Yoon Han

As part of Professor Shaowen Baos lab, Yoon will expand our understanding of the influence of sensory input on information processing during an epoch of early development known as the critical period. At the behavioral level, he will investigate how early experience of single-frequency tone pips influences frequency discrimination ability in rats. At the physiological level, he will examine the auditory cortex (A1) of tone-exposed rats to extract response properties of the cortical neurons, such as the characteristic frequency, spontaneous firing rate, maximum firing rate, and tuning bandwidth. At the systems level, he will simulate the auditory cortex with a population of model neurons using computational methods with previously extracted properties. By creating a model of the perceptual discrimination process, Yoon will investigate how repeated exposures to a sound influence perception discrimination of acoustically similar sounds.

Nika Cyrus

Folate deficiency still remains as the primary culprit for childhood mortality, and a major cause of atherosclerosis and cancer. Yet, we lack a precise method for determination of the long-term folate status of patients. The objective of Nikas project is to develop a more accurate method of quantifying long-term folate status through elucidation of Red Cell Folate kinetics. It is assumed that Red Cell folate (RCF) remains constant in the circulation; nevertheless, erythrocytes are capable of specific uptake of folate, suggesting that RCF is dynamic. Nika will perform experiments in order to develop a kinetic model that incorporates this dynamic nature of RCF. The model will be validated by collaborative clinical studies in Mexico. Hopefully, through this exciting collaboration, the results of this research may extend beyond national boundaries and give rise to more accurate methods for quantifying folate status.

Dang Lam

Under the guidance of Dr. Richard Harland and two postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Timothy Grammer and Dr. Mustafa Khokha, Dang will study the novel grinch mutation that affects the lymphatic system of the frog Xenopus tropicalis. Like humans, frogs have a lymphatic system which drains fluids from tissues back to the bloodstream. The lymphatic system influences the course of many human diseases, from lymphedema to tumor metastasis; and currently little is known about the molecular basis of lymphatic development. Dang’s efforts will ultimately result in the characterization and identification of the mutated gene, which will contribute to our understanding of the amphibian lymphatic system and possibly that of humans.

Amanda Liu

Amanda will investigate a novel method of diagnosing, staging, monitoring, and treating prostate cancer. The specific phases of her investigation include optimizing the design and synthesis of N-radiofluoro or N-radioiodo-aryl-cycloalkylcarboxamides, which have high affinity for the TRP (transient receptor potential)-M8 receptor found in prostate cancer cells; and testing the affinity of the designed ligand for the TRP-M8 receptor in vitro and ultimately in vivo. One of the promising medical applications is the visualization of ligand-TRP-M8-receptor complex with PET or SPECT for diagnosis, staging, and monitoring prostate diseases. In contrast, current diagnostic methods are either inconclusive or painful. The ultimate goal is radiotherapy, a less invasive but more effective alternative to radical prostatectomy and brachytherapy. The process of optimizing the design and synthesis of the ligands and the medical exploitation of them will constitute Amanda’s senior honors thesis in MCB.

Christopher David McCoy

Small-scale power generation (10-100W) for electronic devices is currently supplied by batteries. Unfortunately, specific energy [Whr/kg] and power [W/kg] are limited by battery technology. The U.C. Berkeley liquid hydrocarbon fueled, rotary engine power system provides a greener more efficient and higher powered solution. In this work, MEMS-based (Microelectromechanical Systems) carburetion system with integrated air flow and temperature sensing is developed for more efficient engine operation. Chris will use Solidworks, a 3-D modeling program for carburetor design, while Femlab, CFDRC, and ANSYS will be used to predict device behavior and optimize the designed components. Conical venturis, piezoresistive flow sensors, fuel microchannel networks and wheatstone bridge circuitry are the primary design components. The culmination of Chris’ research will result in a semiconductor fabrication process flow for innovative carburetor design.

Christopher Jay van Belle

As a part of Steven Brenner’s lab, Chris will be analyzing a large set of novel sequences extracted from oceanic and other environmental microbes. Using computational methods such as Hidden Markov Model searches, he will compare novel environmental peptides to currently known peptides that are available in public databases like Ensembl, TIGR, and nr. Chris will help identify protein domains that are over- or under-represented in the ocean relative to the public datasets, as well as identify domains that may have crossed kingdom barriers. He will also investigate how these new data change our perception of protein space by, for example, illuminating biases that exist in currently available sequence datasets.

Carolina Dallett

The Arabidopsis thaliana genome has been sequenced, allowing use of sophisticated tools for genetic studies. It is known that DME controls gene transcription, encodes a DNA glycosylase, and has homologous proteins in the Arabidopsis genome as well as orthologs in rice, wheat, and maize. We do not know, however, how this is accomplished. Carolina will investigate the DEMETER protein, essential for seed viability in Arabidopsis, using molecular tools and genetics. The project has two phases: 1) To determine if the family member proteins can replace the DME protein; 2) determine what portions of the DME protein give it its unique ability to control gene transcription. The results of Carolina’s senior thesis in Plant and Microbial Biology may contribute to understanding the general biology of DNA repair and DNA transcription of major agricultural crops.

Morgan Burke

Morgan’s fascination with neurobiology led her to join the laboratory of Prof. Irving Zucker, where she has been studying the neuroendocrine basis of seasonal rhythms. Siberian hamsters, like most mammals, restrict production of offspring to the spring and summer. They do so by measuring day length. Neural and endocrine tissues decode day length by measuring the duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion. Morgan’s study, which will serve as the basis of her senior thesis, will assess whether the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus, a brain melatonin target tissue, is a necessary and sufficient component of the neural substrate that measures nightly melatonin duration and consequently day length. This project addresses a fundamental issue in regulatory biology and is of potential value in controlling and preserving animal populations.

Patricia Hom

Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S., with over 76 million pounds of the active ingredient applied annually. Recently, atrazine has been shown to cause endocrine disrupting effects in many vertebrates. When treated with atrazine in the lab, male Rana pipiens develop pseudohermaphrotidic testes which produce oocytes instead of sperm. This phenomenon has been characterized in frogs from areas of known atrazine contamination. However, there is no evidence directly linking atrazine to these gonadal abonormalities in the wild. In this area-specific study, I will raise field-collected frogs in atrazine-contaminated water from their natal lay site, as well as clean water obtained from this site on a different occasion. I will thus be able to elucidate the differential effect of environmental atrazine contamination in a controlled setting, bridging the gap between the field and the laboratory. This project will culminate in the writing of my senior honors thesis […]

Calvin Tyi Hang

The objective of Calvin’s study is to identify the hormonal factors and their regulatory mechanisms on GPR82 expression in the intestine. GPR82 is a recently identified orphan receptor whose ligand has not been found. Although little is now definitively known about this receptor, GPR82 may play important roles in the regulation of the GI tract. Its expression in peripheral tissues is the highest in the GI tract, and its mRNA level changes in response to the nutritional status in both a cell model and live rats. Calvin hypothesizes that GPR82 is transcriptionally regulated by hormonal factors responsive to nutritional status in the body. He will identify hormones that regulate GPR82 transcription, investigate the regulatory sites of target hormones by determining the response element in the promoter of GPR82, and determine the intracellular localization of GPR82. The proposed project will be part of Calvin’s senior honor thesis in Molecular and Cell […]