Derek Ning

Muscle injuries from accidents, blast trauma, surgical situations, and sports can lead to acute muscle tissue loss and severe permanent damage to the body. Therefore, it is essential to develop methods to enhance the wound healing and regeneration process. This project aims to promote muscle regeneration through stem cell transplantation. However, a major challenge is that immediately after transplantation into damaged tissue, donor cells encounter a harsh environment with substantial death-promoting stimuli. This project aims to provide a hyaluronic acid environment that helps stimulate mechanisms of cell engraftment within the host tissues during muscle regeneration. Hyaluronic acid is an especially attractive material due to it being a natural component of the cell extracellular matrix and playing a large role in biological processes. This project aims to implant muscle stem cells, along with common immune cells known as macrophages, in order to observe their interplay and how the gel can be […]

Citlalli Vergara

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects nearly 13% of reproductive-aged females. It is typically caused by hyperandrogenism, which allows PCOS to manifest itself in different forms. This also contributes to infertility due to anovulation, which affects nearly 50% of PCOS patients. Anovulation presents an opportunity to discover the mechanism underlying PCOS. Ovarian smooth muscle cells (SMC) express Kir7.1, a potassium channel that controls the excitation and contraction of SMC. Kir7.1’s function is affected by hormonal imbalance, demonstrated through its activation by dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and therefore can be altered in PCOS patients. Given the function of Kir7.1, hyperandrogenism in PCOS patients may cause the overactivation of Kir7.1 which inhibits ovulation. In the Lishko Lab, we aim to investigate steroid selectivity of Kir7.1 and explore its physiological role in ovaries through the use of pharmacological profiles and in vitro ovulation respectively. We aim to determine if regulation of […]

Aleysha Chen

Gene therapy has been a rapidly emerging field of experimental therapeutics, wherein nucleic acids are delivered into cells via viral vectors in the effort to treat diseases associated with genetic defects. An increasing number of clinical trials have shown that the recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) is an efficient vehicle for gene therapy. However, the low production capacity of rAAV has been a major bottleneck that decelerates AAV gene therapy development. To overcome this, the present project aims to target membrane-associated accessory protein (MAAP), which is known to serve a critical role in promoting secretion of AAV virion. Initial rounds of direct evolution of MAAP will be conducted to enrich functional variants in the construction of an AAV library. This library will further undergo next generation sequencing to recover functionally improved variants in comparison with wild type MAAP. The resulting sequence-function dataset will further train machine learning algorithms in predicting optimally […]

Noah Bussell

With abundant greenhouse gas emissions negatively affecting environmental and human health, it is extremely important that research is conducted on semiconductor materials that can both produce energy renewably and reduce existing pools of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In accordance with this pressing task, I will be working on a project to synthesize and develop a transition metal nitride (Cu3N) with the ultimate aim of demonstrating its ability to reduce carbon dioxide both selectively and efficiently into liquid and gaseous fuels, using solar energy. While copper nitride has a high absorption coefficient, a narrow band gap, and other properties that would enable it to perform favorably in photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical cells, little research has been done on its potential within the context of CO2 reduction reactions due to difficulties encountered in its synthesis. I will thus be building off of the Cooper Lab’s work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to effectively synthesize […]

Zachary Zollman

As anthropogenic climate change progresses, there is an increasing need to understand how organisms tolerate hot, arid conditions without desiccating, or drying up. In many arthropods, aridity tolerance is impacted by the outer covering of their bodies, the cuticle, especially its waxy outer layer, the epicuticle. This layer can help retain moisture by reducing evaporation rates. The chemical composition of the cuticle may impact moisture retention, and thus the ability of arthropods to persist under global heating. We plan to analyze specimens of two spider species (Tetragnatha versicolor and T. laboriosa) from populations in various regions of California. Both species are distributed throughout the state near bodies of water, though they have different habitat preferences, with T. laboriosa typically found in drier environments. We will evaluate how quantities, lengths, and double bond counts of methyl-branched cuticular hydrocarbons vary across populations, which may allow inference on the role of specific compounds […]

Ilaria Stewart

Understanding the diversity of cell types in the brain is critical for understanding how we interact with the world around us. Previous neuroscience research has not clearly defined the cell types that exist among wide-field cells, a population of cells that are critical to the visual integration pathway. Wide-field cells have potentially wide-ranging impacts on human disease, so having a better understanding of the proteins wide-field cells produce could help elucidate the causes of various disorders in humans. I will aim to categorize the biomolecular cell types in genetic mouse lines using immunohistochemistry (IHC) and in situ hybridization (ISH) to monitor the proteins expressed by wide-field cells, as well as the mRNA present in wide-field cells. The activity and downstream connections of wide-field cells are mediated by their expression of proteins. Knowing the molecules wide-field cells express will shed light on their function and connectivity, allowing for the investigation of […]

Allen Khudaverdyan

Heart disease continues to be a defining illness of our generation, as the poor regenerative potential of the human heart renders fatal the loss of millions of heart muscle cells that follow heart attacks. Yet, there seems to exist a striking heterogeneity across species in this regenerative potential. Neonatal mice, for example, exhibit a much more robust ability to regenerate these heart cells (also called cardiomyocytes), but lose this ability in adulthood. Why? A recent key evolutionary intuition came in the inverse correlation between organisms’ metabolic rate and cardiac regenerative capacity. Thus, a secretory organ vital to regulating neonatal thermogenesis, brown fat, may be key. Several brown fat-secreted factors have been shown to improve cardiac function. In addition, our preliminary data unveils molecular communications between brown fat and the heart in triggering the loss of neonatal cardiomyocyte proliferative and regenerative capacity. Thus, we are looking to investigate the effects of […]

Amoolya Grandhi

Topological insulators, electronic materials that behave like insulators in their interior but can conduct current on their edges or surfaces, hold a lot of potential for improving the function and energy efficiency of various devices. These materials have unique electrical properties resulting from their conducting edge and surface states. Specifically, these states can transport charge with very low resistivity, leading to efficient conduction. Topological insulator materials are heavily influenced by the symmetry of their crystal structure─the pattern in which their atoms are arranged. For this reason, my project will investigate the effects of structural disorder─which breaks spatial symmetries─on the properties of a relatively new topological insulator with the chemical formula MnBi2Te4 (Manganese, Bismuth, and Tellurium) through computational quantum mechanical modeling methods such as Density Functional Theory. Namely, I will look at the effect of slightly distorting the crystal structure on the magnetism, electronic structure, and other properties of the material.

Joanna Veres

Being able to understand and predict the behavior of bovine intervertebral discs under different mechanical stresses is important because bovine discs are often used as a stand-in for human discs in disc biomechanics studies. Current computational methods of modeling stress and strain mechanics in the disc are very inconsistent because they are unable to reliably and accurately depict fiber mechanics, due to the fact that they treat a non-homogenous, fibrous part of the disc (the annulus fibrosis) as a homogenous structure. This newly developed computational model is better able to predict the behavior of the disc as it more accurately models the annulus fibrosis as a structure made up of separate fiber bundles. With this improved model, the scientific community will be able to more accurately predict the mechanical stability of a disc with simulated repair or degeneration. However, this model has yet to be experimentally validated. My project is […]

Eric Li

Quantum computing is a new paradigm that could revolutionize how we process information. For these applications, it is critical that the systems can maintain quantum coherence for long periods of time. In this project, we will investigate new acoustic designs to extend quantum coherence in superconducting quantum qubits and nanomechanical resonators. At low temperatures where quantum devices operate, the dominant energy loss in acoustic and superconducting resonators occurs due to coupling to two-level-system defects. The goal of our research will be to engineer a platform that can be used to study these defects. Because proper shielding is critical to keep a quantum system isolated from its environment, a challenge will be to design a shielding system with a bandgap that blocks acoustic waves from escaping into the environment at our frequencies of interest. We will use an acoustic metamaterial-based design, which will be a periodic arrangement of unit cells engineered […]