Amgen Scholars Student Profiles
Read here about UCLA Amgen Scholars who are actively engaged in research with UCLA faculty. Posted on these pages are their individual stories: information on who they work with, a description of their research, and their plans for the future.
Listed below are Amgen Scholars for 2018.
| Mr. Shriram Chennakesavalu
Name: Shriram Chennakesavalu
Home University: The University of Chicago
Major: Biological Chemistry
Faculty Mentor Dr. William Gelbart
Shriram is a rising third year at The University of Chicago, where he is majoring in Biological Chemistry and minoring in Computer Science. As part of the UCLA Amgen Scholars program, Shriram is working in Dr. William Gelbart’s lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The Gelbart lab is interested in studying viruses from a biophysical point of view and using viruses as a vector for gene therapy.
Shriram’s project is centered around the co-translational delivery of the gene, or the handoff of RNA from the virus to the host. Specifically, Shriram is interested in the fluctuations of the nucleocapsid (i.e. the RNA/capsid protein complex) that make available an end of the RNA to a molecule outside the capsid, potentially allowing for translation to occur. Shriram will be using different assays, including radioactive labeling, to measure and quantify the rate of fluctuations.
Shriram would like to thank the Amgen Foundation for making the Amgen Scholars program at UCLA possible. In addition, Shriram is grateful for the mentorship of Dr. William Gelbart, Dr. Charles Knobler and Richard Sportsman.
| Ms. Hyelim Chun
Name: Hyelim Chun
Home University: UCLA
Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor Dr. Karen Lyons
Hannah Chun is a rising senior at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cell, Developmental Biology and minoring in Biomedical Research. She has been working in Dr. Lyons’s lab since April 2016, studying protein signaling pathways involved in development of cartilage and bones during mammalian embryonic growth.
Members of Transforming Growth Factor-beta(TGFbeta) superfamily play vital roles in cartilage development. Activin receptor-like kinase 5(ALK5) is a TGFbeta type I receptor that activates TGFbeta signaling pathway. However, the mechanism by which ALK5 mediates it in cartilage is unclear. To address this concern, we will use co-immunoprecipitation and immunoblot to identify the receptor complexes that form downstream of TGFbeta. We will also use reporter luciferase assays to identify the ligands that are responsible for regulating TGFbeta signaling output.
After graduation, Hannah plans to pursue training to become a physician scientist. She would like to thank Dr. Karen Lyons and Dr. Weiguang Wang for their invaluable mentorship, as well as all the other members of Lyons lab for their support. Additionally, she would like to thank the URC-Sciences staff members and Amgen Foundation for supporting her research endeavors.
| Mr. Mauricio Garcia
Name: Mauricio Garcia
Home University: Harvard University
Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology
Faculty Mentor Dr. Jonathan Braun
Mauricio Garcia is a rising junior at Harvard University concentrating in Molecular and Cellular Biology. During the academic year, Mauricio works under the direction of Dr. Constance Cepko in the Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School. Mauricio’s term-time work focuses on characterizing the gene regulatory network of multipotent retinal progenitor cells, particularly the transcription factors that dictate their cell binary decision between rod photoreceptors and bipolars.
Over the last two summers, Mauricio has also worked in Dr. Martin Kast’s lab at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. During that time, he investigated the role of human alpha-defensin-5 and rhesus theta-defensin-1 in preventing HPV viral uptake and infection of epithelial cells. Last summer, his time in the Kast lab concluded with a presentation of his work at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Now an Amgen scholar, Mauricio works in Dr. Jonathan Braun’s lab in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine investigating possible links between the uterine microbiome and the development of endometrial cancer. Currently, little is known about why some women with premalignant disease progress to endometrial cancer and some resolve spontaneously. Although widely assumed to be physiologically sterile, the uterine cavity in non-pregnant women has recently been shown to harbor a distinct microbiota. However, changes in the endometrial microbiota in women with adenocarcinoma have not yet been studied. Mauricio’s work will attempt to support the hypothesis that certain bacterial taxa (or bacterial metagenes) are selectively associated with normal versus pre-malignant and/or malignant endometrium.
| Ms. Calista Horta
Name: Calista Horta
Home University: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Faculty Mentor Dr. David Nathanson
Calista Horta is a rising senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in biochemistry. She has been working in the lab of Dr. Katharine Watts conducting natural product research since the summer of 2016. The project identified a strain of Actinobacteria that produces a novel natural product molecule that has bioactivity against several antibiotic resistant bacteria. The goal is to map the biosynthetic pathway and express the gene cluster in a heterologous host for future editing.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Calista works in the lab of Dr. David Nathanson in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology studying how genetic and molecular alterations affect cellular processes in glioblastoma. Over 60% of glioblastomas have an amplified epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which affects downstream signaling leading to cell proliferation and inhibition of apoptosis. Using a genetic and pharmacological approach, her project aims to determine the effectiveness of brain-penetrant EGFR inhibitors on molecularly heterogeneous patient-derived cell lines, ultimately allowing for a more individualized treatment plan for GBM patients.
Calista would like to thank the Amgen Scholars Program for the mentorship and the opportunity to advance her scientific career.
| Mr. Jeffrey Huang
Name: Jeffrey Huang
Home University: UCLA
Major: Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics
Faculty Mentor Dr. Douglas Black
Jeffrey Huang is a rising third year double majoring in MIMG and Chinese at UCLA. As an Amgen Scholar, he is working in Dr. Douglas Black’s laboratory to study the function of the human pre-mRNA splicing factor hPRPF18.
From previous work done by a collaborating laboratory at UCLA, it is known that PRP18, an ortholog of hPRPF18 in S. cerevisiae, plays a role in ensuring 3’ splice site selection fidelity. High-throughput RNA-sequencing data from PRP18-deficient yeast populations showed a significant increase in the amount of unspliced transcripts as well as in the usage of non-canonical 3’ splice sites. As the role of hPRPF18 in human splicing remains unclear, endogenous hPRPF18 knockout HEK-293 lines will be engineered using CRISPR-Cas9 and RNA-Seq will be performed in order to profile the human transcriptome in the absence of hPRPF18.
Future directions that will be explored after this project will involve endogenous tagging of genes of interest, which will expand the scope of both splicing regulators and cell types that can be studied. The auxin-inducible degron (AID) tag, which has been shown to allow for rapid depletion of the tagged protein, is also being tested. Endogenous tagging of with the AID tag will allow for fine control over the expression of a gene of interest and allow for the evaluation of the effects of its depletion on the transcriptome.
Jeffrey would like to thank both the Black Lab and the Amgen Foundation for supporting his growth as a student researcher.
| Ms. Bailey Hyland
Name: Bailey Hyland
Home University: UCLA
Faculty Mentor Dr. James A. Wohlschlegel
Bailey is a rising senior majoring in biochemistry here at UCLA. Upon graduation, Bailey plans to pursue a PharmD/PhD dual degree. Bailey joined the Wohlschlegel lab in September 2017. She first worked under post-doctoral scholar Vijaya Pandey on her project which aims to understand the role and mechanism of the E3 ubiquitin ligase FBXL5 in iron metabolism.
Bailey has recently taken on an individual project that aims to elucidate the role of two protein kinases, PRKCZ and PKDCC, in lipid regulation and metabolism. Interest in these kinases began when unpublished work from the Bensinger lab found that lipid metabolism was dysregulated when PRKCZ and PKDCC were silenced by siRNA. Towards this goal, PRKCZ and PKDCC have been overexpressed in mammalian cells and tagged with EGFP. Soon, a large-scale co-immunoprecipitation experiment will be performed. Following proteolytic digestion, samples will be analyzed using a bottom-up mass spectrometry method to identify their potential interacting partners. These identified interacting partners will be the first step in understanding how lipid metabolism is regulated by PRKCZ and PKDCC.
Bailey would like to thank the Amgen Foundation, her post-doctoral mentor Vijaya Pandey, and James Wohlschlegel for supporting her growth as a young researcher.
| Mr. Eric Lin
Name: Eric Lin
Home University: University of California, Riverside
Faculty Mentor Dr. Siavash Kurdistani
Eric Lin is a rising senior at UC Riverside majoring in Biochemistry. At UCR, Eric is working in the research lab of Dr. Sean O’Leary. The O’Leary lab studies the molecular mechanism of eukaryotic translation initiation using single-molecule fluorescence microscopy with fluorescently labeled initiation components to understand its biomolecular dynamics.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Eric is working in the lab of Dr. Siavash Kurdistani in the Biological Chemistry Department. The lab investigates the function of chromatin in regulation of specific biological processes and their alteration in human disease. Recently, they have discovered the histone H3-H4 tetramer to be a copper reductase enzyme, catalyzing the conversion of Cu2+ to Cu+, providing biousable copper for cellular and mitochondrial biology. Eric is investigating the mechanism in which electrons are transferred by the H3-H4 tetramer from a reducing molecule to the catalytic site using amino acid residues. To test these whether these residues participate in electron uptake and transport, numerous mutations of these specific residues of yeast histone H3 and H4 will be generated via the CRISPR-cas9 system. The effects of each mutation will be studied in vivo for either a change in histone enzymatic function. Considering the importance of copper to diverse cellular processes the enzymatic activity of histones could have wide-ranging effects at molecular, cellular, and tissue levels with consequences for organismal physiology and disease.
Eric would like to thank the Amgen Foundation and the Kurdistani Lab for providing him with this opportunity to enhance his skills as a researcher.
| Ms. Wendy Luo
Name: Wendy Luo
Home University: Northwestern University
Major: Chemistry, Psychology
Faculty Mentor Dr. Mayumi Prins
Wendy is a rising senior at Northwestern University majoring in Chemistry and Psychology. In Chicago, she works with Dr. Eva Redei in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine where she utilizes a genetic rat model of depression to investigate possible biomarkers and treatments.
At UCLA, Wendy is working with Dr. Mayumi Prins in the Department of Neurosurgery. Her project intends to provide insight on the relationship between female sex hormones and mitochondrial response after traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI disrupts key metabolic processes that are crucial for ATP generation, like glycolysis and the citric acid cycle. Post-TBI, the body shunts glucose to parallel pathways that aid in DNA repair, decreasing the amount of glucose available for glycolysis and ultimately limiting ATP production. To compensate for impaired glucose metabolism, the use of alternative substrates such as ketone bodies has been explored.
In male rats, ketogenic diets have been shown to protect neuronal function post-TBI. For females, however, there is a significant lack of research. Wendy will conduct an in-depth exploration of the effects of hormones on alternative substrates in the female brain. She aims to determine if proestrus and non-proestrus female rats show similar mitochondrial responses to TBI and to observe how they respond to the infusion of alternative substrates. The long-term goal is to utilize the knowledge of male and female alternative substrate response to find a treatment that can improve the prognosis of patients with TBI.
Wendy would like to thank the Prins Lab and the Amgen Foundation for supporting her research endeavors.
| Mr. Varun Mandi
Name: Varun Mandi
Home University: University of Pittsburgh
Major: Biological Sciences , History and Philosophy of Science
Faculty Mentor Dr. Xia Yang
Varun Mandi is a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in History and Philosophy of Science, Biological Sciences, and English Literature. Broadly, he is interested in the gene regulation pathways underlying cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Since 2015, Varun has worked in the Natarajan Lab at City of Hope to understand the effects of Angiotensin II hormone on key regulatory elements of the epigenome, and previously, in pharmaceutical formulations work in the Betageri Lab at Western University of Health Sciences. Varun also recently completed research within communities in southern Mexico to understand Yucatec Mayan conceptions of type 2 diabetes, and aims to continue such work as a prospective M.D./Ph.D..
In the Yang Lab at UCLA, Varun is understanding how high levels of fructose consumption lead to large-scale systemic disruptions. He works with human genome-wide association studies to pinpoint genetic variants associated with individual cardiometabolic diseases, and examines how fructose may perturb certain biological pathways that are also perturbed by these genetic variants. He intends on using this information to infer the causal role of genes affected by fructose consumption in overall disease etiology. Varun works at the convergence of human GWAS and single cell transcriptomic studies in a rodent model, to uncover how fructose operates in the molecular space to induce multi-tissue disruptions.
Varun would like to thank all members of the Yang Lab and the Amgen Foundation for their sustained support of his scientific interests.
| Ms. Karlie Miller
Name: Karlie Miller
Home University: Hanover College
Faculty Mentor Dr. Steven Clarke
For the past two years I worked alongside Dr. Timothy Cunningham at Hanover College. My work focused on purifying a protein (GB1), and developing an assay to determine the purity. Hanover is a small liberal arts institution, so not many resources are available for research in the chemistry department. Since resources were limited, I was trying to determine a method of purification to implement at small institutions like Hanover College. I used a Double Histidine (d-His) motif with a copper loaded column to purify target proteins; and an SDS-PAGE gel could assess the purity. The d-His motif could be used for both purification and as a tool for Electron Spin Resonance. We are still working towards the best way to isolate GB1.
Currently, I am working under Dr. Steven Clarke studying the temperature conditions of human PRMT7. Dr. Clarke’s lab focuses on a group of enzymes, Protein Arginine Methyltransferases (PRMTs). PRMTs have been a target for potential drug therapies for different types of cancer. It is for this reason that the biochemical conditions of PRMTs should be well-understood. PRMT1 and 5 are better understood, and have shown high activity under physiological temperatures. If PRMT7 is similar to the other enzymes in its family, then it should also show high activity at physiological temperatures.
I would like to thank the Amgen Foundation for this amazing internship opportunity, as well as Dr. Steven G Clarke’s lab for supporting my career in research.
| Mr. Hamilton Oh
Name: Hamilton Oh
Home University: UCLA
Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor Dr. Hanna Mikkola
Hamilton is a rising senior at UCLA majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology and minoring in Biomedical Research. He has researched in the Mikkola Lab of the Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Department since the spring quarter of his sophomore year. Hamilton’s research aims to understand how hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are generated during embryogenesis via transcriptional programming.
HSCs are multipotent stem cells that can differentiate into any blood cell type as well as self-renew. HSC transplant is a powerful clinical tool that has been used to treat leukemia and other blood diseases. However, HSC transplants require a donor due to our inability to generate HSCs in culture. By studying HSC generation in vivo, Hamilton contributes towards research that aims for in vitro generation of HSCs. Specifically, his project investigates the role of a transcription factor complex including the factors Scl, Lmo2, and Ldb1 during the specification of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. His research involves in vivo analysis of blood stem and progenitor cells using flow cytometry and RNA-sequencing, and in vitro analysis of mutant embryonic stem cell differentiation into the hematopoietic lineage.
Hamilton would like to thank the Mikkola lab, the Biomedical Research Minor, and the Amgen Foundation for investing time, money, and effort into his growth as a researcher and a person.
| Ms. Arya Ökten
Name: Arya Ökten
Home University: Brown University
Major: Biology, Applied Math
Faculty Mentor Dr. Genhong Cheng
Arya Ökten is a rising junior at Brown University double majoring in Biology and Applied Math. During the summer of 2017, Arya worked in the lab of Dr. Anna Wu in the UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. During her time in Dr. Wu’s lab she examined different methods intended to increase the expression of an antibody of interest, a rat anti-mouse CD4. These methods included humanizing antibody DNA sequences as well as grafting the antibody CDRs onto different frameworks. She also worked on the humanization of a murine anti-human CD4 antibody, which that would have eventual clinical applications in cancer patients.
During her time at the Amgen Scholars program at UCLA Arya is working in the lab of Dr. Genhong Cheng in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. The aim of her project is to investigate certain melanoma cell lines which are resistant to infection by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) to determine the method by which they avoid infection. An understanding of why these cell lines resist infection will lay the groundwork for future studies on how to properly infect these resistant cells, which will in turn help patients that are unresponsive to traditional HSV-1 vector treatments. Specifically, this study is interested in determining at which step wildtype HSV-1 is blocked from infecting the resistant cells. An examination of the viral life cycle at three key points- virus attachment, expression of the viral genome, viral protein production, and virion assembly- will serve to elucidate the point at which these resistant cells blockade HSV-1.
| Ms. Bianca Pereira
Name: Bianca Pereira
Home University: Rutgers University
Major: Biological Sciences
Faculty Mentor Dr. Luisa Iruela-Arispe
Bianca is a rising junior at Rutgers University, completing a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Nutrition. At Rutgers University, she participated in molecular bioscience research that focused on blending basic and translational research approaches to better understand the signaling networks in lethal metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer, and how to more effectively treat patients using targeted therapies.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Bianca is working in the research lab of Dr. Luisa Arispe in the Department of Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology. The Arispe lab investigates the mechanisms behind the formation of vascular tumors and anomalies. One of its focuses includes dissecting the interactions between endothelial and tumor cells during the process of metastasis with a particular emphasis on the endothelial barrier. Bianca’s project aims to understand T-cell trafficking in the context of adoptive cell transfer (ACT) — an emerging area of transfusion medicine and immuno-oncology. CAR-T therapy is one type of ACT that has unfortunately demonstrated severe toxicities in clinical trials. In order to address on-target off-tumor toxicities in CAR-T cell immunotherapy, Bianca proposes that ACT migration into normal endothelial cells can be prevented in a tissue specific manner by blocking unique endothelial cells receptors or T-cell receptor ligands. She hopes to tackle the paucity of current preclinical models to evaluate the efficacy of CAR-T cell studies while circumventing treatment toxicity risks.
Bianca would like to sincerely thank the Amgen Foundation for providing her with this opportunity and the Arispe lab for its invaluable mentorship.
| Mr. Kevin Qian
Name: Kevin Qian
Home University: Columbia University
Faculty Mentor Dr. Alexander Spokoyny
Kevin Qian is a rising junior at Columbia University with a major in Chemistry. At Columbia, he is an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Jonathan Owen’s group where he studies the precursor conversion and nucleation kinetics of CdS, CdSe, and InP quantum dots.
At UCLA, Kevin works in Prof. Alexander Spokoyny’s lab in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry where he studies the reactivity of the closo-hexaborate cluster. In contrast to most tri-coordinated boron compounds, the closo-hexaborate cluster is nucleophilic and so it can react with a variety of electrophilic species to generate a substituted hexaborate cluster. The research project is focused on developing a new method to form various boron bonds and exploring a new transformation where a substituted cluster can be oxidatively degraded to yield a boronic ester. The Spokoyny group hopes that by presenting this new transition-metal-free synthetic route for boron-containing building blocks, the chemistry of polyhedral boranes will be brought into the spotlight of the broader synthetic chemistry community.
Kevin would like to thank the Amgen Foundation, Prof. Spokoyny, Dr. Xin Mu, Dr. Jonathan Axtell, and Nicholas Bernier for their guidance and support.
| Ms. Irena Roy
Name: Irena Roy
Home University: UCLA
Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Faculty Mentor Dr. Michael Teitell
Irena Roy is an incoming senior at UCLA, majoring in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. Since January 2016, Irena has been working in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Teitell in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Her current project seeks to understand how manipulating stem cell metabolism influences cell fate determination.
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) rely heavily on glycolysis as their main energy source in order to support their rapid proliferation. As hPSCs differentiate, the metabolic machinery within the cell shifts to rely more heavily on oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Studies have indicated that this metabolic transition precedes differentiation, suggesting that metabolic reprogramming may drive or enable the differentiation process. However, the mechanisms that regulate this metabolic transition are not well understood, and it remains unclear how this transition interfaces with differentiation. Recent work has indicated that each germ layer of the cell exhibits different metabolic profiles. Irena's project aims to evaluate the impact of OXPHOS on differentiation into each of the three germ layers, and identify potential metabolic master regulators responsible for metabolic shift.
| Ms. Rebecca Tarnopol
Name: Rebecca Tarnopol
Home University: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Major: Cellular & Molecular Biology and English
Faculty Mentor Dr. Gerard Wong
Rebecca Tarnopol is a rising senior at the University of Michigan, where she studies under Dr. Patricia Wittkopp in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department. The Wittkopp Lab is interested in the genetic basis of phenotypic evolution. Her project there focuses on the convergent evolution of resistance to an environmental toxin in two allopatric island populations of Drosophila.
At UCLA, she is studying under Dr. Gerard Wong in the Bioengineering department. The Wong Lab is particularly interested in how bacteria sense surfaces, which is one of the initial steps of biofilm formation. Biofilms, or aggregates of bacteria that adhere to a surface, are phenotypically distinct from free-living bacteria and underlie processes such as biogeochemical cycling, biofuel production, and persistent infection. Her project this summer focuses on the role of the flagellum in surface sensing. Specifically, she will study Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic human pathogen which underlies chronic lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients. Using single-cell tracking techniques, she will track how P. aeruginosa use their flagella in early stages of biofilm formation and how flagellar control changes over the course of many cell divisions.
Rebecca would like to thank the Amgen Scholars Program and the Wong Lab for supporting her growth as a researcher.
| Mr. Jordan Valgardson
Name: Jordan Valgardson
Home University: Western Washington University
Major: Biochemistry and Applied Mathematics
Faculty Mentor Dr. Ren Sun
Jordan Valgardson is a rising senior at Western Washington University majoring in biochemistry and applied mathematics. At the University of Western Washington Jordan works with Dr. Jeanine Amacher. At Western Jordan’s research is focused on the ancestral protein reconstruction of Sortase A, which is a bacterial protein with applications in protein engineer.
As an Amgen Scholar at UCLA, Jordan is working in the lab of Dr. Ren Sun in The Department of Medicinal and Molecular Pharmacology. The Sun Lab utilizes a systems biology approach to investigate virus-host interactions and to engineer vaccines. Jordan’s research project in the Sun Lab focuses on the identification of Nucleoprotein mutants that increase the efficiency of de novo viral packaging of Influenza A using an eight-plasmid system. He will analyze a previously generated saturated mutagenesis library for Nucleoprotein to identify candidate mutations. Jordan will then characterize the de novo packaging efficiency of the selected mutants. A more efficient de novo packaging system will allow for the easier generation of new Influenza strains for vaccine development. Additionally, the Nucleoprotein mutant responsible for increased efficiency may provide insight into the mechanism of RNA encapsulation in Influenza.
After completion of his undergraduate degree Jordan wants to pursue a Ph.D. in systems biology. Jordan would like to thank the Amgen Foundation and the Sun lab for their support of his growth as a researcher.
| Ms. Katrina Warner
Name: Katrina Warner
Home University: University of Washington
Major: Mathematics, Biochemistry
Faculty Mentor Dr. Aaron Meyer
Katrina is a fifth-year student at UW, majoring in biochemistry and mathematics. There, she conducts research in the Maly lab, where she uses a novel CID-based synthetic transcriptional activator to establish threshold concentrations of kinase scaffolding protein JIP1 for JNK-pathway activity in vivo. In the mathematics department, Katrina works under the guidance of Dr. Alper to study applications of algebraic statistics in computational genomics. Previously, Katrina participated in a REU at UVa, where she worked on an effort to characterize neural progenitor cell populations via mass cytometry.
At UCLA, Katrina works in the Meyer lab to assess the predictive capacity of quantitative, kinetic analyses of death in cell culture models of cancer. Roughly 85% of drugs entering clinical trials fail due to insufficient efficacy or safety. Combination treatments targeting resistance mechanisms have proven to increase efficacy yet require identification of precise combinations for individual tumors. Conventionally, pharmacological metrics such as IC50 and Emax values are used to assess efficacy, yet these metrics are subject to drug-independent changes in the rate of cellular division. The Meyer lab seeks to explore the drug response information missed by standard metrics via quantitative, kinetic measurements of cellular proliferation and death. They expect this added information will aid in predictions of conferred resistance and the efficacy of combination anticancer treatments.
Katrina would like to thank the Amgen Foundation and the Meyer lab for supporting her growth as a researcher.
| Ms. Sarah Wu
Name: Sarah Wu
Home University: MIT
Major: Neuroscience, Math
Faculty Mentor Dr. Alicia Izquierdo
Sarah is a rising junior at MIT double-majoring in neuroscience and math with computer science. At MIT, she works in a computer vision lab studying visual search strategies and the role of color saliency.
As an Amgen scholar, she works in Dr. Alicia Izquierdo’s lab, which studies learning and decision-making using rodents as a behavioral model, as well as several brain areas specially involved in these cognitive processes. Sarah’s project focuses on decision-making under complex environments where they are multiple levels of uncertainty. She is particularly interested in the role of a region called the anterior cingulate cortex in evaluating uncertainty. Her project involves (computationally) developing a behavioral paradigm for evaluating uncertainty in rats; training rats to perform a probabilistic learning task; and analyzing excitability changes in the anterior cingulate cortices of rats following exposure to uncertainty. The ultimate goal is to understand the mechanisms behind how the brain detects, evaluates, and resolves uncertainty to influence learning and decision-making.
Post-graduation, Sarah hopes to attend grad school for computational neuroscience. She thanks Dr. Izquierdo, the members of the Izquierdo Lab, and the Amgen Foundation for supporting her research pursuits.
| Ms. Bar Yosef
Name: Bar Yosef
Home University: UCSD
Major: Physiology & Neuroscience
Faculty Mentor Dr. Peyman Golshani
Bar Yosef is a rising junior at UCSD, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Cognitive Science. At UCSD, she is an undergraduate researcher at the Komiyama Lab, where she studies decision making in mice models using a value based decision making task with alternating reward probability.
As a UCLA Amgen Scholar, Bar is working the lab of Dr. Peyman Golshani under the mentorship of Dr. Arash Bellafard. She is studying working memory, a type of short-term memory that is stored for a few seconds, during which it is manipulated and processed. Many neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, exhibit working memory deficiency. However, there is little known about working memory's neurobiological mechanisms.
Bar will be optogenetically inhibiting two regions of the mouse brain, the medial prefrontal cortex and the secondary motor cortex, while trained mice complete a working memory task. Each trial of the task has one of four scent combinations in which two scents are separated by a delay period of five seconds. The mice are trained to lick during two of the scent combinations and not lick during two of them. Bar is interested in discovering how optogenetic inhibition during various parts of the task, as well as to two regions of interest, will affect the mice’s performance differently. Dr. Bellafard will be using two-photon imaging to map the neural network of the task. Bar is interested in connecting neurobiological research to cognitive science theories, and would like to explore how these findings relate to the long-term memory and sensorimotor models of working memory.