized and transformed, in combination with labor, cost, and time. Therefore, traditional methods relying on ex-vivo diversification and in-vivo selection are highly limiting. By addressing these problems, methods for targeted, continuous in-vivo mutagenesis are extremely valuable. Recently, our lab group developed one such system termed EvolvR – an HDR-independent, […]

Hannah Cox

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My research will serve as an inquiry into the particular language of the prosaic and poetic works of Armenian-French writer Shahan Shahnour, nom de plume Armen Lubin. Shahnour was a part of the Menk generation (so named after the Armenian word for “We”), a literary group of Armenian migrs living in Paris in the 1920’s, having survived the Armenian Genocide and fled the Ottoman Empire. Within the frame of exile and mourning a lost homeland, Shahnour’s novel in Armenian and Lubin’s later poems in French illuminate a unique language space […]

Ian Stratford

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My project explores the political implications of the religious aspects of The Eumenides by Aeschylus. The play was written circa 458 BC, a time of significant change for Athenian religious practice as democratization reached the cults of the city and control of religious rituals moved from old cultic families to civic oversight. The politician Kimon was able to orchestrate the foundation of a cult to the hero Theseus, and even established a cult family of the type that was now falling out of power. This exception speaks to the relationship […]

Elena Mateus

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If you turn on the television, chances are high that the news will be painted with violent criminals, Cops will be on all night, and Law and Order will be playing steady reruns. There is a plethora of scholarship investigating the ways media sensationalizes crime and portrays prison in a violent light; however, there exists a gap in research into understanding the ways in which people digest and make of use these images. People, whether they are affected by the criminal justice system or not, view fictitious media depictions that, […]

Christopher Hall

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Adolescence has been defined as a transitional period characterized by physical, cognitive, and socioemotional changes while the brain goes through a parallel process of circuit refinement. It is also a window of vulnerability for the development of disorders like schizophrenia and addiction. However, our understanding of the role of puberty, and the coincident surge in gonadal hormones, in brain and behavioral development is still incomplete. Multiple studies have shown both testosterone- and estrogen-dependent modulation of reward-related behaviors and its circuitry. However, there are yet to be studies that test the […]

Sami Chang

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The consumption of petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel continues to affect greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Alternative fuel sources are needed, and recent breakthroughs in synthetic biology provide a promising solution: the engineering of microorganisms to generate drop-in biofuels, which are compatible with existing engines. Unlike electricity and natural gas alternatives, biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling the carbon dioxide that is emitted. However, biofuel derived directly from crops or oils may threaten land and/or food security. Thus, this project focuses on expanding the diversity of biofuels […]

Emily Ye

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In invertebrates and humans alike, the nervous system fundamentally serves to detect sensory inputs and generate appropriate behavioral outputs. However, despite its ubiquity, our understanding of how this phenomenon occurs at the level of single neurons is far from complete. In the insect model Drosophila melanogaster, previous studies have provided some insight into how neural circuits govern various simple behaviors. For example, populations of neurons have been identified that control feeding and drinking – homeostatic processes conserved among a wide range of organisms. However, how this circuitry is modulated to […]