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The Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

2006-2007

Ms. Mirabelle Sajisevi
Ms. Lauren Sanchez
Mr. David Savin 
Mr. Ashkon Senaati
Mr. Abhishek Shah
Mr. Govind Shah
Ms. Jenna Sopfe
Ms. Aida Sun
Mr. Vinh Trang
Ms. Amy Truong
Mr. Vladislav Voroninski
Ms. Darcy Wanger 
Ms. Cindy Wong
Mr. Edward Wu
Ms. Angela Vong
Ms. Nooshin Yashar
Ms. Stephanie Yu
Mr. Terrance Yu
Mr. Jaime Zelaya


Ms. Mirabelle Sajisevi
Mentor: Dr. Fuyuhiko Tamanoi
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: Characterization of Tsc2 and Rheb Interaction

Mirabelle Sajisevi is a fourth year student majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. In that department, she has done research under the guidance of Dr. Fuyuhiko Tamanoi for almost two years. Her research focuses on the critical Tsc/Rheb/TOR cell signaling pathway which is involved in regulating cell growth in eukaryotic organisms. Dysregulation of this pathway has been associated with disturbed organ development and tissue homeostasis and therefore ultimately the formation of tumors. It has been shown that the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 1 (Tsc1) and Tsc2 negatively regulate the mTOR pathway by interacting to form a tumor suppressor complex. The C-terminal region of Tsc2 contains a putative GTPase-activating protein (GAP) domain and in mammalian cells has been shown to function as a GAP, inhibiting the small GTPase protein, Rheb . In turn, Rheb activates mTOR, which then targets eukaryote initiation factor 4E binding protein (4EB P1) and ribosomal S6 kinase (S6K), the two downstream translational regulators directly involved in protein synthesis. Mirabelle has been characterizing the Tsc2 homolog in yeast and investigating its interaction with the Rheb homolog, Rhb1. Now she is beginning to characterize this interaction in mammalian cells. Upon graduation, Mirabelle plans to attend medical school and hopes to continue research throughout her career. She would like to thank Dr. Fuyuhiko Tamanoi not only for being a wonderful professor and advisor, but for allowing her the opportunity to contribute to his research lab. She also extends sincere gratitude to the Wasserman Family and the Undergraduate Research Center for their encouragement and financial support.

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Ms. Lauren Sanchez
Mentor: Dr. Luisa Iruela-Arispe
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title:
Characterizing Progesterone Receptor (PR) Expression in Mouse Vasculature

Lauren Sanchez is a third year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major and is currently working towards her honors thesis under the guidance of Dr. Luisa Iruela-Arispe of the Department of MCD Biology. The female hormone progesterone is widely used by women of all ages in both contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. While hormonal supplements were once thought to be beneficial to women’s cardiovascular health, recent studies by the Women’s Health Initiative have demonstrated users of hormonal therapy are at a 24% greater risk for developing heart disease. Preliminary studies have suggested a link between expression of the progesterone receptor (PR) and the permeability of the vasculature, which may contribute to the development of heart disease. The widespread and frequent usage of progesterone today warrants further study on effects of progesterone on the mammalian vasculature. To contribute to this study, Lauren is generating a reporter mouse model, in which the reporter gene lacZ has been substituted for the PR gene. Using the PRlacZ mouse model, she will characterize normal, wild-type patterns of PR expression in mice of varying developmental stages, including pregnant mice. The model will be compared against other PR mouse models in which the PR is misexpressed. Lauren plans to graduate in spring 2008 and then plans to attend either graduate or medical school. She thanks Dr. Luisa Arispe, Dr. Minako Partyka, and Kirsten Turlo for their continued support and mentorship in the lab, and the Estate of Rex and Ruth Van Trees for their generous endowment.

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Mr. David Savin
Mentor: Dr. Felix Schweizer
Funding: Alcott Scholar
Title:
Localization of BK channels in mammalian vestibular hair cells

David Savin is presently a senior majoring in Physiological Sciences. He conducts his research at the David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology under the guidance of his mentor Dr. Felix Schweizer. David has been in Dr. Schweizer’s lab since June 2004. David’s current research project involves the localization of voltage and calcium activated potassium channels (BK) in rodent vestibular hair cells. These channels are important regulators of neuronal excitability and are generally thought to be co-localized with calcium channels at presynaptic release sites and seem crucial for frequency tuning in non-mammalian vestibular and auditory hair cells. However, in mammalian auditory hair cells, BK channels have been reported to be localized towards the apical end of the cell, away from release. We therefore decided to investigate the localization of BK channels in mammalian vestibular hair cells. Here we report on the distribution of BK channels in the rodent vestibular neuroepithelia using immunohistochemistry and laser scanning confocal microscopy. We used a monoclonal antibody that does not detect a protein in BK-null mutant animals according to Misonou et al. (J. Comp Neurol. 2006). We further confirmed the specificity of the antibody by staining cerebellar and cochlear sections. As previously reported, we find BK immunoreactivity associated with Purkinje cells in the cerebellum. Also in accordance to previous work by others we do not detect any labeling of outer hair cells in the rodent cochlea and the staining in inner hair cells appears to be localized towards the apical side. In the rat utricle, we find that the BK-channel antibodies strongly label a subset of both type I and type II hair cells. In individual hair cells, the labeling appears to be fairly uniform and clearly is not restricted to either apical or basal sites, although the staining appears to be enhanced in the very apical portion of the cells. Furthermore, we do not detect any BK-immunoreactivity in the afferent fibers. Taken together, our data indicate that BK channel expression in the mammalian vestibular system differs from the expression pattern in both the mammalian auditory and the non-mammalian vestibular system. David is planning to attend medical school fall 2007. He thanks Dr. Schweizer, Dr. Hoffman and everyone in the Schweizer Lab for their ongoing assistance and the Alcott family for the generous scholarship.

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Mr. Ashkon Senaati
Mentor: Dr. Genhong Cheng, Dr. David J. Sanchez
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title:
HIV Replication Promoted by the Host Antiviral Immune Response

Genhong Cheng (P.I), Ashkon Senaati, David J. Sanchez (Post Doc Mentor)

Ashkon Senaati is a fourth year Biology major. He works in the lab of Dr. Genhong Cheng and is directly mentored by Dr. David J. Sanchez. Ashkon focuses on the innate antiviral response and its role in promoting HIV replication. Type I Interferons (IFN) are a group of cytokines that play an important role in the immune system through their antiviral actions. The pathways that induce type I IFN activate transcription factors that also serve as transcription factors for the HIV genome. These transcription factors include NF-kB and AP-1 among others. As HIV genes are being transcribed for new viruses, the RNA produced is highly structured and we propose it can be detected by cellular receptors which subsequently will induce type I IFN. Thus by stimulating the type I IFN response, it is believed that the HIV RNA is also inducing transcription of the HIV provirus through the host’s own transcription factors. The goal of Ashkon’s project is to characterize the HIV RNA ligand that induces the IFN response and to elucidate the pathway or pathways it utilizes for this induction. After completing his undergraduate career this year, Ashkon aspires to attend medical school. Ashkon would like to thank the Van Trees Foundation for their support of undergraduate research and his mentors for providing him with the opportunity to work on his own research project.

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Mr. Abhishek Shah
Mentor: Dr. Guoping Fan
Funding: Hilton Scholar
Title: Characterization of Hypomethylation Induced Apoptosis in the Mouse Cortex

From left to right: Leah Hutnick, Abhishek Shah, Dr. Guoping Fan

Abhishek is a fourth year Biology major in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is studying under the guidance of Leah Hutnick and Dr. Guoping Fan in the department of Human Genetics. Currently Abhishek is involved in helping to define the role of DNA Methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) in the development of the mouse brain. Using the Cre/loxP system, conditional knockout mice have been generated that lack Dnmt1. However, the hippocampus and the cortex of these mutant mice are degenerate, complicating the characterization of Dnmt1. Previous work has revealed that degeneration of the neurons follows the apoptotic pathway. Thus, understanding the relation between hypomethylation (caused by Dnmt1 knockout) and apoptosis in neurons will enable the rescue of the degenerate regions, and facilitate characterization of Dnmt1. Toward that end, proteins known to be involved in apoptosis will be analyzed from the mutant mice to see whether they are being activated. Those proteins will be analyzed via Western Blots to identify which ones are being activated in the hypomethylated background. One of the more critical genes being studied is p53, which is a central regulator of the cell cycle and apoptosis. As such, conditional knockout mice for Dnmt1 will be generated and then bred with p53 null mice to generate double mutants. The double mutants will provide an in vivo model of the effect of p53 deletion on rescuing hypomethylated cells. After the end of the school year, Abhishek plans to attend medical school. He would like to thank the members of the Fan Lab who have helped him with his project, and especially thank both Leah Hutnick and Dr. Guoping Fan for their guidance. Abhishek would also like to thank the Hilton Scholarship Fund for their generous support of his research.

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Mr. Govind Shah
Mentor: Dr. Steve Jacobsen
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title:
Finding new genes responsible for the establishment of DNA methylation and tagging and purification of AGO4

From Left to right: Dr. Peng Peng, Govind Shah, Dr. Steve Jacobsen

Govind is a fourth-year MCDB major, and has been working in the laboratory of Professor Steve Jacobsen since June, 2005. The Jacobsen Lab is interested in gene silencing, specifically by DNA methylation. Under the guidance of post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Peng Peng, he has been participating two projects.

Genetic Screen: A forward genetic screen is being conducted in order to find new genes responsible for establishing DNA methylation. The screen utilizes the expression of the gene FWA, which causes late flowering. Currently secondary molecular assays are being performed to further characterize mutant lines.

Tagging and Purification of AGO4 : AGO4 is a protein involved in siRNA guided DNA methylation. The tagging system utilizes the biotin-avidin/streptavidin conjugation, the strongest noncovalent interaction in nature. Purification is being performed in order to find nuclear complexes in which AGO4 may participate, potentially identifying novel proteins involved in RNA-guided DNA methylation.

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Ms. Jenna Sopfe
Mentor: Dr. Eran Zaidel
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title:
Emotion and language: hemispheric specialization, interhemispheric interaction, and the Stroop Effect

Jenna Sopfe is a third year psychobiology major conducting research under Dr. Eran Zaidel in the Department of Psychology at UCLA. She has been working under Dr. Zaidel since January 2005 as a laboratory assistant. Jenna is currently analyzing data, preparing two papers for submission, and preparing for presenting a poster at the Stanford Undergraduate Research Conference. Her work examines the interference of language on emotion processing using a Stroop paradigm. The Stroop Effect, in which one attention-demanding process interferes with another, has been widely used to analyze the interaction between tasks; among others, it has been applied to hemisphere specialization and interhemispheric interaction. In particular, Jenna applied the Stroop paradigm to the relationship between emotion words and emotion faces, and how they are processed in the two hemispheres. The results can help understand the disease of Alexithymia, which is an inability to express emotions in words. Theories behind Alexithymia are still uncertain, but include right hemisphere deficit and insufficient interhemispheric interaction, especially right to left transfer.

Additionally, Jenna’s research tests two theories for hemispheric interaction, as language is accepted to be processed in the left brain, while emotion is considered to be processed partially in the right brain. One possibility is that stimuli are processed in the hemisphere to which they are sent (direct access). Alternatively, it is possible that stimuli are processed exclusively in one hemisphere, requiring interhemispheric transfer if sent to the incompetent hemisphere (colossal relay).

The experiment promises to illuminate the relationship of the mind to the brain in two ways. First, it deals with the fundamental relationship between language and emotion. Second, it helps to understand how the two hemispheres of the normal brain work independently and together.

After graduating from UCLA, Jenna intends to attend medical school to specialize in pediatrics.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ms. Aida Sun
Mentor: Dr. Gregory Grether
Funding: Miller Scholar
Title:
Hue preference in Trinidian Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Kerry Deere, Aida Sun, and Dr. Gregory Grether

Aida Sun is a fourth year biology student currently working under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory Grether and Kerry Deere in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her project is on the specific hue preference of Trinidian Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in the context of sexual selection. Female guppies select for a level of orange coloration in their males created by two pigments –drosopterin and carotenoid. The former is genetically controlled while the latter is obtained through diet alone. Research has shown that females favor males with higher carotenoid disposition within their skin. Such pattern of selection has been explained by the indicator model as well as the pre-existing sensory bias. However, the role of drosopterin in sexual selection is much more complex. Aida’s research will focus on the significance of drospterin in sexual selection and whether the countergradient pattern is driven by sexual selection.

Aida would like to thank the Miller-Holmes family for their generous funding and support. She would also like to thank Dr. Grether for giving her the opportunity to work in his lab and Kerry Deere for her patience, supervision, and guidance. Lastly, she would like to thank the Undergraduate Research Center for offering the opportunities to participate in the entire process of scientific research.

 

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Mr. Vinh Trang
Mentor: Dr. Wenyuan Shi
Funding: Alcott Scholar
Title: Utilization of a Peptide-Matrix Screen to Define Species-Specific Binding Traits

(from left to right) Dan Yarbrough, Vinh Trang, Dr. Wenyuan Shi

Vinh Trang is currently a fourth year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major at UCLA. Since the end of his freshman year, Vinh has been conducting research in Dr. Wenyuan Shi’s lab studying
peptides as a specific antimicrobial therapy against bacterial pathogens.

Many antibiotics and antimicrobials currently in use have broad ranges of activity, often targeting essential bacterial components. Although this method of targeting efficiently eliminates the pathogen of interest, it will oftentimes wipe out the closely related natural microbial flora of that microenvironment. The elimination of natural microbial flora effectively removes any microorganisms that can compete with the pathogen and will often result in a robust repopulation of the pathogen.

The ultimate goal of the project that Vinh is currently a part of is the development of Selective Targeting Anti Microbial Peptides (STAMPs) that have potent antimicrobial activities, but are also very specific only for the species that are pathogenic. STAMPs consist of two domains, a binding domain and an antimicrobial (killing) domain. Vinh initially conducted antimicrobial assays to test the effectiveness of laboratory synthesized antimicrobial domains and is currently working to generate new binding domains to be linked with previously discovered antimicrobial domains. He is conducting binding assays with a peptide matrix that varies both in hydrophobicity of the peptide and charge of the peptide to generate a binding “fingerprint” for pathogens of interest and natural microbial flora. These“fingerprints” will then be used to generate STAMP binding domains, including those properties that enable peptides to bind to pathogens,
but taking care to exclude those properties that result in the targeting of non-pathogenic microorganisms.

Vinh’s career plans are to, after graduation, attend medical school in the Fall of 2008. Vinh would like to thank Dr. Wenyuan Shi, Dan Yarbrough, and Jian He of the Shi lab for allowing him the opportunity to conduct scientific research, and would also like to thank the
Rosalind W. Alcott fund for their generosity

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Ms. Amy Truong
Mentor: Dr. Anna N. Taylor
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title:
Hormonal sex differences affect ethanol dependence and withdrawal


Amy Truong is a fourth year biochemistry major who has been working under the guidance of Dr. Anna N. Taylor since July 2004. Amy will complete her honors thesis on the hormonal sex differences affect on ethanol dependence and withdrawal in Sprague-Dawley rats, which is an ongoing study of the work they have done for the past two years.

From their previous studies, they found that when challenged with ethanol on the third day of withdrawal, EtOH dependent females showed sensitizaion to EtOH-induced hypothermia whereas males displayed tolerance. Given that chronic EtOH exposure exerts sex-dependent effects on systemic levels of neurosteroid derivatives of progesterone, they have investigated the effects of progesterone depletion by combined ovariectomy and adrenalectomy in female rats after 14 days of EtOH consumption in a liquid diet and during 3 days of withdrawal. The hypothermic response of EtOH was tested on the third day of withdrawal (W3).

OVX-ADX females response to acute EtOH injection on W3 resembled the tolerance shown by males rather than the sensitivity of intact females. These results indicate a role for neurosteroid derivatives of progesterone in mediating sex-dependent effects of EtOH dependence and withdrawal on thermoregulation. Additionally, baseline body temperature of OVX-ADX females were significantly higher than those of intact females or males, and the recovery patterns of their responses differed significantly, suggesting that adrenal corticosteroids and testosterone modulate the temperature response to acute EtOH.

Both hypothermic responses of ADX and ODX males showed similar trends in their average nadir temperature with that of the male intacts; however, the trends were reversed in the ODX/ADX males. In addition, the baseline body temperature of the ODX-ADX males was significantly lower than those of intact males or ADX males. It is likely that the different levels of steroids derivatives of progesterone in males and females may have this effect on the rats.

The differences in males and females levels of neurosteroid derivatives of progesterone, such as testosterone and estrogen, as shown in this study may very well likely have an affect on the body temperature response of males and females to EtOH acute injection. However, it is uncertain whether these differences are indefinitely due to these sexual hormones. Thus, we intend to further this study by conducting a continuous study on the effects of EtOH on the body temperature of ADX females. Likewise, investigate for the specific hormones causing these differences between EtOH exposed males and females.

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Mr. Vladislav Voroninski
Mentor: Dr. Stefano Soatto
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title: Classifying edges in images as occlusions, shadows, or intensity changes along an object based on their statistical properties

Vlad Voroninski is a fourth year Applied Mathematics major. His main interests lie in the fields of mathematics and artificial intelligence: specifically, computer vision. For the past year, Vlad has been carrying out research under the guidance of Stefano Soatto, director of the UCLA Vision Lab. His past projects include work on segmentation of color images, as well as numerous extensions of computer vision algorithms to incorporate the use of color information. In the summer of 2006, Vlad worked in the Applied Mathematics Lab at UCLA, improving and implementing cooperative control algorithms on a real-time micro-vehicle testbed.

Vlad’s current project at the Vision Lab involves a search for an inverse map from photometric gradients to their direct causes. Specifically, the following question is being addressed: given a series of photometric measurements (images), adjacent in viewpoint and time, and their edge-map representation, is it possible to infer whether an edge on the image was caused by an occlusion (foreground object blocking the background), a shadow or simply an intensity change along an object? It is unclear whether it is sufficient to analyze local information around edges to achieve this result and therefore the potential necessity to integrate global contextual information is also being investigated.

After graduation, Vlad aims to get a Masters in Applied Mathematics and then pursue research in the field of Computer Vision as a PhD candidate in Computer Science.

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Ms. Darcy Wanger
Mentor: Dr. Ben Schwartz
Funding: Rose Hills Scholar
Title:
Morphology Investigation and Control of New Organic Systems for Solar Cell Applications

Darcy Wanger works under the guidance of Dr. Ben Schwartz and a collaborative Physical/Organic Chemistry research group to develop new organic systems to be used in solar cells. She is currently a Departmental Scholar in the Chemistry department earning her M.S. in Physical Chemistry and B.S. in Physical Chemistry/Materials Science with an Organic Emphasis simultaneously. A transfer student to UCLA from an out-of-state four-year institution, Darcy began her research on the synthetic side of the solar cell collaboration. One year of synthetic research gave her a unique basis for her newly inspired work in the physical chemistry realm, particularly in the solar cell group. For this group, Darcy creates and tests solar cells using new materials from the organic collaborators. The exciting potential of these organic devices, in contrast to the currently-prevalent silicon (inorganic) solar cells is that they are much less expensive to manufacture and have the unique capability of being deposited onto any substrate, whether rigid or flexible. Darcy is enthusiastic about her continuing involvement in chemistry research that has an “ethical” purpose; she intends to earn a Ph.D., participate in industrial research and development in the solar cell field, and return to academia where motivated people interact unlike anywhere else.

 

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Ms. Cindy Wong
Mentor: Dr. Manuel Penichet
Funding: Rose Hills Fellow
Title: Development and Characterization
of Anti-Cancer Antibodies

Cindy Wong is a third year undergraduate Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major. Under the guidance of Dr. Manuel Penichet in the Department of Surgery, Cindy is currently working on the development and characterization of anti-cancer antibodies. Apoptosis is a major form of cell death, characterized by a series of distinct morphological and biochemical alterations. Inappropriate apoptosis is implicated in many human diseases, including neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disorders and several forms of cancer. So far, anti-transferrin receptor-avidin fusion proteins (anti-rat TfR IgG3-Av) have been developed as an universal delivery system to deliver different biotinylated compounds into cells expressing the transferring receptor [TfR]. Caspase activity assays in U266 and IM-9 cell lines revealed the presence of a family of caspases, which raises a number of questions in relation to their potential roles in cell death and insight into the mechanisms by which caspases are regulated in cells in order to prevent their unwanted demise. Cindy is working with various caspases to determine whether there is an initiator protease in a hierarchy of caspases. Therefore, Cindy is performing LDH release and caspase activity assays in U266 and IM-9 cell lines taken from the human blood of myeloma patients to study the activation of caspases 8, 9, 3, 6, 2, and cathepsin B with Fas, straurosporine, H2O2, arsenic trioxide, Anti-TfR IgG3-Av (TENN), TENN/b-sap, and anti-DNS IgG3-Av (TAGD)/b-sap. Further development of this technology may lead to effective therapeutics for in vivo eradication of hematological malignancies, and ex vivo purging of cancer cells in autologous transplantation. Cindy plans to attend graduate school in the future next year and would like to thank the Rose Hills Foundation for recognizing the time and effort required for undergraduates to be successful in conducting this ongoing research project. Cindy would like to thank Dr. Penichet, Tracy Daniels, and everyone in the lab for their support and the opportunity to do research.

 

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Mr. Edward Wu
Mentor: Dr. Ichiro Nishimura
Funding: Rose Hills Fellow
Title: Using a Neuron Culture Nuclear Run-Off
Transcription Assay to Assess Post-Sciatic
Nerve Entrapment Dorsal Root Ganglion Expression
of NaV1.8

Edward, a fourth year business economics and biology major, is currently conducting research under the direction of Dr. Ichiro Nishimura in the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center of Reconstructive Biotechnology of the UCLA School of Dentistry. The Weintraub Center is interested in probing for molecular mechanisms of neuropathic pain, and has previously shown that a TTX-resistant sodium ion channel, NaV1.8, is upregulated on the side of injury in its mRNA and protein forms following neuropathic injury to the sciatic nerve in rats. A comparison of mRNA levels in dorsal root ganglia (DRG), representative of the soma, and the sciatic nerve, representative of axons, suggests the possibility of anterograde axonal transport of NaV1.8 mRNA from DRG cells to sciatic nerve. To test this hypothesis, Edward is working on methods to assess NaV1.8 mRNA levels in the soma when separated from the axon. Understanding the molecular nature of neuropathic pain may be instrumental in developing treatment that could potentially improve the quality of life for patients with the affliction or with related symptoms. After graduation, Edward aspires to continue his education in medical school. He would like to thank Dr. Nishimura and the Weintraub Center for their mentorship and guidance, and the Rose Hills Foundation for their generous support.

 

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Ms. Angela Vong
Mentor: Dr. Scott Chandler
Funding: Rose Hills Fellow
Title: Expression and Biophysical Properties of Kv1 channels in Trigeminal Mesencephalic Neurons

 

Angela Vong is a fourth year neuroscience major and philosophy minor. She is interested in studying all facets of the brain, from neurons to circuits to the mind. In Dr. Scott Chandler’s laboratory, she is able to study the underlying circuitry of central pattern generation in oral-masticatory behaviors.

Neurons in the trigeminal mesencephalic V nuclei are sensory neurons located in the brainstem that are capable of intrinsic burst generation. Both properties suggest that the Mes V neurons may be crucial in participating in the central pattern generation responsible for sucking and chewing behaviors in rats. Application of the toxin α-dendrotoxin at low levels produces bursting in the Mes V cell, while high doses eliminate bursting ability. The toxin blocks a specific slow inactivating potassium channel current, which is believed to play an important role in the cell’s intrinsic properties. Using electrophysiological techniques (ie current and voltage clamp), Angela will look at the subunit composition of the channels responsible for the K current. She will also utilize single cell polymerase chain reaction to examine the prevalence of the subunit gene expression. Angela would like to thank everyone in Dr. Chandler’s laboratory, especially Dr. Chie-Fang Hsiao and Dr. Chandler for their continued guidance and support. She would also like to express gratitude for the Rose Hills Foundation for supporting her research endeavor.

 

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Ms. Nooshin Yashar
Mentor: Dr. Eran Zaidel
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title: A nonverbal hemispheric color-emotion stroop task

Nooshin Yashar is a fourth year Neuroscience major, working in the lab of Dr. Eran Zaidel. The Zaidel Lab approaches neuroscience from the vantage point of hemispheric specialization and interhemispheric interaction in humans. The two hemispheres serve as a model system for modularity and intermodular communication in the mind/brain. The lab uses a convergent approach, combining anatomy (cortical asymmetries, the structure of the corpus callosum), physiology (PET, fMRI, EEG, ERP, TMS) and behavior (hemifield tachistoscopy, dichotic listening).

The lab studies not only normal subjects but as well neurological/neurosurgical cases (e.g., split brain and hemispheric damage), and congenital clinical populations (e.g., dyslexia, ADHD, schizophrenia). Domains that are actively pursued currently include sensory-motor integration; lateralized mirror neurons; mental representation of the number line; attention; neglect; self recognition; the Bilateral Distribution Advantage, and neurofeedback. In addition, applications to alexithymia, dyslexia, ADHD, and schizophrenia are in progress. Nooshin’s current project is formulating a novel Stroop paradigm, a task that identifies the conflict resolution between two simultaneous processes that compete for attentional resources. Previously, she has found that this condition in which the two processes compete with each other, engages the anterior cingulate and depends on the dopaminergic network for effective operation, especially in the right hemisphere. Her main focus has been to apply this task to patients with neurological disorders that involve attentional conflict (such as those with ADHD, schizophrenia and anxiety patients). The Stroop paradigm is a tool that can be used to better comprehend attentional deficits and provide a safer way to diagnose patients with attentional disorders. Currently, she is submitting papers that discuss the results of the Stroop paradigm and areas of the brain lesioned in those with attentional disorders.

After graduation, Nooshin plans on attending medical school. She plans to pursue a career that deals with neurology in a clinical-research based environment. Nooshin would like to thank and acknowledge Dr. Eran Zaidel, her lab members, and the Wasserman Undergraduate Research Scholar Program.

 

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Ms. Stephanie Yu
Mentor: Dr.
Nelson Freimer
Funding: Rose Hills Scholar
Title: Genotyping polymorphic loci to determine genes predisposing Tourette Syndrome in genetic isolates

(From Right) Dr. Nelson Freimer Stephanie Yu and Dianne Keen-Kim

Stephanie Yu, a third year neuroscience major, is currently conducting research under the guidance of Dr. Dianne Keen-Kim and Dr. Nelson Freimer in the department of Psychiatry. Tourettes Syndrome is a neurological disorder in children that is characterized by involuntary utterances and movements. TS has been shown to have a significant genetic component through epidemiological studies involving twins and other family members, as well as population segregation studies. TS is likely caused by a variety of genes working in concert with different levels of significance to disease. The goal of this project is to identify the gene or genes that may contribute to the onset of TS through fine-mapping genomic regions previously identified in a genome-wide affected sib-pair linkage study. In the past year, she has been working on a project designed to fine-map these four broad Tourette Syndrome (TS) linkage regions identified by the TSAICG in two genetic isolates from the Central Valley of Costa Rican and the Ashkenazi Jewish population. The results for this experiment are now underway for computational analysis. She would like to thank all the members of the Freimer lab as well as the generous donors of the Rose Hills foundation for their support.

 

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Mr. Terrance Yu
Mentor: Dr. Elashoff and Dr. Tanemura
Funding: Van Trees Scholar
Title:
Role of Estrogen Receptor Alpha in Melanoma

Dr. Tanemura and Terrance Yu


Terrance Yu is a fourth year student majoring in Psychological Biology. Currently, he is involved in the cancer research at John Wayne Health Institute under Dr. Elashoff and Dr. Tanemura. Dr. Tanemura, who is an experienced dermatologist, and Terrance have been mainly engaging in the analysis of the methylation status of various tumor-related genes for the past year. Only recently has the importance of promoter methylation been reported and understood in the field of epigenetic regulation of gene expression and tumor activity. Specifically, Dr. Tanemura and he will be taking on a project discovering the role of estrogen receptor alpha’s (ER-a) methylation status in melanoma. ER-a is part of a family of transcription activators associated with tumor progression in several cancers. Although lower ER-a expression in cells is reported to correlate with atypical CpG island hypermethylation in breast cancer cell lines and tumors, no study has examined its significance in melanoma. Many researches, including the ones done at this lab, have provided evidence that hypermethylation of gene promoter CpG islands has a significant role in the development and progression of various cancers including melanoma. In previous study performed by this lab, hypermethylation in promoter region of several tumor-related genes has appeared in metastatic lesions of melanoma. Also, the hypermethylation was detectable in circulating serum DNA. These studies lead to formulate a method to detect promoter hypermethylation of ER-a gene in circulating serum DNA aside from the gross tumor tissue. Because of the convenience and potential of such marker for detecting primary and metastatic melanoma, Terrance wants to investigate the mechanisms regulating the expression of ER-a in melanoma. The cancer field currently lacks knowledge in any sort of mutation or structural changes in the ER-a gene. Therefore, Dr. Tanemura and Terrance will utilize the techniques and procedures developed and refined by this lab to inspect the role of methylation and the expression of ER-a in melanoma. Specifically, they will assess DNAs from melanoma tissues and sera of melanoma patients. They hypothesize that ER-a gene silencing via gene promoter hypermethylation in primary and metastatic melanoma plays an important role in melanoma progression, and may be used as a prognostic molecular biomarker. Terrance would like to thank Dr. Elashoff and Dr. Tanemura for the research experience and the guidance for this project and also thank Van Tree family for providing this scholarship.

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Mr. Jaime Zelaya
Mentor:
Funding: Wasserman Scholar
Title:

Profiles of Students