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MSD SCHOLARS

STUDENT PROFILES

2008-2009

 


Mr. Kristopher Kennedy
Mr. Ben Lluncor
Ms. Felicia Reinitz
Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Ms. Michelle Wray
Ms. Brenda Vazquez

Mr. Kristopher Kennedy
Mentor: Nicholas C. Brecha, Ph.D. and
Salvatore L. Stella, Ph.D.
Title: Development of thy-1.2 YFP positive mouse cone bipolar neurons in vitro

(Dr. Salvatore Stella, Kristopher Kennedy, Dr. Nicholas Brecha)

Kris is a fifth year neuroscience major. He transferred from Los Angeles Pierce College to UCLA in Fall 2006. He began doing research at UCLA through the URC/CARE BRIDGE Summer Research Program for community college students. In BRIDGE, he chose to study retinal development in Dr. Nicholas Brecha’s neurobiology lab, under the guidance of Dr.
Salvatore Stella. Kris has continued working in the lab through the MARC program and now MSD Scholars.

Nicholas Brecha's lab studies synaptic connectivity of the retina, the sensory tissue of vision. Kris is studying how retinal neurons develop in culture. The goal of his project is to optimize a culture technique that facilitates development of functional retinal cone bipolar cells.
Insights into retinal neuron development in culture may yield better ways of harvesting retinal neurons for studies in regenerative medicine.

Kris credits his research mentors for helping him hone his critical thinking skills and his technical skills in molecular biology and microscopy. In the near future, Kris plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program in the life sciences. He hopes to become a biomedical researcher studying how networks of neurons produce behavior.

 

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Mr. Ben Lluncor
Mentor: Dr. Harold Monbouquette
Major: Chemical Engineering
Title: Analysis of the lipid synthesis pathway in a thermophilic Archaeon Archaeoglobus fulgidus

Ben Lluncor is a fifth year student majoring in chemical engineering with a biomedical option. He is a second year MSD scholar working in the biotechnology lab of Dr. Harold Monbouquette under the supervision of his graduate student mentor Denton Lai. Ben joined the lab in the summer of his second year.

His laboratory research has been focused on the study of a species of archaea, Archaeoglobus fulgidus. In particular the project is focused on recreating part of the lipid biosynthesis pathway of this organism in E. coli. This is accomplished by expressing two pathway enzymes—GGGPS and DGGGPS—in the lipid synthesis pathway in E. coli and purifying the product. The enzymes further downstream in the archaeal lipid synthesis pathway have not been identified nor has their catalytic function been explained.

These enzymes were identified through gene homology with another thermophilic archaeon, Sulfolobus solfataricus. The lipid biosynthesis pathway has been successfully recreated up to the catalytic product of DGGGPS. This work has been summarized in Reconstruction of the Archaeal Isoprenoid Ether Lipid Biosynthesis Pathway in Escherichia coli Through Digeranylgeranylglyceryl Phosphate , which has recently been accepted to Metabolic Engineering.

 

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Ms. Felicia Reinitz
Mentor: Dr. Paul Mischel
Major: Computational and System Biology
Minor: Spanish
Title:

Felicia is in her fifth year at UCLA, majoring in Computational and Systems Biology, with a minor in Spanish. In Fall 2007, she joined Dr. Paul Mischel’s lab in the Department of Pathology and Lab Medicine. The Mischel lab focuses on the molecular circuitry of Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), one of the most lethal brain cancers.

Felicia’s project deals with key signaling interactions involving the receptor-like protein tyrosine phosphatase, Dep-1. Using methods such as siRNA, western blotting, shRNA, and other biochemistry techniques, she molecularly and functionally analyzes signaling activity based on the molecular signature of a particular cell. Simultaneously, she examines how these key growth, proliferation, and survival pathways might be compensated for by activation of receptor tyrosine kinases or intracellular kinases after targeted inhibition. In addition, she is examining the activation of key signaling markers within the PI3 Kinase pathway and other relevant pathways (i.e. MAP Kinase pathway). Using inhibitory perturbations, she plans to look at ways in which these cells respond on a molecular and functional level, and more importantly, how they might compensate to maintain intracellular signaling critical to survival. Under the supervision of Dr. Paul Mischel and graduate student, David Nathanson, Felicia hopes to create a library of cells/cell lines with distinct molecular signatures, thus providing insight into the common and uncommon mechanisms of parallel pathway activation.

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Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Mentor: Dr. Chris Colwell
Major: Biology
Title: Circadian Dysfunction of 3-NP Induced Mouse Models of Huntington’s Disease

Geraldina Rodriguez is a 4th year undergraduate student majoring in Psychobiology. She is currently investigating under the mentorship of Dr. Christopher S. Colwell, in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. Dr. Colwell’s research has focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying circadian rhythms in mammals.

Geraldina has previously conducted research on circadian regulation of learning and memory under the guidance of post-doctoral student Louisa Wang. She has also investigated the circadian dysfunction in 3-Nitropropionic acid induced mouse models of Huntington’s disease under the tutelage of Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez and Dr. Colwell.

Continuing her research on neurodegenerative diseases and circadian rhythms, Geraldina has recently been studying the circadian dysfunction of mouse models of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Alpha-synuclein over-expressing (ASO) mice are genetically manipulated models of PD that have given insight on the progression and understanding of this disease. To evaluate the circadian alterations of PD Geraldina runs a behavioral analysis by recording the wheel-running activity of wild type and ASO mice, measuring their ability to synchronize their endogenous clock to the external environment and maintain their rhythm without external cues. Various changes in their light and dark cycles, as well as light pulses, are administered to test this. She will now begin the immunocytochemistry to perform the histological analysis. Few studies have evaluated the role of circadian regulation and PD, and with ASO mice being a relatively new model, Geraldina looks forward to running experiments, gathering more data and analyzing the results.

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Ms. Michelle Wray
Mentor: Dr. Debi P. Nayak
Major: MIMG
Title: Live-attenuated Vaccines against Influenza: M2 cytoplasmic tail deletion mutations

I am a fourth year MIMG major, I came to UCLA as a Freshman in 2005. I first began doing research during Spring quarter of my 1st year in Dr. Weiss's lab working w/ Gloria Turner performing phenotypic analysis on Neurospora mutants. I then participated in BISEP during the summer before my 2nd year. In the Fall of my 2nd year I began to work in Dr. Rita Effros's lab looking to see if a pharmacologic activator of telomerase increased the enzymatic activity in CD4+ T cells isolated from HIV+ patients.

Dr. Debi Nayak's lab works with Influenza.  Currently we are studying if creating amino acid deletion mutations in the M2 ion channel cause the virulence of virus do decrease.  This is being done in both PR8 and WSN virus.

I am in the process of applying to grad school and fellowship programs and am waiting to here back from programs I have applied to.

 

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Profiles of Students