Keng Lam

Worldwide, we have more than 33 million people living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It remains a challenge to find the best prevention methods. Keng’s research compares two new biomedical prevention methods that have used ART (antiretroviral therapy) to prevent HIV transmission in discordant couples (one member is infected but the other is not). One method is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), where the uninfected person takes antiretroviral drugs, and the other method begins ART in the infected member earlier than is clinically recommended to prevent transmission. The clinical trials data from both methods are published and available for analysis. Keng will use meta-analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis to compare and contrast both prevention strategies for a cohort of heterosexual couples living in southern Africa.

Irene Steves

Stomatopods, also known as mantis shrimp, are some of the coolest marine crustaceans. They are powerful predators (for their size, at least) and are concentrated in tropical waters all over the world. The stomatopod rostrum, a segment of exoskeleton near the eyes, ranges from a simple triangular shape to something that looks more like a crown or the curved top of a palace. This summer, Irene will be looking into the evolutionary motivations of stomatopod rostrum variation. She plans to determine the function of the rostrum and the reasons for its wide variation by compiling environmental data, taking high-speed videos of stomatopod behaviors, and comparing rostrum shapes to their phylogeny.

Katya Cherukumilli

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 distribution and changes in albedo over the course of the summer. Larger implications of her project are greater insight into microclimate-ecosystem dynamics and the effects of warming on landscapes, which may be useful information for agricultural and water-management industries.

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 in the region, and interviewing nutritionists and permaculture experts to obtain information on local sufficient diets and sustainable crop-growing methods. She intends for this case-specific data to be a starting point for a crop plan designing method in resource-limited climates.

Navpreet Ranu

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that often attacks the lungs and can be spread through the air by coughing, sneezing, and other airborne means. Approximately 2 billion people are infected with TB and around 1.6 million people die of this disease every year. Navpreet will develop a point of care (POC) diagnostic device that will be able to quantify specific TB biomarker levels in serum using electrical impedance spectroscopy. His project tests the hypothesis that the limit of detection can be improved by creating a 3D gel sensor as opposed to the standard 2D sensor for electrochemical detection. The versatile, low cost POC platform technology for TB diagnosis and other antibody-based assays will address the existing diagnostic needs of patients and clinicians in underserved regions.

Novalia Pishesha

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 the immune system and muscle regeneration. She will carry out a gene expression profiling approach, qRT-PCR array, and in vitro pharmacological inhibition/stimulation to investigate how the immune system affects muscle stem (satellite) cells’ regenerative capacity. The elucidation of mediator and pathways which incorporate the immune system and muscle regeneration pathways will point to novel therapies for muscle injury by biochemically […]

Jessica Nichole Pasqua

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 is strong and presumptive evidence that Met12 has an important, undetected function. Jessica’s experiments will describe why Met12 is nonfunctional, and will test the hypothesis that physical interactions between Met12 and Met13 are important for cooperative maintenance of methionine bioavailability.

Susan Chen

Metabolic engineering has the potential to provide environmentally friendly routes for the synthesis of a variety of molecules, including therapeutics and biofuels. One way to improve the flux of metabolic pathways is the use of synthetic protein scaffolds that colocalize enzymes in the engineered mevalonate biosynthesis pathway. Susan’s project tests the hypothesis that optimal scaffolds of certain architectures mimic substrate channeling and function by forming large, oligomeric complexes that bring scaffolds into close proximity. Adaptor molecules are synthesized that co-assemble scaffolds to designably control complex size. Mevalonate product titers will be measured using GCMS, and protein colocalization will be verified by fluorescence imaging. The successful engineering of this adaptor strategy can be applied to other pathways due to its modularity.

Elton Chan

The bacterium Salmonella is a significant cause of food-borne disease. Its pathogenesis depends on the type III secretion systems (T3SSs) that were acquired by horizontal gene transfer; the invasion of Salmonella into the host cells requires appropriate expression of T3SSs. Recent research has identified small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) as a class of regulators that fine tune gene expression required for bacterial physiology and pathogenesis. Elton will investigate the specific interaction between one of these newly discovered Salmonella sRNA and its predicted candidate targets; he will characterize the interaction between IsrM and its cognate targets, HilE and SopA, and identify the mechanisms of these interactions. The research work on the interaction between this sRNA and its targets will contribute towards a more complete understanding of the molecular coordination of Salmonella pathogenesis.

Denisse Rojas

Transposable elements (TEs) are movable pieces of DNA that can have detrimental effects in the plant genome. When TEs are expressed, they can disrupt normal gene function. Small RNAs (siRNAs) direct DNA methylation, which signals other proteins to prevent TE expression. Previous studies show that methylation patterns in the endosperm affect silencing of TEs in the embryo, and propose that siRNAs from the central cell, a female supporting germ cell, mediate TE silencing in the egg cell. Denisse will test the idea that siRNAs move from the central cell to the egg cell and silence TE expression in the egg cell. To achieve this goal, she will generate transgenic plants that produce specific siRNA-like molecules in the central cell and will determine if they move to the egg cell.