Elina Wells

Immunosurveillance is the immune system’s ability to detect foreign pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and cancerous cells in the body. Many cancers evade immunosurveillance, through the use of mechanisms, which allow them to exist and spread undetected. Checkpoint blockade therapy – an immunotherapy treatment method in part developed at Berkeley – counters the “breaks” of immunosuppressive cells, imposed on inflammatory immune cells within the tumor microenvironment. Many current immunotherapies use Listeria monocytogenes as a way to induce immune cells that were previously exhausted to regain their effector phenotype and control cancer. However, about half of the patients fail to respond to treatment. This may be because immunosuppressive cells within the tumor microenvironment dampen any immune response leading to unresponsive inflammatory cells. I propose that changing the injection method from intravenous (IV) to intratumoral (IT) injection will counter these shortcomings because an immune response will generate directly within the tumor. My […]

Allison Zau

Riparian meadows in the Sierra Nevada facilitate access to near-surface groundwater, a resource critical to sustaining the productivity and biodiversity of the larger montane ecosystems. Historically, the groundwater flow is consistently recharged by snowmelt percolating down from snowpack at higher elevation. However, climate change is depleting this critical snowpack, destabilizing the groundwater flow and consequently the ecosystem. Using seismic surveys I conducted last year, I will produce cross-sections of a characteristic meadow. These will provide information on the near-surface groundwater distribution and composition and geometry of the soil and rock bedding. I can then evaluate how the landscape affects the relative volume and movement of groundwater. Understanding these subsurface controls on groundwater availability will inform meadow conservation efforts.

Kenneth Trang

Bacteria inhabit almost every surface on Earth, from tabletop to hydrothermal vents. Thus, it’s unsurprising that a diverse community of microbes also thrives within the human gut. However, these residents aren’t stowaways, as strong evidence has emerged in the last decade that a well-balanced community of gut bacteria is indispensable to human health. And yet, our understanding of the genetic factors involved in selecting what gut microbes can colonize and persist remain limited. This summer, I research the effect of host genetics on the composition of the gut-microbiome, focusing on the effect of individual genes on compositional changes occurring during early development in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. This unprecedented work will not only constitute the first experimental investigation into the role of individual genes in the initial establishment of the gut microbiome composition of any animal host, but also contribute more generally to our understanding of the fundamental rules […]

Heidi Yang

Adaptive radiations are rapid bursts of diversification of a single ancestor that give rise to many ecologically different species. While the ecological and evolutionary aspects have been extensively studied, little is known about the genomic mechanisms that produce such high genetic and phenotypic diversity. Transposable elements (TEs), DNA sequences that can change their position within a genome, are one potential genomic component, since they can quickly produce a wide variety of mutations when active. McClintock (1984) first proposed that TE activity may increase in response to “challenges to the genome.” Since adaptive radiations frequently occur when a species colonizes a new area, novel environmental and ecological conditions may trigger the deregulation of the genome and activate TEs. Using the adaptive radiation of Tetragnatha spiders, which display various stages of adaptive radiation across several Hawaiian islands, this project will utilize transcriptome data and genomic sequencing methods to test the expectation that […]

Eden McEwen

The twinkling of stars and other astronomical targets due to the Earth’s atmosphere is a long-standing disadvantage that ground-based telescopes face compared to their space-based peers. Large observatories have used adaptive optics (AO) to correct for atmospheric blurring, producing nearly diffraction-limited images. Ground layer AO (GLAO) seeks to apply corrections to a wider field of view than traditional AO by selectively targeting lower atmospheric layers. My SURF project will look at the last three years of data from the ‘imaka GLAO experiment to characterize the instrument’s correction over a variety of conditions and over multiple wavelengths. Better corrections over larger fields and shorter wavelengths enables observations of extended targets in multiple spectrums. The results from this work will inform GLAO systems in the next generation of ground based telescopes.

Andy Chen

The retina is the neural tissue lining the back of the eye that senses incoming light and relays this information to the brain, allowing for vision to occur. During development, “waves” of neural activity propagate across the retina, and to areas of the brain that receive retinal input. Retinal waves play an important role in establishing the organization of retinal inputs to the brain, but there is only limited evidence that they play a role in the development of the retina itself. I am exploring the role of waves in the development of a class of output neurons of the retina called intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGCs), which express the light-sensitive protein Melanopsin. These ipRGCs themselves participate in retinal waves during a period of development in which they undergo a significant amount of cell death. By comparing the densities and connectivity of ipRGCs in wild type mice and mice […]

David Pack

Among all Asian American subgroups, Filipinx Americans have consistently shown to suffer from the highest rates of hypertension. Despite this alarming fact, little research has been done to investigate culturally sensitive interventions to help control blood pressure and reduce rates of hypertension in this specific community. The purpose of my research will be to investigate whether the development and implementation of a culturally tailored culinary intervention used to control hypertension, such as a heart healthy Filipinx recipe cookbook, is effective for encouraging dietary change and ultimately reducing blood pressure in Filipinx- Americans currently diagnosed with hypertension. In this research project, I will work with key individuals in the local Filipinx community to help me develop and design a heart healthy Filipinx recipe cookbook. After the development of the cookbook, I will begin the implementation of my culturally tailored intervention in the study population. My ultimate goal for this research project […]

Allison Rothrock

High metal content, low levels of essential nutrients, and poor water retention make serpentine soil a uniquely challenging environment and a source of strong selective pressure. The yellow monkey flower, or Mimulus guttatus, an annual wildflower native to the western United States, has adapted to these harsh conditions; coupled with its wide range, this ability to survive on serpentine soil makes Mimulus guttatus a model organism for studying how plants adapt to local environments. This study will focus on three genes — involved in root architecture and the uptake and transport of essential nutrients — that show key variations between on- and off-serpentine populations. The CRISPR-Cas9 system will be used to generate plants with nonfunctional variants of these genes, which will provide important insights into the role these genes play in Mimulus guttatus’s ability to survive in serpentine conditions.

Paolo Sanchez

The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, 66 million years ago, is considered a major landmark in Earth’s history with the demise of many prehistoric taxa and development of modern species. Famously known for the extinction of the dinosaurs, this event is linked to a high-energy meteor impact on the coast of Chicxulub, Mexico. However, the actual extent to which the impact influenced global changes remains obscure due to the vaporization of the meteor upon impact and satisfactory preservation of the K-Pg rock record. Thus, studies have analyzed microtektites, tiny bedrock-derived droplets of glass produced by the high-energy impact, to better infer impact dynamics and chemical signatures associated with the extinction. Even so, these studies are limited to North and Central America, with geochemical readings of the samples largely obscured by post-depositional weathering. My project aims to investigate microtektites from a newly discovered, largely unaltered deposit in Gorgonilla Island, Colombia, utilizing electron […]

Amy Yan

Clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) is an intricately-coordinated cellular pathway that is crucial for cellular growth, maintenance, and nutrient uptake. Functionally, CME internalizes receptors from the cell membrane, and nucleation of the protein actin protein has been shown to provide crucial forces for this internalization process. While well-characterized in yeast cells, the exact roles of actin in mammalian CME still requires further investigation. Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), I will study the timing and regulation of branched actin network assembly by the proteins ABP1 and CTTN, which are type II actin nucleation promoting factors. I will also use the CRISPR/Cas9 system to generate a protocol for knockout cell lines to be used for future protein studies. This summer and beyond, I will build upon my skills in live-cell imaging microscopy, data analysis, and cell culture work. All of these experiments and studies will culminate in a fundamental understanding […]