Investigating Ecosystem Responses to Manipulated Climate Conditions at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

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.

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Sciences

In the Path of the Three Sisters: A Future Plant-Based Food System for Ireland and Israel

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.

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Functional Characterization of Met12-MTHFR in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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.

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Differential Gene Expression in Old and Young Mice: Bridging Immune System and Muscle Regeneration

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 […]

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Development of a Point of Care Tuberculosis Diagnostic Device

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.

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A Novel Mechanism of Silencing Transposable Elements

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.

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