Amgen Scholars Student Profiles
Read here about UCLA Amgen Scholars who are actively engaged in research with UCLA faculty. Posted on these pages are their individual stories: information on who they work with, a description of their research, and their plans for the future.
Listed below are Amgen Scholars for 2016.
| Ms. Cara Abecunas
Name: Cara Abecunas
Home University: Lafayette College
Major: Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Benjamin Wu
Cara is a senior at Lafayette College majoring in Chemical Engineering and minoring in Bioengineering/Biotechnology. At Lafayette, she works with Dr. Lauren Anderson and Dr. Christopher Anderson on thermally responsive polymer scaffolds, specifically PNIPAM and PMO. She observes cell adhesion, morphology and gene expression of cells on these scaffolds in serum-free conditions.
As an Amgen Scholar at UCLA, Cara works with Dr. Benjamin Wu in the Bioengineering Department. She is fabricating and characterizing photothermally responsive fibrin hydrogels utilized for chronic wound healing. The scaffold will be incorporated with cardiogreen chromophore and functionalized with DNA-tethered wound healing growth factors. When exposed to NIR (near infrared) light, the chromophore will change temperature. The resulting increase in temperature will dehybridize the complementary DNA strands and release the growth factors into the microenvironment. Fabricating an on-demand light actuated delivery system will enable localization of the release of growth factors from fibrin scaffolds to non-healing skin wounds. Controlling the delivery of growth factors can mimic the distribution of native biomolecules seen in wound healing, thereby resulting in more complete healing.
Her main objectives this summer is to understand the conjugation of oligonucleotides onto growth factors and peptide substrate for Factor XIIIa. Factor XIIIa crosslinks the peptide’s glutamine residues to lysine residues in fibrin. After successful conjugation, she will study the release kinetics and biocompatibility of the drug delivery system.
Cara would like to thank Dr. Benjamin Wu, Dr. Chase Linsley, Dr. Tama Hasson, and Dr. Patricia Phelps for their extraordinary mentorship and support. She would also like to extend her thanks to the Amgen Foundation for supporting this incredible opportunity.
| Mr. James Cevallos
Name: James Cevallos
Home University: UCLA
Major: Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elissa Hallem
James Cevallos is a rising Senior at UCLA with a major in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) and a minor in Biomedical Research. Since April of 2015, he has worked in the laboratory of Dr. Elissa Hallem studying parasite host interactions.
Parasitic nematodes infect over two billion people around the globe. Nematodes are highly destructive and certain species use olfaction to seek out and infect their hosts. Though many investigations have explored the effects of nematode infection on host immune response, few have studied the relevance of olfaction in parasitism. To investigate parasite host interactions, James uses the parasitic nematode Howardula aoronymphium and the mushroom fly Drosophila falleni as a model system. James utilizes a chemotaxis assay approach to quantify the olfactory preferences of D. falleni, H. aoronymphium and several other generalist and specialist organisms. James also investigates the impact of nematode infection on olfaction and locomotion. In the future, this information may be able to help institutions develop powerful agents against parasitic nematodes and better understand parasite-host interactions.
James would like to thank Dr. Elissa Hallem, Dr. Tama Hasson, Ryo Okubo, Mayra Carrillo and Sophie Rengarajan for their incredible mentorship and support. He would also like to thank the Amgen Foundation for supporting his development as a scientist.
| Mr. Samuel Grandfield
Name: Samuel Grandfield
Home University: California Lutheran University
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeff Abramson
At his home university, Sam has worked in the lab of Dr. Chad Barber, assisting in research which analyzes and characterizes common proto-oncogenes in different types of canine carcinomas. In addition to this, he is also working on a new project which aims to identify and quantify various immune cells present on different subtypes of canine tumors, and compare the findings against previously documented human data. He is also the principal cellist of the university symphony, serves as a departmental assistant for organic chemistry, and is the new president of Cal Lutheran’s biological honors society chapter, “TriBeta.”
At UCLA, he is currently working in the lab of Dr. Jeff Abramson, researching the biophysical properties of a sodium galactose symporter, vSGLT. The crystal structure for vSGLT was solved in the Abramson and Wright labs in 2008, revealing remarkable details of the general architecture of the protein and atomic resolution details of functionally important sites such as the sugar and sodium binding sites. However, this study led to more questions concerning the precise mechanism of action of this particular protein at the molecular level. Sam is studying the efflux, influx, and exchange activities of this protein reconstituted in proteoliposomes and monitored via radioactive galactose uptake. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of this protein has important translational applications to the human version of this protein, notably in the treatment of various metabolic diseases.
| Mr. Nicholas Higdon
Name: Nicholas Higdon
Home University: University of California Santa Barbara
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Richard Kaner
Nick Higdon is a Chemistry major in the College of Creative Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. At UCSB, he works as part of the lab of Dr. Alison Butler, studying the chemical basis of marine mussel adhesion and microbial iron acquisition.
This summer, Nick is working in the lab of Dr. Richard Kaner from the department of Chemistry and the department of Materials Science and Engineering at UCLA. His research is focused on understanding the chemistry of superhard metals and the effects of structural variations on their chemical and mechanical properties.
Nick would like to thank Dr. Kaner, his amazing research group, and the Amgen Foundation for this outstanding research opportunity.
| Ms. Julia Hiserodt
Name: Julia Hiserodt
Home University: UCLA
Major: Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. April Pyle
Julia Hiserodt is a rising senior at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and minoring in Biomedical Research. Since April 2015, she has been working in Dr. April Pyle’s lab. Dr. Pyle’s lab is interested in differentiating skeletal muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs) from human pluripotent stem cells to regenerate muscle and restore dystrophin in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Julia’s current research focuses on understanding and improving cell survival during engraftment into mdx-NSG mice, the mouse model of DMD, since SMPCs must survive in the initial hours after transplantation in order to regenerate tissue. Cell death is caused by many factors, including the failure to associate with the host niche. To measure cell survival, Julia will create a bioluminescent reporter, which will allow for high-throughput, longitutidinal analysis of cell survival in vivo. Then the host microenvironment will be manipulated using decellularized extracellular matrices from healthy C57BL/6 mice and cell survival factors such as p38i and forskolin to measure their effect on cell survival.
| Ms. Karli Holman
Name: Karli Holman
Home University: Westmont College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Neil Garg
Karli Holman is a rising fourth-year undergraduate at Westmont College pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. She studies nickel-catalyzed borylation reactions under Dr. Amanda Silberstein at Westmont, and she has held student leadership positions in chemistry tutoring and community engagement during her time there. She also enjoys ballet, rock climbing, and exploring the woods behind Westmont’s campus.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Karli is continuing her work on nickel catalysis in the lab of Dr. Neil Garg. The Garg group is currently developing methods for carrying out useful synthetic transformations using nickel catalysts, which are generally cheaper and more environmentally friendly than their typical palladium counterparts. Karli’s project is to work with a team of graduate students to develop a nickel-catalyzed Suzuki¬–Miyaura coupling of amides. This method would provide a mild and selective option for forming useful carbon–carbon bonds from a typically unreactive class of substrates, potentially facilitating the synthesis of complex molecules such as fluorescent probes and pharmaceuticals.
After graduating from Westmont College in December 2016, Karli plans to pursue a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry and then begin a career in academic or industrial research. Karli would like to thank UCLA, the Amgen Foundation, and the Garg lab for this opportunity to become immersed in the world of academic research and prepare for a lifelong career of discovery.
| Mr. Timothy Huang
Name: Timothy Huang
Home University: Northwestern University
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Feng Guo
Timothy Huang is a Northwestern senior majoring in Chemistry where he works in Professor Chad Mirkin’s lab in the Department of Chemistry. His current project examines the intracellular trafficking of Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNAs).
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Timothy works as a member of the Guo research group in the Department of Biological Chemistry. The Guo lab is interested in the rational design of synthetically made short hairpin RNA (shRNA) for enhanced control of gene expression. shRNAs are a synthetic tool that mimic natural microRNAs (miRNAs) that can be used to silence specific genes through RNA interference. Timothy’s project uses the foundation of a natural miRNA to design to synthetically create a shRNA that exhibits secondary structure in the form of hairpin loops and will be disrupting the secondary structure in these shRNAs to see its effect on gene knockdown.
Timothy would like to thank the Guo Lab and the Amgen Foundation for supporting his research endeavors.
| Ms. Lia Lee
Name: Lia Lee
Home University: Williams College
Major: Chemistry, Statistics
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Yi Xing
Lia Lee is a fourth year undergraduate student and developing lab enthusiast at Williams College, double majoring in Chemistry and Statistics. At Williams, Lia works in the lab of Dr. Amy Gehring, studying the complex relationship between morphological development and antibiotic production in Streptomyces, a widespread genus of soil bacteria responsible for producing the majority of currently known antibiotics. Her individual project focuses on characterizing the substrate specificity and activity of enzymes that play crucial roles in the secondary metabolic pathways of S. coelicolor.
At UCLA, Lia works under the mentorship of Dr. Yi Xing and graduate student Chelsea Aitken, studying models of mRNA processing and post-transcriptional gene regulation in mammalian cells. Among mammalian systems, the methylation of adenosine on the N6 position of RNA which forms N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most prevalent RNA modification. Various studies have shown that mRNA assumes m6A structural modifications to modulate its function in the context of gene expression, akin to the processes of DNA methylation and histone modification. Although methyltransferases and demethylases involved in m6A addition have been identified, complete details of this mechanism have not been fully elucidated.
Lia’s specific project focuses on the experimental testing of bioactive compounds that have been computationally screened through the Library of Integrated Cellular Signatures (LINCS) and identified as potential regulators of m6A writers (i.e. METTL3 and METTL14). It is hypothesized that these compounds, which mimic the knockdown of METTL3 or METTL14, are involved in key pathways that dynamically regulate adenosine methylation in mRNA.
| Ms. Hannah Pearce
Name: Hannah Pearce
Home University: Texas A&M University
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jacob Schmidt
My name is Hannah Pearce and I am a rising Biomedical Engineering senior at Texas A&M University. I have had the opportunity of participating in bioengineering research for three years now, and since June 2015 I have been a member of the Alge Bio-Instructive Materials Group at Texas A&M where I am working to develop a click hydrogel platform for chemo-optical glucose sensing.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar during the summer of 2016, I am working in Dr. Jacob Schmidt’s lab in the Bioengineering Department under the mentorship of a graduate student, Shiv Acharya. The aim of the Schmidt lab is to create solid-state nanopores capable of identifying and discriminating between individual proteins. Many diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer can be diagnosed through the identification of proteins found in the blood. The ability to detect low concentrations of these disease biomarkers could lead to earlier diagnosis, improved quality of life, and a more promising outcome for patients.
Solid-state nanopores have been documented extensively in their ability to translocate, characterize, and sequence DNA. However, their use in protein identification has not been explored as thoroughly given the more complex nature of proteins compared to DNA. This technology shows much promise though as a sensing platform capable of identifying individual proteins, and the objective of this work is to optimize this system in order to make early disease diagnosis a reality.
I would like to thank the Amgen Foundation, UCLA, and the Schmidt lab for this opportunity.
| Ms. Rachel Sabol
Name: Rachel Sabol
Home University: University of New Hampshire
Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Dawson
Rachel Sabol is a rising senior studying biology at the University of New Hampshire. There, she participates in undergraduate research involving acute myeloid leukemia and obesity under the guidance of Dr. Brian Barth.
As a UCLA Amgen scholar, Rachel is working in the lab of Dr. David Dawson, studying the role of the transcription factor TCF7L1, a member of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, in pancreatic cancer. When activated, the Wnt/β-catenin pathway regulates cell differentiation, survival, growth, and proliferation. TCF7L1 belongs to the T cell factor (TCF)/lymphoid enhancer binding factor (LEF) family and serves as a transcriptional repressor. TCF7L1 undergoes rapid downregulation following pathway activation, which may be linked to tumorigenesis and disease progression. Rachel’s project seeks to clarify the role of TCF7L1 in pancreatic cell lines with high Wnt expression in order to inform Wnt based therapies, such as drugs regulating lipogenesis.
| Ms. Shruthi Shankar
Name: Shruthi Shankar
Home University: University of Pittsburgh
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher Colwell
Shruthi is a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in neuroscience. At Pitt, Shruthi works in the lab of Dr. Michael Lotze in the Departments of Bioengineering and Immunology. Her project there focuses on the role of the chromatin protein HMGB1 in mediating platelet apoptosis, in the hopes of decreasing platelet activation after ventricular-assist device implantation. During her freshman and sophomore years, Shruthi worked in the lab of Dr. Teresa Hastings, where she investigated mitochondrial dynamics in Parkinson’s disease.
This summer, under the direction of Drs. Colwell and Ghiani at UCLA, Shruthi is investigating the presence of myelin loss and axonal degeneration in the hippocampus of a mouse model of Huntington’s disease. Recent studies have pointed to loss of myelin in the hippocampus at early stages of the disease, which could potentially be the trigger for some of the cognitive and memory deficits present in HD patients; however, this has not been investigated thoroughly. Furthermore, this lab has recently reported sex differences in the progression of Huntington’s disorder in the BACHD mouse model, with young females exhibiting slower disease progression and milder symptoms. Shruthi will be examining loss of myelin and axonal degeneration in male BACHD mice at 3 months of age, and female mice at 3, 12, and 18 months of age, in order to further characterize the sex differences at early stages and establish a timeline of these events in the female hippocampus. Her study will be carried out using techniques such as western blot and immunohistochemistry.
| Ms. Melissa Song
Name: Melissa Song
Home University: UCLA
Major: Neuroscience and Human Biology & Society
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Alcino J. Silva
The Silva Lab studies the mechanisms behind memory allocation, which is the process by which neurons are recruited to participate in a neural ensemble. Previous studies found that artificially increasing excitability in a subset of neurons increased the chance of these neurons to be recruited into an ensemble. This is a promising indication that memory allocation is not random and is influenced by the intrinsic excitability of neurons. Little is known, however, about how the ensembles of different memories interact when encoded to form associations. As humans, we also do not have these manipulations or artificial excitabilities regulating how we integrate memory as we go through our days. In order to pave the way for truly translational work, our lab wanted to ask if naturalistic fluctuations in excitability might link multiple memories encoded close in time and how this process might change with age. The study of intrinsic excitability and use of manipulation techniques to support this causal relationship has exciting implications for how memory allocation may deteriorate with age and lead to dissociation and impairment of memories.
Following graduation, Weilin plans to pursue a career in academic medicine. She would like to sincerely thank her mentors, Dr. Alcino J. Silva and Dr. Denise Cai, for their guidance, encouragement, and support. She would also like to express her gratitude towards the Amgen Foundation for its generosity in supporting her research in memory and learning.
| Mr. Kevin Spiekermann
Name: Kevin Spiekermann
Home University: UCSD
Major: Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Amy Rowat
Kevin Spiekermann is a rising junior studying Chemical Engineering. He works in Professor Liangfang Zhang’s Nanomedicine lab at UCSD where he has helped investigate drug loading and release capacity of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) or PLGA nanoparticles. Specifically, he helped test clarithromycin as part of a larger project to use cell membrane-coated nanoparticles as a drug delivery platform to fight H. Pylori bacteria. He has also interned for Arytha BioSciences, a biotech company in San Diego, where he helped investigate the neutralization capacity of RBC-coated nanoparticles, termed nanosponges, against certain venoms in vitro.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Kevin works under the guidance of Professor Amy Rowat with the assistance of Tae-Hyung Kim, the post-doc mentor. His project focuses on the mechanical properties of cancer cells, which are believed to influence the cancer cells’ progression and invasiveness. Specifically, he helps investigate the role of β-Adrenergic Receptors (βARs) in regulating cancer cell deformability in vitro. Generally, cancer cells are more deformable than healthy cells. It has been shown that breast cancer cells become stiffer and more invasive in vitro when treated with isoproterenol, a β-agonist that binds to the βARs and activates the corresponding signaling pathway. Kevin’s goal is to characterize the mechanical response of additional cancer cells to isoproterenol and to identify a correlation between whole cell deformability and expression of ADRB1, ADRB2, and ADRB3, the three subtypes of the β-Adrenergic Receptor gene.
Kevin would like to thank the Amgen Foundation, UCLA, and the Rowat lab for this exciting and engaging opportunity.
| Ms. Holly Sullivan
Name: Holly Sullivan
Home University: University of Washington
Major: Chemical Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Tatiana Segura
At her home institution Holly Sullivan researches with the Woodrow Lab in the Bioengineering Department. The main focus of her research is to work with electrospun nanofibers as a biomaterial that can be used to vaginally deliver contraceptive drugs as well as inhibit the penetration of sperm and HIV. Her goal is to create a platform that can prevent unintended pregnancy as well as the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
While at UCLA she is researching in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department with the Segura Lab. She continues to explore the field of biomaterial drug delivery with a focus on hydrogels. As a widely applicable platform, hydrogels can be utilized in many different ways. The gels for this project will be loaded with vancomycin (a common antibiotic) and used to coat orthopedic implants in order to prevent bacterial infection. Sustained release from these hydrogels over several weeks is necessary to protect patients from infection.
This summer Holly will specifically be looking at how drug release and diffusion coefficients are affected by varying the ratio of functional groups within the hydrogel matrix as well as introducing photopatterning to increase the crosslinking densities of these gels. Holly will also be investigating the benefits of creating a hybrid delivery system with drug-loaded nanoparticles suspended in the hydrogel matrix. This is all done in an effort to extend the release of vancomycin and provide adequate protection from infection for patients.
Special thanks to Dr. Segura, Weixian, and the Amgen Foundation for this opportunity.
| Mr. Daniel Suto
Name: Daniel Suto
Home University: UCLA
Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Krantz
Dj has been involved with the Krantz lab since December of 2014 and is interested in neurotransmission and transport using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. The Krantz lab integrates molecular biology, fluorescent imaging, and genetics to investigate monoamine transporters.
While monoamine release and regulation are often targeted for various pharmaceuticals, some of the aspects of neurotransmission from vesicles remain unclear. Amines can be packaged for release into two types of vesicles: synaptic vesicles and large dense core vesicles (LDCVs). Previous work in our lab has shown the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT) localizing to both types of vesicles. The importance of differentiation between these two release sites is a main focus of the Krantz lab because although we are beginning to understand the mechanisms behind vesicle trafficking, the significance of release from LDCVs is unclear. This project specifically targets a microcircuit of Drosophila melanogaster as a genetically tractable model for the downstream effects of release from LDCVs.
| Ms. Amalia Sweet
Name: Amalia Sweet
Home University: Smith College
Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Nathanson
Amalia is a rising senior at Smith College majoring in biochemistry. Over the past two summers, she worked in the Steven P. Balk, MD-PhD lab of Harvard Medical School to elucidate mechanisms of castration resistance in prostrate cancer and to identify druggable targets within pathways driving the disease. She has also worked with and will continue to work with Professor Steven Williams of Smith College when she returns in the fall to pursue her biochemistry honors thesis. In her thesis, she will isolate and identify transcription factors responsible for the upregulation of genes which facilitate the invasion of lymphatic filariasis-causing parasite worms into the human host.
As an Amgen Scholar, Amalia is working under the direction of Dr. David Nathanson and Wilson Mai of UCLA to interrogate the link between decreased glucose uptake and cytoplasmic p53-dependent apoptotic priming in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibited primary glioblastoma (GBM) cells. She hopes to determine whether the changes in cytoplasmic p53 activity are attributable to decreased availability of anabolic pathway intermediates and/or donor substrates for direct modification of apoptotic signaling molecules. Understanding the mechanism underlying elevated EGFR-inhibition mediated cytoplasmic-p53 activity provides a basis for combination therapies for GBM. In turn, this can help identify other cancers as candidates for analogous approaches.
Amalia would like to thank the Nathanson Lab and the Amgen Foundation for their continued support as she works toward her goal of a biomedical research career.
| Mr. Raghav Tripathi
Name: Raghav Tripathi
Home University: Case Western Reserve University
Major: Medical Anthropology and Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ronald Harper
Raghav is a rising senior at Case Western Reserve University studying Medical Anthropology and Biology with a minor in Chemistry. In the past, Raghav has been involved in research projects at Portland State University, Oregon Health and Science University, University Hospitals at Case Western, Stony Brook University, and University of California at San Diego. In addition to research, Raghav particularly enjoys tutoring, volunteering, and competing in an Indian folk dance known as bhangra.
This summer, Raghav is working in Professor Ronald Harper’s lab in the Department of Neurobiology. He is studying the role of the cingulate cortex in patients with generalized tonic-clonic (GTC) seizures in epilepsy. Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) accounts for between 7.5% and 17% of deaths in individuals with epilepsy and over half of deaths in patients with intractable epilepsy. Patients with GTC seizures are at increased risk for SUDEP. Recently, a combination of cardiovascular dysfunction and respiratory failure has been implicated in SUDEP; as such, the risk of SUDEP would be exacerbated if cardiovascular/respiratory brain regulatory structures were severely affected in GTC patients. In addition to behavioral and executive functions, the cingulate cortex is also involved in autonomic functions (especially cardiovascular control). This summer, Raghav is utilizing structural magnetic resonance (MR) images to determine if selected areas of the cingulate cortex (particularly those regulating cardiovascular action) undergo volumetric changes in GTC patients.
Raghav would like to thank the Harper Lab and the Amgen Foundation for their unyielding support for his pursuit of biomedical research.
| Ms. Sara Volz
Name: Sara Volz
Home University: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Major: Chemistry and Biology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kendall Houk
Sara Volz is a rising senior chemistry and biology major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is interested in using chemical, physical, and computational methods to deepen understanding of biochemical mechanisms and protein biology. At MIT, she works with Dr. Feng Zhang to improve the fidelity and scope of CRISPR technologies as a powerful tool in enabling swift and precise genome editing. As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Sara is studying computational chemistry with Dr. Kendall Houk in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
One of Dr. Houk's goals is to understand the mechanisms by which biological enzymes catalyze cycloaddition reactions. Approximately ten enzymes catalyzing Diels-Alder reactions (Diels-Alderases, or DAases) have been recently discovered and characterized, all of which play important roles in the formation of complex natural products with amazing selectivity, often producing only one product from dozens of possibilities. Despite both the biological significance of these enzymes and the potentially incredible synthetic utility of engineered DAases, current understanding of enzymatic Diels-Alder reactions is limited.
Sara is analyzing the family of enzymes that catalyze such cycloadditions with both bioinformatic and quantum mechanical tools. Of particular interest are mechanisms of catalysis, binding site motifs, and general strategies by which DAases control selectivity. Significantly, modes of reaction control may take place after the formation of a transition state, as the often-complex molecular dynamics and energy surfaces of such reactions means that multiple products may be possible from a single transition-state structure. This selectivity prediction presents new challenges for enzyme design.
| Ms. Chloe Wu
Name: Chloe Wu
Home University: UCLA
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel Kamei
Chloe Wu is going into her 4th year at UCLA as a bioengineering major, and has been working in Dr. Daniel Kamei’s laboratory since June of 2014. Her current project focuses on exploring hydrogels as a platform for phase separation of aqueous two-phase systems.
Current point-of-care diagnostic tests often lack sensitivity when compared to laboratory tests. To address this, the Kamei Lab has focused on increasing the sensitivity of paper-based tests by utilizing aqueous two-phase systems (ATPSs) to concentrate target biomarkers prior to detection. By partitioning biomarkers preferentially into one of the ATPS phases, concentration of the biomarkers is achieved. Recent advances in this field have led to phase separation of ATPSs directly on paper membranes, significantly reducing phase separation time and eliminating user steps. To expand the applicability of this technology, Chloe is currently exploring hydrogels as an alternative platform for phase separation. Overall, she aims to achieve ATPS phase separation on hydrogels to improve target concentration methods, as well as gain understanding of the underlying mechanisms which drive phase separation in a porous membrane.
Chloe would like to thank the Amgen Foundation and the Kamei Lab for their continued support of her research endeavors.
| Mr. Sangwon Yun
Name: Sangwon Yun
Home University: Duke University
Major: Biology & Evolutionary Anthropology
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Owen Witte
Sangwon is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and a fourth year at Duke University. He loves immunology and is fascinated by cell-mediated immunotherapy. At Duke, he is a student in the lab of Dr. Dorothy Sipkins and studies osteopontin expression levels within acute lymphoblastic leukemia, as well as its degree of correlation with patient outcomes.
Through the UCLA Amgen Scholars Program, Sangwon is a student in the lab of Dr. Owen Witte at the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. Under the mentorship of Dr. John K. Lee, he is developing a reporter cell line designed to interrogate Myc stability within prostate cancer.
The Myc family of proto-oncogenes includes a variety of transcription factors, including N-Myc and C-Myc. The role of C-Myc has been well characterized, and it is ubiquitously expressed in rapidly proliferating cells. Indeed, C-Myc deregulation has been associated with various cancers, including Burkitt’s lymphoma, breast cancer, myeloma, melanoma and gastrointestinal cancers, while aberrant N-Myc expression has been tied to neuroblastoma and small cell lung cancer Recently, our lab investigated the role of N-Myc overexpression in prostate tumorigenesis, and its activity as an oncogenic agent capable of transforming prostate epithelial cells to prostate adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine prostate cancer. The group found that N-Myc is necessary for tumor maintenance, and that disrupting N-Myc activity via Aurora A kinase inhibition reduced tumor growth. With this reporter cell line, we hope to determine what chemotherapeutic compounds destabilize Myc and limit its expression in Myc-driven prostate cancer.