Measuring Human Thresholds of Motion Perception via Human Eccentric Rotating Device

  • Student Recipient: Nicholas Dembiczak, Aerospace Engineering Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Torin Clark
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The primary objectives of this project are to study directional differences of how humans perceive motion via roll, pitch and yaw rotations, if these vestibular/motion perception thresholds are a function of motion duration, and to reach a conclusion regarding the relationship of the sensitivity of these thresholds in relation to the specific rotation type the human is experiencing. An understanding of sensitivity to motion perception is essential to ensure the safety of pilots flying aircraft/spacecraft, elderly people with increased risk of falling, astronauts returning from environments with altered gravitational forces, and so on.

Improving Human Motion Perception through Stochastic Resonance

  • Student Recipient: Alexander Kryuchkov, Aerospace Engineering Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Torin Clark
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The main objective of the project is improving human performance. Both performance and perception will be improved by using stochastic resonance - applying a low level of white noise on a sensory channel, which can enhance vision, hearing, and balance.

Human Adaptation to the Coriolis Cross-Coupled Illusion for Artificial Gravity

  • Student Recipient: Sage Sherman, Applied Mathematics
  • Faculty Mentor: Torin Clark
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: One promising way to combat the harming effects of weightlessness on astronauts is by providing an artificial gravity environment using a centrifuge. Shorter radius centrifuges would be more practical to build and launch, but require a higher rotation rate to produce a desired centripetal acceleration. However, problems develop for astronauts with higher rotation rates. When the head is tilted the vestibular system is unusually stimulated causing the Coriolis Cross-Coupled Illusion, which can lead to disorientation and motion sickness. Through an adaptation protocol, we aim to increase an individual’s tolerable rotation rate, thus allowing for more feasible, shorter radius centrifuge designs.

Carnivora skull morphology and cranial capacity in anthropogenic habitats

  • Student Recipient: William Wilson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Anthropology
  • Faculty Mentor: Joanna Lambert
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I propose to study the feeding morphology and cranial capacity of two successful species whose distributions have recently extended into anthropogenic landscapes: Canis latrans and Procyon lotor. Because animals consume different foods in anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic environments, I will test the hypothesis that there are quantifiable changes in cranial morphology in urban versus non-urban populations. Results will provide insights into how human-modified environments shape natural selection and lend data for predator management strategies. My research will fulfill the requirements for Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) Honors and will be conducted under the supervision of [mentor] (EBIO affiliate).

Galago Nutritional Analysis

  • Student Recipient: Anthony Borrego, Anthropology
  • Faculty Mentor: Michelle Sauther
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This research focuses on how the diets of sympatric African galago species, Otolemur crassicaudatus and Galago moholi at the Lajuma Research Centre, South Africa differ. These species are dramatically different in body size and inhabit a temperate habitat with periods of cold temperatures and low food availability. Using fecal samples and fecal food remains (e.g. seeds and insect parts), from live trapped individuals collected across a 12 month period, their diet will be compared across seasons. Such comparative data are relevant for understanding the advantages and disadvantages of body size and niche separation by sympatric species within a temperate habitat.

Air Pollution Exposure Assessment and Analysis of Childhood Asthma Outcomes in Denver, CO

  • Student Recipient: Ellen Considine, Applied Mathematics
  • Faculty Mentor: Colleen Reid
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Asthma affects roughly 11% of children in Denver. In response, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) is pioneering a project called the Air Quality Community Action Network (AQ-CAN), which includes real-time reporting of air quality at Denver Public Schools. I will use this data to quantify the air pollution to which Denver schoolchildren are being exposed, investigate the association between air pollution exposure and asthma in the schools, and compare my findings to those from larger studies. My work will help inform the development of AQ-CAN’s school and community education programs, promoting healthier behavior and cleaner air.

Understanding the Mechanisms of Drug Resistance in Melanoma Cells

  • Student Recipient: Steven Sloan, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Natalie Ahn
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The student will work with their mentor and an additional supervisor to attempt to understand how and why melanoma cells become resistant to specific drug treatments. They will also examine how to possibly prevent resistance from developing in order to better treatments for this type of cancer. Once resistance occurs, the cancer becomes difficult to treat. Should they be able to figure out how to prevent resistance from developing, people suffering from melanomas could experience an extended lifespan from improved treatment.

Influencing Macrophage Polarization with Mesenchymal Stem Cell Secretory Factors

  • Student Recipient: Alyxandra Golden, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Macrophages are innate immune cells that destroy invading pathogens and signal other immune cells to join them at a site of infection or injury. Macrophages polarize from “M1 cells” involved in initial, inflammatory responses to “M2 cells” involved in tissue repair and resolution of inflammation. The transition from M1 to M2 is critical to the immune system’s ability to protect and heal the body, but for certain patients, such as those with chronic inflammatory conditions, this transition may not occur independently. This project studies how Mesenchymal Stem Cell secretory factors can promote the polarization of macrophages from M1 to M2.

The Mechanism of p53 and HMGB1 in Transcriptional Regulation

  • Student Recipient: Emma Steffer, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: James Goodrich
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: p53 is a protein that binds DNA as a tetramer, but can also exist in monomer and dimer forms off of DNA. My goal is to determine which form of p53 binds another protein named HMGB1, which is important for controlling many processes in the nuclei of human cells. To do so I will perform EMSAs to examine how wild type and two p53 mutants interact with HMGB1. I will mutate amino acid 344 from a leucine to an alanine which will prevent p53 tetramerization and the same leucine to a proline which will prevent p53 dimerization.

Validation of putative miR-206 targets and characterization of a C2C12 miR-206 knockout cell line.

  • Student Recipient: KimNgan Tat, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Kugel
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project aims to validate potential new targets of miR-206 and to characterize morphological and gene expression changes in a C2C12 miR-206 knock-out cell line upon differentiation. This project will lead to a better understanding of miR-206’s role in skeletal muscle cell differentiation. It will also contribute to the validation of an affinity purification and sequencing protocol developed by my mentor that is aimed at identifying the true mRNA targets of known microRNAs. Muscle-specific microRNAs and their targets could serve as novel therapeutic targets for treatments of skeletal muscle disorders.

Chemical and Biochemical Specificity of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor

  • Student Recipient: Jonathan Beirne, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Xuedong Liu
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) initiates cell proliferation, which makes EGFR a key oncogene and a common target for chemotherapeutics. There are six known ligands of EGFR, each is highly conserved and is structurally unique. It stands to reason that each ligand may produce notable differences in cellular response. Additionally, there are many chemical inhibitors for EGFR, most claim specificity for EGFR, however, little evidence exists that this is true. This study aims to identify differences in downstream phenotypes induced by ligands and inhibitors. By examining the difference in induced phenotype, a new model can be created for EGFR regulation.

Structure-activity relationship studies of a novel chemical modulator of the PINK1/Parkin and TFEB pathways implicated in mitochondrial quality control: understanding the mechanisms of action through the power of chemical synthesis

  • Student Recipient: Elliot Minor, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Xuedong Liu
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Recently, my research group has discovered a novel compound capable of disrupting PINK1/Parkin-dependent mitophagy and increasing TFEB-induced mitochondrial biogenesis. Disruption of these mitochondrial quality control pathways has been implicated in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis. The mechanisms of action, however, are not yet understood due in part to limited structure-activity relationship (SAR) information. This project leverages my experience in chemical synthesis to create a compound library for biological testing to elucidate the SARs of PINK1/Parkin and TFEB activities. Following discovery of potent analogs and mechanisms of action, the project has the potential to identify novel drug targets for treatment of Parkinson's disease.

Studies of the Function and Structure of the CAF-1 Protein

  • Student Recipient: Eileen Findlay, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Francesca Mattiroli
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this project is to cultivate new knowledge about the CAF-1 complex. This includes information such as structure, inter- and intramolecular interactions. In particular, the student's work will focus on the role of DNA interaction for CAF-1 function. This information can broaden the understanding of how histones are assembled to form a nucleosome complex on the DNA. This information can lead to information about other nucleosome assembly proteins, and overall, get a clear picture of how chromatin is packaged during DNA replication.

The Effect of BamA on Membrane Fluidity

  • Student Recipient: Matthew Brown, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Marcelo Sousa
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will utilize fluorescence-based approaches to test the hypothesis that the protein BamA modulates membrane fluidity to mediate folding and insertion of Outer Membrane Proteins (OMPs). BamA is the central component of the beta Barrel Assembly Machine (BAM). My project is part of a larger program to elucidate the structure and molecular mechanism of BAM and its role in the biogenesis of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. The long-term goal is to characterize BAM as a target for development of novel antibiotics that would interfere with the essential process of OMP folding and insertion.

Open Space and Mountain Parks Research

  • Student Recipient: Emily Koke, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Katharine Suding
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Climate in the western US has been predicted to experience increasingly volatile weather patterns including flooding events and extreme dry periods. This presents the obstacle of environmental variability to our local vegetation. With climate change, local land managers are concerned about losses in productivity and diversity. Recognizing this, our team has coordinated a project in which we will explore how and why the productivity of different plant species will change in response to variable climate and management practices. By manipulating rainfall and grazing in the field, we will measure plant responses to understand how to best conserve local ecosystems.

Creation of a Probabilistic Metric for Quantifying RNA Polymerase Pausing

  • Student Recipient: Zachary Maas, Chemistry / Mathematics
  • Faculty Mentor: Dylan Taatjes
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project seeks to create a metric to quantify the process of pausing in RNA polymerase. This metric will be probabilistic, and will be based on an existing algorithm known as Transcription Fit. The algorithm analyzes data from high-throughput sequencing techniques like Global Run On Sequencing, and uses a probabilistic model to analyze sequencing data and to predict the behavior of RNA polymerase. This project seeks to use the probabilistic parameters from this model for its metric, with the hope that these changes can help all research into transcription that uses these relatively new sequencing techniques.

Understanding the Role of Microenvironmental Stiffness on Satellite Cell Differentiation

  • Student Recipient: Kendra Bannister, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Upon injury, skeletal muscle initiates repair with increased proliferation of resident satellite cells (SC), followed by increased myogenic commitment. Injury leads to stiffening of the muscle, but the influence of muscle mechanical properties on SC behavior is poorly understood. My research project will focus on encapsulating SC laden myofibers in 3-D hydrogels and analyzing differences in myogenic markers as a function of stiffness to determine the role of stiffness on SC behavior. I hypothesize that a stiffer hydrogel will increase proliferation and differentiation of SCs, which result in an increase in the expression of myogenic markers.

The Role of Extracellular Matrix Stiffness in Muscle Satellite Cell Myogenesis

  • Student Recipient: Olivia Bednarski, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project will explore how extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness influences the regenerative potential of skeletal muscle. The extracellular matrix in the muscle becomes stiffer after injury and the resident muscle stem cells (SCs) sense this stiffness with mechanotransduction machinery. Substrate mechanics control key behaviors such as activation, proliferation, and differentiation of SCs. My go¬al is to understand how dynamic stiffening of the muscle microenvironment affects the protein and gene expression levels of myogenesis and mechanotransduction related markers in SCs upon injury. This screening can potentially identify therapeutic targets to enhance muscle regeneration after injury.

 

The effect of histone deacetylation on human mesenchymal stem cell mechanical memory

  • Student Recipient: Ella Hushka, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: When a stem cell’s (hMSC) histones are deacetylated, a region of its genetic code that instructs a certain differentiation lineage is available to be transcribed. This can occur in response to a mechanical stimulus, which is stored by the cell's mechanical memory. This is problematic for scientists studying hMSCs and doctors culturing hMSCs before surgery, as their cells will already show preference to a certain lineage. The goal of this project is to investigate if histone deacetylation can inhibit a cell’s mechanical memory and therefore maintain its “stemness,” or in other words, prevent it from committing to a certain lineage.

Effect of cytokines on myofibroblast activation and calcification of valvular interstitial cells within a 3D hydrogel

  • Student Recipient: Daren Kraft, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The specific aim of this project is to determine the effect of biochemical cues, such as pro-inflamatory cytokines and growth factors, on the activation levels of primary valvular interstitial cells (VICs). Activation will be measured in phenotypic changes, from healthy myoblasts to disease state myofibroblasts, of aortic VICs within 3D hydrogels. This project will help the research group in their understanding of the disease mechanisms of valvular fibrosis and stenosis. A greater understanding of early factors leading to myofibroblast activation of VICs will benefit researchers, clinicians, and the patients who develop valvular fibrosis and stenosis.

Myogenesis and Mechanotransduction of 3D Encapsulated Myoblasts

  • Student Recipient: Cameron Rogowski, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Kristi Anseth
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project aims to explore how stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) influences the myogenic potential of myoblasts using novel 3D hydrogels that use a degradable peptide azide monomer, allowing cell-mediated remodeling of the hydrogels. Following injury, muscle tissue stiffens from 12 kPa to 24 kPa within 30 days. Satellite cells (SCs) are responsible for muscle regeneration and sense this change in substrate stiffness through mechanotransduction machinery, which regulates SC activation, proliferation, and differentiation. My project will focus on encapsulating myoblasts in dynamically stiffening 3D hydrogels to understand how stiffening of the muscle microenvironment affects SC mechanotransduction and myogenesis.

Epistatic Effects on Bacterial Fitness

  • Student Recipient: Vismaya Bachu, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Anushree Chatterjee
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to explore the epistatic nature of heterogeneous gene expression. The goal is to quantify a bacterial strain’s ability to survive and adapt to its environment after its transcriptome is perturbed. The student's project involves qualitatively determining each specific strain's fitness by perturbing different genes, cloning the affected bacteria, and examining the growth rates with statistical significance. This project is highly relevant in a world of drug-resistance pharmaceuticals. The ability to genetically undermine antibiotic-resistant bacteria would lead to better treatment of the diseases they cause, which currently affect over 2,000,000 Americans each year.

CRISPR Enabled Trackable Genome Engineering Mechanism Inference

  • Student Recipient: Reilly Fankhauser, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Joel Kaar
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The specific objective of my project is to understand the bio-molecular mechanism behind CRISPR EnAbled Trackable genome Engineering (CREATE) technology for genome modification. CREATE uses cas9 endonucleases in conjugation with homologous recombination to make high throughput parallel, single nucleotide changes on the E coli genome. This technology is very valuable for strain engineering, enzyme engineering, applications in industry and also as a tool for improving our understanding of fundamental biological questions. In my research I aim to use tools from systems and synthetic biology to improve our understanding of the biochemical mechanism behind the CREATE process.

Engineering a novel zinc sensor to assess labile zinc concentrations within in vivo secretory vesicles

  • Student Recipient: Justin Tapper, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Amy Palmer
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project uses protein engineering, biochemistry and cell biology to create a novel fluorescent zinc sensor that can be localized to cellular vesicles and used to quantitatively measure the concentration of labile zinc ions present in vesicles in mammalian cells. This is important because there is some evidence that zinc concentrations in secretory cell types and is important for cell health, but there are no tools to measure zinc in these specific organelles living cells. The regulation of metal ions such as zinc is thought to have an influence in diabetes and the development of cancers.

Understanding the Binding Plasticity of Medically Relevant Biomolecules

  • Student Recipient: Tanner Bobak, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Michael Shirts
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In this project we will examine how a protein can recognize and bind to multiple binding partners, allowing the protein to participate in several cellular processes. We will use the GROMACS molecular simulation software package and the CU Summit supercomputer to investigate this idea. Specifically, we will run simulations on the SH2 domain of human SH2B1 adaptor protein and determine the conformational changes which occur in the SH2 domain to accommodate different binding partners. The data will then be compared to experimental findings. These results will enhance our understanding of SH2 domains, which are significant for cancer progression and obesity.

Understanding and Predicting Pharmaceutical Binding to Blood Plasma Proteins

  • Student Recipient: Tanner Bobak, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Michael Shirts
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project will investigate how computational techniques can be applied to expedite the determination of binding affinity of pharmaceutically relevant compounds to human serum albumin (HSA). Specifically, binding affinity will be predicted using the BLUES molecular dynamics software. Binding affinity to HSA is important because the amount of interaction between a particular molecule and HSA can have a large impact on the efficacy of said molecule to treat disease. The ability to computationally determine the interaction between a pharmaceutical and HSA has the potential to save a great deal of money and time in industrial scale pharmaceutical development.

CRISPR Screen Analysis of Transposable Elements in Innate Immune Cells

  • Student Recipient: Isabella Horton, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Edward Chuong
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: CRISPR screens are a new application of technology that uses CRISPR Cas9 to target the entire genome, allowing for assays to identify specific regions of the genome that are essential to the function of particular cellular pathways. My project is to design a CRISPR screen and assay to identify genetic and regulatory elements that influence inflammatory pathways within mice and human immune cells. This project shifts the focus from not only studying genes that encode proteins but to also analyzing how regulatory elements, specifically transposable elements with unknown functions, influence cell behavior in the innate immune system.

Uncovering Physiological aspects of Acidobacteria Phylum

  • Student Recipient: Joely Depoy, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Sebastian Kopf
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to better understand the functionality of brGDGTs, a recent discovery that is relatively unknown yet seems to be present in nearly all natural environments. One organism that is known to produce brGDGTs is E. Aggregans. We will test this organism against the negative control, A. Ailauii, under varying pH levels and temperatures to better understand its functionality. My mentor will then harvest the brGDGTs. This can then be used to better understand the impact of organic matter on the environment. It can also be used as an indicator for geochemical prospecting.

Transcriptional Regulation of Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) in Cancer

  • Student Recipient: Kyla Foster, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Thomas Cech
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Enhancer of Zeste Homolog-2 (EZH2) is the catalytic subunit of Polycomb Repressive Complex-2 (PRC2), which is an oncologically relevant protein complex that promotes gene silencing. Recent findings have shown that EZH2 levels are a predictor of survival in several cancers. I aim to globally identifying genes/pathways that are crucial for EZH2 expression. To study this, I inserted a fluorescent reporter downstream of EZH2 DNA to test regulation of the gene. I will use shRNA/sgRNA libraries to identify crucial genes/pathways and will rationally design drugs that target these genes, to ultimately change EZH2 expression to levels that promote cell/patient survival.

Effective Drug Combinations for ALK Positive Tumor Cell Lines

  • Student Recipient: Brandon Ho, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Xuedong Liu
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Liu lab is interested in quantifying the effects of combining histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) with ALK inhibitors (ALKi) in treating ALK positive tumor cells in vitro. Results obtained from this project will benefit the development and administration of ALK inhibitors; hopefully, this will also have a transforming impact on patients with this specific cancer.

 

Drug Resistance Screening of FDA Approved Cancer Drugs

  • Student Recipient: Cathryn Toomey, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Xuedong Liu
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In addition to treatments such as chemotherapy, many pharmaceuticals have been developed to attack cancerous cells within the human body. However, cancer cells possess a high mutation rate and are often able to develop resistance to such drugs, rendering them useless. Over the course of the Summer semester, available drugs will be tested in varying combinations and amounts with other similar drugs in an effort to discover a combination that will extend their usefulness. This research will provide a basis for health care professionals when prescribing such medications in such a way that positive results are optimized.

Viral Identification and Discovery Through dsRNA-Seq

  • Student Recipient: Gabriel Tauber, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Roy Parker
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The current goal of the project is to develop and refine a method of dsRNA isolation and sequencing with the sensitivity to identify or discover viruses infecting human tissues in samples similar to standard clinical tissue biopsies. Such samples have few cells and small amounts of total RNA, with a minuscule amount of that being viral dsRNA. With a suitable dsRNA pulldown and sequencing regime, that viral dsRNA can be identified and mapped. Secondly, such sequence data and modeling could eventually identify novel viruses from tissue samples. This project has both diagnostic implications, as well as evolutionary ones.

Developing selective Toll-like Receptor 7/8 agonists as chemical probes and potential therapeutics

  • Student Recipient: Rachel Anderson, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Hubert Yin
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a part of the innate immune system which detect invading pathogens or cellular damage and initiate a pro-inflammatory response. My work falls under a larger project developing selective TLR 7 and 8 antagonists as treatments for autoimmune diseases. I aim to develop a molecular scaffold into selective TLR agonists to provide a new therapy for treating immunodeficiency. Furthermore, as TLRs are transmembrane proteins, they can only be studied with whole-cell assays. A selective agonist could be used as a biological tool to explore the regulation and synergistic interactions of TLRs, which are not well understood.

Design and Synthesis of Antagonists Targeting TLR8

  • Student Recipient: Kyoin "Chloe" Koo, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Hubert Yin
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of my project is to design and synthesize the antagonists targeting Toll-Like Receptor 8 (TLR8). Uncontrolled activation of TLR8 can lead to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Inhibition of the receptor by a TLR8-specific antagonist can have therapeutic effects on people who suffer from those diseases. This project is a part of the larger research on drug discovery and findings of TLR8 project can benefit pharmaceutical researchers on developing or improving drugs for autoimmune diseases.

Design and Synthesis of Toll-Like Receptor 8

  • Student Recipient: Kyoin "Chloe" Koo, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Hubert Yin
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of my project is to design and synthesize the antagonists targeting Toll-Like Receptor 8 (TLR8). Uncontrolled activation of TLR8 can lead to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Inhibition of the receptor by a TLR8-specific antagonist can have therapeutic effects on people who suffer from those diseases. This project is a part of the larger research on drug discovery and findings of TLR8 project can benefit pharmaceutical researchers on developing or improving drugs for autoimmune diseases.

Impact of High Potency Cannabis Concentrates and Tobacco Co-Use on Gut Microbiome Diversity

  • Student Recipient: Ivana Zhou, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Cinnamon Bidwell
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Despite cannabis’ growing popularity due to legalization, data on the impacts of cannabis products in areas such as gut health and co-use with other drugs are lacking. Therefore, it is necessary to study the effects of available products such as high potency concentrates (85%-95% THC) so that policymakers and consumers can make educated decisions surrounding cannabis. This project seeks to investigate the effects of high potency concentrates and co-tobacco use on gut microbiome diversity. The data will be drawn from a larger study that aims to examine the impacts of using high potency cannabis concentrates on cognition, health, and behavior.

Exploring biocrust-associated soil fungi and their role in mediating plant growth, phenology, and sexual reproduction

  • Student Recipient: Allister Carter, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Interspecific interactions, specifically those between plants and soil microbes, are critical to the functionality of ecosystems (Garcia-Palacios et al., 2015)). These interactions may mediate plant community responses to abiotic stressors like climate change (Fridley et al., 2011)). Understanding plant-soil interactions is important to understanding the stability and resilience a given ecosystem has to climate change. In dryland ecosystems, biological soil crusts (biocrusts), soil microbial assemblages of cyanobacteria, mosses, lichens, and fungi, increase availability of plant-limiting resources, and influence plant establishment and growth (Belnap et al. 2016). However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying biocrust provision of resources to plants.

Exploring the potential of biological soil crusts to increase crop yields in dryland agricultural systems.

  • Student Recipient: Lindsey Foust, Biochemistry / Ecological and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Dryland ecosystems cover 41% of terrestrial landmass and support 33% of the human population. However, agricultural crop production in drylands is limited by water, nutrient availability, and erosion. Hence, there is a considerable demand for improvement of agricultural practices in drylands. One virtually unexplored means of increasing dryland crop yield is through inoculation with biological soil crusts ("biocrusts"). Biocrusts naturally occur in many arid climates and are soil surface-dwelling microbial communities composed of cyanobacteria, fungi, mosses, and lichens. Biocrusts support soil functioning by increasing soil water availability, preventing erosion, increasing soil temperature and fertility; and could potentially increase crop yield.

Biocrust effects on vascular plant phenology and sexual reproduction in dryland ecosystems

  • Student Recipient: Alexander Leslie, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: My mentor’s research project investigates the effects of biological soil crusts (biocrusts) on the phenology and reproductive output of vascular plants in dryland ecosystems. Specifically, she is testing the hypothesis that biocrust modification of soil resources (nutrients, water, temperature) influences plant phenology and reproduction responses in a full factorial field experiment in Moab, UT. Study results have implications for local land managers such as the National Park Service (NPS) who are collaborators in this work. Study results will be incorporated into one or more peer-reviewed manuscripts, to be presented to collaborating scientists at the NPS in the fall of 2017.

Fungal root endophytes as a potential mechanism of plant-biocrust resource exchange

  • Student Recipient: Alexander Leslie, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Biological soil crusts (biocrusts) can have substantial effects on the growth of vascular plants in dryland ecosystems. However, there is a limited understanding of the mechanisms underlying these interactions. The broader project seeks to understand biocrust-associated fungal endophyte interactions. My project will compare nutrient uptake of grass species on biocrusted versus bare soil samples to answer these questions: (1)Do biocrust-associated fungal endophytes mediate resource exchanges between biocrusts and plants?; if so: (2)Do these associations differ among plant species? This work will increase understanding of dryland community ecology and has broader implications for restoration ecology and land management decision-making.

 

Biocrust Functional Recovery Across Differing Spatial Scales of Disturbances

  • Student Recipient: Christopher Manning, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In global dryland ecosystems, biocrusts, which are soil microbial communities, support critical ecosystem functions, including soil stability, moisture, and carbon and nitrogen fixation. However, biocrusts are highly susceptible to physical disturbances. Once disturbed, their recovery can take decades. In this research project I will use microscopy and laboratory methods to determine (1) the order of biocrust organism recolonization following disturbance, (2) how disturbance spatial scale affects this succession, and will use this information to ascertain where biocrust propagules arrive from. This research will help us understand biocrusts succession, and has broad implications for land management and restoration practices in drylands.

The influence of a biological soil crust on vascular plant community assembly in the Desert Southwest

  • Student Recipient: Rachael Merkt, Ecology and Evolutioanry Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Nichole Barger
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In this study, I am investigating the effects of biocrusts on plant community assembly using a greenhouse experiment. Specifically, I am comparing emergence and establishment of C3 and C4 perennial grasses and annual and perennial forbs grown in biocrust versus bare soil mesocosms. Biocrusts are phototrophic soil surface communities consisting of cyanobacteria, algae, bryophytes, lichens, fungi, and bacteria. I hypothesize that biocrusts influence community assembly through interspecific effects on plant species depending on plant characteristics and that these effects differ depending on abiotic stress. Understanding biotic interactions such as these will help us predict community responses to global climate change.

Do Painted Lady Caterpillars Have the Potential to Become International Agricultural Pests?

  • Student Recipient: Jacquelyn Henderson, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Deane Bowers
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) is a cosmopolitan herbivore, able to feed on many plant species. Because of its generalist diet, V. cardui has the potential to become a pest species, feeding on crops and garden plants as much of its natural environment is transformed for agricultural and suburban use. The caterpillars may choose to eat cultivated plants instead of their natural hosts. My objective is to determine whether V. cardui can feed and develop into adulthood on diets consisting of some major agricultural crops, as well as to observe if they are able to survive contact with pesticides.

Ground Nesting Bee Community response to Flooding

  • Student Recipient: Jacob Unger, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Deane Bowers
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Colorado’s native bees are extremely diverse and important to agricultural and natural ecosystems. I will explore how the severe 2013 flood affected local, native bees. As part of the larger project examining bee community response to this flood, I will help identify, curate, and catalog previously collected bee specimens, to determine which species were most impacted. Once all are cataloged, a report will be compiled, giving a snapshot of what species were affected and provided to the land owners. Further data analysis will offer valuable information on the impacts of flooding on bees, particularly ground nesting species.

Investigating Iridoid Glycoside Induction by Oviposition of Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies

  • Student Recipient: Megan Zabinski, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Deane Bowers
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Euphydryas phaeton (Baltimore Checkerspot) is a native Eastern U.S. Nymphalidae species on recent decline; Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead), their native host plant, contains iridoid glycosides catalpol and smaller traces of aucubin, which E. phaeton sequester for predator defense. Iridoid concentration is correlated with herbivore food and oviposition preference, but potential for oviposition-induced regulation of secondary metabolites in plants exists. My project investigates if a correlation exists between C. glabra iridoid levels and E.phaeton oviposition, which bridges the knowledge gap regarding evolutionary drivers for recent E. phaeton host plant/range expansions.

Dispersed feeding behavior of the corn earworm and its effects on caterpillar growth

  • Student Recipient: Hannah Hartung, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Astrophysics
  • Faculty Mentor: M. Deane Bowers
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to understand the effects of caterpillar feeding behavior on caterpillar growth. From the study of the host plant, Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis), we have learned that corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea) appear to feed in dispersed patterns (only eating one seed before moving on to another pod). I want to understand 1) how dispersed this caterpillar seed-feeding is and 2) if this dispersed feeding behavior affects caterpillar growth. Insect feeding behavior is known to affect the reproductive success of plants, but I will determine the effect of this caterpillar’s feeding pattern on its own success.

How do early snowmelt and warming influence alpine plant recruitment?

  • Student Recipient: Nyika Campbell, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: William Bowman
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This summer I will be working with my mentor to understand plant responses to climate change across heterogeneous landscapes. I will be spearheading research on recruitment rates of the alpine plant Geum rossi in response to simulated early snowmelt, warming, and early snowment and warming together. This work is situated within a larger research objective on Niwot Ridge examining how extended summers will affect the alpine environment. The data from this proposed work are critical to accurately predicting how the alpine ecosystem, and different communities within it, will change with the climate.

Promoter SNP-dependent variation in exercise -mediated cytokine changes in connection with depression and executive function in older adults.

  • Student Recipient: Benjamin Morris, Computer Science / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Angela Bryan
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The larger project within which mine is embedded aims to examine healthy brain aging as measured by changes in executive function and resting state connectivity as a function of exercise. As the United States' population continues to age, research addressing the unique physiological and psychiatric issues related to older populations becomes increasingly relevant to employers, family members, and older individuals. My project aims to examine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter regions of pro-inflammatory cytokine genes and how these genotypes interact with exercise to impact depression and cognitive function outcomes in older adults.

Dissecting Honey Bee Collective Behaviors Using Genomics

  • Student Recipient: Christopher Mulligan, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Edward Chuong
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Honey bees have a necessary, but fragile, role in our daily lives. Bees exhibit many complex collective behaviors, but we have a poor understanding of how these behaviors are governed at the molecular level. The project is a collaboration between a bee lab and genomics lab, and aims to uncover the molecular basis for “scenting” behavior in bees. Worker bees frequently stop and emit a scent to help other workers find the queen’s location, and our goal is to find which genes are associated with this behavior.

Coping Strategies and Emotional Responses to Failure in Biology Course Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs)

  • Student Recipient: Elizabeth Woolner, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Lisa Corwin
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In the lab, my ongoing project is to identify how college students cope when they experience failure in STEM research-based courses, if coping strategies can be predicted by demographics, and whether participating in a two-semester sequence of research-based courses change their emotions and responses regarding failure. Failure is both normal and critical in scientific endeavors, but it is seldom introduced to students as anything but a negative. By investigating responses to research challenges, especially among underrepresented groups, science education can adapt to teach alternative coping strategies when students are faced with failures, increasing retention and efficacy in STEM fields.

 

Identifying fast-growing sunflower lines to evade cold temperature stress

  • Student Recipient: Cedric Zeller, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Barbara Demmig-Adams
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will test the hypothesis that wild relatives of the summer crop sunflower use one of two contrasting mechanisms to survive and thrive in cold climates. While sunflower lines adapted to cool climates will exhibit elevated cool-temperature tolerance, with enhanced growth grates under cool conditions, sunflower lines from even colder climates will exhibit a strategy of cold escape, with unusually high growth rates under warm conditions. Understanding the traits that allow accelerated maturation could be extremely beneficial in all kinds of agricultural settings, under climate change, and may allow additional harvests in the same growing season.

Panama Soils

  • Student Recipient: Seana Thompson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Noah Fierer
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Most of the microbial diversity in soil remains undescribed. Less than 15% of soil microbes match known references in databases. Therefore, the purpose of the project is to "identify the niches of the more abundant bacteria, archaea, fungi, and protists found in soils across central Panama". In doing so, we will be able to classify soil microbial taxa and begin to identify their individual niches. This will help us make an atlas of soil diversity across Panama, which will benefit microbiologists globally but also the people of Panama who will be able to use this knowledge for their own purposes.

Ice-coverage and Zooplankton Community Dynamics in High Alpine Lakes

  • Student Recipient: Annika Cobb, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will explore how the changes in ice-coverage and ice-clearance dates of high alpine lakes are altering the growing season for limnetic communities of plankton. Ice-off dates for alpine lakes in the Rocky Mountains have shifted seven days earlier in the past 33 years and has changes some physical characteristics of the lake water quality (Preston et al., 2016). It’s uncertain if these changes have affected primary consumers in the lakes, zooplankton. My project will examine how climate change is affecting the growing season and community dynamics for alpine lakes.

The Effects of Biodiversity Loss and Disease Risk in the Amphibian Community

  • Student Recipient: Alyssa Compton, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Past research suggests that losses of biodiversity exacerbates disease risk; however, evidence of this phenomenon is limited. Through in-depth field sampling and parasitological surveys, this project will measure how changes in the amphibian community alter the abundance and spread of several parasite species. Because biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems is declining, it is imperative to quantify how this will impact the pervasiveness of disease in natural systems. The knowledge gained from this project will benefit the fields of parasitology, disease and community ecology, and will provide further information on disease mediated amphibian declines across the sampling sites.

The Exploration of Australapatemon spp. Intermediate Host

  • Student Recipient: Evan Esfahani, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My research focus is to identify the intermediate host of an aquatic trematode parasite recently identified by a laboratory at CU, Australapatemon spp.. Specifically, I will 1) collect Australapatemon spp. infected Helisoma trivolvis snails and freshwater leeches from various established infectious ponds in California; 2) Design and execute a competence laboratory experiment to investigate leeches as intermediate hosts. My project will contribute to the understanding of a parasite that has not been extensively studied. Recent literature states parasites have important biological roles in freshwater ecosystems. My research will supplement the knowledge of those implementing conservation strategies and disease management practices.

 

Amphibian Disease and Diversity

  • Student Recipient: Victoria Klimuk, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project aims to better understand the effect of biodiversity on disease risk, specifically how aquatic parasite transmission is impacted by amphibian diversity. This relationship will be explored via intensive field sampling in small ponds in the California Bay Area, including species surveys, water quality monitoring, and dissection to quantify disease outbreaks. As aquatic ecosystems change at a rapid pace and result in large-scale losses of biodiversity, it is crucial to understand how disease prevalence, and ultimately, overall ecosystem health, is impacted. These data are essential for conservation efforts concerning declining amphibians and to better understand fundamentals of disease ecology.

 

Quantifying zooplankton size and melanization with changes in alpine water quality

  • Student Recipient: Emma Ordemann, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will contribute to the limnology research conducted by Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research (LTER). Niwot Ridge LTER evaluates the ecological impacts of anthropogenic effects on terrestrial and aquatic alpine environments. Little is known about how limnetic communities, especially primary consumers (zooplankton), are affected by changing environmental conditions, namely increased concentrations of nitrogen and dissolved organic material (Miller & McKnight 2015). Therefore, I will quantify individual size and degree of melanization in zooplankton samples collected from 2009-2018 to examine how zooplankton could be responding to changes in alpine water quality, such as decreased water clarity.

California Survey of Amphibians and Fish

  • Student Recipient: Audrey Oweimrin, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of the mentor’s project is to collect and analyze ecological data from amphibians, keystone species in California ecosystems. The project is focused on disease ecology and examines the prevalence and abundance of certain parasites that are known to cause extreme malformations. This data set has been collected over the last 8 years providing the lab with baseline data to investigate ecological trends in parasites in relation to major disturbances such as weather extremes or human impact. This study will benefit biologists and managers by providing them with a framework on the effects of disturbances on keystone species.

Antibody Prevalence of Giardia lamblia in Human Populations

  • Student Recipient: Audrey Oweimrin, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to determine the potential infection pathways of the parasite Giardia lamblia within the CU undergraduate population. I will use antibodies from saliva filtered through an ELISA along with a survey completed by volunteers in various courses to correlate infection with the most likely cause. The survey will include questions about the students’ sources of drinking water, travel habits and hygiene habits – all of which are known routes of infection. Knowledge about infectious routes of Giardia will allow us the potential to reduce exposure by informing the public of common infection pathways.

 

Diversity Loss and Disease Emergence

  • Student Recipient: Luke Pelletier, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: As biodiversity continues to decline worldwide, it is important to understand the cascading effects of this change. A potential fall out of altered biodiversity is shifts in parasite abundances and diversity. The purpose of this project is to address how changes in biodiversity alters disease outbreaks through intensive biological and parasitological surveys of amphibian communities in small ponds in California. The findings from this project can give light on how shifts in biodiversity alters disease dynamics and what steps humans need to take in order to prevent further disease outbreaks and provide information on disease caused declines in amphibian populations.

 

Feeding habits of parasitic Isopod Olencira praegustator and infection rates in host, Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) in coastal marshes of South Carolina

  • Student Recipient: Dylan Rose, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: To better understand the biology of the Cymothoid parasite Olencira praegustator, the effect it has on the Atlantic Menhaden host, and how this parasitic relationship impacts the costal marsh ecosystems of the Southeast United States, further investigation on the feeding habits of this parasite is necessary. By measuring infection rates and studying the stomach contents of O. praegustator, this project will benefit the salt marsh ecosystems by providing new data on species interaction and by adding to the broader ecological knowledge of the coastal area.

Funded Mentor Project from CA Fish and Game

  • Student Recipient: David Saunders, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project seeks to understand how the species composition of amphibian populations in aquatic ecosystems impacts parasitic disease transmission and risk. As biodiversity continues to be altered, it is important to understand how these changes impact disease prevalence in natural systems. The project aims to understand these patterns through field sampling as well as parasitological surveys of the amphibian and snail host. The information we seek to gain from the project will benefit the fields of parasitology, as well as disease and community ecology, and will provide management groups with information regarding disease mediated amphibian declines across the sampling area.

Preying on Parasites: Utilizing stable isotope analysis to quantify the relative importance of parasites as prey in freshwater communities

  • Student Recipient: David Saunders, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Recent evidence has suggested that parasites make up a high portion of an ecosystem’s biomass and serve as viable prey for many predators. Yet few studies have addressed how the presences of parasites alter food webs or how predation on parasites shift infection dynamics. This project uses experimental and field base approaches to track parasites in an experimental community and test how natural abundance and diversity of parasite predators change infection patterns. By investigating the role parasites play as prey sources and how parasite predators reduce transmission, this project will shine light on the hidden role of parasites in ecosystems.

Pathology of Cymothodiae Olencira prageustator infections: an investigation of O. praegustator's feeding habits through the usage stable isotopes

  • Student Recipient: Angela Shah, Neuroscience / Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The student will be studying previously collected menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) from South Carolina that are infected by the isopod Olencira praegustator. The student aims to identify what O. praegustator eats using stable isotopes. Specifically, the student will investigate isotopes collected from the muscle of the menhaden and isopod to test whether the isotopes are similar or not. Previous research has shown significant pathology caused by the isopod. However, it is unknown whether the parasite is actually ingesting blood or tissue of the infected fishes. Understanding the consequences of infection are relevant to understanding the complete pathology caused by the parasite.

 

How does spatial isolation interact with infectious disease to drive the population dynamics of endangered amphibians?

  • Student Recipient: Erica Ursich, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Studio Arts
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The mentor aims to further understand the impact and causation of the parasite-induced malformations that are deteriorating amphibian populations in regions of northern America. I am interested in learning how climate change or human interaction could be a source for increased parasite reproduction , and in what ways the declining amphibian population is affecting the surrounding ecosystem and trophic levels. This is a continuation of previous research on the amphibian metapopulations in the bay area of southern California, data will be analyzed in the laboratory and results will be presented in a scientific paper at the end of the summer.

Exploring the Potential of Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems as a Tool for Assessing Fish Biodiversity in Coral Reefs

  • Student Recipient: Sarah Von Hoene, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) are globally used to survey marine taxa and are used as monitoring tools for underwater ecosystem health. My proposed objectives are to 1) test the effectiveness of BRUVS in reefs and 2) provide species richness and prevalence of marine taxa at multiple coral reefs. I will use BRUV data collected in Cozumel, Mexico, where we deployed BRUVS at a variety of reef sites, collecting hours of footage. This proposal provides a pertinent case study for my honors thesis and a standard operating protocol for future collections using BRUVS.

 

Phytoplankton Community Composition Between the Inlet and Outlet of an Alpine Lake

  • Student Recipient: Samuel Yevak, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will examine how alpine phytoplankton communities change between the inlet and outlet of alpine lakes in the City of Boulder's Watershed. I will use and collect data as a part of Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research's limnology program. Climate warming is amplified at high elevations, (Pepin et al. 2015), and phytoplankton communities respond rapidly to environmental change (Moraska et al. 2003, Anneville et al. 2005). My study will help predict how phytoplankton communities are expected to change within lakes given a changing climate. This information could better inform processes related to downstream water management and water quality.

 

Detecting expression patterns of V-type proton ATPase in the photosymbiotic bivalve Fragum fragum

  • Student Recipient: Taylor Mendoza, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jingchun Li
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Photosymbiotic associations between invertebrate hosts and photosynthetic algae play crucial roles in maintaining the trophic and structural integrity of reef ecosystems. The algae provide photosynthetic products to support the hosts' growth and obtain inorganic nutrients and shelter in return. It is crucial to understand biological interactions between the hosts and algae, to learn their reactions to changing environmental conditions. This project focuses on investigating how a bivalve host (Fragum fragum) communicates to the algae and influences its photosynthesis. My project is imbedded in a larger study which expands to understanding of mechanisms and evolutionary history of photosymbiosis in bivalves.

Reproductive strategies of three Asclepias species in Boulder County

  • Student Recipient: Chiara Dart, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Andrew Martin
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This study will determine the reproduction strategy of three Asclepias species in Boulder County. Asclepias propagate through both sexual (pollination) and asexual (rhizome propagation) methods, according to local environmental factors (Bookman, 264). Asexual reproduction is associated with reduced genetic diversity, and decreased adaptive ability (Lei, 9), but an increase in reproductive rate (Buchanan, 278). Thus, estimates of the proportion of individuals produced by each reproductive strategy can provide information about the ecological conditions associated with the species’ niches. The data will have relevance for understanding the composition of plant communities and predicting the future of ecological communities facing climate change.

The genetic basis of differential latex production in Asclepias Speciosa and Asclepias Incarnata based off of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)

  • Student Recipient: Chiara Dart, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Andrew Martin
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This study will identify SNPs associated with latex production in A. Incarnata and A. Speciosa through genotyping by sequencing (GBS). Research I conducted in 2018 ruled out significant contributions to latex production by many ecological factors, suggesting that latex production is likely determined mainly through genetic factors. Identification of SNPs associated with latex production will aid in understanding the defense mechanisms and survival of both milkweed and the monarch butterfly, which depends on cardiac glycosides present in latex for defense (Agrawal, 2012). The SNP data will also be used to determine the genetic diversity and population stability of Boulder milkweed.

Effect of body size and genetic cross on coloration patterns of Greenback Cutthroat Trout and impacts on survivorship

  • Student Recipient: Elizabeth Hasan, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Andrew Martin
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This study will investigate color variation patterns among individual Greenback Cutthroat Trout. Photographs, length and weight, and genetic cross data have been recorded from hatcheries as part of the efforts to restore Greenback Cutthroat Trout into its native range. Photograph color analysis will be compared to length and weight data to test for an association between traits linked to fitness and color. All of the photographs are for individuals that were tagged and released into the wild. A sample of the release trout were recaptured so we can test for color variation between the release trout and the recaptured trout.

 

Tropical Marine Fish Identification at Remote Island Atolls

  • Student Recipient: Jennifer Reding, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Andrew Martin
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I aim to identify and understand characteristics of common, rare and endangered fish in coral reefs surrounding Johnston Atoll, a small island within jurisdiction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) roughly 700 nautical miles south from Oahu. My goal is to understand the type and abundance of species in a remote region like the Johnston Atoll that has little to no human influence since 2010 when USFWS took over. My study will benefit me as an undergraduate researcher by providing me with the necessary skills to design, implement, and execute a research project in marine environments.

Mammals and Climate Change: Microclimate Diversity Array

  • Student Recipient: Austin Nash, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christy McCain
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project aims to quantify differences in microclimatic availability to mammals of varying body sizes and activity times. A meta-analysis of mammal responses to climate change conducted by McCain and King (2014) demonstrated that body size and activity time are the greatest predictors of mammalian responses to climate change. This project will test the hypothesis that smaller body sizes and flexible activity times allow for mammals to select for favorable microclimatic conditions, reducing impacts of climatic change. As the climate continues to change, managers need information to determine which species are at risk in order to implement successful conservation plans.

Species Richness and Abundance of Carrion Beetles Across Elevation Gradients

  • Student Recipient: Tyler Streb, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christy McCain
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Carrion Beetles of the Silphidae family are ecologically known for their unique feeding and breeding strategies. Their reliance on carrion, particularly that of small nonvolant mammals, is thus often reflective of potential local prey item abundance. Here in the Rockies, the warming and drying effects of anthropogenic induced climate change have been observed in many populations across taxa, especially at altitude where seasonal variation is acute. This project will involve using (easily caught) Silphid abundance and richness values to assess potential range shifts in climate sensitive mammalian prey species along elevation transects.

Describing the role of symbiotic fungal isolates in the toad skin microbiome

  • Student Recipient: Rachel Martindale, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Valerie McKenzie
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Fungal symbionts are important players in host microbiomes, but have been severely understudied. To study them, we can use an amphibian system, the Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas), which has dramatically declined recently due primarily to the skin-infecting fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). We know from previous research that Bd interacts with the bacterial microbiome on amphibian skin, and that toad-associated fungi could also inhibit Bd in ways that could affect host health. My mentor’s study asks: (1) What culturable fungal groups dominate toad skin, and (2) What roles do these fungi play in the toad skin microbiome?

Success of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis inhibition of new bacteria isolates in combination with J. lividum

  • Student Recipient: Gena Rumsey, Biochemistry / Ecological and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Valerie McKenzie
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a fungal pathogen that affects amphibians around the world. In Colorado it has had a huge impact on Boreal toads. This project will identify potential probiotic bacteria that may be used in an anti-Bd field treatment. These bacteria should be isolated from the skin of amphibians (specifically Boreal toads) to ensure that they are compatible with their microbiome. They should grow well in co-culture with Janthinobacterium lividum, a probiotic bacteria already shown to inhibit Bd. Most importantly, they should combine with Janthinobacterium lividum to inhibit the fungal pathogen Bd at higher levels than J. lividum alone.

Following the impact of density-dependent chemical secretions on developing populations in the Tribolium model system.

  • Student Recipient: Marissa Bullock, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Brett Melbourne
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Flour beetles (genus Tribolium) are known to directly compete through cannibalism and competition for resources. However, beetles may also compete indirectly via chemical secretions which change the suitability of the local environment for other beetles. To consider this form of indirect competition, I will be observing the effects of “conditioned” habitat – that is, flour previously inhabited by beetles containing their chemical secretions - on egg development and adult longevity in beetles. The results of this experiment will allow future research to develop quantitative models which more accurately convey the effects of chemically-mediated competition on populations.

Microclimates and Pika Loss on Niwot Ridge

  • Student Recipient: Emily Monk, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Chris Ray
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of my project is to use fine scale microclimate temperature monitoring to understand the shifting distribution of pikas on the West Knoll of Niwot Ridge. Ultimately, these data will be related to pika survival and stress metrics to provide insight into the mechanisms of pika loss at the NWT LTER. My project builds upon work of previous UROP supported undergraduates who surveyed the West Knoll, and provides microclimate data to support the goals of monitoring programs initiated last year by the NWT LTER and Rocky Mountain National Park, where considerable pika losses are projected for this century.

Assessing the Effects of Brood Size on Foraging Behavior and Provisioning of Nestlings in Breeding Barn Swallows

  • Student Recipient: Sage Madden, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Anthropology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rebecca Safran
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: All over North America, insect-eating songbird populations, including iconic species such as the Barn Swallow, have declined (Sauer 2013). Understanding the foraging behavior of swallows could help us conserve important feeding areas and understand how breeding swallows balance the demands of reproduction and survival. I hope to examine the effects of brood size (number of offspring) on foraging behavior and provisioning of nestlings in breeding Barn Swallows. The data obtained from GPS tags used in my project will contribute to research in the lab by quantifying how far from their breeding colonies Barn Swallows travel to engage in extra-pair copulations.

Impacts in Social Breeding in the Evolution of Cognition

  • Student Recipient: Emily Vander Pol, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rebecca Safran
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Understanding the fitness consequences of cognitive processes in natural populations is paramount to improving our knowledge of the evolution of cognition. Breeding systems and their associated differences in social information have the potential to shape cognitive processes by imposing specific cognitive demands. By comparing individuals with varying degrees of sociality within the same species, we will be able to test how sociality has shaped cognitive traits. We will test the impacts of social breeding on the evolution of cognitive traits by measuring individual variation of cognitive traits and its impact on reproductive success, along a low-high degree of sociality continuum.

A comparison of Wnt gene expression in the mouths of toothed and toothless fishes.

  • Student Recipient: Anna Eydinova, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: David Stock
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of the proposed research is to compare the expression of genes that regulate tooth development between two species of fishes that differ in the presence or absence of teeth in the mouth. This work will provide insight into the developmental and genetic mechanisms that underlie the evolutionary loss of teeth in the Cypriniformes, an important group of freshwater fishes that includes carps, suckers and minnows. As lost teeth have never reappeared during the diversification of this group, characterizing the mechanism of loss will contribute to an understanding of constraints on evolution by natural selection.

Evolution of Zebrafish Genes

  • Student Recipient: Hannah Reyes, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: David Stock
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: For this summer project, the main goal of my study is to identify DNA segments responsible for the expression of the Ectodysplasin gene in the teeth present in the throat of the Zebrafish. The Zebrafish is a member of a group of fishes (Cypriniformes) in which teeth have been lost in the mouth but retained in the throat. Previous work by my mentor has implicated changes in Ectodysplasin expression as a cause of evolutionary tooth loss in this group. The research will provide insight into how such expression changes occurred and the mechanisms of evolutionary loss of structures in general.

 

Characterization of Palatal Tooth Development in Teleost Fishes

  • Student Recipient: Joseph Sanchez, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: David Stock
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The nearly 4000 species of catfishes descend from an ancestor that lost its outer covering of scales. While most catfishes retain a “naked” skin, an outer covering of bony plates (“scutes”) has reappeared in the skin of several groups of “armored” catfishes. This project tests the hypothesis that the genetic program for making scales is retained in a latent form in naked catfishes and was reactivated in the origin of armored catfish scutes. This project will benefit society through the insight it provides into how a genetic “memory” of past adaptations may facilitate evolution and prevent extinction.

 

Predicting native and exotic plant species responses to extreme precipitation events

  • Student Recipient: Kathleen Ebinger, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Katharine Suding
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Exotic plants threaten biodiversity in the Front Range by using climate recruitment windows that allow for their establishment before natives. This study will focus on how variation in precipitation aligns with life-history traits to influence recruitment opportunities for natives and exotics. We will use species traits to understand the mechanisms behind recruitment variation, which will allow the results of this study to predict recruitment and increase restoration efficiency in a range of ecosystems. Despite the pervasiveness of seeding as a land management tool to re-establish natives, it is unknown how native and exotic recruitment potential compare under different precipitation patterns.

Investigating the effect of microclimates on flowering time in the alpine of Colorado.

  • Student Recipient: Micaela Seaver, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Katharine Suding
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of the proposed research is to examine how climate change alters the conditions that plants experience, and the consequences for the timing of plant processes. Specifically, we will focus on the flowering timing of nine plant species across small-scale climatic (microclimate) variability in the alpine tundra. This work ties into a larger project being conducted by [graduate student] and [mentor], who are focusing on the influence encroaching subalpine shrubs might have on microclimates of the alpine.

Genomic differences and categorization in Eastern, Lilian’s, and Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna, S. m. lilianae, and S. neglecta)

  • Student Recipient: Johanna Beam, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Scott Taylor
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: North American meadowlarks are currently classified as two species, each containing numerous subspecies. One allopatric subspecies of the Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna lilianae) is thought to represent a distinct population worthy of species status. My project will examine these populations of North American meadowlarks, including Eastern, Western, and Lilian’s Meadowlark, from a genomic perspective. Specifically, I will focus on describing the Lilian’s subspecies in the southwestern US relative to the other North American subspecies. By studying this species complex over the entire genome, we are better able to understand evolutionary processes leading to divergence and speciation.

 

Quantifying plumage variation between and within two social bird species

  • Student Recipient: Katherine Feldmann, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Scott Taylor
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project seeks to quantify variation in plumage characteristics of black-capped and mountain chickadees within and between species, age groups and sexes. This project is a subset of larger work being conducted by my Lab group. The larger project uses genomics and field studies to examine how natural hybridization between black-capped and mountain chickadees occurs. Intermediate or mixed plumage is often used to identify hybrids. This individual project will benefit the larger work because plumage characteristics are used to identify hybrid individuals. However, we currently do not know how much variation in plumage characteristics there is within the two species.

Quantifying plumage variation between and within two social bird species

  • Student Recipient: Katherine Feldmann, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Scott Taylor
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project seeks to quantify variation in plumage characteristics of black-capped and mountain chickadees within and between each species, age groups and sexes. This project is a subset of larger work which uses genomics and field studies to examine why natural hybridization between these two species occurs. While intermediate or mixed plumage is often used to identify hybrids, we currently do not know to what degree plumage varies. To complete this multi-step project, this proposal is a continuation of my independent work from last year. The goal for this academic year is to complete data analysis and prepare for publication.

Avian Malaria in Chickadees Across Elevational Gradients in Colorado

  • Student Recipient: Morgan Friedman, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Scott Taylor
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of my project is to understand the frequency at which black-capped chickadees, mountain chickadees, and their hybrids are infected with avian malaria and if the variation within that frequency can be attributed to elevation differences. My project will be part of a larger project that is examining the effect hybridization between these two species has on their parasite loads, including avian malaria. The results of this experiment will be presented at the EBIO undergraduate research symposium and at the Guild of Rocky Mountain Ecologists and Evolutionary Biologists Meeting in the Fall of 2019.

 

Phenotypic Variation in Experimental Quail Hybrids

  • Student Recipient: Katherine Hale, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Scott Taylor
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project will examine plumage trait variation of hybrid museum specimens of different New World quail (Odontophoridae). The Museum of Southwestern Biology has a skin collection from experimental crosses produced by Paul A. Johnsgard in the early 1970’s. I will examine these specimens, using image analysis to quantify the size, pattern, and color of plumage traits. This project will supplement previous research by [additional supervisor] (EBIO PhD student) in California regarding wild hybridization between the Gambel’s and California Quail. My contributions could further our understanding of phenotypic expressions of quail hybrids and the evolution of traits and species.

A Study of Reproductive Isolation in Two Penstemon Species

  • Student Recipient: Kelsey Beckrich, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Anthropology
  • Faculty Mentor: Erin Tripp
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project examines mechanisms of reproductive isolation between two Penstemon species that occur in sympatry: P. virens and P. secundiflorus. Both species are extremely common plants of the foothills of Boulder County, thus providing substantial food resources to visiting insect and bird pollinators. Fieldwork I conducted last year established visitation rates and diversity of pollinator species which ultimately informs our understanding of the health of native pollinator systems. In general, this research elucidates mechanisms that maintain species’ boundaries and potential pathways of speciation. Therefore, this project benefits the understanding of pollinator diversity, plant-pollinator interactions, and mechanisms of reproductive isolation.

Investigating the Origins of Petal Loss in a Southern Rocky Mountains Tundra System

  • Student Recipient: Philip Bentz, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Erin Tripp
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: We’ll be testing the hypothesis that one Stellaria species without petals on Niwot Ridge (Boulder County) has shifted to a self-pollination system from an animal-pollination system. This project is a small sub-project within my mentors’ larger work comprehensively studying many aspects of Stellaria’s evolutionary history, and it represents one element of my direct mentor’s 4th Ph.D. dissertation chapter. With the publication of a high-impact paper with at least 4 of us as authors, we all stand to benefit, but I particularly benefit because I’ll be applying to graduate school in botany and more research experience is important for this goal.

Testing Pollination Mechanisms in an Apetalous Starwort

  • Student Recipient: Miklos Eger, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Erin Tripp
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objectives of this project are to gather data on the pollination mechanisms of Stellaria umbellata, a plant whose flowers lack petals, and to uncover why this plant has lost petals evolutionarily. The hypothesis will be tested that S. umbellata has lost petals through becoming a self-pollinator. This project will contribute to global knowledge about the evolution of flowers. The mentor and additional supervisor would benefit from contributions to their body of work, and the student would benefit by being a coauthor on a potentially high-impact publication and by gaining further research experience in the field and lab.

The Application of Suzuki Cross-Coupling to Carbohydrate Chemistry in the Formation of Glycosidic Bonds

  • Student Recipient: Dominique Blackmun, Chemistry / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Maciej Walczak
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Carbohydrates are often integral parts of biologically active compounds, such as pharmaceuticals, making carbon-carbon connections with carbohydrates of continuing interest. Unfortunately, there are limited methods to form the glycosidic bond – linkages connecting saccharides to other functionalities. The goal is to expand the bond forming reactions of carbohydrate chemistry to include Suzuki cross-coupling – a carbon-cabron bond forming reaction. The main challenge is the development of an efficient and reliable method to synthesize fully functionalized carbohydrate-boronic acid precursors, large quantities of which are required to run the coupling reactions.

Fruit tree growing seasons in Boulder’s mountain and plains convergence zone

  • Student Recipient: Kailee Haith, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Carol Wessman
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project seeks to understand the number of chilling hours needed to break dormancy in historic apple trees. Because many apple trees in Boulder are coming to the end of their lifespan, there is community interest in cloning them and establishing new apple orchards. This project will measure how many chill hours are needed for over 25 cultivars of apple trees . By creating a guide to establish which cultivars have low and high chill requirements, we can provide recommendations for orchardists who wish to plant apple varieties that are likely to be successful in a Colorado climate.

 

Our urban tree canopy: can we measure tree canopy change with accelerometers and microclimates?

  • Student Recipient: Stine Skalmerud, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Atmospheric and Oceanic Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Carol Wessman
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project consists of measuring tree phenology (i.e. budburst, leaf out, leaf color change, and leaf drop) using visual observations and an accelerometer. We will seek to understand how the tree canopy microclimate changes with phenology. Using an accelerometer is a new and inexpensive technique for measuring tree phenology, and offers advantages to traditional visual measures of phenology that cannot capture sensitive physiological changes in dormancy. With this data, urban foresters can begin to understand how global climate change may influence phenology at a city-wide scale and assess ecosystem service benefits from tree microclimates in Colorado.

 

Analyzing the Black Spot Syndrome (BSS) epidemic in ocean surgeonfish

  • Student Recipient: Claire Bice, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My goal is to analyze the historical prevalence of Black Spot Syndrome (BSS) in the intermediate host, ocean surgeonfish (Acanthurus bahianus), using Florida Natural History Museum’s collection of over 1000 preserved fish from the Caribbean. My research provides baseline historical infection rates on the heterophyid trematode that causes BSS, Scaphanocephalus expansus. My findings will benefit future marine parasitologists in studying this disease epidemic, not only affecting ocean surgeonfish, by providing baseline data that researchers can use to further understand infection trends. Ultimately, understanding these trends will provide necessary data for management implantations to control the current outbreak in Bonaire.

The Care and Husbandry of Amphibians and Invertebrates used in Biological Laboratory Research on Parasite - Host Interactions

  • Student Recipient: Erica Ursich, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology / Studio Art
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project is two fold 1) I will lead a team to ensure the well-being of amphibians and invertebrates that have been field collected and 2) I will use a subset of these animals in laboratory experiments. I will develop species standard operation protocols and instruct my team of volunteers to follow these protocols. Once the invertebrates are at proper size I will provide infectious stage of trematodes of various species (prey) to determine which species are the dominate predator. My findings will provide our research group with an explanation for the variance found in amphibian infections.

Identifying the Pattern of Sites Where to Survive Well During Mountain Floods in Light of Feng-Shui

  • Student Recipient: Tatum Wise, Environmental Design
  • Faculty Mentor: Ping Xu
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This research will focus on identifying site patterns for danger prone zones and safety areas during mountain floods. This study of landform systems aims to inform the public on wise site selection areas for housing and residential areas. With this information, the public will be able to identify safe areas within the mountains that are the least likely to be affected by flooding and debris flows.

Formaldehyde and Total Volatile Organic Compounds Concentrations in Nail Salons

  • Student Recipient: Janice Trinh, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Lupita Montoya
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Nail technicians, 76.5% of which are ethnic minorities, are constantly exposed to high levels of hazardous chemicals in their workplace that leads to many adverse health effects (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The Occupation Safety and Health Administration tells employers to create internal guidelines to supplement their (outdated) Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs); however, because most nail salons are operated by employers who do not have sufficient resources to implement these regulations, there is a need for an independent group to investigate this problem and communicate findings on feasible ways to protect the workers’ health, which is the purpose of this project.

Analysis of microplastics in marine ecosystems sediments in San Diego

  • Student Recipient: Anne Bennett, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Atreyee Bhattacharya
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Initial sediment samples, water samples, and sediment cores were taken by Ryan Fontaine, during his study in 2017-18, from marine environments along the San Diego bay. The intentions of this study are to use those samples to (a) develop a more uniform method to extracting and examining microplastics in sediments, (b) examine the types of microplastics entering the marine environment, (c) determine the distribution of microplastics in the marine environment, (d) provide more information on the lifecycle and residence times of plastic in the marine environment.

 

Using XRF to discover element concentration in corals from the South China Sea

  • Student Recipient: Christopher Stolpmann, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Atreyee Bhattacharya
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be conducting research on trace elements in corals from the South China Sea. I will be working with a group of students and graduates under the guidance of Dr. Atreyee Bhattacharya as part of a bigger project to determine trends of sediment runoff and particulates in the South China Sea, a region that has been scarcely research previously. Through this research, we hope to determine what the main sources of runoff and particulates in the South China Sea are, as well as how this may be affecting the health of the coral reefs.

The Affects of Herbicides on Eurasian Milfoil in Cobbosseecontee Lake

  • Student Recipient: Zachary Lacasse, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Eve-Lyn Hinckley
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Eurasian Milfoil has been discovered in the Lakeside Marina of Lake Cobbosseeconte. Boat traffic is the primary mechanism driving the spread of the invasive aquatic plant that destabilizes lake ecosystems. I propose to survey the location and size of the Eurasian Milfoil colonies in the Lakeside Marina before and after application of herbicides, and to explore the likelihood of re-invasion. This study will determine effectiveness of herbicide applications and inform management actions going forward.

Does Beach Health Equate to Property Values in Los Angeles, California?

  • Student Recipient: Naya O'Reilly, Environmental Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Matthew Burgess
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: A case study of Los Angeles (LA) beaches and its levels of wastewater pollution in those areas to investigate the potential correlation between wastewater pollution and the property values of the areas along those beaches. Tourists, citizens of coastal cities and those involved in oceanic scientists would benefit from this study because this project will shed light on amount of pollution is in these popular beaches, provide a reason as to why some beaches may contain less pollution than others,and explain the intersectionality of economic aspects in environmental issues.

Physiologic Response of Ponderosa Pines to Summer Precipitation in the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory

  • Student Recipient: Aidan Manning, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Holly Barnard
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In September 2013, high-intensity rainstorms in Boulder County and the resulting flooding provided a unique opportunity to examine physiological response of ponderosa pine forests to extreme precipitation events. Determining the response of these ecosystems to variations in precipitation and temperature is central to understanding connections between biological and hydrological processes, and how semi-arid ecosystems respond to climate change. The primary objectives of this research project are to: (1) examine ponderosa pine growth response to precipitation and extreme events; and (2) quantify a record of physiological response to varying water stress found in annual growth rings using 13C isotopic analysis.

 

CCAMLR member activity and Antartic policy

  • Student Recipient: Nora Apelgren, Environmental Studies / Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Cassandra Brooks
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The project aims to understand the different CCAMLR members states’ activity and influence on Antarctic policy by looking at the meeting activity and policy implemented during the life of the convention. The project also aims to understand and produce a thorough report of Norway’s motivations and interests in the Antarctic region, in relation to CCAMLR and the implementation of important marine protected areas. After a recent political move where Norway shut down a German proposal for a large marine protected area in the Weddell Sea, there is international interest around Norwegian motives behind their Antarctic political decisions and strategy.

Astrobiology Research with Microorganisms from Mars Analog Sites

  • Student Recipient: Justin Wang, Astrophysics / Engineering Physics / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Brian Hynek
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The mentor’s research revolves around analyzing Mars to understand the planet’s potential for life. The mentor has traveled and obtained biological samples from sites that simulate Mars conditions, that contain extremophile microorganisms. Further biological analysis, including DNA sequencing, needs to be conducted on these samples, and this will be done by the student. Analyzing these microorganisms allows us to better understand how life on Mars would look like, if it exists. This has profound consequences in the astrobiology community that furthers understanding of extremophiles, habitability of other worlds, and the origins of life.

 

Sleep and Development Laboratory

  • Student Recipient: McKenna Monk, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: I will assist with a project in the Sleep and Development Lab focusing on the sensitivity of the circadian clock and morning/evening light exposure. A gap in understanding the development of late sleep timing phenotype exists, and this research will address this by examining how different intensities of light exposure in young children may impact the timing of the circadian clock. This clock plays a large role in not only sleep timing but also chronic disease. This project would benefit society, as it would produce data allowing us to better understand how to prevent late sleep timing in early life.

A Biogeochemical Survey of the Biological Controls of Gnamma Development in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

  • Student Recipient: Johanne Marie Albrigtsen, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Boswell Wing
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My objective is to investigate the biological controls of gnammas, shallow erosional rock depressions. I will focus on lichen-mediated mineral weathering and the contribution of secreted secondary metabolites to the biogeochemistry of the system. Studies of lichen-mineral interactions are missing a model system that would enable long-term integrative monitoring of biogeochemical effects. The lichen-gnamma interface provides an ideal environment to study biological weathering due to substantial chemical and physical activity. Lichen-mineral associations play a substantial role in global geochemical fractionation. The project is relevant as the biotic amplification of weathering rates by lichen largely influences global biogeochemical cycles.

The Johnson Laboratory

  • Student Recipient: Anna Morelock, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pieter Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: My mentor’s project observes diverse parasitic infection within different amphibians by investigating different species of amphibians which may contain malformations. A goal of the research is to apply infection trends with environmental factors that may affect host competence, species assembly, and methods of transmission. For 11 years, data has been accumulated, and it helps show the trends of ecological factors over time, and finding connections between parasitic infection, extreme weather, and human impact. This study benefits wildlife biologists and the California land managers who can utilize the research to understand how environmental changes and pressures affect these amphibian species.

Alcohol behaviors in mice selected for High and Low Anxiety phenotypes

  • Student Recipient: Guillermo Reyes Martínez, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Marissa Ehringer
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this project is to characterize alcohol induced locomotor sensitization of mice selectively bred for high and low anxiety phenotypes. By using mice as a model for humans, this project will help reveal potential differences in alcohol induced locomotor sensitivities that may be attributed to different levels of baseline anxiety. Given that alcohol use disorder (AUD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are highly comorbid, if we are better able to understand how the two disorders interact, we will be better equipped to treat people suffering from one or both disorders.

Sunset Study - Sleep Onset Latency

  • Student Recipient: Michaela Trainer, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth P. Wright Jr.
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of the Sunset Study, in which my project is embedded, is to determine how typical room-light at night versus a dynamic lighting simulation of sunset influences salivary melatonin. My project will examine sleep onset latency (ie. how long it takes people to fall asleep) between the two different lighting conditions. The findings from this study will help determine whether implementation of a sunset simulation in homes could aid in shortening sleep onset latency. Many people struggle to fall asleep at night, and instantaneously turning off the lights right before bedtime may be a contributing factor.

The Microbiome and Metabolic Disease

  • Student Recipient: Maximilian Bailey, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Tanya Alderete
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will be investigating the microbiome mediated effect of ambient and traffic related air pollution on the development of metabolic disorders. In the United States obesity affects more than a third of the population, globally hundreds of millions of people have diabetes. This project will inform the understanding of a significant risk factor for these prevalent diseases. In addition to furthering the understanding of this risk factor, this project has direct implications for improving human health by uncovering novel medical treatments, therapeutic targets, and informing public health policies which have the potential to eliminate health disparities.

 

Assistantship for ADOR Lab - Biosciences

  • Student Recipient: Savannah Mierau, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Tanya Alderete
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: My mentor's project aims to explore various causes and consequences of obesity, type II diabetes, and health disparities. Their project aims to benefit people with these diseases, as well as others studying them and people creating heath care policy. There is current research that shows an increased risk of these diseases due to environmental exposures. My mentor will be furthering this research of environmental exposures by looking into the mechanisms behind the relationships and the increased risks associated.

Impact of Marijuana use on the Gut Microbiome in relation to overall Anxiety Levels

  • Student Recipient: WenHao Ma, Integrative Physiology / Finance
  • Faculty Mentor: Cinnamon Bidwell
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Through this study I will focus largely on characterizing the gut microbiome of current Cannabis users and how their gut microbiota composition relates to changes in their anxiety level after 4 weeks of Cannabis use of a specific strain containing variable ratios of cannabinoids (THC/CBD). The parent project in which mine is based, aims to examine how Cannabis use modulates anxiety and inflammation through a novel, observation design of human subjects. With Cannabis use becoming increasingly popular due to changes in legislation, additional research must also keep pace to understand how individual health will be affected by the rising trend.

Influence of Physical Activity Status on Vigilance Performance Tests During Sleep Restriction

  • Student Recipient: Alivia Blumenstein, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Josiane Broussard
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Many people report getting too little sleep during the week; fatigue has been associated with numerous catastrophes like car accidents and medical errors. Therefore, it is important to develop countermeasures to the negative effects of sleep on performance. My project will examine the influence of physical activity on Psychomotor Vigilance Task performance, before and after a period of insufficient sleep, to determine whether physical activity can be used as a countermeasure to the negative effects of sleep loss. This project is embedded in an ongoing study to observe the influence of physical activity on metabolic impairments associated with insufficient sleep.

Effects of circadian misalignment and extended wakefulness on glucose levels in humans

  • Student Recipient: Brent Knud-Hansen, Integrative Physiology / Japanese
  • Faculty Mentor: Josiane Broussard
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Short sleep and circadian misalignment are common in today’s society, and are associated with negative health outcomes including increased risk for diabetes and obesity. Findings from studies have shown that restricting sleep or inducing circadian misalignment in the lab is associated with altered glucose and insulin responses. However, few studies have examined both sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment simultaneously. The current project will analyze hourly glucose levels taken from subjects who experienced an extended day of 42.85 hours for 25 days, resulting in both reduced sleep duration and simultaneous circadian misalignment.

 

The Impact of Insufficient Sleep on Gut Microbiota

  • Student Recipient: Jieying Wu, Integrative Physiology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Josiane Broussard
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: One in 3 Americans report insufficient sleep and data from animal models suggest sleep may play a role in gut health. However, only one published study in humans has directly examined whether sleep can alter gut microbiota. For humans, bacteria in the gut play an important role in metabolism, immune regulation, and gastrointestinal tract integrity. Therefore, the goal of this project is to investigate the influence of insufficient sleep on the gut microbiome. Findings from our study will increase our understanding of how insufficient sleep leads to alterations in physiology that may put people at increased risk for diseases.

 

The accuracy of the ActivPAL in determining the intensity of physical activity during running and cycling in recreationally active individuals.

  • Student Recipient: Emily Burnett, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: William Byrnes
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: I am requesting URAP funding to assist with an upcoming research project in my mentor’s lab. The focus of the project will be to determine the ability of a research grade wearable technology device (ActivPAL) to monitor physical activity. The project has been developed by an IPHY undergraduate who will be using its results as a senior thesis. The purpose of the project is to determine whether the ActivPAL can track changes in intensity and energy expenditure during cycling and running. The results from this study will benefit consumers and researchers that use wearable technology to monitor physical activity.

 

The accuracy of the ActivPAL in determining the intensity of physical activity during cycling and running in recreationally active individuals.

  • Student Recipient: Kathryn Lucernoni, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: William Byrnes
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Physical activity (PA) combats chronic diseases and all-mortality causes. It is integral for researchers to precisely estimate PA levels in order to evaluate the overall well-being of individuals. The ActivPAL is a research grade wearable device used for monitoring physical activity, but its ability to accurately measure PA has not been established for all types of activity. The purpose of the project is to determine ActivPAL’s ability to accurately quantify varying intensities of PA, specifically during cycling and running. The scientific community stands to benefit by knowing if ActivPAL is a valid method to attain information about PA intensity.

Testing operon location

  • Student Recipient: Alia Clark-ElSayed, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Shelley Copley
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: New genes have evolved throughout the history of life by a process known as gene duplication and divergence. A rate limiting step is the initial act of duplicating a gene in the genome. We are trying to understand why some organisms duplicate a gene under a given selective conditions and others do not. The mentor’s lab has found a gene that, given environmental pressure, duplicates in E. coli. However, when this experiment was performed in Salmonella enterica, no duplication was observed. I intend to move the gene to two locations in the S. enterica genome and observe if duplication occurs.

Effect of Estradiol on Endothelial Cell MicroRNA Expression

  • Student Recipient: Zoe Goldthwaite, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher DeSouza
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The experimental aim of this project is to determine the effect of estradiol on endothelial cell microRNA expression. The proposed study will focus on vascular-specific microRNAs: miR-34a, miR-92a; miR-125a; and miR-126. Altered expressions of these miRNAs have been implicated in key facets of the atherosclerotic disease process such as: endothelial cell senescence and apoptosis (miR-34a), inflammation (miR-92a, miR-126) and vasomotor regulation (miR-125a). Results from this study will provide novel mechanistic insight underlying the vascular benefits associated with estrogen.

Effects of Glucose on Endothelial Cell Apoptosis

  • Student Recipient: Zoe Goldthwaite, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher DeSouza
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The experimental aim of this project is to determine the effect of glucose on endothelial cell apoptotic susceptibility. The proposed study will focus on the effect of glucose concentrations, in the physiological ranges associated with prediabetes and diabetes, on endothelial caspase-3 activity. Greater endothelial cell apoptotic susceptibility is associated with an increase risk of atherosclerosis. Results from this study will provide novel mechanistic insight underlying the increased vascular risk associated with high glucose.

Effect of Prosthetic Stiffness on Gait Patterns of Toddlers with Unilateral Trans-Tibial Amputations

  • Student Recipient: Kaitlyn Jayne, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Alena Grabowski
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this study is to test the clinical effects of prosthetic limb stiffness – measures as resistance to compression - in children (aged 2-5) with trans tibial amputations. It was found that there is a correlation between limb length and stiffness . We will use force distribution and kinematic cameras to compare the prosthetic to the unaffected leg of the child in hope of finding a new protocol that would make prosthetic prescription easier and more accurate.

 

Leg Prosthetic Pistoning

  • Student Recipient: Maria Rodriguez, Electrical Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Alena Grabowski
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project seeks to quantify pistoning, a phenomenon experienced by people with a lower limb amputation where the residual limb moves vertically inside the socket during locomotion. Pistoning is suggested as a leading cause of skin breakdown and callouses. I will design and implement a device to quantify the vertical movement inside the socket. The device will display information gathered in real-time during movement and provide prosthetists with objective data regarding pistoning. We hope to quantify this for the first time in order to inform prosthetists of socket fit, thus making locomotion more comfortable for people with a leg amputation.

What is the significance of nucleotides as a source of nutrients for the body in Caenorhabditis elegans?

  • Student Recipient: Scott Ho, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Min Han
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In my project, I will be exploring the significance of nucleotides in C. elegan nutrition, with the overall purpose to study the role of nucleotides in mammalian cell growth. Specifically, I'm asking what the nature of the cdd-2 gene is and, by using forward genetics, identify other players associated with around this gene. cdd-2 is a part of the cytidine deaminase pathway that takes up cystidines and converts them to uridine, and by knocking out this cdd-2, worms appeared to have many interesting and observable phenotypes.

Mechanisms of myelination and remyelination in a fly model of multiple sclerosis.

  • Student Recipient: Andrew Walowitz, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pamela Harvey
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project investigates the relationship between circulating cholesterol and myelination in Drosophila melanogaster. I hypothesize that abnormal cholesterol homeostasis will lead to demyelination that could serve as a novel model of multiple sclerosis. In two separate sets of experiments, I will chemically and radiologically damage myelinating cells in vivo to characterize molecularly and behaviorally the progression of demyelination and remyelination. I will then study the consequences of a dietary increase in mevalonate, a molecular precursor to cholesterol. Ongoing research in our lab focuses on cholesterol and myelin integrity. Development of this model could result in better treatment options for patients.

The microbiome and responsiveness to stress: Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to sleep and circadian disruption

  • Student Recipient: David Duggan, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jared Heinze
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In my role I will be participating in a project designed to determine the effects of immunization (3 x, once per week) with a heat-killed preparation of an anti-inflammatory/immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress, as measured by stress-related neuroendocrine, immune, and behavioral outcomes. My specific role will be to collect and analyze fecal samples, collected weekly, to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters the gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

 

Role of the microbiome in stress resilience

  • Student Recipient: Joslynn Jones, Integrative Physiology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Jared Heinze
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress, as measured by cognitive function and stress-related physiologic outcomes. My role will be to analyze the circadian rhythms of body temperature and locomotor activity using Clocklab software, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters these outcomes. Further analysis will involve associating these data with gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

Role of the microbiome in stress resilience

  • Student Recipient: Joslynn Jones, Integrative Physiology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Jared Heinze
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress, as measured by cognitive function and stress-related physiologic outcomes. My role will be to analyze the circadian rhythms of body temperature and locomotor activity using Clocklab software, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters these outcomes. Further analysis will involve associating these data with gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

The old friends hypothesis and cognitive behavior

  • Student Recipient: Edwin Mendoza Olea, Chemistry / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Jared Heinze
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project that is designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae (NCTC 116590), to protect against negative outcomes of an 8-week period of chronic circadian disruption and subsequent psychosocial stress, as measured by stress-related physiologic outcomes and cognitive function, using the object location memory test. My role will be to analyze histological damage of the colon. Additional analysis will involve associating these data with other endpoints, including gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

 

Effects of Mycobacterium Vaccae on the Circadian Rhythms of Locomotor Activity and Core Body Temperature

  • Student Recipient: Linh Tran, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jared Heinze
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project aims to determine the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium with anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties, to protect against negative consequences of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress, as measured by stress-related physiologic outcomes and cognitive behavior. My role will be to analyze the circadian rhythms of body temperature and locomotor activity using Clocklab software, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters these outcomes.

Perceptions of Epiphyseal Fractures in Elite, Adolescent Rock Climbers

  • Student Recipient: Rachel Meyers, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Steve Hobbs
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Limited adolescent climbing research exists. With more adolescent climbers striving to get to the 2020 Olympics, injuries are on the rise. It’s crucial to investigate preventative strategies, risk factors, and injury perception in this population. The primary purpose is to survey elite, adolescent climbers on their perceptions of epiphyseal fractures (most common adolescent climbing injury) and see if they are misperceiving these injuries as the most common adult climbing injury (A-2 pulley) – if ignored, deformities can occur that are easily preventable. With climbing entering the Olympics, it’s imperative that coaches and parents teach kids about these growth plate injuries.

Hormesis and Cross-Tolerance of Cryo Toxicity in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell Models'

  • Student Recipient: Alexa Mejorada, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Thomas Johnson
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My lab has found mutant strains of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) that are resistant to M22, a cocktail of cryoprotectant agents (CPA) created by our lab’s collaborator. We hope to find interventions associated with these studies that make organ cryopreservation a viable solution to the growing transplantable organ need. CPA toxicity is the main barrier to this goal. The purpose of my project is to test if mutant mESCs are resistant to other stressors (cross-tolerance), or if low-levels of M22 exposure and other stressors can have hormetic effects on mESCs during a high-level M22 exposure.

Energetically optimal frequency vs. preferred frequency during cross-country skiing

  • Student Recipient: Petra Hyncicova, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rodger Kram
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My objective is to determine if there is an energetically optimal stride frequency in cross-country skiing. I hypothesize that there will be a U-shaped relationship between energetic cost and frequency. Further, the optimal frequency will correspond to the preferred frequency. I will study athletes roller-skiing on a treadmill, while I measure their oxygen consumption rate and also the forces they exert with their poles and their feet. This project is most relevant to athletes, coaches, and sport scientists. The project is also relevant to scientists, who study more common and clinically relevant forms of locomotion, such as walking, running.

Energetically optimal frequency vs. preferred frequency during cross-country skiing

  • Student Recipient: Petra Hyncicova, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rodger Kram
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My objective is to determine if there is an energetically optimal stride frequency in cross-country skiing. I hypothesize that there will be a U-shaped relationship between energetic cost and frequency. Further, the optimal frequency will correspond to the preferred frequency. I will study athletes roller-skiing on a treadmill, while I measure their oxygen consumption rate and also the forces they exert with their poles and their feet. This project is most relevant to athletes, coaches, and sport scientists. The project is also relevant to scientists, who study more common and clinically relevant forms of locomotion, such as walking, running.

Navigating the Built Environment

  • Student Recipient: Helena Meyer, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rodger Kram
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: When humans get from point A to point B, they face many decisions. Will they run, walk, or a do a mix of both? If there is a hill between the two points, will they go around the hill or over it? From physiologists to behavioral psychologists to city planners, many disciplines are interested in the ways that humans navigate their environments. This research will elucidate which factors are the greatest determinants of the route taken. Do humans choose a path that minimizes energy, intensity, distance, time, or a combination of these?

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Omar Abughalib, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Evidence has shown that late sleep timing is a significant risk factor for chronic medical conditions, mood disorders, and poor cognitive function. Because late sleep patterns can begin to emerge in early childhood, research on factors influencing the development of the circadian timing system is critical. One such factor is light exposure, and even low-intensity light has been found to suppress melatonin levels, altering circadian timing. Although the existing literature provides a strong foundation for studying the effects of light on the circadian clock in general, it lacks fundamental data necessary for understanding circadian physiology in early childhood.

Sleep and Development

  • Student Recipient: Ryan Beck, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This NIH-funded study will provide new insight into the sensitivity of the circadian clock to evening light in preschool aged children. Through salivary melatonin collection and varying intensities of light, we will examine how evening light phase delays the circadian clock. The findings from this study will allow parents and pediatricians to make better judgements on suggested evening light levels and have important implications for the health of our younger generations.

Sleep and Development Laboratory

  • Student Recipient: Taylor Christiansen, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this research is to determine how morning and evening light exposure affects the circadian clock in preschool-aged children. Later sleep timing, which is linked to later timing of the circadian clock, is associated with many chronic medical conditions. Therefore, examining the factors that may influence the development of the circadian clock is important for understanding the differences that develop in individual sleep timing. There is evidence that light exposure has a greater effect on children than adults, so as electronic media use continues to increase, studies like this are necessary to understand children’s sleep and circadian physiology.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Alexandra Coy, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This NIH-sponsored research will provide new insights into the effects of varying light intensities on the circadian clock of preschoolers. The impact of evening and morning light exposure on the circadian clock will be experimentally examined with salivary melatonin. This research is important because later circadian clock timing is linked to behavioral sleep problems and poor health and developmental outcomes. This study will provide key data about the effects of light on the circadian clocks of children and will be translated to the public by making recommendations to parents, educators, and pediatricians about how to promote healthy sleep habits.

 

Sleep and the Neural Basis of Emotion Processing in Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Sarena Gill, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The mentor’s project objective is to examine whether extending sleep improves emotion processing in children experiencing chronic sleep loss. The study will implement control and test groups that explore the results of behavioral intervention through the changes observed by the research team and the subjects’ brain connectivity and activation in functional MRIs. This project addresses the importance of sleep in early emotional development and offers intervention that may have long lasting impacts on children’s health. Understanding early emotional problems in children can preemptively hinder mental health disorders that may develop.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Jasper Hoag, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This NIH-funded project aims to determine the sensitivity of the circadian clock to morning and evening light in preschoolers. Further advances in knowledge in this field will yield a better understanding of how light shifts the circadian clock and contributes to the development of a late sleep phenotype in young children. The phenomena we are exploring is something that hasn't been studied very thoroughly up to this point, and this research could benefit everyone raising a young child and young children's development.

Does Sleep Moderate the Relationship Between Stress Reactivity and Cognition During Early Childhood?

  • Student Recipient: Trace Jablin, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My research lab recently concluded a 5-year NIH-funded longitudinal study that included data examining the effects of sleep on stress regulation and cognitive function during early childhood. The purpose of my project is to expand on our existing findings by determining (a) if there is a relationship between stress reactivity and cognitive function, and (b) if sleep moderates this relationship. These findings are beneficial for understanding the importance of sleep in day-to-day activities with high cognitive “load”, and for educating parents about sleep’s influence on their child’s development.

Sleep and the Neural Basis of Emotion Processing in Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Meskerem Nemomsa, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of the project is to evaluate the effect of sleep on emotion processing and developmental psychopathology. The lab wants to determine whether additional sleep will improve emotion processing and brain functional connectivity between regulatory /context-processing and negative/positive affect systems in children ages 5-5.9 years. This project is essential for increasing knowledge about the effects of sleep on development so that we can better serve young children with emotion problems. This project will provide critical data for researchers, pediatricians, educators, and parents.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Cole Ossian, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this research project is to examine the sensitivity of the circadian clock to varying levels of evening light in preschool age children. A growing body of literature suggests that sleep delay in preschoolers carries significant cognitive effects and, according to research conducted in our laboratory, evening bright light suppresses melatonin and causes delayed sleep. Given the prevalence of behavioral/emotional problems associated with sleep delay in children, this study will therefore provide crucial information about circadian phase shifts and light exposure in preschoolers that parents and physicians may apply to their own households or clinical practice with families.

Sleep Spindle Characteristics and Cognitive Function Across Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Zoe Parisian-Jeppesen, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project will examine relationships between non-rapid eye-movement (NREM) sleep spindle characteristics and cognitive functions in early childhood. The data for this project were collected in a recently completed NIH-funded longitudinal study, which I participated in. I will extend my lab’s previously published data characterizing sleep spindle characteristics by examining their associations with executive functions (e.g., working memory, task switching, inhibitory control) across early childhood. Sleep-spindle abnormalities are noted in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, and are also associated with learning, problem solving and behavior. As such, understanding this relationship in early childhood has both clinical and research applications.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Georgia Reis, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This lab is funded with a NIH R01 grant to study the circadian clock in preschool aged children and how it changes when exposed to varying intensities of light. Specifically, we will investigate how evening light phase delays the circadian clock through the collection of salivary melatonin. This research is important because light can suppress evening melatonin levels, possibly causing late sleep timing, which is associated with chronic medical disorders (e.g., diabetes, obesity, mood disorders, poor cognitive function). The results of this study will provide concrete recommendations about light intensity levels to improve children’s sleep health and daytime functioning.

 

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Ambra Saurini, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Data of circadian physiology during early childhood are very limited. My mentor’s goal is to understand factors influencing development of the circadian timing system; specifically, light’s effects on sleep timing and the circadian clock in preschool-age children. Sleep timing is critical at an early age due to potential correlation to developmental problems and sleep disorders that incite negative consequences in the future. Data collected during this project will be used to effectively design sleep intervention programs and serve as source to understanding the variability of sleep timing, thus, preventing future health complications resulting from problems in circadian clock.

 

Longitudinal Effects of Acute Sleep Restriction on Facial Emotion Expressions across Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Sophia Schneider, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The research lab recently completed longitudinal project that involved collecting data on the same subjects for 4 consecutive years. We studied children at T1 (2.5-3.0 years), T2 (3.5-4.0 years), T3 (4.5-5.0 years), and T4 (5.5-6.0 years). At each time point, we used acute sleep restriction to understand links between sleep and emotion processing. Structured emotion assessments were used to measure children’s ability to control and express emotion in both positive and negative situations. The objective of my project is to analyze T4 emotion assessments in order to examine the relationship between sleep and emotion expression across early childhood.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Elise Shalowitz, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this NIH-supported project is to research and analyze the sensitivity of the circadian clock to both evening and morning light in preschool-age children. Because this clock is primarily influenced by exposure to light, this project will feed into the current discussions surrounding the linkage of sleep problems in young children to later timing of the circadian clock. Young children, parents, and physicians stand to benefit from this research because by investigating this identified relationship, recommendations can be implemented to ensure children are getting enough sleep at the right time to minimize the risk of poor health outcomes.

Developmental Changes in the Effects of Acute Sleep Loss across Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Elise Shalowitz, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of this project is to examine early developmental changes in the behavioral effects of acute sleep loss in children ages 2-5 years. This project is embedded within a previously completed NIH-funded R01 grant awarded to my mentor. Using these data, I will investigate the effects of acute sleep restriction on behavioral self-regulation (i.e., inhibitory control) and cognition. This project extends my lab’s prior published cross-sectional work by analyzing longitudinal data. The relevance of this project extends to parents, healthcare professionals, and educators to ensure that sleep is valued for optimal behavioral health during this sensitive period of development.

Sensitivity of the Circadian Clock to Light in Early Childhood

  • Student Recipient: Taylor Teske, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this research project is to determine the sensitivity of the circadian clock to evening and morning light in preschool age children (~3-5 years) in order to examine the importance of the relationship between late sleep timing and preschool aged children’s circadian physiology. It is known that the condition of late sleep timing is an influential risk factor for developing chronic medical conditions, studying how factors influence the circadian clock evidence will promote the understanding of the importance of effective sleep intervention programs early in life.

Sleep and the neural basis of emotion processing in childhood

  • Student Recipient: Anne Waddle, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This NIMH-supported project will examine the effects of sleep extension in 5-year-olds on: 1) emotional processing (facial expressions) and 2) brain functional connectivity of negative/positive affective networks and regulatory/context-processing systems (fMRI). Children with insufficient sleep are assigned to a behavioral sleep intervention or a safety intervention (group comparisons). Actigraphy is tracked for 8 weeks. In the United States, approximately 20% of children suffer from a psychiatric disorder. Sleep is tightly linked to such disorders and underlying emotion processing. Because sleep is a health behavior that can be altered, it is a target for improving the development and wellbeing of children.

Modeling Freeman Sheldon Syndrome in iPSC-derived skeletal myocytes

  • Student Recipient: Molly Madden, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Leslie Leinwand
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome (FSS) is a rare muscle disease that’s characterized by a small mouth opening and malformation of the hands and feet. A mutation within muscle protein, myosin, is the genetic basis of this disease but the mechanisms by which the mutation disrupts development isn’t understood. Mutation of the same residue occurs in two other myosin proteins, causing diseases: Trismus Pseudocamptodactyly Syndrome (TPS), and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). I’ll use the data I collect on FSS to better understand the correlation between diseases. Data from this work will lay the groundwork for testing novel therapeutics for FSS, TPS, and HCM.

Identifying genes differentially expressed in the transcriptome of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) disomic and trisomic for chromosome 21

  • Student Recipient: Naomi Iverson, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Link
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project branches from a current study that identifies genes differentially expressed in the transcriptome of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (IPSC) disomic and trisomic for chromosome 21. I plan to identify genes alternatively spliced in trisomic IPSC’s by utilizing programs with a range of splicing focuses (see below for specific programs). After collecting data with the programs, I plan to compare program outputs to determine accuracy and overlap between each. This study will provide useful comparisons between programs for others to reference while also providing lists of alternatively spliced genes for others in the Down syndrome research community to probe.

Mycobacteria, immunoregulation, and mental health

  • Student Recipient: Madison Baca, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to conduct research on the topic of mycobacteria, a genus of largely environmental bacteria, some of which have been shown to have immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory effects on mammalian hosts. Of particular interest is Mycobacterium vaccae, which has shown to promote resilience to chronic psychosocial stress in mouse models [Reber et al., 2016, PNAS, 113, E3130-E3139]. However, Mycobacterium is a diverse genus with over 100 identified species. The purpose of this project will be to write and publish a review of mycobacteria, their immunologic properties, and potential use for prevention and treatment of inflammatory disease.

 

c-Fos neuronal activation due to treatment with Mycobacterium vaccae in stress-related serotonergic neurons of rat brains

  • Student Recipient: Madison Baca, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to identify brain regions known to affect stress and stress reactivity in response to Mycobacterium vaccae treatment. The objectives are: to section Sprague Dawley rat brain tissues for histological analysis, to stain sections with c-Fos to identify stress-related limbic and insular regions activated by M. vaccae after inescapable stress, and to run in situ hybridization analysis on sections for tryptophan hydroxylase type 2 (tph2) mRNA expression. This data will allow the scientific community to understand the effects of treatment with Mycobacterium vaccae, an environmental saprophytic bacterium known to have stress-protective and immunoprotective effects.

 

Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress: effects on slc6a4 expression in the mouse dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: Kristin Cler, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The overall goal of this project is to investigate immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, as a countermeasure for negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress in mice. My role will be to quantify effects of treatment on expression of slc6a4 mRNA, encoding the high affinity, sodium dependent serotonin transporter. The work we will be doing is relevant as recent incidents involving naval ships and submarine crashes could be explained by the over-exhaustion of the personnel who were not following the correct sleep guidelines.

Countermeasure strategies to promote resilience to chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress: focus on tph2 mRNA expression in the mouse dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: Chloe Gates, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The overall goal of this project is to investigate immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, as a countermeasure for negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress in mice. My role will be to quantify effects of treatment on expression of tph2 mRNA, encoding tryptophan hydroxylase 2, the rate-limiting enzyme for biosynthesis of serotonin. My work is particularly relevant as recent incidents involving naval ship/submarine crashes have been attributed to over-exhausted personnel who didn’t follow strict sleep guidelines.

 

Evidence for in vitro thermosensitivity of a subpopulation of serotonergic neurons in the rat dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: Drake Kienzle, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The ability of organisms to adapt to a wide range of temperature changes in the environment is critical for proper physiological functioning, as well as survival. In this project, I will examine the effects of warm temperature on in vitro firing rates of serotonergic neurons within the rat dorsal raphe nucleus (DR). Although current evidence suggests the involvement of serotonergic systems in thermoregulation, the thermosensitivity of serotonergic neuronal firing rate remains inconclusive. Through analysis of existing single unit recording data, I will investigate the hypothesis that local warming of the midbrain increases the neuronal firing rates of serotonergic neurons.

Host/gut microbiota response to stressors: informing resiliency

  • Student Recipient: Yosan Mengesha, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of a soil-derived immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and social defeat, an acute psychosocial stress, as measured by a learning and memory task and stress-related physiologic outcomes. My role will be to analyze the social defeat behavior, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters responsiveness to stress. Further analysis will involve associating these data with gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

Host/gut microbiota response to stressors: informing resiliency

  • Student Recipient: Yosan Mengesha, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of a soil-derived immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and social defeat, an acute psychosocial stressor, as measured by a learning and memory task and stress-related physiologic outcomes. My role will be to analyze the social defeat behavior, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters stress-induced changes in behavioral responses to social defeat. Further analysis will involve associating these data with gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to circadian disruption: effects on crhr1 expression in the mouse dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: Lauren Milton, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the ability of treatment with a heat-killed preparation of Mycobacterium vaccae as a countermeasure to prevent negative consequences of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress in mice. This project is part of a larger, multi-institute study titled “The microbiome and responsiveness to stress: Countermeasure strategies for improving resilience to sleep and circadian disruption.” Our work is particularly relevant as the most recent Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded for discoveries in circadian biology, and naval ship/submarine crashes have been attributed to over-exhausted personnel who didn’t follow strict sleep guidelines.

Effects of Mycobacterium vaccae and fear-potentiated startle on Slc6a4 mRNA expression

  • Student Recipient: Kadi Nguyen, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to assess the effects of 3 x weekly immunizations with a heat-killed preparation of the immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, starting one day after fear conditioning, on expression of Slc6a4 mRNA expression. My portion includes analyzing films, making figures, and writing a manuscript for publication. The larger project is interested in how commensal bacteria interact with the host leading to differences in immune function and signaling to the central nervous system to control anxiety and fear states. Chronic, low-grade increases in inflammation may increase the risk for psychiatric disorders like PTSD and major depressive disorder.

Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress: effects on slc22a3 expression in the mouse dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: Kadi Nguyen, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to evaluate administration of the heat-killed bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, as a countermeasure to prevent negative outcomes mice subjected to chronic circadian disruption (CDR) and social defeat, which is a psychosocial stressor. My specific in situ hybridization project is embedded within a larger multi-institute, multidisciplinary study titled “The microbiome and responsiveness to stress: Countermeasure strategies for improving resilience to sleep and circadian disruption.” We hypothesize that immunization with heat-killed M. vaccae will protect against negative outcomes of CDR and psychosocial stress in association with changes in expression of the gene slc22a3 in brainstem serotonergic neurons.

 

Host/gut microbiota response to stressors: informing resiliency

  • Student Recipient: Mikale Ogbaselassie, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The broad objective of this research is to determine whether the gut microbiome, and specifically Mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae), can deter inappropriate inflammation that may cause an array of psychiatric disorders. In the developed world exposure to M. vaccae and similar organisms is reduced, due to lifestyle factors, diet, and antibiotic use. My project is to analyze video footage of mice that have been inoculated with either M. vaccae or vehicle (control group) and “score” the mice for known social defeat behaviors. This research may benefit the growing population of individuals that suffer from inflammation-related mental health disorders.

Host/gut microbiota response to stressors: informing resiliency

  • Student Recipient: Mikale Ogbaselassie, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The broad objective of this research is to determine whether the gut microbiome, and specifically Mycobacterium vaccae (M. vaccae), can deter inappropriate inflammation that may cause an array of psychiatric disorders. In the developed world exposure to M. vaccae and similar organisms is reduced, due to lifestyle factors, diet, and antibiotic use. My project is to analyze video footage of mice that have been inoculated with either M. vaccae or vehicle (control group) and “score” the mice for known social defeat behaviors. This research may benefit the growing population of individuals that suffer from inflammation-related mental health disorders.

Host/gut microbiota response to stressors: informing resiliency

  • Student Recipient: Mikale Ogbaselassie, Integrative Physiology / Ecology and Evolultionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be assisting with a project designed to test the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of a soil-derived immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, to protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption and social defeat, an acute psychosocial stressor, as measured by a learning and memory task and stress-related physiologic outcomes. My role will be to analyze the social defeat behavior and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters stress-induced changes in behavioral responses to social defeat. Further analysis will involve associating these data with gut microbiome, gut metabolome, and host metabolome endpoints.

Effects of Mycobacterium vaccae and fear-potentiated startle on Crhr1 mRNA expression

  • Student Recipient: K'loni Schnabel, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to assess the effects of 3 x weekly immunizations with a heat-killed preparation of the immunoregulatory bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, starting one day after fear conditioning, on expression of Crhr1 mRNA expression. My portion includes analyzing films, making figures, and writing a manuscript for publication. The larger project is interested in how commensal bacteria interact with the host leading to differences in immune function and signaling to the central nervous system to control anxiety and fear states. Chronic, low-grade increases in inflammation may increase the risk for psychiatric disorders like PTSD and major depressive disorder.

Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to circadian disruption: effects on htr1a expression in the rat dorsal raphe nucleus

  • Student Recipient: K'loni Schnabel, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The main goal of this project is to investigate stress circuits in the brain of mice subjected to chronic circadian disruption (12-hr light/dark reversal every 7 days for 8 weeks) and social defeat, a psychosocial stressor. The proposed in situ hybridization histochemistry project is embedded within a larger multi-institute, multidisciplinary study titled “The microbiome and responsiveness to stress: Countermeasure strategies for improving resilience to sleep and circadian disruption.” We hope to test the hypothesis that immunization with heat-killed Mycobacterium vaccae will protect against negative outcomes of chronic circadian disruption (CDR) and psychosocial stress.

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Effects of Mycobacterium vaccae and fear-potentiated startle on Slc22a3 mRNA expression

  • Student Recipient: Tessa Smith, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of my portion of the project is to analyze in situ hybridization histochemistry films. After it is generated, I will analyze the data, prepare figures, and help work on a manuscript for publication. The larger project is interested in how commensal bacteria interact with the host leading to differences in immune function and signaling to the central nervous system to control anxiety and fear states. It is believed that chronic, low-grade increases in inflammation may increase the risk for psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder.

 

Effect of bacterium M.vaccae on serotonin synthesis in stress-induced conditions

  • Student Recipient: Attila Suto, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of my mentor's project is to see if the bacteria M.vaccae influences the acquisition of a fear memory, specifically stress-induced fear acquisition in rat brains. My mentor's experiment has been conducted, and the rat brains have been dissected out. Once the brains are sliced, the Dorsal Raphe will be analyzed to examine whether a specific serotonin synthesizing enzyme, tryptaphan hydroxylase 2 (tph2), is present and if there is a significantly different amount of tph2 between the group that received M.vaccae, and group that did not.

Countermeasure strategies for improving stress resilience to circadian disruption: effects on the diurnal rhythms of core body temperature and locomotor activity

  • Student Recipient: Linh Tran, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Christopher Lowry
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project aims to determine the ability of immunization with a heat-killed preparation of Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium with anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties, to protect against negative consequences of chronic circadian disruption and psychosocial stress, as measured by stress-related physiologic outcomes and cognitive behavior. My role will be to analyze the circadian rhythms of body temperature and locomotor activity using ClockLab (a software program that is designed for analysis of circadian rhythm data), Microsoft Excel, SigmaPlot, CorelDraw, and RStudio software programs, and to determine if immunization with M. vaccae alters these outcomes.

 

The effects of repeated traumatic brain injuries on hypocretinergic neurons

  • Student Recipient: Daniel Bush, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Mark Opp
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Effects of repetitive, concussive brain injuries are a public health crisis. Outcomes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are often debilitating, and include sleep disorders, cognitive impairment, and personality changes. How TBI alters sleep is not fully understood. The goal of my study is to investigate the effects of repetitive TBI on one neurotransmitter system involved in sleep regulation, specifically hypocretin neurons in the hypothalamus. This research could benefit anyone who has suffered multiple TBIs and help solidify an understanding of the physical effects of repeated TBIs.

Does chronic sleep disruption contribute to early-onset type 2 diabetes?

  • Student Recipient: Hannah Pfrommer, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Mark Opp
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) was once considered an adult disease, but is now being diagnosed at much earlier ages. Youth-onset T2D is much more aggressive, and specific mechanisms that cause it are unknown. T2D is an inflammatory disease, and chronic sleep disruption induces inflammation. Because insufficient sleep is an epidemic, one contributing factor may be chronic sleep disruption. Through this research, I will better understand how a lack of sleep affects our metabolism and causes neuroinflammation, which could put individuals at a higher risk for T2D.

 

Mitochondria-targeted Antioxidant Therapy to Prevent Doxorubicin-associated Vascular Dysfunction

  • Student Recipient: David Hutton, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Douglas Seals
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My mentor's laboratory is exploring ways to mitigate cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk following doxorubicin (DOXO)-based chemotherapy. DOXO treatment elevates CVD risk and these studies could show how mitochondrial-targeted antioxidant supplementation with Mitoquinol Mesylate (MitoQ), may mitigate this risk. Specifically, the project will explore whether MitoQ can decrease vascular dysfunction, a key antecedent to CVDs. My project, and a primary aim of the study, will be researching whether MitoQ can prevent arterial stiffness. If successful, this research can be quickly translated, as MitoQ has been shown to be safe and effective in improving vascular function in humans with elevated CVD risk.

 

  • Student Recipient: Kayla Woodward, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Douglas Seals
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Aging is associated with a decline in vascular function, increasing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Excessive production of reactive oxygen species by dysfunctional mitochondria (mtROS) is a primary source of oxidative stress with aging, increasing the risk for CVD. Preclinical findings indicate that decreasing the production of mtROS through supplementation with mitoquinone (MitoQ), improved vascular dysfunction in old mice. This research study will translate preclinical findings to older adults, by assessing the efficacy of MitoQ supplementation for improving vascular endothelial function. This project has the potential to identify a therapy to improve vascular endothelial function in older adults, reducing CVD risk.

To Determine the Role of Cell Cycle Regulator Dwee1 in Regeneration after Radiation Damage in Drosophila melanogaster

  • Student Recipient: Amrita Nag, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Tin Tin Su
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The overall objective is to identify genes that function in regeneration after damage by X-rays. My preliminary data showed that induction of Dwee1, which is known to lengthen the G2 phase and shorten the G1 phase of the cell cycle, also blocked cell fate changes during regeneration in Drosophila larvae. I propose to confirm these data using another transgenic line of Dwee1 to rule out effects due to where the transgene was inserted in the genome or the gene. Understanding what controls regeneration after radiation damage will help us optimize radiation therapy of cancer.

 

The Importance of Fibroblast Growth Factor Signaling in Fertility

  • Student Recipient: Rebecca Bolen, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pei-San Tsai
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Reproduction is activated by a neurohormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Neurons that secrete GnRH require the support of fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) signaling to function properly. Indeed, humans with Fgf gene mutations lose GnRH neurons and become infertile. One of my mentor’s research goals is to understand if one of the Fgf receptors (Fgfr1) is needed to maintain the functional state of GnRH neurons. By assisting with this project, I will learn how to analyze the functional state of the brain and gonad for reproduction. This training opportunity will prepare me for a future career in a fertility-related health profession.

 

Functional Role of AKH in Aplysia californica

  • Student Recipient: Michaela Deck, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pei-San Tsai
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In vertebrates, reproduction is activated by a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Recent evidence suggests GnRH-like hormone(s) likely originated as early as 600 million years ago, raising the question on the function of GnRH in animals other than vertebrates. Our lab has recently identified a GnRH-like molecule in the sea slug, Aplysia californica, and named it AKH. The UROP assistantship will allow me to assist the lab with a project that examines the functional role of AKH in the sea slug, thereby shedding light on the functional evolution of GnRH-like molecules.

 

Impact of Environmental Enrichment on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary Gonadal Axis in Reproductively Compromised Transgenic Mice.

  • Student Recipient: Hugh Zhang, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Pei-San Tsai
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The vertebrate brain controls reproduction by secreting gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from a small population of hypothalamic neurons. The brain is a highly plastic organ capable of changing its structure and function to adapt to environmental stimuli. The objective of my project will be to examine if an environment enriched by nestlets, igloos, and egg cartons can improve the testicular function and reproductive hormone levels in a line of male mouse (dnFGFR mice) suffering from GnRH deficiency and reproductive deficits. The proposed study explores the exciting field of how the environment interacts with the mammalian brain to alter organisms’ physiology.

 

A Novel Comprehensive Light Intervention and its Effects on Sleep

  • Student Recipient: Kaitlin Buck, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Celine Vetter
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The specific purpose of my mentor's project is to study the effects of a novel light intervention on sleep and circadian misalignment. Circadian rhythms and sleep can predict a person's overall health. To this day, light interventions have not been designed to recommend how to improve light exposure and strengthen circadian rhythms. Preliminary data from the laboratory shows that patterns for light exposure is measured best in nine different domains. When examining the different domains, the laboratory team will provide education on how to improve light exposure in those domains that are observed as being predictors of metabolic outcomes.

Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Laboratory

  • Student Recipient: Connor Phibbs, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Celine Vetter
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to delineate the inter-relationships of drivers of the human circadian system, in real-life conditions, including light exposure, sleep and wake, meal and caffeine intake, as well as exercise. We will quantify timing and intensity of those modifiable, environmental drivers, and quantify their relative contribution to dim light melatonin onset, a key marker of human circadian rhythms. To date, most laboratory studies have examined those drivers in isolation, but to leverage the emerging importance of circadian rhythms for health, and implement real-life interventions, we need a comprehensive understanding of each driver's contribution to circadian rhythms.

 

Impact of Insufficient Sleep and Weekend Recovery Sleep on Lipid Inflammatory Mediators in Human Plasma

  • Student Recipient: Darya Cogswell, Integrative Physiology / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Fifty percent of Americans sleep less than the recommended 7 hours/night, and insufficient sleep is associated with increased cardio-metabolic disease risk. The mechanisms underlying increased cardio-metabolic disease risk during insufficient sleep remain poorly defined, but one hypothesis is increased inflammation during insufficient sleep is a contributing factor. The specific aim of my project is to investigate the impact of insufficient sleep on a class of metabolites called lipid inflammatory mediators (LIM), which are markers for inflammation in the body. Additionally, as an exploratory aim, I will investigate the impact of the common sleep countermeasure, weekend recovery sleep, on LIMs.

Impact of sleep and circadian disruption on the human microbiome and related changes in human physiology and cognition.

  • Student Recipient: Brandon Abell, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project aims to ascertain the impact of sleep and circadian disruption on the human micro-biome. Ultimately, the goal is to see how sleep disruption (like that caused by shift work or demanding school schedules) affects physiology and cognition. Hopefully the project will help uncover ways to minimize the effects of lost sleep. This is relevant to today’s society because we are able to work all through the night using electrical lighting, desynchronizing our biological clock from the normal light/dark cycle. This sleep disruption can have negative effects on our ability to concentrate, learn, and remain awake during the day.

Insufficient Sleep and Metabolic Dysregulation

  • Student Recipient: Paul Bisesi, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This study uses metabolomics techniques to identify changes in blood molecules linked to metabolic dysregulation during insufficient sleep in humans. Identifying such molecules or biomarkers would grant insight into the mechanisms governing this relationship, and facilitate development and implementation of novel sleep loss countermeasures targeting metabolic dysregulation associated with sleep loss. The larger project surrounding mine investigates weekend recovery sleep, an apocryphal technique to combat insufficient sleep during the work-week. Our findings could also provide evidence to determine the objective effectiveness of weekend recovery sleep, or confirm its ineffectiveness with regards to attenuating chronic disease risk associated with sleep loss.

In Search of a Biomarker of Insufficient Sleep

  • Student Recipient: Paul Bisesi, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project will investigate the relationship between insufficient sleep and blood metabolites in an attempt to discover a clinical biomarker of sleep loss. Health care professionals could use such a biomarker to assess patient’s overall sleep health using a routine blood test, providing valuable insight into their patients’ health. Using this information, patients and their doctors can develop personalized strategies to improve sleep habits. This can benefit many people; a recent CDC report found that over a third of Americans sleep less than the recommended seven hours/night, and such insufficient sleep may contribute to myriad chronic health problems.

 

Vigilance Performance in Association with Circadian Timing

  • Student Recipient: Alivia Blumenstein, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The ongoing study in which my project is embedded observes the microbiome and responsiveness to stress, and testing countermeasure strategies for improving resilience to sleep and circadian disruption. It is understood that melatonin is a marker of the biological night and drives circadian timing. I will be looking at performance testing, specifically the Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) reaction test, in association with circadian timing during sleep deprivation and consistency during the response, measured by saliva melatonin levels. By observing reaction time fluctuation, in association with circadian timing, this project can benefit nighttime workers including military personal and medical staff.

Light Exposure and Circadian Rhythms

  • Student Recipient: Shannon Lanza, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Modern indoor lighting has given humans the ability to modify their daily light exposure. Light is a time cue that synchronizes our circadian clocks to the 24-hour day, and light at night can suppress melatonin production (Gooley et al., 2011); a hormone with levels high at night and low during the day. The aim of my project is to determine how a simulated sunset with LED lighting influences the rise in salivary melatonin levels in the evening compared to typical indoor lighting. The findings from this study would help determine how modern lighting technology can be implemented to promote sleep.

The microbiome and responsiveness to stress: Countermeasure strategies for improving resilience to sleep and circadian disruption

  • Student Recipient: Nick Rodrigues, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The primary goal of this project is to develop a deeper understanding of how sleep deficiency and wakefulness at night impacts cognitive performance, metabolism, and the microbiome. Through understanding these impacts this project hopes to accelerate the development of treatments and countermeasures for individuals suffering from insufficient sleep, whom in particular, need to be active at various times of the day and night. Examples of the types of individuals benefiting by this work include, but isn’t limited to, emergency workers, military personnel, and shift workers.

 

Biomarkers of Insufficient Sleep and Sleepiness

  • Student Recipient: Leah Rotenbakh, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The main purpose of this project is to identify a blood molecule or “fingerprint” of molecules to serve as a biomarker for the clinical diagnosis of insufficient sleep. Furthermore, the research team will attempt to determine how these molecules may be associated with changes in cognitive performance during sleep loss. This project has significant clinical application for the public since chronic sleep loss affects millions of individuals. In establishing a biomarker of insufficient sleep, medical clinicians can easily assess sleep loss in patients and improve public safety by determining sleep loss induced impairments in sleep-restricted fields (pilots, medical personnel, etc.)

Torvec MyCadian Validation Study Protocol

  • Student Recipient: Alexandra Smits-Kagoshima, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Data for my project is derived from a larger study funded by Torvec Inc. focused on the physiology of sleepiness during sleep deprivation. The objective of my project is to examine whether chronotype, or morningness-eveningness, impacts inter-individual differences in cognitive performance during total sleep deprivation. There are inter-individual differences in how people respond to sleep deprivation, therefore I aim to determine whether chronotype is a factor that plays a role in these differential responses. Results can then provide knowledge for individuals that work long hours and may be sleep deprived in safety-significant situations, such as truck drivers, doctors, and nurses

 

HIV-1, Insufficient Sleep and Vascular Endothelial Dysfunction

  • Student Recipient: Alexandra Smits-Kagoshima, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project studies vascular endothelial function in antiretroviral (ART)-treated HIV-1 seropositive adults. The objective is to determine how improved sleep contributes to one’s overall vascular health. Evidence shows that HIV-1 infected individuals are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, many ART-treated HIV-1 adults experience some type of sleep disorder. This study aims to determine if improving sleep in HIV-1 seropositive adults, over a two month period, can improve their vascular endothelial function and in turn decrease this population’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

 

Biomarkers of Insufficient Sleep and Sleepiness

  • Student Recipient: Lauren Walters, Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Many health problems have been linked to insufficient sleep. With more than 35% of Americans not getting the recommended 7 hours per night, it is important to be able to determine if lack of sleep plays a role in individual medical conditions. With the Biomarkers of Insufficient Sleep and Sleepiness study, our team will be looking at 34 specific molecules in the blood, known as metabolites, and whether they consistently change when subject to sleep deprivation. The end goal is to identify biomarkers that can be used to diagnose sleep issues and disorders.

Mechanics of bio-inspired scale assemblies

  • Student Recipient: Emily Volk, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Franck Vernerey
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Biological structures and systems provide inspiration for novel mechanical engineering designs, as natural structural materials are often optimized in areas relevant to technical design constraints. Scaled surface structures are of current interest in biomimetics. With the research team, I am studying the structure, mechanics, and function of fish scales. Scales have evolved across families, and exhibit a wide variety of shape, size, composition, and arrangement to achieve particular functions. With UROP support, I hope to synthesize current mechanical analyses of scaled assemblies to fabricate and optimize synthetic analogues of scaled systems, with application to lightweight body armor and flexible electronics.

Determining the effectiveness of ERK inhibition and CSE inhibition in "reversing" PARP inhibitor resistance in ovarian cancer.

  • Student Recipient: Jennifer Aguilera, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Faculty Mentor: Benjamin Bitler
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Ovarian cancer (OC) is the deadliest gynecological cancer, resulting in over 14,000 deaths/year in the USA. PARP inhibitors (i.e. olaparib) represent a major clinical advancement in OC, however a majority of patients become resistant. The MAPK/ERK signaling transduction pathway is involved in a wide range of cell processes. Prior research in my mentor’s lab observed that olaparib-resistant ovarian cancer cells exhibit increased levels of ERK1/2 phosphorylation, a process that has been linked to increased cystationine gamma-lyase (CSE) expression. The purpose of this project is to determine whether ERK or CSE inhibition can be exploited to effectively “reverse” olaparib resistance.

Identifying Mechanisms by Which Pre-Malignant Keratinocytes Induce Stem Cell-Like Activity in Neighboring Head and Neck Cancer

  • Student Recipient: Khoa Nguyen, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Xiao-Jing Wang
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a lethal disease killing >250,000 people annually worldwide. HNSCC tumors are often surrounded by a field of pre-malignant cells (keratinocytes) that support the tumor and contribute to relapse. The purpose of my project is to determine molecular mechanism by which pre-malignant keratinocytes induce stem cell-like features in HNSCC and define stem cell markers in models established previously in the lab. The results of this study will contribute to understanding mechanisms of HNSCC relapse and determining potential therapies to inhibit these mechanisms in mouse models and clinical trials, ultimately benefitting HNSCC patients.

Cytotoxic Edema in Pediatric Traumatic Brain Surgery

  • Student Recipient: Ligia Batista Silverman, Pre-Health
  • Faculty Mentor: Brent O'Neill
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of this project is to test the reliability of cytotoxic edema (CE) as visualized on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) as a marker for abusive head trauma (AHT) and in-hospital mortality in young children with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and to test the ability of CE to predict neurologic outcome. The central hypotheses are 1) that the presence of CE is a marker of AHT and 2) that the extent of CE predicts neurologic outcome. The project aims to improve diagnosis and catalyze further study on the effectiveness of early TBI treatments, especially for children who have suffered abuse.

Research Assistantship with Diabetes and Obesity Research Lab (Studying the causes and consequences of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and health disparities)

  • Student Recipient: Noopur Naik, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Tanya Alderete
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: My mentor’s project studies the causes and consequences of obesity, type II diabetes, and health disparities. As obesity and type II diabetes are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and both disproportionately impact individuals exposed to certain risk factors, my mentor’s research into how environmental exposure impacts the gut microbiome will benefit people with the diseases, people studying the diseases, and people creating healthcare policy. Current research associates environmental exposures with increased risk of these diseases, so my mentor’s research will further elucidate the mechanisms underlying these relationships, and explore the relationship between air pollution and these diseases.

Characterizing Genes Involved in the Production of PLP in Mutant E. coli

  • Student Recipient: Cyrus Gidfar, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Shelley Copley
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: One of the core tenets in evolutionary biology is that organisms can adapt and retain functionality in environments that are not optimal for growth. The main goal in our lab is to characterize how organisms gain adaptive mutations that allow them to grow in challenging conditions.

Identification of the mechanism by which mutations compensate for a broken metabolic pathway in E. coli.

  • Student Recipient: Elisa Hobson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Pre-med
  • Faculty Mentor: Shelley Copley
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to determine how promiscuous enzymes in E. coli can form a novel metabolic pathway. Several adapted lineages of E. coli BW25113 that lacked a gene required for synthesis of the cofactor PLP were adapted on M9 medium containing either 0.4% glucose or 0.2% glucose. Strains adapted in 0.2% glucose restored PLP biosynthesis through different mutations than strains adapted in 0.4% glucose, which restored PLP synthesis via a bypass pathway. I will attempt to determine the bypass pathway the 0.2% glucose strains established to produce PLP and how the mutations identified contribute to this.

 

Identification of beneficial gene deletions in a strain of E. coli that lacks an essential gene.

  • Student Recipient: Michael Kristofich, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Shelley Copley
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: A major aim in the field of evolutionary biology is to determine the mechanisms by which adaptive mutations improve fitness. The research team has been studying enzyme evolution in ∆pdxB strains of E. coli. PdxB is an enzyme involved in biosynthesis of pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), an essential cofactor. Previous research resulted in the identification of alternative pathways that restore PLP synthesis in ∆pdxB strains. My objective is to identify specific gene deletions that contribute to the improved fitness of an adapted ∆pdxB strain. Results of this project will enable future efforts to identify the mechanism of the deletions’ beneficial effects.

 

New Technique for the Creation of "Sticky Ends" in PCR

  • Student Recipient: Nathaniel Moore, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Brian DeDecker
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of our project is to perfect and use a different technique to create sticky ends in DNA when performing bacterial cloning work. By using a chemically altered primer it will create specific DNA sticky ends in a more efficient way because it will only take one PCR and two altered primers, unlike other cloning methods which use more steps and more primers. This project is extremely relevant to biology because it will allow any scientist performing bacterial cloning to make the process easier and more efficient.

 

Small Molecule-Mediated Antibody Switch Design

  • Student Recipient: Manasa Ponnapalli, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Brian DeDecker
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Monoclonal Antibody therapies are prominent in today's world of medicine as treatments for cancer, arthritis, and various other diseases, but in the case of an autoimmune attack reaction to the therapy, there is no easy way to flush the antibody out of the system and alleviate symptoms. This project aims to solve this problem by creating and implementing a safety on/off switch into the antibody system via a small molecule drug. Specifically, this entails successfully designing and testing an engineered protein system in which a small molecule will be able to turn the variable domain of an antibody on/off.

 

Light-activated Compartmentalization

  • Student Recipient: Miriam Van Ek, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Brian DeDecker
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of this project is to engineer a nano-scale compartment that disassembles in response to a specific wavelength of light. The compartment protein (EutS) has been developed to include an azobenzene-moiety amino acid that "breaks" the compartment in its trans-configuration. My roll is to add a RFP to EutS for the purpose of visualization. The wavelength at which the compartment disassembles and at which the tagging protein fluoresces must be different. It is also crucial that the RFP does not cause aggregation. This project benefits the medical community by proposing an innovative method of drug delivery.

Partner Preference DREADD expression in the VTA-NAcc

  • Student Recipient: Michaela Best, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In an effort to better understand the neurological mechanisms that occur in the VTA-NAcc during pair-bonding in monogamous prairie voles, the mentor and the student will continue to investigate DREADD expression in the VTA-NAcc after completing a series of partner preference testing and immunohistochemistry. Over the summer, the student and her mentor will have confirmed DREADD expression efficacy. Their project will continue on from the summer into the next academic year.

 

Assessing the role of dopamine-recruited mating neurons for the maintenance of pair bonds

  • Student Recipient: Emma Burt, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project focuses on identifying the specific neurons in the nucleus accumbens involved in the formation and maintenance of social bonds in prairie voles. Dopamine signaling is essential for bond formation. I propose to use a novel, successfully piloted tool called iTango2, to visualize the neurons receiving dopamine during pair bond formation and maintenance. This will enable me to address whether the neuronal targets of dopamine and their repeated activation may be an important mechanism for the display of bonds over time. Answering these questions provides unknown yet fundamental information for the neurobiological mechanisms underlying social bonds.

 

Identifying the Neural Mechanisms of Monogamous Motivation

  • Student Recipient: Maya Paulson, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Like humans, prairie voles form powerful bonds with their mates, and are motivated to be near them. This project will identify specific neurons in the nucleus accumbens that contribute to the motivation of monogamous pair-bonded prairie voles to reunite with their partner. I will use miniaturized microscopes to record brain activity at the single-cell level in freely-behaving voles who must press a lever to be with their partner. I will use this data to identify neurons responsible for inciting the behavior of overcoming an obstacle to be with their partner. This research will illuminate the neural mechanisms of social bonds.

 

Characterization of Temperature Sensitive Mouse Polyomavirus Mutant

  • Student Recipient: Katherine Rose, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Robert Garcea
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Polyomaviruses (PyV) replicate viral DNA (vDNA) and assemble virions within specific regions of the nucleus. It is unclear how PyV DNA replication and assembly are coupled within the nucleus. I will use temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants of mouse polyomavirus (MPyV) to characterize viral replication and virus assembly using both confocal and electron microscopy. These ts mutant strains are characterized by an assembly defect, where they can replicate vDNA to wild-type levels but cannot assemble progeny virions when grown at non-permissive temperature. Using the ts mutants will help to elucidate mechanism by which vDNA is packaged and assembled separating these two processes.

Determining the Role of EphB4-ephrinB2 Signaling in Head and Neck Cancer

  • Student Recipient: DiemMy Nguyen, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Spanish for the Professions
  • Faculty Mentor: Sana Karam
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The laboratory specializes in research of the Eph gene family and its effects on head and neck cancer. Eph receptors are the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases. Eph receptors bind their ephrin ligands, inducing bidirectional signals in the receptor- and ligand-expressing cells. Our objective is to target the receptor-ligand pair EphB4 and ephrin-B2 (EFNB2) to characterize its role in mediating head and neck cancers. Thus, this project is embedded within the central focus of the laboratory. Studying the relationship between EphB4-EFNB2 and cancer progression will help us translate our findings into novel therapeutics for head and neck cancer patients.

Mutating Decorin and Myostatin in Xenopus Laevis

  • Student Recipient: Fermin Ruybal, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Michael Klymkowsky
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to understand the roles of highly conserved genes decorin and myostatin in muscle development and function in the vertebrate model organism, Xenopus laevis. Myostatin is a growth factor that inhibits skeletal muscle growth. Decorin is a myokine released by muscle cells and plays diverse roles in development of various tissues, including muscle, and inhibits Myostatin. Since myostatin and decorin are misregulated in muscle wasting disorders, understanding how these two genes, individually and together, regulate muscle biology may allow us to develop better treatments for fatal muscle wasting disorders such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

 

University of Colorado Boulder Dormitory Bathrooms' Microbial Environment

  • Student Recipient: Elshaday Sendek, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Ken Krauter
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of the project is to identify the types and ratios of bacteria that can exist in a female and male residential hall bathroom, over a period of a month. The point of this identification being to classify the types of bacteria that students could be exposed to and be contributing to. This project is relevant because the more we can understand about the bacteria around us, the more we can understand how they affect us.

 

Sensitivity of the circadian clock to light in early childhood

  • Student Recipient: Kajal Patel, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Monique LeBourgeois
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this NIH-funded study is to determine how morning and evening light affects circadian rhythm timing in preschoolers. Sleep is a vital process in childhood and misaligned sleep schedules may impact health and development. It is important to study sleep as the effects of late sleep timing due to light may be associated with chronic illnesses, such as obesity and depression. Thus, the effect of light on sleep may be useful in establishing healthy sleep schedules. Parents and children may benefit from these findings as information about evening light levels for health may arise from the study’s findings.

Sexual Dimorphism in Preclinical Cardiovascular Research

  • Student Recipient: Kimberly Lugo, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Leslie Leinwand
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Despite lower cardiovascular risk associated with pre-menopausal women, the rate of cardiovascular disease development and associated mortality in post-menopausal women exceeds that of men in the same age range. These findings underscore the importance of developing both female and male animal models in preclinical cardiovascular research programs. Our lab is currently developing an animal model of cardiovascular disease encompassing both male and female research subjects. The student will be directly involved in the development of these animal models, the isolation of cardiac cells from these models, and the analysis of contractility and cell surface area of isolated cardiac cells.

Modeling Freeman Sheldon Syndrome in iPSC-derived skeletal myocytes

  • Student Recipient: Molly Madden, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Leslie Leinwand
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome (FSS) is a rare and life-altering genetic muscle disease that causes a whistling-face appearance and malformation of the hands and feet. The genetic basis for the disease is known but the mechanisms by which the known mutations disrupt development of the fetus are not well understood. To study the disease mechanisms, we will create a cell-culture model of FSS using human iPSC derived skeletal muscle cells expressing the disease causing mutant protein. The data collected from this work and from complementary studies will lay the groundwork for development and testing of novel therapeutics for FSS.

 

Understanding the Role of CNNM2 in Mammalian Neural Tube Closure

  • Student Recipient: Katie Franks, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Lee Niswander
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Neural tube closure (NTC) is the second most common birth defect and affects 1 in every 1000 live births. Cnnm2 plays a key role in cranial tube closure, where loss of the Cnnm2 gene in mice results in a cranial neural tube defect (NTD). Not much is known of Cnnm2, however previously published work implicates CNNM2 in magnesium transport. The goal of this project is to examine the role of CNNM2 in magnesium transport to ultimately understand the potential importance of magnesium in cranial neural tube closure.

Post-Transcriptional Regulation of Satellite Cell Behavior

  • Student Recipient: Rachel Anderson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Bradley Olwin
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Adult stem cells are important for maintaining and repairing tissue over time. Muscle regeneration after injury relies on a population of adult stem cells, called satellite cells. Our research group is interested in identifying molecular mechanisms that control satellite cell behavior and how changes in cell function can lead to muscle diseases or aging. My objective is to confirm targets of the mRNA decay protein, tristetraprolin (TTP), and what role these targets play in regulating satellite cell behavior. This project will help understand how satellite cells function, provide valuable research training, and could discover new therapeutic targets for muscle diseases.

Locating Sites of Muscle Stem Cell Fusion into Myofibers

  • Student Recipient: Benjamin Huxley, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Bradley Olwin
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I plan to ask the following with my project: Do MuSCs migrate to specific locations prior to fusion? Does exercise alter MuSCs fusion in the absence of injury? Answering these questions will expand the knowledge of MuSCs behavior during muscle maintenance in sedentary muscle and during exercise. Once regulation of muscle maintenance and hypertrophy is understood, it can be used to help maintain muscle mass in old age and disease.

 

Behavioral Characterization of Muscle Stem Cell Expansion with increasing Magnitudes of Muscle Injury

  • Student Recipient: Ashleigh Van Deusen, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Bradley Olwin
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Skeletal muscle stem cells, satellite cells, are the source of myonuclei for postmitotic muscle myofibers responsible for muscle contraction. My project investigates satellite cell expansion in vivo which is essential for muscle fiber repair. Cell expansion may either be highly controlled to generate appropriate numbers of progeny for repair or a surplus are generated where unneeded cells undergo apoptosis. Muscle repair efficiency declines with age and cell expansion may be compromised. Understanding how satellite cell expansion is regulated could assist in development of therapeutic manipulation to enhance muscle repair in diseased and aging humans

Linking the effects of patient found hnRNPA2B1 mutations to multi-system proteinopathy in skeletal muscle.

  • Student Recipient: Oscar Whitney, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Bradley Olwin
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: It is unknown why mutations in the RNA-binding protein hnRNPA2B1 cause severe skeletal muscle degeneration in the disease multisystem proteinopathy (MSP). Understanding why these mutations cause muscle degeneration will help us determine the pathogenesis of MSP and inspire the design of disease modifying treatments for patients. To understand the role of hnRNPA2B1 mutations in MSP, I aim to use a skeletal muscle cell culture model system to introduce disease-causing mutations into hnRNPA2B1 and assess (1) how the mutations disrupt skeletal muscle formation and (2) how the mutations affect the normal functions of hnRNPA2B1.

 

Ubiquitination of Lysine Residues on the Rpt5 Subunit of the Proteasome Serve as a Checkpoint for Proteasome Assembly

  • Student Recipient: Allyson Malloy, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Soyeon Park
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The question that the research team is studying is how ubiquitin binding to one of the proteasome subunits, rpt5, effects assembly. The ability to track this ubiquitination is though lysine residues: lysine is available until chaperones bind. If assembly occurs without a chaperone, then the lysine residues on the rpt5 subunit are ubiquitinated to prevent further assembly. My project within this larger idea is to study which sites on the subunit result in ubiquitination. I will be testing whether all three previously identified sites must be mutated or just one site in order for ubiquitination to occur on the subunit.

Mechanisms Regulating Muscle Stem Cell Behavior

  • Student Recipient: Peter Hackett, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Bradley Pawlikowski
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Adult stem cells are critical regulators of tissue homeostasis and injury repair. Skeletal muscle regeneration following injury is dependent on an adult stem cell population called satellite cells. The broad goals of our research group are to identify molecular mechanisms that control satellite cell behavior and determine how alterations to satellite cell function contribute to muscle diseases and aging. The specific objective of my project is to identify the molecular mechanisms through which Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) controls satellite cell behavior. The studies proposed here could identify new therapeutic targets for muscle diseases and will provide valuable biomedical research training.

 

Regulation of exocytosis in blood glucose homeostasis and immune cell precursors

  • Student Recipient: Rathan Kumar, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Jingshi Shen
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: With rising diabetes and autoimmune disorders in the US, my MCDB lab here at CU is developing new treatments for these debilitating diseases. We work at the cellular level; we already know that vesicles are a cell’s tiny delivery trucks, moving cargo within cells. Type II diabetics have diminished vesicle function; that is, vesicles are not depositing proteins to process sugars. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis face an opposite problem with the same proteins: their cells secrete toxic vesicles, destroying a joint’s healthy cells. The mechanism behind vesicles is not fully known. I want to contribute to the research on vesicles.

Determine the molecular mechanism of AAGAB

  • Student Recipient: Jessica Miller, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jingshi Shen
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My objective is to determine the molecular mechanism of AAGAB in clathrin-mediated endocytosis. A genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 genetic screen performed by our laboratory identified factors regulating vesicle transport, using insulin-dependent translocation of the transporter, GLUT4, as a model system. A high-ranking gene from the screen is AAGAB. In AAGAB null cells, basal surface levels of GLUT4 reporter and transferrin receptor were up regulated. I will assess the effects of AAGAB in knockout cells, as mutations in this protein can cause diseases. This work will contribute to the knowledge of the field as well as the creation of a knockout cell line.

 

Investigating the TTSS system of infectious bacteria.

  • Student Recipient: Jacob Howshar, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Marcelo Sousa
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: According to the CDC, 23,000 Americans die of antibiotic-resistant infections each year. A major contributor to the infectiousness of bacterial cells is a system called TTSS, which allows them to inject host cells with their proteins. Our lab wants to better understand the TTSS delivery system so that, in the future, it can be targeted to inhibit the virulence of bacteria as a novel antimicrobial therapy, potentially benefitting thousands of patients struggling with resistant infections. My project will be to study the mechanical and thermodynamic stability of the proteins that are secreted with TTSS.

To Perform an RNAi Screen to Identify the Role of Proteins Regulating Migration in Regeneration after Radiation Damage in Drosophila melanogaster

  • Student Recipient: Amrita Nag, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Tin Tin Su
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective is using larvae hinge disc cells as a model to screen proteins. The subset of these cells are resistant to radiation and participate in tissue regeneration. We'll use the G trace system to label cells to either overregulate or downregulate. In my specific project, I will overexpress RNAi, which will downregulate the protein that participates in regeneration and see if these proteins are able to regenerate afterward. The relevance coincides with cancer ionizing radiation. We want to find a treatment where cancer cells don't regrow and regular cells don't have side effects to therefore benefit cancer patient treatments.

Identifying mechanisms by which tumor-associated macrophages promote aggressive squamous cell carcinoma progression

  • Student Recipient: Anamol Bimali, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Xiao-Jing Wang
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) arise in the stratified epithelium of the skin or oral/nasal linings. Although usually benign, SCCs can transition into deadly, metastatic disease. Aggressive SCCs often harbor higher numbers of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and our lab has preliminary data suggesting that TAMs play a role in progression of indolent SCCs to aggressive disease by facilitating angiogenesis and inhibiting apoptosis. Surprisingly, TAMs appear to suppress pro-tumor, pro-survival phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling. The purpose of my project is to determine how TAMs regulate PI3K in SCCs and leverage these results to more potently treat SCC, benefitting SCC patients.

Consistency in Individual Variances of Circadian Timing

  • Student Recipient: Emily Hay-Arthur, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Kenneth Wright
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The study in which my project is embedded explores responsiveness to combined sleep and circadian disruption and tests countermeasure strategies to improve resilience to this disruption. This study uses melatonin as an indicator for circadian timing. During sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment melatonin levels vary in comparison to baseline measurements. Individuals show unique circadian rhythms, so I will examine these differences as well as potential variation between subject visits in melatonin levels before and during periods of combined sleep and circadian disruption. Results could benefit populations that face regular circadian disruption such as overnight workers.

Paternal Mitochondria Elimination

  • Student Recipient: Jack Johnson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / International Affairs
  • Faculty Mentor: Ding Xue
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: In almost all eukaryotes, the mitochondrial DNA inheritance is strictly maternal. Between the sperm fusion and early cell division all paternal mitochondria are targeted and eliminated in a cell through many methods. We want to investigate the cell signaling pathways which mark paternal mitochondria for elimination. Investigating these cell pathways will allow scientists understand gene regulated cell signaling, as well as help understand mitochondrial related illnesses in humans. This will also lead to creating a more safe an efficient way to clone animals using spermatid or sperm and microinjection.

 

Adaptive Differences Between Hawaii and Bristol C. elegan Strains

  • Student Recipient: Jack Johnson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / International Affairs
  • Faculty Mentor: Ding Xue
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In the current field of C. elegan research, there are two widely used strains of wild type: Hawaii and Bristol. Each of these were isolated in different environments, have slightly different genetic makeups. This project will have two impacts, the first is to explore how adaptive evolution has shaped the same species to fit two very different environments. The second purpose is to map out differences so that other researchers in the field can better understand limitations and advantages of using each model as a wild type control.

 

Elegan cpr-4 Stress Response Pathway Analysis

  • Student Recipient: Jack Johnson, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / International Affairs
  • Faculty Mentor: Ding Xue
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: In 2017 the research team I worked with discovered a gene critically involved in cell stress signaling caused by things like radiotherapies. The discovery of this novel gene, cpr-4 (human ortholog Cathepsin B), has lead to a large branch-point of research. I would to like to investigate how this gene works by putting it in context of other genes. The guiding principal of my work will be a genetic screen and other molecular techniques to discover other gene products this gene interacts with to create a picture of the mechanism which this stress is transmitted and received.

Restored mitochondrial function in C. elegans ctb-1 mutants through the knock in of a mitochondrial gene into the nuclear genome

  • Student Recipient: Yannick Lee-yow, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Ding Xue
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of my project is to fully restore the functions of the mitochondria in C. elegans ctb-1 loss of function mutant. A restoration of CTB-1 function can hypothetically be achieved by transplanting a functional mitochondrial ctb-1 gene into the nuclear genome, and tagging the protein product with an amino acid sequence that will allow for its transport to the mitochondria. Currently, there are no known methods of editing the mitochondrial genome, thus it is hard to study and treat mitochondrial diseases. My project aims to provide a method of restoring the mitochondrial function in organisms with mitochondrial DNA mutations.

Isolation of Mutants Suppressing Mitochondrial rRNA Stress Response in Caenorhabditis elegans

  • Student Recipient: Yannick Lee-Yow, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry / Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Ding Xue
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Mitochondria contain their own genome, meaning that some mitochondrial components are encoded by mitochondrial genes. Mutations in these genes can decrease the efficiency of mitochondrial function, and thus induce a stress response in the overall organism. This project aims to study the mechanisms of mitochondrial gene mutations in C. elegans. Specifically, this project focuses on the mitochondrial gene, mtce.7, which codes for mitochondrial ribosomal RNA. Deletion of this gene results in a stress response that can be measured by the upregulation of heat-shock proteins. My aim is to identify other regulators in the mitochondrial stress response pathway.

Using COFs, Organic Frameworks, as Platform for Controlled Extended Drug Release.

  • Student Recipient: Oula Kareem, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Wei Zhang
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Modern Medicinal approach is dependent on drugs, delivered in the form compressed powder loaded into tablets with buffers and preservatives, pills. Everyone has take pills at some point. Pills demonstrate a logarithmic drug release, leaving the concentration of drug in the body high at the beginning,more than the effective dose, to really low, less than the effective dose. This yields insufficient concentrations and hence prohibits the drug from functioning appropertialy. Often, causing harmful consequences, including addiciation and bacterial resistance. COFs introduce an extended drug delivery system that is more controlled and hence safer approach to drug delivery.

Quality of Parent-Child Interactions in Vocabulary Development

  • Student Recipient: Fatima Tensun, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Eliana Colunga
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to explore how 18-24-month-old toddlers and their caregivers interact when sharing different types of books. The participants will read lab-made books that will introduce words in different contexts -- either presenting pictures of objects in isolation or presenting them in a surrounding, semantically rich context. The different kinds of books may affect the parent-child interactions, which in turn may affect the child’s growing vocabulary. We hope to determine if these different types of contexts promote different parent-child interactions, and additionally if these different parent-child interactions may promote better vocabulary learning.

Adolescence caffeine exposure and its effects later in life

  • Student Recipient: Maria Navarro, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Ryan Bachtell
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project proposal is intended to study interactions between adolescence caffeine consumption and susceptibility to cocaine use and cognitive deficits later in life. This study is relevant not only to the National Institute of Health and to the scientific community, but to a large population of adolescents and young adults that consume caffeine almost on a daily basis. This drug is so easily accessible and of unrestricted use that the studies made on its effects can benefit the overall health and consumption practices of many Americans.

 

Adenosine-receptor involvement in Methamphetamine relapse

  • Student Recipient: Cory Wong, Neuroscience / Chinese
  • Faculty Mentor: Ryan Bachtell
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The lab uses a preclinical model to study neurobiology of drug addiction and identify pharmacological targets that could be translated to a treatment for methamphetamine and cocaine addictions. These studies will guide development of pharmacotherapeutics directed at adenosine receptors to inhibit glutamate and dopamine reward pathways in the brain. For this specific project, we will look at the role of adenosine receptors in the mesocorticolimbic pathway and how they alter reward and relapse behavior in the presence of repeat psychostimulant treatment.

Development of Neural Systems Supporting Executive Function

  • Student Recipient: Rebecca Helmuth, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Marie Banich
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project studies adolescent brain development and how that relates to thinking and mood. Participants complete behavioral tasks as well as an MRI scan to study which brain areas and functions are involved in different mental abilities. Participants are both adolescents and their parents and each participant returns two years later to assess changes and development. The research being conducted is relevant to understanding how thinking, mental health, and brain functioning are related with the potential to inform future programs aimed at the prevention of mental illness.

Development of Neural Systems Supporting Executive Function

  • Student Recipient: Rebecca Helmuth, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Marie Banich
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project studies adolescent brain development and how that relates to thinking and mood. Participants complete behavioral tasks as well as an MRI scan to study which brain areas and functions are involved in different mental abilities. Participants are both adolescents and their parents and each participant returns two years later to assess changes and development. The research being conducted is relevant to understanding how thinking, mental health, and brain functioning are related with the potential to inform future programs aimed at the prevention of mental illness.

 

Adolescent GABA Brain and Mood Study

  • Student Recipient: Max Povejsil, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Marie Banich
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This study selects from a group of adolescents and their parents, some of whom have or are at risk of developing mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. We are investigating the neurotransmitter concentrations of glutamate and GABA in certain regions of the brain using neuroimaging, and how these concentrations compare to current behavior and mood. Mood disorders usually have their start during adolescents, and continue to affect them throughout adulthood, where they remain prevalent. Finding out the relationship between neurotransmitters, brain regions, and behavior could help in developing treatments and better understanding of disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Model of Autism and Epilepsy using Maternal Chronic Stress

  • Student Recipient: Taylor Crist, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Dan Barth
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The research lab is a neuroscience lab working to understand the underlying mechanisms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and its confounding comorbity with Epilepsy in a rat model. The lab is studying the effects of environmental risk factors and inflammatory teratogens on ASD and Epileptic Seizures particularly related to maternal care and stress. 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy and today nothing resembling a cure exists for these disorders. Any advances in this field are likely to positively impact thousands of lives because epilepsy is more prevalent than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s combined.

Multisensory Deficits in Autism and Epilepsy

  • Student Recipient: Douglas Dexter, Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Dan Barth
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The Autism/Epilepsy project has three aims: determine levels of specific protein levels in the brain in order to potentially observe higher neuro-inflammation in rats who experienced maternal stress and postnatal terbutaline, establish an optimal time window for MN-166 administration to suppress the inflammation potentially underlying the condition, and time the start and duration of administration to prevent epileptogenesis and ASD like behaviors. My project aims to confirm multisensory integration deficits typically present in autism for the current model. The project's primary benefit is enhancing our understanding of inflammation leading to autism/epilepsy, a primary goal of the project’s benefactor.

 

Traumatic Brain Injury and Epilepsy

  • Student Recipient: Allison Bernier, Integrative Physiology / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Daniel Barth
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The project I will be working on with my mentor is attempting to find predictive biomarkers of epilepsy risk following traumatic brain injury (TBI). The purpose of this research is to be able to better treat patients, such as soldiers, following brain injury. We will perform in-vivo electrophysiology on rats with induced TBI, measuring EEG and behavioral changes as epilepsy develops. We will compare this to healthy, control rats to try to find significance between the results. If we can find this predictive biomarker we could significantly enhance the treatment of TBI and better mitigate the effects of it.

Neurobiology of Drug Addiction

  • Student Recipient: Catherine Levy, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Kyle Brown
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to elucidate neuroadaptations in the brain’s reward circuitry that underlie cycles of chronic drug abuse. I am involved in a project that examines the role of neuroinflammatory signaling in a rodent model of cocaine addiction. Drug abuse disorders are incredibly destructive to the user and pose great economic costs to society, however the neural mechanisms leading to this loss of behavioral control are largely unknown. By advancing our mechanistic knowledge of addiction, we can develop targeted pharmacological intervention for drug abuse disorders that will benefit society at large.

Project FORCE: Fitness, Older Adults, and Resting State Connectivity Enhancement

  • Student Recipient: Nitin Beri, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Angela Bryan
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Project FORCE is an NIH-funded study that examines the physiological, psychological, and neurological effects of aerobic activity on sedentary, older adults. The objective of FORCE is to test the hypothesis that aerobic exercise will enhance social, emotional and economic functioning in older adults via improvements in brain functioning. Participants complete several research assessments before and after a sixteen-week supervised exercise program. By analyzing brain activity, genetic information, several blood markers, cognitive tests, and psychological measures, the investigators aim to understand the various positive effects that exercise may potentially have on human health, risk behavior, and general wellbeing.

Impact of Moderate-Intensity Interval Training on Peripheral Cytokines and Mental Health in Older Adults

  • Student Recipient: Benjamin Morris, Neuroscience / Computer Science
  • Faculty Mentor: Angela Bryan
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Through this study, I aim to untangle the relationship between exercise and mental health in older adults and examine the differences in pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines between sedentary younger adults and older adults pre- and post-exercise intervention. The larger project within which mine is embedded aims to examine healthy brain aging as measured by changes in executive function and resting state connectivity as a function of exercise. As the United States' population continues to age, research addressing the unique physiological and psychiatric issues related to older populations becomes increasingly relevant to employers, family members, and elderly individuals.

Determination of anxiolytic and anxiogenic circuits of the extended amygdala

  • Student Recipient: Colton Paterson, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Serge Campeau
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The main objective of this project is to tease apart the cell populations within the extended amygdala region of the brain that regulate anxiety-related responses. This region has been associated with anxiety for many years, yet a number of recent studies indicate this brain region also contains cells that actively reduce anxiety. The major goal of the proposed project will employ a variety of functional-anatomical techniques to specify these independent, but overlapping, cell populations within the extended amygdala, and test their contribution in reducing, or facilitating, responses that are symptomatically related to anxiety-like responses. The project will hopefully be published.

Context effects and vocabulary development in toddlers.

  • Student Recipient: Leah Galvez Valencia, Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Eliana Colunga
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to determine if different learning contexts have an impact on a toddler’s (18 to 24 month-olds) vocabulary development, specifically, how they learn, retain, and generalize new vocabulary. Vocabulary acquisition is a crucial part of a toddler’s early cognitive development. Vocabulary is what structures our language and allows us to communicate effectively — finding which context better suits toddler’s vocabulary development will prepare them for better future social interactions.

Measuring the impact of Informal CS education on Computational Thinking

  • Student Recipient: Maria Vargas, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Eliana Colunga
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project will measure the impact of informal computer science (CS) education on elementary school children’s computational thinking (CT) abilities over a long period of time. CT abilities are becoming more sought after in the workplace. In this project, we will work with After School programs to evaluate CT on children over four months. At a larger scope, this project would benefit children’s CT in general by helping us understand which sort of informal activities best support its development. If CS education proves to be beneficial in the long-term, it can be implemented into schools existing curriculums.

Measuring the effect of informal computer science education on problem-solving abilities.

  • Student Recipient: Maria Vargas, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Eliana Colunga
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: This project seeks to observe the impact of informal computer science training for children on the development of problem-solving abilities. This study is part of an already existing study, which seeks to analyze the impact of informal computer science training on computational thinking. Computer science education (CSEd) has been increasingly incorporated in k-12 education, both because digital skills are becoming necessary in the workplace, and because of the idea that CSEd can impact other aspects of cognitive development. Understanding the characteristics of effective CSEd on problem-solving abilities can inform the implementation of this type of education across schools.

Race Classification Based on Visual Information

  • Student Recipient: Megumi Yoda, Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Joshua Correll
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to understand the relationship of race classification and visual information on face categorization. Moreover, this project will help understand the types of visual information people depend on, when they classify the racial identity of a face.

C-Fos Expression in Behaviorally Distinct Vole Species following Pair-Bonded Mate Reunion

  • Student Recipient: Xander Bradeen, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this lab is to determine if subsequent mating partner interaction is different between monogamous prairie voles and promiscuous meadow voles. Prior studies show that a subset of neurons become active during mating as determined by c-fos gene expression, a well validated proxy for neuronal activity. This experiment will ask if the neurons initially active during mating are re-activated when the mating partner is returned to a pair-bonded prairie vole. Meadow voles will be tested as well to see if c-fos ¬expression is different for non-paired reunion. This study provides the foundation for the neurobiology behind social interaction.

 

The Role of Dopamine Signaling in the Nucleus Accumbens for the Maintenance of Social Bonds

  • Student Recipient: Melina Lim, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Humans are a social species and form long term bonds with friends, family, and romantic partners. As of now, research has primarily focused on the necessary chemical signaling occurring during the formation of these bonds through experiments using monogamous prairie voles. However, the brain mechanisms underlying the preservation of these bonds remain unknown. The purpose of my project is to determine the role of dopamine signaling in the nucleus accumbens for the preservation bonding behaviors in existing pair bonds. Analyzing these bonds may lead to a deeper understanding of our own complex social behaviors.

 

Determining whether neurons targeted by dopamine during mating are necessary to sustain pair-bonds

  • Student Recipient: Mikilin Pearson, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: There is much we do not know about the neurobiological mechanisms driving the social bonds vital to the comprehensive wellness of social animals. My project aims to visualize the neurons receiving the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens during social behaviors and determine their role in the formation and maintenance of social bonds in the monogamous prairie vole species (Microtus ochrogaster). Using an innovatory tool known as iTango2, I will view the neurons receiving dopamine during bonding behavior and gain insight as to whether repeated targeting of specific neurons is necessary for the formation and maintenance of social bonds.

 

Investigating pattern of neuronal activity linked to maternal and paternal behavior

  • Student Recipient: Magdalena Woroniecka, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Zoe Donaldson
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Prairie Voles, unlike most mammals, are monogamous and they can be used to understand pair bonding. An essential feature of pair bonding is robust paternal behavior which is not well understood from a neurobiological perspective. My project is investigating whether paternal interactions with their pups engage the brain the same way as maternal behavior.

Adaptive Vocabulary for Bilingual Toddlers

  • Student Recipient: Fatima Tensun, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Ellis
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The goal of this project is to extend the summer project. The summer project tests the effectiveness of teaching vocabulary to toddlers using an interactive app. The project consists of using adaptive software individually tailored for children 3 years of age and under and measuring its effect on their vocabulary growth. For this academic year, this project will be extended to children who are learning a language other than English at home, specifically, we will work with families whose native language is Spanish. This project will benefit children who are learning their native language to improve their vocabulary in English.

Stress and Microglia

  • Student Recipient: Mikayleigh Pearson, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Matt Frank
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The current project will examine the role of caspase-1 in the neuroinflammatory priming effects of stress. This objective is apart of an NIH funded project investigating the role of glucocorticoids in these stress effects. Stress exposure induces caspase-1 activity in the brain, which mediates the release of proteins that underpin neuroinflammatory priming. Microglial cells are key to neuroinflammatory priming, however, it is unknown if microglia cells are the source of caspase-1. The aim of the project is to extract microglial cells after stress exposure and measure levels of microglial caspase-1. This research will help understand how microglia influence neuroimmune responses.

 

Dark side of college mental health? Associations between reward sensitivity with psychopathy in emerging adults during the transition to college

  • Student Recipient: Montana Ploe, Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: June Gruber
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will examine associations between psychopathy tendencies with reward sensitivity and temporal discounting in at-risk young adults. This will be embedded within a project in my PI’s laboratory to examine factors that predict emotional-wellbeing and college adjustment. The first aim of my project will examine associations between psychopathy with reward sensitivity and temporal discounting. The second aim will examine whether reward sensitivity mediates the relationship between psychopathy and poorer social support during college. This will contribute to better understanding mental health difficulties and social functioning during college.

 

Research on Affective Disorders and Development Lab

  • Student Recipient: Jamie Finegan, Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Roselinde Kaiser
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The RADDLab strives to study and understand neurocognitive dysfunction in depression, which includes abnormalities in the structure, molecular signaling, and coordinated activity of brain networks that are involved in regulation and learning. We look at neurocognitive risk markers to predict the onset and course of depression and bipolar disorders in adolescents and young adults. This research study is a longitudinal study that extends over a two year period with each of our participants, and will not be presented for at least a few years.

 

Syntax-Semantics Interaction During Sentence Comprehension: An Individual Differences Approach Part 1 and 2

  • Student Recipient: Shawn D'Souza, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Albert Kim
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Language and reading are complex tasks, yet we are able to do it almost effortlessly. Progress has been made to analyze the general brain response to different reading tasks and anomalies. The project my mentor will be taking on is looking at the source of individual differences in brain response in regards to reading comprehension. We will be analyzing properties such as orthographic knowledge, reading speed, working memory, and reading frequency, to name a few, to understand which factors contribute to differences in reading comprehension of syntactic or semantic anomalies.

Syntax-Semantics Interaction During Sentence Comprehension: An Individual Differences Approach Part 1 and 2

  • Student Recipient: Shawn D'Souza, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Albert Kim
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Language and reading are complex tasks, yet we are able to do it almost effortlessly. Progress has been made to analyze the general brain response to different reading tasks and anomalies. The project my mentor will be taking on is looking at the source of individual differences in brain response in regards to reading comprehension. We will be analyzing properties such as orthographic knowledge, reading speed, working memory, and reading frequency, to name a few, to understand which factors contribute to differences in reading comprehension of syntactic or semantic anomalies.

Specified Glutamate Neurons Involved in Reward and Aversion

  • Student Recipient: Katelynn Fegan, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: David Root
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of my project is to identify the specific genetically-defined types of VTA neurons that signal aversion or reward. Drugs of abuse have both rewarding and aversive effects, and these are causal to their addictive nature. I am driven to identify the possible causes of drug addiction and believe that by identifying the specific neurons controlling reward and aversion, we will gain unique insight into the neuronal control of addiction. This is the foundation for a larger project where after identifying the natural stimuli that drive genetically-defined VTA neurons, we will identify how abused drugs alter these same neurons.

 

Neuronal basis of prescription opioid addiction

  • Student Recipient: Soo Lee, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: David Root
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The United States in the midst of a prescription opioid epidemic. Unlike other addictions, our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying opioid addiction is poorly understood. While it is known that opioid self-administration requires activation of the mu-opioid receptor within the ventral tegmental area (VTA), it is unclear which different type of VTA neurons is necessary for opioid self-administration. I propose to identify which specific types of VTA neurons are necessary for the self-administration of the most abused prescription opioid, oxycodone. The identification of these neurons will inform the development of new cellular targets against opioid addiction.

Cellular Dissections of Food Intake

  • Student Recipient: Kyu Ro, Neuroscience / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: David Root
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is considered the brain’s “reward center” because of its increased neuronal activity in response to food, money, romantic partners, and drugs. However, the VTA is a cellularly diverse structure and it is unclear which specific types of VTA neurons are activated by different types of rewarding stimuli. The goal of my research is to identify which VTA neurons are activated by different types of consummatory rewards – sugar, fatty, and starchy. These foods are overconsumed in obese individuals and which VTA neurons signal different consummatory rewards may lead to development of cellularly targeted anti-obesity treatments.

 

Cellular Dissections of Food Intake

  • Student Recipient: Kyu Ro, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: David Root
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is considered the brain’s “reward center” because of its increased neuronal activity in response to food, money, romantic partners, and drugs. However, the VTA is a cellularly diverse structure and it is unclear which specific types of VTA neurons are activated by different types of rewarding stimuli. ChR2 will be used to modulate the effects of these neurons and whether they play a role in reward and aversion. Following completion, the research is expected to be presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in 2019.

 

Effects of Stress on Cocaine Intake and Relapse

  • Student Recipient: Alexandra Montgomery, Neuroscience / Integrative Physiology
  • Faculty Mentor: Michael Saddoris
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Stress acts as a potent trigger of intense drug cravings and can often drive relapse, even for individuals who have long been abstinent. Drug-taking often serves as a means of actively coping with the negative effects of stress. The proposed project will explore how different forms of stress alter drug seeking behaviors at two points within the addiction cycle. First, we will assess whether rats exposed to uncontrollable stress will increase drug taking as an active coping mechanism. Second, we will determine whether having behavioral control over a stressor may protect against later stress-induced cocaine cravings and relapse.

 

The role of nucleus accumbens dopamine in learning and how it is modulated by glutamatergic input from the basolateral amygdala

  • Student Recipient: Jessica Rea, Neuroscience / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Michael Saddoris
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: My project examines the contributions of dopamine signaling from the ventral tegmental area into the nucleus accumbens during reward related learning and how these signals are modulated by glutamatergic inputs from the basolateral amygdala during self-stimulation. Overall, the focus of my lab is studying neural circuits involved with learning, especially relating to emotional states like reward and stress. We are also interested in how these processes are impacted by the long-term effects of chronic cocaine abuse. Optogenetics is utilized to selectively manipulate reward circuitry in an attempt to restore the impaired learning in rats with a history of cocaine abuse.

Identifying Neural Pathways Underlying Stress Controllability and Addiction

  • Student Recipient: Alexandra Montgomery, Integrative Physiology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Mike Saddoris
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Addiction is a chronic disorder characterized by cycles of drug bingeing, abstinence, and relapse. Individuals often feel powerless against intense drug cravings, particularly in the face of salient triggers, including stress. The lab is examining whether control over a stressor endows an animal with resilience against drug craving. While some rats can rotate a wheel in order to terminate a tail-shock (“escapable shock”, ES), another rat receives that same shock without any control (“inescapable shock”, IS). Additionally, we are interested in whether stressor controllability in the ES group protects an animal against neural adaptations that accompany chronic self-administration of cocaine.

Developing a Per1 hnRNA riboprobe to track circadian clock gene expression in male rats after various stress-related manipulations

  • Student Recipient: Neely Droeger, Neuroscience / Psychology
  • Faculty Mentor: Robert Spencer
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Individuals suffering from various mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression show disruptions in brain-mediated circadian rhythms and glucocorticoid hormone (CORT) signaling. CORT is a hormone that serves to coordinate circadian rhythms throughout the body but that is also released during stress. We study the effects of stress-induced CORT on circadian function in various brain regions. My project creates a more direct method of analyzing gene expression to examine CORT effects on the expression of the clock gene Per1 by developing a hnRNA probe. Our work could potentially provide treatment strategies for these mental disorders.

Chariterization of the PVT as a relay of circadian information between the SCN and PFC

  • Student Recipient: Luke Millisor, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Robert Spencer
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The specific goal is to identify the role of the Paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) in the communication of Circadian timing information from the SCN, or master clock of the brain, to the medial prefrontal cortex. The Lab has characterized the hormonal connections between the SCN and mPFC via the HPA axis. In doing so, strong evidence for the existence of a neuronal connection was found. If this proposed connection is confirmed it would further the understanding of how cortical brain regions receive circadian information to the benefit of the lab and others in the field.

Inhibition of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Neurons by Utilizing an Intersectional DREADD Approach Involving Retrograde Intergeniculate Leaflet Projections

  • Student Recipient: Shaan Sharma, Neuroscience / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Robert Spencer
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Circadian rhythm disruption is a common symptom of affective disorders, and is increasingly under investigation as a pathogenic factor. The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) is the “pacemaker” of circadian cycles that synchronizes physiological functions to the 24-hour day. Given sparse synaptic connections beyond local nuclei, and the ability of transplanted SCN tissue to synchronize in absence of synaptic connections, it is unclear how the SCN communicates timing information to other brain regions. To investigate this question, it is necessary to take the SCN offline and interrogate the ability of proposed extra-SCN communication systems to restore extra-SCN circadian rhythms in its absence.

The role of plant physiological thresholds and resource use strategies in riparian ecosystem recovery in Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Student Recipient: George Roberts, Neuroscience / Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Katharine Suding
  • Grant Information: 2019-20 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project aims to determine how long-term changes in hydrology impact riparian plant communities in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) by classifying plant water use strategies, namely xylem vulnerability to embolism, and in situ plant water potential. The decline in beaver populations and increase in moose and elk browsing has shifted plant species abundance and distributions in RMNP riparian systems, but little research has been done to directly quantify the impact of hydrologic changes to these ecosystems. By providing novel assessments of species water limitations, a framework is set up to work towards restoring riparian ecosystems to their historical conditions.

Effects of oxytocin administration on social influence effects on pain

  • Student Recipient: Nicolas Harting, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Tor Wager
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The objective of the proposed research is to gain a greater understanding of the specific neurobiological and psychological mechanisms underlying placebo analgesia. There will be pharmacological manipulations of the Oxytocin neurobiological system as part of this experiment, which will explore the effects of social information/support, associative learning, and intranasal-administered Oxytocin on the development of placebo analgesia. Oxytocin’s explicit role in analgesia has not been previously explored. The proposed experiment will clarify roles of the Oxytocin system in social facilitation of analgesia and development of placebo effects. The larger Neuroscientific community will benefit from the anticipated knowledge obtained.

 

Recovery from SCI through miR-155 inhibition

  • Student Recipient: Emily Bateman, Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Approximately 17,000 cases of spinal cord injuries (SCI) arise within the U.S. each year. These injuries often leave patients with motor impairments and chronic pain. My project will focus on microRNA-155, which boosts the proinflammatory response of macrophages, creating further damage to the tissue. We will use bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDM) and mice to explore the effects of miR-155 inhibitor on neuroinflammation. Additionally, my project will use miR-155 inhibitor in mice to examine neuroinflammation and post-SCI pain in vivo. We hypothesize that miR-155 inhibitor will prevent the inflammatory response of macrophages and lessen post injury pain.

 

Reduction of Chronic Pain via Voluntary Wheel Running in Rats

  • Student Recipient: Tamar Hedeshian, Neuroscience / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this experiment is to understand the cellular mechanism of exercise mediating chronic neuropathic pain. The research team predicts that voluntary wheel running prior to injury prevents inflammatory factors that cause neuropathic pain. The objective is to understand what physiological changes from prior physical activity will cause substantial disease-modifying effects on early symptoms of nerve trauma. The physical activity should suppress the expression of damage-enhancing factors and increase injury recovery time, thus resulting in long term neuropathic pain reduction. This reduces the presence of chronic pain and use of opioids as treatment, and introduces a method of prevention.

Opioid Effect on Chronic Neuropathic Pain Duration

  • Student Recipient: Tamar Hedeshian, Neuroscience / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: This project is based on the discovery that opioids administered early in the post-trauma period, upon initial expression of neuropathic pain, enhance the magnitude and duration of chronic pain. The objective is to explore various opioids and their corresponding antagonists effect on the duration of pain. The overall goal is to decrease the duration of pain and likelihood of developing an opioid dependency. Virtually all trauma patients, from front-line soldiers to veterans, receive opioids as their first treatment. This can lengthen the return to duty time-frame for soldiers as well as lengthen the recovery period for chronic pain patients.

Impacts of Hymenolepis diminuta and Voluntary Wheel Running on Chronic Pain

  • Student Recipient: Haley Lippman, Biochemistry / Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to determine whether the molecular signals of inflammation that are caused by chronic pain can be alleviated using a helminth worm therapy in combination with increased exercise before an injury. Helminths have been shown to modulate the immune response in several models of inflammation and autoimmune dysregulation. We plan to investigate if these therapeutic effects extend to chronic pain. This project is embedded in a project that is researching the effects of voluntary wheel running on chronic pain. Over a third of Americans suffer from chronic pain, so these results could have clinical applications.

 

The role of Mycobacterium Vaccae in the prevention and treatment of experienced neuropathic pain

  • Student Recipient: Nathan Plattner, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The literature regarding Mycobacterium Vacae's (M. Vaccae) role in anti-inflammatory processes is currently scarce. This project hopes to take what few researchers have studied about M. Vaccae and apply it to the dilemma of chronic neuropathic pain. This research hopes to expand the knowledge we currently have about how the immune system functions to facilitate and control chronic neuropathic pain, specifically through M. Vaccae's aid. Not only is this area of research understudied, but more specifically what this project hopes to accomplish is aiding in finding routes for prevention and treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.

The role of Mycobacterium Vaccae in the prevention and treatment of experienced neuropathic pain

  • Student Recipient: Nathan Plattner, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology / Biochemistry
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Watkins
  • Grant Information: 2017-18 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The literature regarding Mycobacterium Vacae's (M. Vaccae) role in anti-inflammatory processes is currently scarce. This project hopes to take what few researchers have studied about M. Vaccae and apply it to the dilemma of chronic neuropathic pain. This research hopes to expand the knowledge we currently have about how the immune system functions to facilitate and control chronic neuropathic pain, specifically through M. Vaccae's aid. Not only is this area of research understudied, but more specifically what this project hopes to accomplish is aiding in finding routes for prevention and treatment of chronic neuropathic pain.

 

Project Title: Executive functioning difficulties as a transdiagnostic risk factor for mood disturbance in emerging adulthood.

  • Student Recipient: Heather Brown, Psychology / Neuroscience
  • Faculty Mentor: June Gruber
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will use a large survey-based dataset collected during the AY 2018-2019 to investigate associations between a well-validated measure of executive functioning and self-reported emotion regulation difficulties among first year Freshman students transitioning to college. This study will examine whether deficits in executive functioning are associated with mood symptom difficulties cross-sectionally and longitudinally (Aim 1) and whether this association mediates the relationship between mood pathology and academic performance difficulties (Aim 2). This project is embedded in the larger project examining college adjustment, emotion regulation, and decision making. This will contribute to better understanding of mental health difficulties in college.

Lateralization and Handedness

  • Student Recipient: Chloe Tucker, Psychology / Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Lewis Harvey
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The sides of the body are controlled contralaterally in the brain-- the left side of the body is controlled by the right side of the brain, and vice versa. However, this principle may not be so immutable. The purpose of this experiment is to determine whether contralateral processing is still dominant to ipsilateral when the extremities cross the midline of the body. If the midline were crossed, would ipsilateral processing for that limb see an increase? The results of the experiment could have an impact on how scientists, and even medical professionals, view contralaterality and the plasticity of the cortex.

Hearing Loss and Hypertension

  • Student Recipient: Katherine Lemons, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Rachael Baiduc
  • Grant Information: 2019 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Hearing loss is a ubiquitous and debilitating disease. About 360 million people worldwide experience hearing loss, making up about 5.3% of the world’s population (WHO, 2012). Risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and tobacco smoking contribute to prevalent hearing loss. My project will focus specifically on hearing outcomes in adults with normal and elevated blood pressure (i.e., above and below > 120/80 mm Hg respectively). My project has major clinical applications- knowledge about hypertension’s link to hearing loss allows clinicians to screen their hypertensive patients for hearing loss earlier and prevent further hearing damage.

 

Music Perception in Simulations of Cochlear Implant Listening

  • Student Recipient: Elizabeth McNichols, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Kathryn Arehart
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: Cochlear implants (CI) are prosthetics that are surgically implanted into the inner ear. CI’s consist of a microphone, signal processor, and electrodes. Sound signals are picked up by the microphone and processed digitally in a way that mimics what the cochlea does. Finally, the electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve. While CI recipients have good speech perception in quiet situations, music perception is still generally poor. Current research is examining how the sound processor can be programmed in order to improve music perception.

 

Development of a pediatric monosyllabic word test

  • Student Recipient: Christopher Hanson, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Angela Bonino
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Assistantship
  • Project Description: Currently, there is an absence of testing instruments that are suitable for appropriately assessing a child’s ability to recognize speech-in-speech. The goal for this project is to overcome this testing deficit and assist in the initial stages of development of a pediatric monosyllabic word recognition test that utilizes a two-talker, informational masking stimulus. This test has the potential to be utilized commercially in clinical and research settings. It will provide clinicians with a more realistic and accurate prediction of their client’s ability to listen in noise, ultimately leading to a more appropriate and personalized fitting and rehabilitation recommendations.

Processing speed of Dual Language Learners who are at Risk for Language Impairments

  • Student Recipient: Anna Miller, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Pui Fong Kan
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The goal of this proposed study is to examine the processing speed of dual language learners (DLL) who are at risk for language impairments. In this study, I will examine the processing speed of DLLs with language impairments in natural settings. The results will informative for making clinical decisions.

Speech and Language Screening in Preschool-Aged Children

  • Student Recipient: Emily Friedman, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Christina Meyers
  • Grant Information: 2018 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: I will be exploring different speech and language screening practices used among Speech-Language Pathologists that work with preschool-aged children. Currently, there is not a screening practice that is widely used and liked, so with my research, I hope to survey a variety of different Speech-Language Pathologists who partake in preschool-aged screenings, to find out common likes and dislikes with the current practices. I will conduct this research during the spring into the summer, with the goal of data analysis and a write up of the results at the beginning of this fall, defending this research as an Honors Thesis.

Organization of Discourse and Word Finding in Nonfluent Aphasia

  • Student Recipient: Bryn Griswold, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Gail Ramsberger
  • Grant Information: 2017 Summer, Individual Grant
  • Project Description: The objective of my project is to investigate the relationship between discourse organization and word finding skills, in an effort to better understand the underlying cause of discourse organization problems in nonfluent aphasia. Aphasia rehabilitation places great emphasis on improving language at the discourse level. In order to do this, therapists must first understand the underlying cause(s) of discourse impairments. My research will contribute to the body of literature that guides therapists in the design of interventions for individuals with nonfluent aphasia.

Single-Sided Deafness Project

  • Student Recipient: Lindsey Palumbo, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
  • Faculty Mentor: Anu Sharma
  • Grant Information: 2018-19 Academic Year, Assistantship
  • Project Description: The purpose of this project is to examine whether cochlear implantation in adults with single-sided deafness restores normal cortical function and improves behavioral outcomes using high-density 128-channel electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioral paradigms. Studies documenting the efficacy of cochlear implants in this population is very limited. Documentation of brain-based changes and evidence of residual plasticity in single-sided deafness may lead to higher intervention rates, provide incentive for future research, and may lead to the identification of clinical biomarkers useful in directing intervention and rehabilitation for clinical populations with single-sided deafness.