Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Christian Paul Nixon

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Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) establishes lifelong infections and can cause various cancers in immunosuppressed individuals. KSHV lies dormant in infected individuals’ cells and reactivates intermittently to cause disease and promote transmission. Current scientific literature lacks an understanding of the KSHV gene open reading frame 69 (ORF69). In this project, Christian will employ a two-step mutagenesis technique in E. coli to generate ORF69 knockout and revertant mutants in a KSHV bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). After transfecting a Kaposi’s sarcoma cell line with the BAC vectors, inducing lytic reactivation, and infecting 293T […]

Hector Lopez-Orozco

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Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infects 60-90% of humans globally, and while infections are largely asymptomatic, they can be severe or fatal in immunocompromised persons. No vaccines exist to prevent HCMV infection due to an incomplete understanding of the viral mechanisms used to evade host immunity and establish lifelong persistence. Complement is a system of proteins present in blood that serves as an initial line of defense against microorganisms; however, little is known about the role of complement in protection against HCMV. For this project, Hector will investigate the role of MASP1 […]

Seung Won Lee

Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in the innate immune system in eliminating viruses and tumors. Unfortunately in environments lacking class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC-I) proteins, as is the case in 40-90% of human tumors, the NK cells can become desensitized and unresponsive. In her project, Seungwon will modify the expression of two phosphatases, Ptpn6 and Ptpn 22, that have been found to be expressed at higher levels in anergic NK cells to study the molecular mechanisms of NK cell desensitization. Findings have the potential to guide […]

Richard Ruan

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Dengue disease is caused by four serotypes of dengue virus (DENV), and associated symptoms can range from undifferentiated fever to severe vascular leakage. DENV nonstructural protein 1 (NS1) was recently found by the Harris laboratory and others to be a key factor in causing the endothelial barrier dysfunction that leads to vascular leakage, but the mechanism is not yet completely understood. Richard will focus on identifying possible host factors critical for NS1-induced pathology by generating a list of host factors of interest from pilot gene expression analyses, and then validating […]

Novalia Pishesha

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Current Bio: After graduation, Novalia completed a PhD in Biological Engineering at MIT. She is currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Haas Scholars Project: The slower muscle regeneration observed in older people is due to the less supportive extrinsic biochemical make-up, which constitutes the microenvironment of damaged muscle, in older people as compared to younger people. Muscle regeneration involves an inflammation phase during which the immune cells partly architect the microenvironment surrounding muscle injury. Nova would like to decipher the mediator and pathways that might bridge […]

Jessica Nichole Pasqua

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Methylenetetrahydrofolate-reductase (MTHFR) is an enzyme involved in the synthesis of methionine, an essential amino acid. Due to MTHFR importance for cellular health, Jessica studies MTHFRs in yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae through analysis of paralogous genes MET12 and MET13. The Met12 and Met13 proteins are both MTHFR enzymes, however based upon biochemical results Met12 appears to be non-functional. Recently Jessica showed that Met12 has been non-functional for millions of years, since it also lacks function in yeast species Saccharomyces bayanus. Since yeast aggressively remove non-functional elements from their genomes, this result […]

Michal Karmi

The rising economic and environmental cost of fossil fuels will greatly affect our reliance on them for global food transportation in the near future. Michal will design crop plans for plant-based food systems in Israel and Ireland — regions with radically different climates — to determine the feasibility of maintaining a locally grown, healthy plant-based diet. This summer, she will conduct research in Israel and Ireland, collecting technical evidence of soil and climate conditions to determine what can be grown in each area, gathering historical data on plant foods grown […]

S. Zayd Enam

In this project we plan on using parallelized computation to build realistic sparse coding models for neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1). Sparse coding is a stimulus encoding technique used by V1 neurons that aims to minimize the number active neurons required in encoding any input image. Due to computational constraints, previous sparse coding models have been limited in their ability to match the biology of lateral geniculate nucleus projections to V1. Our models will allow us to better describe recorded biological data and provide further evidence that V1 […]

Katya Cherukumilli

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Since the early 20th century, global surface temperatures have risen 1.4F, with the majority of the warming occurring in the past three decades due to anthropogenic activities. Significant changes in sea level, ecosystems, and ice cover are predicted to occur as a result of increasing temperatures. Katya aims to understand ecological responses to simulated and natural climate change in a subalpine meadow at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. She will maintain a database for the longest-running climate manipulation experiment in the world and gather additional information about the species abundance […]

Laura Carolina Rodriguez-Adjunta

Salmonella is the leading source of food-borne diseases in the United States. Infection by Salmonella Typhimurium causesdiseases ranging from self-limiting gastroenteritis to life-threatening systemic infection, provoking around 1.3 billion cases every year worldwide. Moreover, no vaccine to prevent salmonellosis exists. Recently, 19 small noncoding bacterial RNAs (sRNAs) located in salmonella SPIs were discovered, of which IsrC is one of the newest forms. Bacterial sRNAs regulate the expression of their target genes in pathogenesis, essentially contributing to bacterial invasiveness. My research will focus on the interaction between IsrC and its predicted […]