2022 Summer Scholars

Ariana Duval

Ariana DuvalMajor: Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
Mentor: Lindsey Constantini, PhD (NCCU)

Mapping KSHV Viral DNA Replication Proteins Locations

Kaposi Sarcoma Herpesvirus (KSHV) is a virus known to cause various human cancers and diseases such as Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), Multicentric Castleman’s disease (MCD), and Primary Effusion Lymphoma (PEL). We study how KSHV viral DNA and KSHV viral DNA replication proteins interact with the goal to determine ways to disrupt the molecular interactions and prevent new virus production and spread. My study focuses on optimizing the lab's electron microscope (EM) analysis methods, specifically mapping the KSHV viral DNA replication protein's DNA binding location(s).

Aria Grizzle

Aria GrizzleMajor: Biology/Pre-Med
Mentor: Alex Marshall, PhD (NCCU)

The influence of arsenic on alcohol-induced microglial activation

We are studying the effects of ethanol on the CNS. My focus is on the impact of ethanol and arsenic exposure on microglial activation in the entorhinal cortex. I am using Iba-1 as a marker of neuroinflammation through the use of microscopy and image analysis.

Delaney Hill

Delaney HillMajor: Biology
Mentor: Ornit Chiba-Falek, PhD

Investigating humanized mice with TOMM40 long and short poly-T variants to identify gene expression of APOE-TOMM40 gene cluster

My project is based on the hypothesis that gene dysregulation contributes at least part of the risk for Alzheimer’s, and that noncoding variants and epigenetic changes contribute to pathogenic gene expression changes. My project will utilize humanized TOMM40-APOE mice that were previously generated by targeted replacement. I will analyze human APOE and TOMM40 transcript levels in the brain, liver and spleen collected from 4 age groups (3-18 months) of male and female mice carrying the short and long poly-T alleles. The findings of this project will generate new knowledge about the regional regulation of the TOMM40-APOE gene cluster and provide insights into the mechanistic role of this genetic region in aging and its implications to Alzheimer’s disease.

Paola J. Maldonado

Paola Maldonado MartinezMajor: Industrial Microbiology
Mentor: Ashley Chi PhD

Using X-Ray Crystallography to investigate the structure of MESH1-CoA                              

Metazoan Spot Homolog 1 (MESH1) is the metazoan homolog of bacterial SpoT that regulates the bacterial stringent response by degrading the alarmone guanosine pentaphosphate and tetraphosphate [(p)ppGpp]. MESH1 seems to have a significant role in tumor biology that could be used to develop therapeutics to treat various types of cancer. My project aims to investigate the structure between MESH1 and Coenzyme A, one of the identified MESH1 substrates using methods such as x-ray crystallography to gain a better understanding of the role of MESH1.

Brielle-Anne Michel

Brielle-Anne MichelMajor: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mentor: Hiro Matsunami, PhD

Detecting Cell Surface Expression and Maintaining Native Ligand Selectivity with Olfactory Receptor (OR) Chimera

Olfactory Receptors (ORs) are G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) that are an essential component in detecting odorous ligands that enter the nasal cavity. Although ORs are known to have abundant cell surface expression on olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), due to improper protein folding and divergence of residues, many ORs cannot be expressed on the cell surface of non-olfactory cells, causing technical issues for functional assays and biochemical experiments. This project aims to design ORs that show robust cell surface expression, yet maintain the ligand selectivity of their corresponding native receptors by detecting the cell surface expression of olfactory receptor chimeras. Investigating these engineered ORs will provide more insight on how to overcome experimental difficulties in future research concerning olfactory receptors and the detection of odorants, as well as to understand the mechanism of why certain ORs lack cell surface expression on non-olfactory cells.

Brianna Smith

Brianna SmithMajor: Biology
Mentor: Anne West, MD, PhD

NPAS4 Effect on Neuronal Activity Dependent Transcription 

Learning and memory are crucial to survival and are regulated by neuronal activity dependent gene expression, the products of which affect neuronal plasticity. Changes in gene expression are dependent on regulation via the non-coding region of the genome, which includes enhancers and promoters. While promoters are well studied, the detection and mechanisms of enhancer-mediated regulation are still not completely understood. Given that enhancer dysfunction has been seen to be associated with many brain disorders, this area of research is significant. Enhancer function is primarily mediated by transcription factor binding, and a specific neuronal transcription factor, NPAS4 (Neuronal PAS domain protein 4), is seen to preferentially bind to enhancers and is correlated with increased activity dependent transcription. We are investigating the function of NPAS4 in the regulation of enhancer-mediated, activity dependent transcription. Studying the effects of enhancer-binding transcription factors will give us insight to better understand the role of enhancers in human health.

Lucien Tessier

Lucien TessierMajor: Biology and Linguistics
Mentor: Charlie Gersbach, PhD and Christian McRoberts Amador

Using CRISPRi to repress TOX expression in T cells

T cells are the centerpiece of the adaptive immune system, molding themselves after pathogens to both quell infection and build long-term immunity against future infections by the same pathogen. Unfortunately, in chronic diseases such as viral infections or cancer where T cells are exposed to repeated stimulation, they are reprogrammed to a dysfunctional “exhausted” state. Our project aims to use CRISPRi to reduce expression of TOX, a transcription factor expressed in T cells that has been implicated in the epigenetic maintenance of T cell exhaustion. Successful repression of TOX carries promise of reversing the exhausted T cell state, hence improving immunotherapy by reinvigorating the immune response.

Sydney Vander

Sydney VanderMajor: Chemistry
Minor: Biology/Math
Mentor: Paul Magwene, PhD

Analyzing Colony Morphology in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Wild isolates of Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibit a diverse array of colony morphologies when grown on solid medium, and the development of this complex trait is controlled by multiple signaling pathways. My project examines over 1,000 isolates of S. cerevisiae by culturing them and scoring their phenotypes, based on a scale assigning value to their colony morphologies. By combining this phenotypic data with existing genotypic data available for each isolate, I will perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS). The analysis of this effort will highlight variations in the genetic network controlling colony morphology.