Lindsey Ching

The vast majority of plants and crops, used both for food and fuel, utilize a type of photosynthesis in which the enzyme RuBisCO catalyzes the primary assimilation of carbon dioxide into sugar, termed C3 photosynthesis. However, certain plant lineages have evolved both biochemical and anatomical alterations, called C4 photosynthesis, that allow the enzyme PEP carboxylase to perform the primary assimilation event of CO2. C4 photosynthesizers have both higher photosynthetic efficiency and lower rates of an energy-intensive process called photorespiration relative to C3 plants, especially under high-stress conditions. As the climate continues to become more unpredictable, the benefits of the adaptations of C4 plants over C3 plants, in particular for food and fuel production, will become ever more critical. A major hole in our understanding of how C4 photosynthesis evolved rests in the fact that while all the enzymes necessary to perform C4 photosynthesis are present in all C3 plants, their […]

Kristy Tjokro

I am investigating the gene Rpl41 in a mouse model. Rpl41 is a ribosomal protein coding gene of the large ribosome subunit. It is one of 80 highly conserved ribosomal genes. In literature, mutations to the ribosomal protein genes have resulted in drastic phenotypic differences in even heterozygous individuals, many resulting in embryonic lethality. Rpl41 is a highly conserved gene so the existence of our knockout Rpl41 mice is surprising. Rpl41 knockout mice are phenotypically different from wildtype mice in two important aspects. While the knockout ovaries show evidence of ovulation, structurally, the knockout ovary shares little anatomical similarities with the wildtype littermate control. Importantly, these knockout females are infertile while a significant number of males die of hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain, and are potentially infertile after one litter. I am investigating these phenotypes through histological and molecular biology approaches to fully characterize and quantify the […]

Sarah Schwarz

In a crystalline solid, the constituent atoms electron orbitals overlap, forming energy bands which allow electrons to travel through the solid as waves. The interaction between local electrons in f-orbitals and delocalized, wave-like band states of the conduction electrons underlies several areas of contemporary, fundamental research in solid state physics. In my SURF fellowship I will research Cerium-Bismuth (CeBi), a crystalline solid similar to the well studied Cerium-Antimony (CeSb). These compounds are part of a larger family of materials called the cerium monopnictides. CeBi and CeSb share the same crystalline structure and similar complex magnetic phase diagrams at low temperatures, but they differ qualitatively in the nature of their magnetic states. I aim to investigate why these qualitative differences arise, revealing the interactions between f-electrons and conduction electrons. Theories of these interactions have had profound impacts on modern solid state physics, including the discovery of superconductivity in f-electron systems and […]

Amoolya Grandhi

Quantum dot supercrystals hold a lot of potential for future nanophotonics due to their unique optical and electric properties. Quantum dots, which are semiconducting nanoparticles, can act like atoms and arrange into a crystal structure, forming something called a supercrystal. These supercrystals have been found to form interesting shapes such as spheres, rods, and various prisms. However, my research recently found that they can also take the shape of half-spheres or donuts, which has never been documented before. These new shapes both pack differently and likely have unique optical properties (the shape of a supercrystal has been found to affect its electromagnetic properties). My project aims to study the supercrystal formation of quantum dots on an air-liquid interface and investigate the effect of subphase surface energy and micelle formation on supercrystal size and shape. Understanding what controls the shape of supercrystals could enable the discovery of novel fabrication processes and […]

Trishna Patel

The recent COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), has catalyzed a global public health crisis, and effective therapeutics as well as a deeper understanding of the mechanism of severe disease induced by SARS-CoV-2 infections are desperately needed. Severe cases of COVID-19 are associated with vascular leak in the lungs of infected individuals, a similar pathology to that of flaviviruses, for which preliminary research has shown that synthetic sulfated glycans may function as potential antivirals. In particular, cyclodextrins, a family of cyclic oligosaccharides with potential use as active pharmaceuticals, are promising candidates for efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection and vascular leak. Coronaviruses interact with heparan sulfate-containing proteoglycans on the surface of susceptible cells, which serve as non-specific attachment factors. Specifically, the SARS-CoV-2 S protein binds heparin on the host cell surface, making this cellular attachment stage a potential target for antiviral therapeutics before pathology is triggered in the lungs. This […]

Damian Kim

During gastrulation in Xenopus, a specific group of cells located at the organizer, called Bottle Cells, undergo apical constriction and invagination, forming the dorsal lip of the blastopore. Immediately after, the neighboring cells involute inwards towards the anterior end of the embryo, forming the mesoderm and the archenteron. Although the behaviors of cells have been described, the genes that control the processes are only beginning to be discovered. The Harland Lab believes the process of Bottle Cells formation resembles aspects of cell invasion, metastasis, and immunological processes, so studying the underlying similarities may lead to new insights in the field. Through the use of various databases I will identify potential gene candidates that may be crucial in Bottle Cell migration, and I will carry out whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH) and CRISPR/Cas9 experiments to validate my hypotheses, and hence identify the functions of these genes in relation to gastrulation and […]

Amy Yan

Clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) is a conserved cellular pathway that internalizes receptors from the cell membrane that is coordinated by a wide assortment of proteins. This process is crucial for cellular growth, maintenance, and nutrient uptake. Nucleation of actin proteins has been shown to provide crucial forces for the internalization process. While well-studied and 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 spatiotemporal regulation of branched actin network assembly by the type II actin nucleation promoting factors, ABP1 and CTTN. Elucidation of these spatiodynamics will provide a fundamental and deeper understanding of the crucial process of CME, specifically in mammalian cells.This summer, I will work closely with my mentor in learning data analysis skills for live-cell imaging. In parallel, I will also design a methodology for generating a knockout hiPSC […]

Jonathan Kuo

Clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME) is a critical process in cells that maintains the balance of signaling and receptor molecules on the cellular surface. This balance is critical in the development of the human cerebral cortex, during which neuroepithelial stem cells must choose to divide or differentiate. These cell fate decisions are dependent on the distribution of membrane signaling molecules and receptors, distributions we hypothesize are regulated by CME. However, technical limitations have, until recently, made it nearly impossible to study the dynamics of CME in the highly polarized NECs of a neuroepithelium within live tissue. Here, we seek to study CME in live tissues by culturing 3D cerebral organoids that capture the spatial organization and polarity of NECs during development. Using adaptive optics lattice light-sheet microscopy (AO-LLSM) and computational image analysis, we will observe the dynamics of CME in 3D, focusing on AP2, Dynamin2 and ArpC3, 3 key endocytic proteins that […]

DJena See

Tardigrades are frequently studied for their profound ability to withstand environmental stressors, but the mechanisms and degree to which they survive these conditions have been demonstrated to differ between species. This project explores how one freshwater tardigrade species, Hypsibius exemplaris, tolerates subfreezing temperatures by an apparently unique method that avoids desiccation. Existing literature suggests that the remarkable cold tolerance of this species is due to cold tolerance protein expression in response to slow cooling of their environment. However, the precise biochemical and biomolecular mechanisms underlying this cryobiotic ability in H. exemplaris remains unexplored. We aim to shed light on these mechanisms and the proteins involved by isolating candidate cold tolerance proteins in H. exemplaris, characterizing their structures, and performing selective mutations on these proteins to explore potential mechanisms of action. If we are able to identify and characterize the cryoproteins responsible for cold tolerance in this species of tardigrade, these […]

Hunter Thornton

Mosquito-borne diseases are a major burden to public health systems, especially in developing countries. It is estimated that about 3.9 billion people worldwide are at risk of infection with dengue virus, with 50-100 million cases per year1. Nonetheless, safe vaccines and therapeutics for dengue are not available. Transmission occurs through the bite of female Aedes mosquitos infected with one of four antigenically related dengue virus serotypes (DENV1-4). Infection with one serotype may confer temporal protection or, conversely, enhance disease of a subsequent infection with a different serotype, suggesting an important role for immune responses in driving the outcome of the disease24. The mechanisms that govern DENV replication and its interplay with the immune system are a major knowledge gap in the field. Here, we address this issue by investigating the viral non-structural protein NS5, known to be involved in both viral replication and immune evasion mechanisms. In particular, we aim […]