Student Profiles Archive - MSD Scholars 2008-2009
Here you will find information about past and present students funded through scholarships administered by the Undergraduate Research Center - Sciences. We are proud of the achievements of our research scholars.
Please click on the program year to get information about the supported students, their mentors and their research projects.
| Ms. Brenda Vasquez
Ms. Brenda Vazquez
Mentor: Dr. Mayumi Prins
Title: Testing abnormalities in Mesenchymal Stem Cells and their role in Autoimmune Diseases
Brenda Vazquez is a 5th year Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology major. She has been conducting research under the guidance of Dr. Mayumi Prins in the Neurosurgery Department. Brenda has been doing research since she was a 2nd year student, but has been in Dr. Prins lab since the start of her fifth year.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is sustained by approximately 1.4 million in the United States each year. Of particular concern is TBI among children who participate in sports, because of their ongoing neurological development. Following TBI cerebral pathophysiology can be severely affected due to ionic shifts, release of excitatory neurotransmitters, and change in cerebral metabolism. During the acute phase (≤1 hr) after TBI there is a transient increase in cerebral metabolic rates for glucose (CMRglc) (Hovda et al. 1994; Sutton et al. 1994; Yoshino et al. 1991). There is speculation that this initial increase in CMRglc is due to increased cellular energy required to restore ionic balance and maintain the neuronal membrane potential (Hovda et al. 1990, 1991, 1996). Age-related changes in CMRglc were revealed with fluid percussion injury in postnatal day 17 (PND17) (Yoshino et al. 1991). Suckling rats showed immediate increase in CMRglc of the ipsilateral cortex, but the extent of the CMRglc depression was truncated relative to adults (Thomas et al. 2000). These age-related changes in CMRglc are due to various changes of metabolic substrates and enzymes. In this study, we will see the nicotinimide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ ) and glyceraldehde phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH ) activity following controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury in PND 35 and PND90 rats, which contribute to this acute metabolic dysfunction
| Mr. Kristopher Kennedy
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
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.
| Mr. Ben Llucor
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.
| Ms. Felicia Reinitz
Ms. Felicia Reinitz
Mentor: Dr. Paul Mischel
Major: Computational and System Biology
Title: Single-Cell Analysis of Compensatory Mechanisms of Targeted Therapies Using Microfluidics
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.
| Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Mentor: Dr. Chris Colwell
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.
| Ms. Michelle Wray
Ms. Michelle Wray
Mentor: Dr. Debi P. Nayak
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.
| Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Ms. Geraldina Rodriguez
Mentor: Dr. Chris Colwell
Title: Circadian Dysfunction of 3-NP Induced Mouse Models of Huntington’s Disease
Geraldina Rodriguez is a 3rd 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 was previously conducting research on circadian regulation of learning and memory under the guidance of post-doctoral student Louisa Wang but just started doing her independent research project in the summer of 2007. Under the tutelage of Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez and Dr. Colwell, Geraldina has been studying the circadian dysfunction of mouse models of Huntington’s disease (HD). HD is a late-onset neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of specific cell populations in the brain, and the deterioration of motor and cognitive skills, as well as disrupted sleep patterns. Geraldina first wants to see if mice that are given treatments of the mitchondrial toxin 3-Nitropropionic Acid (3-NP) to pharmacologically induce both behavioral and physiological characteristics of Huntington’s disease will exhibit disrupted day and night time activity. By analyzing and measuring their wheel running activity in both a regular light/dark cycle and in continual darkness, Geraldina hopes to see that the mice treated with 3-NP were not able to synchronize their circadian rhythm to their environment as most organisms do, and therefore exhibit unstable and fragmented wheel running activity. This study could lead to further investigation in understanding alternative treatment strategies to counteract circadian dysfunction in patients with HD
| Ms. Esperanza Arab
Ms. Esperanza Arab
Mentor: Dr. Gil Travish
Title: Preparation and Fabrication of Nano-Scale Metal and Dielectric Accelerating Structures
Esperanza is a third year Astrophysics Major and has been working on the Micro Accelerator Platform (MAP) for the Particle Beam Physics Lab since June 2008. While existing large particle accelerators are used for cancer radiation therapy and scientific research, the millimeter-scale Micro Accelerator Platform (MAP) will ultimately allow for revolutionary medical and industrial applications due to its manageable size and reproducibility. The MAP consists of an electron source and a sub-micron, all-dielectric particle accelerator. The dielectric structure is laser powered and has two slab-symmetric reflecting mirrors with a vacuum gap between them. A periodic coupling mechanism allows the laser to enter transversely through one mirror and is analogous to the slots of an optical diffraction grating. Esperanza has helped create a less intricate prototype test structure due to the demanding and extensive applications of nano-technology that are necessary to create the coupling mechanism in the dielectric structure. We have fabricated three metal test structures of varying substrates, thickness, and quality of gold and tested them using electron beam imaging. Fabrication of the final dielectric structure relies on methods and materials modeled after Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting laser (VCSEL) construction and Distributed Bragg Reflector (DBR) layering techniques. An initial plan for producing an effective all-dielectric structure has been outlined from her research, and Esperanza is currently modifying HFSS simulations of the dielectric structure to bring in the sub-relativistic regime
| Ms. Lanny Gov
Ms. Lanny Gov
Mentor: Dr. Benhur Lee
Major: Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Title: Effects of Galectin-1 Treated Dendritic Cells on T-cell Polarization
Lanny is a fourth year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics student with a minor in Classical Civilization. She has been conducting research under the mentorship of Dr. Benhur Lee since January 2008. Her current project focuses on dendritic cells (DCs), professional antigen-presenting cells that play a role in both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system.
Dr. Lee’s lab has previously shown that galectin-1, a galactosidase-binding lectin, acts as a novel endogenous activator of immature DCs. Galectin-1 is known to positively and negatively affect cell function based on the activation state of the cell. Since DCs are a dynamic population of cells in varying stages of differentiation and activation, Lanny wants to determine if galectin-1 can have a different functional property depending on the DC stage of differentiation when galectin-1 is introduced.
One function of DCs is to activate naïve T cells, triggering them to proliferate and differentiate into a T cell subtype. The specific T cell subtype induced is determined by the stimulation conditions, namely interactions with co-stimulatory molecules expressed on and cytokines secreted by the DCs. Thus, Lanny will study the effects of galectin-1 on DC function by investigating the ability of these galectin-1 treated DCs to induce T cell polarization and activity.
Lanny would like to thank Dr. Lee for the opportunity to contribute to his lab. She is also extremely grateful for Sara and Maggie, the best mentors she could ever have hoped for, and would like to thank them for their patience, support, and guidance.
| Ms. Raylene Moreno
Ms. Raylene Moreno
Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Jay
Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Title: Bacterial Inactivation in Beach Sediments of Santa Monica Bay
Raylene has been working with Dr. Jay in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering since her Freshman year at UCLA. She has worked closely with Ph.D. candidate, Kathryn Mika, researching the persistence of fecal indicator bacteria and pathogens in beach sediments. Through field testing and bench-scale microcosms, Raylene investigates how biological and physical factors (solar radiation, mechanical mixing, temperature, and moisture) influence die-off rates of E.coli, Enterococci, and Salmonella in beach sediments following coastal sewage spills.
Ms. Moreno hopes to continue working with Dr. Jay for the duration of her undergraduate career. She will pursue research in the field of engineering throughout her graduate studies. She is very grateful to the CARE staff, Dr. Jay, and her graduate students, for making this experience possible.
| Ms. Irma Ortiz
Ms. Irma Ortiz
Mentor: Dr. Volker Hartenstein
Major: Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology
Title: Analysis of Neuronal Morphology in the Absence of Glia
Irma Ortiz is a third year undergraduate student majoring in MCDB. Dr. Volker Hartenstein and graduate student, Shana Spindler are mentoring her. She is conducting research on glial cells and their possible effect on neuron branching morphology. Glial cells have been implicated in neuroblast proliferation and axonal pathfinding. Two apoptosis-inducing genes, hid and reaper, were expressed in Drosophila glial cells under the temperature sensitive UAS/Gal4 promoter Nirvana 2 (Nrv 2). UAS Green Fluorescence protein (UASGFP), also driven in glial cells by the Nrv 2 promoter, allowed a visualization of glia via GFP fluorescence. An antibody against Repo, a glia specific protein, was used to visualize glia when GFP was not expressed at non-permissive temperatures. At 18 oC, GFP and the pro-apoptotic genes were not expressed and glial cells were present. At 29 oC, however, the pro-apoptotic genes were active and Repo staining confirmed that glial cells were absent. By Comparing Drosophila brains with and without glia, there were differences in the axon branching points. The next approach would be to conduct more experiments to confirm the results. A second approach would be to do temperature shifting in pupa and late third instar larva to follow axon branching throughout development in brains with and without glia.
| Mr. Francisco Sandoval
Mr. Francisco Sandoval
Mentor: Dr. Rhonda Voskuhl
Major: Physiological Science
Title: Synergistic anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects of Interferon Beta and Estrogen Receptor β Ligand treatment in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis
Francisco Sandoval is a third year student majoring in Physiological Science. He began conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Rhonda Voskhul in fall 2007 and works under the direct supervision of graduate student Sienmi Du. The Voskuhl laboratory uses the mouse model Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE) to study Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.
MS results in demyelination of white matter, leading to neurodegeneration in the CNS. Interferon beta (IFNβ) is a widely approved therapy for MS and EAE. Other labs have shown that treatment with IFNβ in EAE leads to indirect neuroprotection through anti-inflammatory activity. Our lab has recently shown that diarylpropionitrile (DPN), an estrogen receptor-beta ligand, is directly neuroprotective, with no evidence of anti-inflammatory effects in EAE. It is therefore likely that IFNβ and DPN work through separate mechanisms to reduce EAE. Possible synergism between IFNβ and DPN were tested in ameliorating EAE. The spinal cord of EAE mice was evaluated late in disease for changes in axonal density and macrophage infiltration. EAE mice treated with the combination of IFNβ and DPN exhibited a lesser degree of clinical disease and reflected significantly higher axonal densities and less infiltrating cells compared to vehicle treated animals. Our work provides evidence that there is a synergistic effect between IFNβ and DPN without antagonistic side effects in EAE progression. Our findings demonstrate that these drugs combined suppress EAE severity providing greater neuroprotection than IFNβ alone, suggesting a valuable alternative in therapeutic strategy for MS patients.
| Ms. Allison Truong
Ms. Allison Truong
Mentor: Dr. Lee Goodglick
Major: Physiological Sciences
Title: Expression of antimicrobial human neutrophil defensin peptides of innate immunity in lavage colon rinses of active inflammatory bowel disease
Allison Truong is a second year student majoring in Biology and minoring in Public Health. She began conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Lee Goodglick in December 2007 and works under the supervision of graduate student Michelle Li.
The Goodglick laboratory is investigating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a family of debilitating chronic inflammatory diseases of the intestinal tract. The two major subvariants of this disease are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). UC is a chronic inflammation of the inner lining (mucosa) of the large intestine (colon) while CD can potentially affect all regions of the gastrointestinal tract. Individuals with either disease have an increased risk of colon cancer. Interestingly, both conditions represent a spectrum of diseases with variable severity, progression course, and responsiveness to therapy. Therefore, the goal is to find novel biomarkers which stratify individuals with IBD based on disease progression and severity, clinical outcome, and/or responsiveness to therapy using powerful global proteomics approaches (MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry) to identify associated protein profiles in the intestine of individuals with IBD with verification of MS findings via Immublot Assays and various other statistical analyses. In association with physicians at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, highly unique type of patient sample, colonic rinses, were collected. These rinses monitor the eukaryotic and prokaryotic milieu directly at the interface of the colonic surface; the prediction being that such colonic environmental changes are responsive to, and in some cases casually responsible for disease progression. One family of proteins of note, which we have identified, is alpha defensins. Interestingly, the levels of alpha defensins 1, 2, and 3 may stratify healthy, UC, and CD individuals.
| Ms. Ninel Vartanian
Ms. Ninel Vartanian
Mentor: Dr. Gil Travish
Title: Testing of Optical Sub-Wavelength Resonant Periodic Structure Micro-Accelerators
Ninel Vartanian is a third year undergraduate student majoring in Physics. She has participated in PEERS and SPUR and has been working in the Particle Beam Physics Laboratory (PBPL) since summer of 2008. Under the supervision of Dr. Gil Travish, she is involved with the Micro-Accelerator Platform Project.
The Micro-Accelerator Platform, a laser-driven accelerating device measuring less than a millimeter in each dimension, has a variety of applications in industry and medicine. The structure consists of two parallel slabs, with each possessing reflective surfaces and with one having periodic slots which allows transversely incident laser light to enter the gap between the two planes. The resonance in the electric field created in the gap can be measured indirectly through the spectral response of the device. Using a combination of an interferometer and a fiber coupled spectrometer, the prototype structures are aligned and measured. With the aid of a three-axis nanometer accuracy positioning device, the bottom slab (essentially a mirror) is aligned with the top slotted structure. The interferometer and a low power laser are used to position the slabs. A 800nm Titanium-Sapphire oscillator with a bandwidth of greater than 100nm is used for the spectral measurements. The spectra of both transmitted and reflected beams are measured for a number of structures. The spectral data does not match the previously prepared simulations, and resonance has yet to be observed. As an improvement to the structure, the bottom slab will be changed from a brag-stack mirror to a one layer metal structure for clearer measurements. Nevertheless, this work represents the first time that measurements have been done on an optical micro-accelerator. Further future plans include use of a white light source in combination with a high resolution monochromator.
| Ms. Lindsay Williams
Ms. Lindsay Williams
Mentor: Dr. Sally Maliski
Title: The Meaning of Prostate Cancer Treatment Related Incontinence and Erectile Dysfunction in African-American Men
Lindsay is currently a third year student in the inaugural class of the undergraduate BSN program. She hails as the president of NSUCLA, the nursing student undergraduate organization. She also participates in the California Black Women's Health Project and the Council of Black Nurses. Within the school, she performs research on the differences in race in the coping process of prostate cancer survivors, and traveled to New Orleans in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina relief. Her motivation to continue in nursing is the dedication to whole patient, physically and mentally, and assisting underserved populations.
The purpose of the study is to describe the impact of prostate cancer treatment related incontinence and erectile dysfunction on African-American men, and test the hypothesis that a man’s image of masculinity changes because of the loss of sexual functioning. Analysis of transcripts revealed a transitional process, which all the men were found to go through. The first step is normalizing, commonly by using age as an excuse for sexual dysfunction. The next stage is balancing hopeful waiting with acceptance. The next progression is reexamining life priorities and social roles. The last stage is a change in what it means to be a man
| Mr. Jose Zamalloa
Mr. Jose Zamalloa
Mentor: Dr. Cesar Fernandez
Title: Understanding the function of the SUMO protease, Ulp1p, in RNA metabolism
Jose Zamalloa is a Biochemistry who will be graduating by the Spring of 2009. He began working in the Chanfreau Laboratory since Summer of 2008. He works under the direct supervision of post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Cesar Fernandez. The Chanfreau Laboratory is interested in the study of gene expression regulation in eukaryotic cells with emphasis on post-transcriptional steps
Post-translational modification of proteins can activate, deactivate, or modify the function of a protein. An example of post-translational modification is the Ubiquitin system, whose most notable role is to target proteins to the Proteasome for degradation by covalent attachment of Ubiquitin. After the discovery of Ubiquitin, similar proteins have been found that contain the same conserved three-dimensional folding. This project aims to study the effects of the yeast SUMO ( small ubiquitin-like modifier) system on the metabolism of various non-coding RNAs. In this project Jose will analyze the levels of different RNAs by depletion studies of Ulp1p, an essential protease that removes Smt3p, the yeast SUMO protein, from covalently attached proteins. A bioinformatics search and biochemical results from the lab suggest that Ulp1p may have a role in the assembly of small nucleolar RNPs (snoRNPs). By using the regulatory TET-promoter transcription of ULP1 will be blocked. To confirm Ulp1p depletion, cell extracts will be analyzed for the presence of hemagglutinin (HA) tagged Ulp1p by western blot. At different control points of depletion cell extracts will be collected and analyzed to look at the levels of various noncoding RNAs, including snoRNAs, snRNAs, and tRNAs, by northern blots. These RNA levels will be compared before and after depletion of Ulp1p and the results will determine if the biogenesis or stability of the RNAs are affected by depletion of Ulp1p. By examining the results obtained on Ulp1p Jose will begin to elucidate its possible role in non-coding RNA metabolism and have a better understanding of its function on cellular regulation.