Student Profiles Archive - URTSP
Here you will find information about past and present students funded through scholarships administered by the Undergraduate Research Center - Sciences. We are proud of the achievements of our research scholars.
Please click on the program year to get information about the supported students, their mentors and their research projects.
| Mr. Michael Ma
Mr. Michael Ma
Mentor:Dr. Patricia Johnson and Alias Smith
Title: Characterization of Homologues of the Novel Transcription Factor IBP39 in
Michael Ma is a fourth year Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) and Marine Biology double major at UCLA. He is also a Life Science 1 tutor and ESCP tutor supervisor at the Academic Advancement Program (AAP) in Campbell Hall. Michael also enjoys swimming with the UCLA Masters Swim Team and participating in conferences with the UCLA Model United Nations club.
Under the direction of Alias Smith in Dr. Patricia Johnson's lab, Michael will be searching for homologues to the Initiator Binding Protein 39 (IBP39), a novel transcription factor, in Trichomonas vaginalis—a deep-branching eukaryotic parasite that is the cause of a sexually transmitted infection. IBP39 is a transcription factor that binds the initiator element (Inr), a core promoter element, and initiates transcription of genes that do not have the classical TATA box core promoter. BLAST searches have identified six IBP39 homologues, all of which have most of the residues predicted to bind the Inr. In order to determine whether these homologues are actually expressed, Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) will be conducted using gene-specific primer sets. If a particular homologue is indeed expressed, it will be cloned into bacterial expression vector. Once the IBP homologue proteins have been overexpressed, the protein will then be isolated using various purification schemes, including chromatography. After the isolation of the IBP proteins, binding to various promoter elements, including the classical INR and other INRs will be tested. Protein-protein interactions involving the IBP homologue carboxy-terminus will be examined by using Tandom-affinity purification and further analyzed by examining binding kinetics of the protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions.
At the Academic Advancement Program, Michael thoroughly enjoys tutoring students in Life Science 1. Due of the breadth and scope of the LS1 curriculum, he feels that this is one the most interesting courses offered at UCLA; major trends and themes in ecology and evolution are explored and examined critically. He says tutoring at AAP has been a lot of fun for him because the students he works with are extremely bright and excited to learn about science.
Finally, Michael would like to wholeheartedly thank Dr. Patricia Johnson and Alias Smith for welcoming him into their lab and for sparking his interest in Trichomonas vaginalis in their very comprehensive and eye-opening Molecular Parasitology (MIMG 168) course. He is also extremely grateful to Emmanuel Owaka and the Academic Advancement Program for giving him the opportunity to teach students what he has learned during his past four years at UCLA and, of course, the Life Science 1 material that he loves so very much. He would also like to express his gratitude to the Ricciardi Foundation, Dr. Audrey Cramer, and the College for enabling him to both conduct research and teach science, which has been a very unique and rewarding experience.
| Ms. Ni Feng
Ms. Ni Feng
Mentor: Dr. Barney Schlinger
Funding: Rose Hills Scholar
Title: A comparison of 5 alpha-, and 5 beta- reductase activities in the wing muscles of male and female Golden-collared Manakins (manacus vitellinus)
Ni Feng is a fourth year Biology major and Art History minor at UCLA. She is working under the mentorship of Dr. Barney Schlinger in the Physiological Sciences Department to investigate the role of sex steroid hormones on avian courtship behavior. In particular, she is interested in studying the Golden-collared Manakin (manacus vitellinus), a tropical bird found in the rainforests of Panama. To attract females, male Manakins perform a visually and acoustically stimulating courtship display that involves loud snapping sounds created by the forceful contraction of their wings. It has previously been shown that the neuromuscular system controlling this complex behavior is sexually dimorphic and sex steroid-sensitive. The Schlinger lab has also shown that in male Manakins, the three muscles controlling the wings, the scapulohumeralis caudalis, the supracoracoideus, and the pectoralis, exhibit morphological adaptations for rapid and forceful contractions. The motorneurons that innervate these muscles have shown to express androgen receptors, suggesting that the neuromuscular system controlling the display is androgen sensitive.
Thus, it is Ni's interest to further investigate the role of testosterone (T) and its metabolites in stimulating the manakin display. For T to have its full effects on endocrine target tissues it is converted to one or more of its metabolites. In the androgen pathway, T is converted to 5 α- and/or 5 β-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by the enzymes 5 α- and 5 β- reductase. For her project, Ni will be quantifying the activities of T-metabolizing enzymes 5 α- and 5 β- reductases in the above mentioned muscles of male and female manakins via biochemistry assays. She will also measure the activities of these enzymes in the zebra finch (Taenopygia guttata), a non-snapping bird, to look for differences across species as well as sex.
Ni would like to sincerely thank Dr. Schlinger for being such a great mentor and the Rose Hills Foundation for supporting her project. Ni also thoroughly enjoys tutoring AAP students and she would like to thank URC/CARE and Dr. Cramer for giving her this wonderful opportunity.
| Ms. Emily Foote
Ms. Emily Foote
Mentor: Dr. William Newman
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Cellular automata models for large earthquakes, forest fires, and models of conflict
Emily Foote is a senior in the Earth and Space science department and is in the College Honors Program. She tutors ESS 1 at the Academic Advancement Program (AAP) in Campbell Hall. After she receives her B.S. in Geology from UCLA this spring, she plans to continue her studies in Geology/Geophysics at a PhD granting institution. Emily is interested in studying the physics of earthquakes. Understanding earthquakes can lessen the catastrophic results of events such as the 2004 Sumatra Event and the 1906 San Francisco “big one.” Specifically, she is interested in looking at tectonic events that occur in California as a result of failures along the San Andreas Fault and modeling their statistical distribution by employing cellular automata models. She has been working with Dr. William I. Newman on this and related projects since the spring of 2005.
Professor Newman developed a new computational algorithm that makes it possible to perform large numbers of Monte Carlo simulations, often hundreds to thousands of times faster than previous researchers were able to perform them. Dr. Newman and Emily have written code both in FORTRAN and in C for this purpose. The output from these simulations will allow us to obtain more reliable statistics than can be obtained presently from the limited number of observed Southern California earthquakes and other model simulations. Technically, their model is associated with percolation theory in physics and has been adapted to the field of geophysics because it can simulate real large-scale events and the recurrence times between them. Percolation theory is a mathematical model that describes how patterns evolve in time and emerge over a region. Their model employs a square array of sites that randomly receive stress associated with tectonic activity. When 59.725% of the sites are stressed, a pattern emerges where the stressed region is contiguous and extends from one boundary of the system to another. This is called percolation. When applied to earthquakes, percolation corresponds to the rupture of a fault, which causes the earthquake. A cluster is a region with substantial stress. Professor Newman and Emily are also looking at cluster behavior and the change in cluster size over time. They increased the size of the two-dimensional lattice array to be able to capture more accurately the underlying statistics and its uncertainty.
Emily would like to thank Dr. Newman for allowing her to participate in this research project and for his continual support and encouragement for the last two years. She would also like to thank Mr. & Mrs. Lew Wasserman for their generous scholarship, Dr. Audrey Cramer and the Undergraduate Research Center for giving me this great opportunity.
| Ms. Anita Grover
Mr. Anita Grover
Mentor: Dr. Joseph DiStefano III
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Modeling Insulin Regulation of Glucose Transporter 4
Anita Grover is a senior Computational & Systems Biology major and Mathematics minor, graduating in Spring 2007. Her research interests lie primarily in mathematical modeling and simulation of human systems, particularly in areas relating to disease states. Anita has also been tutoring Chemistry 20A through the Academic Advancement Program since Fall 2005.
She began researching with Dr. Joseph DiStefano III through his Cybernetics 186L lab course in Spring 2006, and is continuing her project through graduation. In line with her interests, her current research involves modeling glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), a receptor protein and glucose channel on the cell membrane of fat and muscle cells. Irregularities in this protein function have been implicated in type II, or late-onset, diabetes. When one of these cells senses insulin in the healthy patient, the concentration of GLUT4 at the cell membrane increases dramatically, thus increasing the amount of glucose in the cell. However, in diseased patients, the GLUT4 protein might display abnormal dynamic properties: for example, it might not arrive at the cell membrane from the inside of the cell quickly enough. Studying this receptor is a relatively new area of research pertaining to diabetes, as traditionally, only insulin sensitivity was studied. By understanding how this protein functions in the normal cell, irregularities in diseased patients will soon become much easier to detect.
Anita is currently applying to Ph.D. schools across the country to programs ranging from Pharmaceutical Sciences to Biomedical Engineering. She plans, upon finishing her Ph.D., to work in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry.
| Mr. Anuj Khattar
Mr. Anuj Khattar
Mentor: Dr. Steve Jacobsen and Dr. Lianna Johnson
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Characterization of Methyltransferase proteins containing SRA domains in Arabidopsis
Anuj Khattar is a 4th year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major and Public Health minor. He is involved in activities such as the UCLA Mobile Clinic, Healthcare Without Borders, UCLA Badminton Team, and he has worked as a LS4 (Introductory Genetics) tutor for the Academic Advancement Program since Fall 2005.
Under the direction of Dr. Lianna Johnson in Dr. Steve Jacobsen's laboratory, Anuj will be purifying and characterizing methyl-DNA binding proteins thought to be involved as a cross-linker between DNA and histone methylation. These proteins are involved in epigenetic regulation, which are changes in gene expression that are not caused by changes in DNA sequence. Methyl Binding Domain (MBD) proteins in mammals are responsible for reading methylated DNA patterns and have been discovered to be associated with proteins that are important in transcriptional repression and/or heterochromatin formation by histone methylation. Homologues of histone methyltransferases in Arabidopsis are thought to contain a methyl binding domain and do not require the initial DNA binding protein to methylate histones.
Techniques such as Polymerase Chain Reaction, bacterial transformation, minipreps, and protein purification are used to produce and isolate the Arabidopsis SUVH methyltransferase proteins thought to be involved in this process of epigenetic regulation.
After isolation of the proteins, characterization will be done by a technique called Gel Shifts to observe which type of DNA residues each protein has specificity to and whether or not the proteins bind to methylated DNA.
| Mr. Sean Tsao
Mr. Sean Tsao
Mentor: Dr. Yi Eve Sun
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Dynamic Covalent Exchange and Selection of Interlocked Molecules
Sean Tsao is a fourth-year Neuroscience major and Public Policy minor at UCLA. He also is a tutor of Life Science 4 at the Advanced Academic Placement Program in the Math Science lab. Sean devotes the rest of his time towards the pre-health professional honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta, where he currently serves as president.
Sean works under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Volkan Coskun in the laboratory of Dr. Yi Eve Sun, Department of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology. Sean's project will characterize the role of the subventricular CD133+ neural stem cell in brain cancer. According to the cancer stem cell hypothesis, only a small population of cancerous cells contributes to the growth and maintenance of a tumor. This subpopulation is composed of cancer stem cells, which probably derive from mutated or dysfunctional multipotent stem cells. Several studies have implicated that CD133+ cells are tumorgenic in brain cancers, implicating the CD133+ neural stem cell as a potential cancer stem cell.
Sean and Dr. Coskun have been studying and establishing the CD133+ ependymal cell as a neural stem cell in the subventricular zone (SVZ). These CD133+ neural stem cells divide throughout adult life and their progeny migrate to the olfactory bulb where they mature and integrate into the neural circuitry. The idea behind the cancer stem cell hypothesis is that these normally functional neural stem cells become mutated and dysregulated, dividing out of control and becoming a tumor. To study the CD133 neural stem cell and its potential role as a cancer stem cell, Sean will create several lines of transgenic mice that lack tumor suppressor genes and overexpress tumorgenic genes. Specifically, these mice will created by crossing a CD133-Cre/GFP line with a PTEN lox-Kras stop/lox transgenic line. The resulting transgenic mouse will conditionally delete tumor suppressor gene PTEN while allowing constitutive expression of oncogene Kras in CD133+ cells. Thus, only CD133+ cells will be tumorgenic, allowing immunohistochemical analysis of the resulting tumor. The results of this study will be useful in developing future therapeutic strategies for addressing cancers. Targeted destruction of cancer stem cells may prove more effective than indiscriminate destruction of the tumors.
Sean enters his second year of tutoring LS 4 at the Advanced Academic Placement Program in Campbell Hall. He enjoys LS 4 for the challenge of tutoring an intriguing subject with many modern day applications. It is an added pleasure to tutor LS 4 for its relevance to the neurogenetic techniques employed in Sean's lab. Finally, Sean is privileged to work with the best and brightest Life Science students who end up teaching him a lot more than he teaches them!
Sean is very thankful for the opportunities and experiences afforded to him by concurrently tutoring and performing research. He would like to thank Emmanuel Owaka, the Math Sciences lab coordinator, for allowing Sean the opportunity to teach and be taught at the Advanced Academic Placement program. Sean would like to extend his heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Dr. Volkan Coskun and Dr. Yi Eve Sun for their mentorship and guidance – and most of all for inculcating his deep interest in research. Finally, Sean would like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer, the Undergraduate Research Center and the Wasserman Foundation for supporting his passion for teaching and science.
| Ms. Preethika Ekanayake
Ms. Preethika Ekanayake
Mentor: Dr. Barney Schlinger
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Sex differences in the activity levels of 17-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzyme type 4 in the Zebra Finch Brain
Preethika Ekanayake is a fourth year Neuroscience student at UCLA. When she moved to California eight years ago from Sri Lanka, she never dreamt about attending UCLA or working side by side with some of the greatest scientific minds in the nation. Since she had very little knowledge of the language, the transition was difficult at first. Nonetheless, she adapted, and succeeded in becoming the first person from her family to attain a college education. She is now on her third year of research at the Neuroendocrinology laboratory of Dr. Barney Schlinger.
Steroid hormones are fundamental modulators of sexual behavior and sexual differentiation of neural structures. The zebra finch song system is an excellent example of a sexual dimorphism that is determined by the actions of steroid hormones. Zebra finch males sing a previously learned song during courtship, whereas females do not sing. This dimorphism is expressed in the structures of the song system, including the nuclei responsible for learning and motor performance of song such as HVC and RA, with the nuclei in the male larger than the same nuclei in the female brain. It is known that the brain is capable of de novo steroidogenesis. Therefore, differences in mRNA expression levels and specific activity levels of enzymes that are responsible for the interconversion between different types of steroid hormones might explain the observed sexual dimorphism in the zebra finch brain and behavior. Preethika's project will look at one such ubiquitous class of enzymes.
The steroidogenic enzyme class of 17 b Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases (17 b-HSD) catalyzes the last key step in the steroidogenic pathway. The type four isozyme primarily carries out the oxidative reaction that converts 17 b-Estradiol (E2) to Estrone (E1). Preethika's project will examine the specific activity levels of this 17 b-HSD type 4 enzyme in the zebra finch brain to determine whether there exists a sex difference in the activity levels of this enzyme between male and female brains. Previous studies done in the Schlinger lab have shown that the expression level of type 4 enzyme is higher in males (ZZ) than in females (ZW). In situ hybridizations and Northern Blot analysis have shown that males have twice the amount mRNA of this enzyme as females. Moreover, from studies conducted in the Arnold lab, we know that the gene that encodes for this enzyme resides on the Z chromosome. Therefore Preethika's experiments will complement the previous studies by analyzing the specific activity levels of this particular enzyme in the zebra finch brain, which will determine if differences in mRNA expression are translated into differences in protein levels.
Preethika would like to thank her mentor, Dr. Barney Schlinger and all the other members of the laboratory for their continuous support and guidance. Moreover, she would like to extend her gratitude to the Wasserman family for their generosity and encouragement of her research, and to UCLA URC/CARE center for their support and kindness.
| Ms. Kyeong Kim
Ms. Kyeong Kim
Mentor: Dr. Ren Sun
Funding: Hilton Scholar
Title: Creating a herpesviral vector for cancer therapy using Murine Gamma Herpesvirus-68
Kyeong Seon Kim is a fourth year student majoring in Physiological Science. After receiving B.S. in Spring 2008, she plans to take off a year and work as a lab technician. Then she plans on continuing her studies. She has been working in Sun Lab, under the guidance of Dr. Ren Sun and Dr. Seungmin Hwang, since Summer 2006. Her current research concentrates on creating a viral vector for the clearance of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States. Recently, the studies have shown that the expression of immune costimulatory LIGHT gene in tumor cells induced an increase in recruitment and activation of tumor-specific T cells, which led to the clearance of the tumor. However, LIGHT gene must be expressed constitutively within the host for clearance of the tumor. Viral vectors are used for gene expression, but the vectors being employed at the moment have many faults. Some integrate into the host's DNA which imposes a threat of oncogenic cancer development. Others are incapable of being expressed and proliferated constitutively in the host. In Sun Lab, Murine Gamma Herpesvirus-68 is being characterized. We believe that Murine Gamma Herpesvirus-68 would be an ideal vector because it can stay as a stable episome without integrating into the host's genome and because it can replicate stably as the host cells go through mitosis. It has a large coding capacity, ideal for carrying LIGHT gene. Novel viral vectors using Murine Gamma Herpesvirus-68 will be created through big deletions of the viral genome: one for gene delivery and another for packaging. The goal of this project is to modify Murine Gamma Herpesvirus-68 so that it can deliver and express LIGHT gene stably and tissue-specifically. Then the viral vector expressing LIGHT gene will be tested for its ability to lead to the clearance of prostate cancer.
Currently, Kyeong Seon is a tutor for Life Science 15 at the Advanced Academic Placement Program. She enjoys working with some of the brightest students at UCLA, and she would like to thank her tutees for giving her a chance to teach as well as to learn from them.
Kyeong Seon would like to thank Dr. Sun and Dr. Hwang for the guidance and encouragement.
She would also like to thank Ms. Ann Porteus of Hilton Estate and Dr. Cramer for the support.
| Mr. Edward Pham
Mr. Edward Pham
Mentor: Dr. Daniel T. Kamei
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Inhibition of transferrin iron release increases in vitro drug carrier efficacy
Edward Pham is a fourth year Bioengineering student. He has conducted research in the laboratory of Dr. Daniel T. Kamei in the department of Bioengineering since spring quarter of his freshman year. Besides research, Ed also serves as a Vietnamese interpreter at the UCLA Medical Center. He is also involves in other campus organizations such as the Vietnamese Language and Culture, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and Tau Beta Pi. He has also been a chemistry and physics tutor for Covel Commons. Currently, he is the Chemistry 20A and 20B tutor at the Academic Advancement Program.
Ed's research project aims to develop transferrin as a carrier molecule for antineoplastic agents. One of the major problems in the current treatment of cancer is the presence of highly toxic side effects associated with chemotherapeutics. It is therefore desirable to selectively target cytotoxins to cancerous cells while minimizing their effects on normal cells. Transferrin (Tf), a serum iron-transport protein, is a promising drug delivery vehicle, since its receptor (TfR1) is overexpressed on cancer cells. This overexpression exists because the physiological function of Tf is to deliver iron from the bloodstream into cells, and cancerous cells require more iron to sustain their abnormal growth. Accordingly, cytotoxins may be preferentially delivered to cancerous cells by conjugating them to Tf. Although researchers have been investigating this approach for several years, the rapid recycling behavior of Tf limits its efficacy. Specifically, Tf is present in the cell for only about 10 minutes, and the cytotoxin must be released inside the cell in this short time period
To improve the efficacy of Tf as a drug carrier, Ed's research group has sought to increase its cellular association, and therefore, increase the probability for delivering cytotoxins to the cells. To achieve this goal, a whole cell kinetic model was derived using the principles of mass-action kinetics to identify molecular parameters that could be altered to increase Tf cellular association. This is a forward engineering approach where a systems analysis of cellular processes is used to identify novel design criteria. Our model predicted that slowing down the iron release rate of Tf inside the cell could increase its cellular association, which could, in turn, increase its efficacy as a drug carrier. Although ligand/receptor interactions have been altered for several years in the field of drug delivery, to the best of our knowledge, this was the first attempt at altering a ligand/metal interaction for the purpose of drug delivery.
A Tf variant with an inhibited iron release rate was generated by varying the synergistic anion, and as predicted these Tf variants showed a higher degree of cellular association. Importantly, diphtheria toxin (DT) conjugates of this Tf variant are about 4-fold more cytotoxic against HeLa cells than conjugates of native Tf. Tf variant can also be generated using site-directed mutagenesis with an even slower iron release rate. With these new variants, Ed will conjugate them to DT and subsequently purify and characterize them. He will also perform cell culture and the MTT assay to determine IC 50 values for new conjugates being generated
Ed would like to express his utmost gratitude to Dr. Kamei for giving him the opportunity to conduct research. Since day one, Dr. Kamei has always been a patient, supportive, and inspiring mentor. Ed would also like to thank all the lab members for always fostering a family-like environment. He also wants to thank the Wasserman family for their generosity and their commitment to make a difference in lives of those they have not even met. Ed plans to attend medical school upon his graduation. As a Vietnamese immigrant, Ed hopes that his success will serve to inspire other immigrants as well.
| Mr. Andy Tran
Mr. Andy Tran
Mentor: Dr. Sherie Morrison
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Characterization of Fc gamma 1 receptor binding specificity to human and mouse IgG subclasses
Andy Tran is a third year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. His research interests lie primarily in biological science, most particularly in the field of cellular immunology. Andy will be tutoring Statistics 13 at the Advanced Academic Placement Program. Aside from his ongoing research, Andy is also devoted and involved in the Student Committee on Ethic and Honors; Premed-Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association; and Health C.A.R.E. (a collaborative mobile clinic).
Under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Sherie Morrison, Andy will be characterizing the binding specificity of FcγR1 (CD64). In particular, he is most interested in studying the pathogenesis of Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii which are basidiomycetous fungi (polysaccharide encapsulated yeast-like fungi) that cause life-threatening infections in immunocompetent as well as immunocompromised hosts (e.g. people infected with HIV). However, the uses of antibody-mediated immunity to the capsule polysaccharide glucuronoxylomannan (GXM) of C. neoformans may lead to a favorable host defense. Moreover, antibody-mediated Fc receptors play an integral role in the protective functions of the immune response against the infection, whereas FcγR1 is a high affinity receptor that binds to the Fc region of IgG Isotypes and is important for inducing phagocytosis and opsonization through the activation of the complement pathways. Ultimately by comparing and contrasting the FcγR1 binding specificity to human and mouse IgG Isotypes specific for C. neoformans and C. gattii, Andy hopes to shed further light into the pathogenesis of the infectious pathogens.
In order to purify FcγR1 and, subsequently, examine its specificity, Andy will be making recombinant FcγR1 genes through bacterial transformation; purifying bacterial plasmids through Maxiprep; and transiently transfecting 293T cells to produce soluble, cell-free FcγR1. FcγR1 will be removed from serum through affinity chromatography by using Sepharose columns coupled with IgG; then, the concentrated eluate will be assayed using ELISA on Microtiter Plate couples with fluorescent fusion proteins against the monoclonal antibody isotypes. These assays will characterize the binding specificity of high affinity FcγR1 and further analysis will be made to reach the research's objectives.
Andy would like to express his gratitude to Dr. Morrison for giving him the opportunity to broaden and expand his research experiences as well as the members of her lab for their continual support and wholehearted encouragement. Andy would also like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer and the Undergraduate Research Center for inspiring his passion for science as well as the Mr. and Mrs. Wasserman for their generosity and looking out for student researchers. Through these fulfilling experiences, Andy plans on joining an MD/Ph.D program with the ambition of becoming a medical scientist devoted to biomedical research. Andy's Dream is to one day be able to pay back the perpetual sacrifices his parents have made to ensure his success and happiness as a family of immigrants in the United States.
| Mr. Michael Zhang
Mr. Michael Zhang
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Vondriska
Funding: Alcott Scholar
Title: Investigation of Tec tyrosine kinase signaling in ischemic myocardium
Michael is a fourth year Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics student. He has been performing research in Dr. Vondriska's laboratory since 2006. His research interests are in the signal transduction activities of Tec protein tyrosine kinases in the ischemic heart. Tec kinases are known to be activated by growth stimuli in cell proliferation and survival. Michael's recent data shows Tec expression change following ischemic injury to the heart. Therefore it is hypothesized that the role of Tec in the heart is to transducer extracellular signals to intracellular targets via phosphorylation to regular cell survival. Michael is employing classical biochemical methods coupled with mass spectrometry to investigate this hypothesis.
Prior to working with Dr. Vondriska, Michael was privileged to have gathered invaluable experience in the laboratory of Dr. Peipei Ping studying membrane proteins, and in Drs. Kym Faull and Julian Whitelegge's laboratory learning liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques. Building upon past experience and under influence of Dr. Vondriska's enthusiastic guidance, Michael plans to finish a complete research project upon graduation in June 2008.
In addition, Michael is also tutoring Biochemistry 153L for AAP. The subject material in the class is directly related to Michael's research and as such allows him to impart valuable experience to his students. This is Michael's first official tutoring job, but as he is naturally inclined towards didactic rambling, he finds his job very enjoyable.
Michael is extremely grateful of Dr. Vondriska's patient and persistent mentorship without which he would not be able to integrate past lab experiences and focus on a defined research project. He would also like to thank everyone in the Vondriska Lab for their help and support, Dr. Peipei Ping for providing his first research position, members of the Ping Lab for fostering his research capabilities, and Drs. Kym Faull and Julian Whitelegge for introducing him to the most important tool in spectroscopy, the mass spectrometer. Finally, Michael would like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer and the URSTP committee for their confidence in his research and the Rosalind Alcott Estate for their generous funding.
| Ms. Anne Zhujiang
Ms. Anne Zhujiang
Mentor: Dr. James Waschek
Funding: Hilton Scholar
Title: Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide and sonic hedgehog interaction in the developing cerebellum
Annie is a fourth year studying neuroscience and economics. Under the guidance of Dr. Niewiadomski in Dr. Waschek's laboratory, she is currently investigating the interaction between pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and sonic hedgehog (SHH) in the developing cerebellum. On cultured cerebellar granule precursor cells, SHH increases proliferation of the cells. Its action is returned to nearly basal levels when SHH treated cells are also exposed to PACAP. PACAP seems to cause the inhibition of SHH action through the PKA pathway, as PKA inhibitor H89 blocks the effects of PACAP on HH-pathway induced gene expression. However, PKA inhibitor H89 alone increases HH-pathway activation by PACAP and by other pathway related factors. Additional evidence present suggests that multiple pools of PKA are in the cell, with different pools being activated in each case. Further studies will attempt localize the potential groups of PKA, with the primary cilium being a highly possible location. PACAP, SHH, and the interaction between them are likely to play a role in CNS development, thus elucidating the precise mechanism of the PACAP-mediated inhibition of SHH-promoted cell proliferation and understanding their roles are important in gaining insight into normal cerebellar development and medulloblastoma formation.
In addition to spending time in Dr. Waschek's laboratory, Annie enjoys tutoring in the AAP Math/Science lab. Annie feels privileged to be a part of the program and loves the chance to work with such gifted and fascinating students. She would like to thank Emmanuel Owaka and the rest of the AAP staff for allowing her to be a part of the AAP family, as well as her previous and present Chemistry 153A and 14D students for many fun memories. She would also like to express her gratitude to Dr. Niewiadomski and Dr. Waschek for their patience, guidance, and giving her the opportunity to participate in such an interesting project. Finally, she would like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer, the Undergraduate Research Center, and the Hilton Scholarship Foundation for supporting her passions.
| Mr. Timothy Ando
Mr. Timothy Ando
Mentor: Dr. Joseph Watson
Funding: Alcott Scholar
Title: Thioredoxin Reductase Activity in Mouse Models of Parkinson's Disease
Tim Ando is a fourth-year Linguistics major and Neuroscience minor at UCLA. He has been working in Dr. Joe Watson's lab since Fall 2007 researching the effects of oxidative stress on Parkinson's disease proteins. Prior to working with Dr. Watson, Tim worked for two summers with the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF under Dr. Michael Geschwind, assisting with clinical research on Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. He also worked at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center with the Brain Mapping MRI Study, contacting subjects and assisting with their clinical visits and MRI scans. He is excited to start his senior research project as well as tutoring Physics 6A, a class he very much enjoyed taking several years ago.
Tim's project is based on previous research showing that agents such as herbicides and pesticides, which cause oxidative stress due to generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), have been correlated with increased α-synuclein protein expression, a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD) pathology. The cell attempts to neutralize ROS with a variety of reducing agents, one of which is thioredoxin (Trx), a small 12 kDa protein. In turn, thioredoxin reductases (TrxRs) are responsible for converting oxidized Trx back into its active reduced state in an NADPH-dependent manner. Previous data show that PD mouse models over-expressing human α-synuclein had elevated TrxR levels, suggesting that a compensatory anti-oxidant gene expression response involving the cellular reductant pathways is induced when human α-synuclein is elevated in the brain.
The project will encompass two experimental approaches to address further the role of TrxRs in the PD mouse model. The first approach will measure TrxR expression at the protein level using immunoblotting by SDS-PAGE, while the second will measure TrxR enzymatic activity using a commercially available Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA). Through the concurrent analysis of TrxR expression and activity, Tim hopes to elucidate the impact of over-expressed α-synuclein in oxidative stress pathways contributing to PD.
First and foremost, Tim would like to thank Dr. Watson, for the opportunity to conduct scientific research in such an understanding and welcoming environment, as well as Asa Hatami, Henry David, Duc Tran, Jusleen Uppal, and Yan Zeng for their continued support. He would like to thank Dr. Michael Geschwind and Dr. John Mazziotta for their guidance in his prior experiences, from which he has gained indispensable knowledge. Also, he would like to thank the AAP program for the opportunity to tutor fellow students in a friendly, collaborative setting. Finally, he would like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer and the rest of the URC for their efforts in promoting student research, and Mr. Webster for his kindness and generosity.
| Ms. Lorissa Chudnovsky
Ms. Lorissa Chudnovsky
Mentor: Dr. Patricia Johnson
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Characterization of a novel Trichomonas Vaginalis transcription factor
Lorissa Chudnosky is a third year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology with a minor in Russian Literature. Besides tutoring Chemistry 14A for Academic Advancement Program, she is also involved in American Medical Student Association, Glendale Learning Project, Medical Brigades and volunteering at the Cardiology Center at the Veteran Affairs Hospital.
This year, Lorissa will be doing research under the direction of Alias Smith and Patricia Johnson. Lorissa will be taking a closer look at the transcription process in Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomonas vaginalis is an anaerobic, parasitic flagellated protozoan, which is the causative agent of trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted human infection. Studying gene expression will provide further insight into biochemical pathways of the parasite and has the potential to identify new drug target or vaccine candidates. Currently there is only one known binding motif in the parasite, which is the initiator element. Alias Smith, my graduate student mentor, has identified new binding motifs, Motif 3 (M3) and Motif 5. Through other experiments he was also able to identify a putative M3 binding protein (M3BP) and show that there is interaction between Motif 3 and M3BP in vitro. My project involves the in vivo characterization of this protein and asks two major questions. The first question is to confirm that the M3-binding protein localizes to the nucleus of T. vaginalis and the second question addresses whether the DNA-protein interaction observed in vitro takes place in the cell as well. By answering both of these questions we will be able to firmly establish whether Motif 3 is indeed a binding motif and is responsible for transcription pathways in T.vaginalis.
Lorissa would like to whole-heartedly thank Dr. Johnson and Alias Smith for introducing her to the field of molecular research and allowing her to experience it first hand. She would also like to thank Dr. Audrey Cramer and the Wasserman family for enabling her to have this wonderful experience in research and teaching. And finally, she is very grateful to Emmanuel Owaka and Academic Advancement Program for giving her the opportunity to teach UCLA students this year.
| Ms. Serena Lee
Ms. Serena Lee
Mentor: Dr. Samson Chow
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title: Integration site preference of xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus, a new human retrovirus detected in prostate cancer tissue
Serena Lee is a fourth year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology student. She has been working in Dr. Samson Chow's lab under his guidance since spring of 2007. Her current research focuses on analyzing integration site preferences of XMRV, a gammetoretrovirus detected in 40% of prostate cancer patients with defective RNaseL, an endoribonuclease involved in the antiviral action of interferon that cleaves viral and cellular single-stranded RNA. Besides research, Serena also is involved in the Asian Pacific Health Corps and is tutoring Life Sciences 1 at the Academic Advancement Program.
Many retroviruses are capable of inducing tumors in their host animals by a phenomenon called proviral insertional mutagenesis. The insertion of a retroviral genome into the host cell chromosome may act as a promoter or enhancer of a proto-oncogene, inducing tumor formation within the tissue. To determine the integration site preference of XMRV and the effects of its insertion, we carried out a genome-wide analysis of integration sites in the DU145 prostate cell line (wildtype RNase L) with an acute XMRV infection. We also analyzed 14 authentic XMRV integration sites in human prostate cancer tissues from nine different prostate cancer patients, and found that XMRV integration favored frequent cancer breakpoints, common fragile sites, microRNA, and cancer-related genes. When integration sites from patients were compared to that of the prostate cancer cell line with an acute XMRV infection, they also showed a bias for transcription start sites, CpG islands, DNase hypersensitivity sites, and transcription factor-binding sites. Despite these various integration sites, we were unable to identify any particular oncogenes favored by XMRV for integration.
Serena's research project this year is a continuation of this study. Her goal is to further research XMRV's integration site preferences. Dr. Isla Garroway, a collaborator of the project, has isolated 50 human prostate cancer patient tissue samples. Serena will clone, sequence, and map XMRV integration sites in these patient samples, as well as sites in the LNCaP cell line (RNase L -/-) and compare them to that of DU145 cell line. The aim is to determine whether or not defective RNase L affects the integration site preference of XMRV. She wants to determine whether XMRV will favor a particular oncogene for integration in the absence of wildtpye RNase L.
The significance of this research owes to the fact that the preference of XMRV integration toward gene regulatory regions can increase the possibility of altering the expression of genes involved in cancer formation. This study will further dissect XMRV's role in prostate cancer development and ultimately help identify viral targets for cancer prevention and treatment.
Serena would like to thank Dr. Chow for giving her the wonderful opportunity to work in his lab and for his support and guidance since day one. She would also like to thank all the Chow lab members for their guidance and encouragement. Moreover, she would also like to thank Emmanuel Owaka and the rest of the AAP staff for giving her the opportunity to work with such bright students. Finally, she would like to extend her gratitude to Dr. Audrey Cramer, Undergraduate Research Center, and the Van Trees Foundation for their generosity and support.
| Ms. Alison Tebo
Ms. Alison Tebo
Mentor: Dr. Imke Schroeder
Funding: Hilton Scholar
Title: Expression and Characterization of Tungstate Transport Proteins in Pyrobaculum aerophilum
Alison is a fourth year Biochemistry student. She has been performing research in Dr. Schroeder's lab since 2007. She is interested in bioinorganic chemistry and metalloproteins. Scientists have only begun to research Archaea. Their recognition as a separate domain of life was not fully realized until the latter half of the twentieth century. Many live in extreme environment and have been termed “extremophiles”. Many utilize unique metabolic schemes that allow them to adapt to these extreme environments. Pyrobaculum aerophilum is an example of a hyperthermophilic archaean. It metabolizes via aerobic respiration and dissimilatory nitrate reduction. Interestingly, it prefers the presence of tungstate over molybdate—the preferred prosthetic group for nitrate reductase. Alison has been investigating a putative tungstate ABC-type transporter in P. aerophilum. Two genes have been identified as likely candidates for this transporter and have been cloned. Alison is currently working on overexpressing and characterizing the binding domain of the transporter. After the protein is reliably expressed, its binding properties will be characterized via binding assays with tungstate, molybdate, and possible targets.
Alison has been tutoring Chem 153A, the introductory biochemistry course, for the last year. She will continue to tutor this year. Alison would like to thank the Academic Advancement Program and Audrey Cramer for allowing her to pursue her passions of teaching and research.
| Mr. Michael Winters
Mr. Michael Winters
Mentor: Dr. Stuart Brown
Funding: Litton Scholar
Dr. Stuart Brown and I are currently working on constructing a probe that will be used in solid state physics experiments during winter and spring quarters. We will be examining the properties of crystalline and poly-crystalline materials at low temperature such as high T c superconductivity, anti-ferromagnetism, phonon modes, density of states, and thermodynamic properties. Samples will be mounted to the probe and will be placed in a cryostat and high magnetic field. We will be using an experimental technique known as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance to collect data on the sample.
Everything on the probe must be fabricated from scratch- hall probes will be mounted to detect the orientation of the sample (which may be rotated) with respect the to field, a thermometer, RF circuitry and an antenna. The RF circuitry will allow us to manipulate the magnetic moments (nuclear spins) inside the material.