The Role of Human Complement Factor H and its Interaction with Human Cytomegalovirus

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is one of eight pathogenic herpesviruses known to infect humans. HCMV can be asymptomatic in those with sufficient immune systems, but lead to serious or fatal disease in immunodeficient persons. Because current medications to treat HCMV have a poor safety profile and risk the potential to select for drug resistance, vaccine development remains a top priority. The goal of this project is to better understand how a component of the human immune system, complement Factor H (FH), responds to HCMV. Zoe will employ a yeast-two-hybrid screen using a HCMV gene library to identify protein-protein interactions with FH. Following identification, Zoe will characterize protein-protein interactions in the context of conferring immunity against HCMV. The outcomes of this research will hopefully identify potential avenues for drug or immunotherapeutics development.

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Sciences

The Population Genetics of the Serpentine Endemic, Leather Oak (Quercus durata)

Soils derived from serpentine rock host a unique flora while being distributed throughout California in scattered outcrops. Their insularity makes them ideal for examining the evolution and divergence of species restricted to them, such as the leather oak (Quercus durata var. durata). Chris McCarron’s honors thesis will use reduced genome DNA sequencing for 310 samples from 31 separate populations throughout Q. duratas range. Results will determine the levels and depths of divergence among populations, spatial patterns of differentiation, their timing of isolation, and whether there was a single evolutionary event, or multiple. Findings will have implications for oak conservation and management of populations with unique genetic structure in the face of climate change. Additionally, results will inform our understanding of Q. duratas past and how previous changes have affected it.

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Sciences

Analyzing Methane Emissions from a Restored Bay Area Wetland

Wetlands, known for their potential to sequester carbon dioxide, also contribute to a substantial proportion of global methane emissions. Currently, there is a large effort to restore wetlands in the Bay Area in order to create carbon sinks to help combat the effects of climate change. However, it is essential that wetland managers and restoration scientists understand what factors influence the release of methane from wetland soils, since the release of methane offsets the uptake of carbon dioxide in these ecosystems. To contribute to the refinement of these management practices, Metta will analyze soil methane emissions from Sherman Wetland, a restored wetland in the San Francisco Bay Area, to determine how factors such as soil moisture, temperature, and presence of vegetation impact the release of methane from wetland soils.

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Sciences

The Dynamics of Folding

Largely unchanged for centuries, origami in the last hundred years has exploded with innovation! Beginning with the works of Akira Yoshizawa and his introduction of the first technical system for notating folds, paperfolding has transformed from a simple craft to a highly developed field of mathematics, engineering, and artistry. Yet, even as groundbreaking work has been done to determine what objects can be folded and how, fundamental questions remain about the dynamics of even the simplest moving models such as the traditional flapping bird. Building on the existing idealized work of rigid continuous transformations and the emergent phase transitions in slightly deformed folding patterns, Gabriel is applying the tools of computer simulations and statistical mechanics to probe the ways in which real materials fold and collapse.

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Sciences

Rapid Point-of-Care Diagnostic Assay for COVID-19

As of April 3rd, 2020, there are over a million coronavirus cases worldwide, with more people testing positive every day. With SARS-nCoV-2 being able to transmit from person to person without showing any symptoms, there is a high potential of the virus rapidly transmitting throughout a population undetected. A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid diagnostic tests, and proper ventilation equipment for those infected have contributed to the global public health crisis we see today. Candace Wang will test and optimize isothermal DNA amplification technologies followed by fluorescence detection in order to create a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test. If successful, this will provide a test that is easily accessible and widely available thus providing public health officials a better estimate of the severity of the problem we face globally.

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Sciences