Zaid Ahmad

I’m interested in developing computational methods to quantitatively describe the impact of natural selection on various traits and genes expressed in modern human populations. Detecting and inferring natural selection is central to understanding how populations of individuals have evolved over time. Advances in next-generation genomic sequencing technologies have made it possible to extract high-quality DNA data from ancient relics such as fossils. Specifically, I want to understand how this ancient DNA data can help us detect selection, and I’ll also be testing methods that I develop with real ancient DNA data from Europe. Combining both modern and ancient DNA samples into an analysis will allow me to paint a clear picture of how our genome has evolved in response to various environmental factors over the past ten thousand years. I’ll be developing scalable methods that can use both ancient and modern DNA data to accurately detect selection across hundreds of […]

Owen Doyle

Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) safely manipulates neural excitability in the brain, offering neuroscientists a powerful tool to study the human brain and clinicians a potential treatment for psychiatric and neurological disorders. NIBS methods influence the brain’s electrical activity by generating an electric field over a targeted region of the scalp. For example, directing stimulation over the motor cortex can elicit movement in a muscle of interest. The intensity of movement may reflect the integrity of the nervous system’s motor pathway but measuring electrical changes in the brain proves vital to understanding how the brain responds to stimulation. A new magnetic NIBS device developed at Berkeley requires an investigation of these electrophysiological changes. I will study our device’s effect on neural activity using electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive method of monitoring electrical signals in the brain. Using EEG, we hope to understand how the device modulates neural excitability and endogenous neural oscillations.

Alexandra Weiss

Compartmentalization lies at the heart of understanding cell biology. The eukaryotic cell is composed of organelles, each of which carries out a unique function. As the newly discovered complexity of the prokaryotic cell is becoming further understood, bacterial organelles are becoming an essential detail to comprehending how bacteria function. The Komeili group recently discovered a novel membrane-bound organelle called the ferrosome. It is hypothesized that the ferrosome may play a part in iron storage or bacterial stress response. Yet, the question remains: what is the function of the ferrosome? My project seeks to answer this question by employing Random Barcode Transposon Sequencing, a powerful new method used to annotate gene function. I will determine which genes become conditionally essential in the absence of ferrosomes. Finding out the ferrosome’s function can reveal how bacteria produce, use, and store iron. It can also have broader implications in organelle biogenesis and bacterial stress […]

Nicolas Anderson

1.1 billion years ago, Laurentia, the Craton which makes up majority of modern North America’s landmass, was rifting apart in the Lake Superior region and growing in the American Southwest. Both of these processes produce magma. As magma cools, the magnetic minerals within align with Earth’s magnetic field and these alignments can be used to determine the age of a rock (paleomagnetism). Similarly, small crystals formed within the magma can also indicate a rocks age (geochronology). There is a likely connection between the locations due to similar timing of emplacement and geochemical signals. Recent, high-quality data collected for Lake Superior indicate a high volume, short duration magmatic event 1096 million years ago, which is inconsistent with a typical rift (long duration, low volume). It is hypothesized that an upwelling magma plume encountered topography at the base of the crust, bifurcating it, sending some magma into the rift, with the rest […]

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 […]

Karah Giesecke

Before the invention of disposable pads and tampons during the late 1920s and early 1930s, period products were homespun creations. Period products were made by women for women out of leftover pieces of cotton and other fabrics that were often washed and reused. Those who could afford to, however, would dispose the pieces of soiled cloth. The ease of disposing menstrual cloths then resulted in the creation of products that were meant to be thrown away. Disposable menstrual pads and later tampons, unlike their more rustic forefathers, were branded and their advertisements associated these products with a new kind of modern “delicate” woman. While material culture, or the objects that surround individuals, are typically used to establish status and identity, menstruation’s material culture produces identity and status in more nuanced ways because period products are meant to be invisible. This invisibility, or menstruation suppression, paired with the commodification of period […]

Ava Olson

How do fictional cops enable and validate real police brutality? My research surveys a wide selection of procedural television from the 1950s to the present, examining each show in its context to understand the cultural, political, and sociological work done by narratives that cast police officers as “good guys” in a reality where that may not be the case. From standard procedurals like The Rookies to more modern, “progressive” programs like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I hope to examine how television manufactures consent among the American public to justify over-policing and its consequences. Using policing as a starting point, I aim to investigate the greater American attitude towards violence and how violence in the United States is evaluated as either acceptable or excessive. This project will take an interdisciplinary approach that synthesizes history, folklore studies, legal studies/criminology, sociology, media studies, and political science to understand how effective propaganda is created and what […]

Orion Ning

Quantum field theory (QFT) — a theory describing subatomic particles as excitations of fundamental ‘fields’ — has long been established as the de facto framework for modern particle physics, yet it remains a topic riddled with open problems. Interacting QFTs in higher dimensions, particularly 6D, is one such problem, motivated by string theory, a highly theoretical mathematical model attempting to describe all of nature. These interacting QFTs have Lagrangians (precursors to ‘equations of motion’) that can probe M5-branes, which are objects of fundamental interest in string theory. However, the Lagrangians for these theories are susceptible to quantum anomalies, which are red flags indicating that a symmetry of classical physics is incompatible with quantum mechanics. Analysis of the behavior of these anomalies, and the quantum interactions they induce in the corresponding theory, can be explored by looking at their consequences in lower dimensions. My research will investigate the lower-dimensional behavior of […]