Mentor Search_Summer 2020 Projects

Christiana Care Health Systems

Topic — Behavioral Health Research

Topic — Cancer Research

Topic — Cardiovascular Research

Topic — Diabetes & Metabolic Research

Topic — Family & Community Medicine Research

Topic — HIV/AIDS Research

Topic — Infectious Disease Research

Topic — Neuroscience Research

Topic — OB/GYN Research

Topic — Oral & Maxillofacial Research

Topic — Orthopedic Research

Topic — Women's Health

Topic — Value Insitute

Population Health, Program Evaluation, Health Equity/Social Determinants of Health,Health Systems Engineering

Delaware State University

Alberta Aryee — Characteristization of Plant Extracts and Metabolites

Medicinal plants are rich and natural sources of bioactive compounds (e.g. polyphenols and flavonoids) for traditional and modern medicine, nutraceuticals, food supplements and others. Many have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activities in human. Some of the bioactive compounds are metabolized following ingestion and absorption often with lower activities. In this project, the quality of metabolites form following ingestion and gastrointestinal absorption will be evaluated in vitro.

Email: aaryee@desu.edu

Christine Charvet — Finding corresponding ages across the lifespan across model organisms

The student will gather the timing of transformations at various stages of development and across species

Email: charvetcj@gmail.com

Harb Dhillon — Behavioral effects of reversed/atypical neuronal circuits

The development of the Z-axis in the embryo lays the foundations of our left-right asymmetry. This includes our handedness (90% of individuals are right handed), differentiation in the cerebral hemisphere function (in general, the left hemisphere computes logical tasks, while the right is emotional and artistic). The complexity of the mammalian brain makes the task of unraveling the effects of reversed laterality at a neuronal and molecular basis not feasible at this time. We are using single neuronal; pair models in C. elegans to study the genetic and epigenetic effects of reversed laterality.

Email: hsdhillon@desu.edu

Hwan Kim — Assessing regulatory roles of SUMOylation in alpha-synuclein and LRRK2 in Parkinson’s disease pathology

Post-translational modification (PTM) has been addressed as a key regulatory mechanism for modulating protein aggregation/degradation in neurodegeneration. However, a form of PTM, Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier (SUMO) has not been well characterized in Parkinson’s disease pathology. Although SUMOylation may increase the solubility of alpha-synuclein, SUMOylated proteins including a-synuclein have been detected in the halo of Lewy bodies. Thus it is still unclear in understanding the role of SUMOylation in dopaminergic neurons. In the lab, we assess the role of SUMO conjugase, Ubc9 as a critical post-translational modifier to regulate the solubility, stability, and function of a-synuclein and LRRK2 in dopaminergic neurons in vitro and in vivo. The objectives of this work are to elucidate the mechanisms of SUMOylation in preventing a-synuclein mediated protein aggregation in dopaminergic neurons. This implies that pathological changes in the SUMOylation of a-synuclein and LRRK2 may lead to alteration in acute regulation of protein (mis)folding or aggregation, which is related to the neuropathology of PD. Currently, we inject the preformed fibril (PFF) of a-synuclein in the striatum to induce protein aggregation and dopaminergic neuronal loss. We identified that a-synuclein is constitutively SUMOylated in mouse striatum and midbrain and observed that the overexpression of Ubc9 protects rat dopaminergic N27 cells against MPP+ induced oxidative stress and PFF injection. In the MPTP-lesioned mice, the chronic treatment substantially reduces the level of SUMO1 conjugated to a-synuclein in the mouse striatum. This suggests that pathological changes in the SUMOylation of a-synuclein result in significant alteration in protein (mis)folding or aggregation. Therefore, SUMOylation of a-synuclein and LRRK2 can be potential therapeutic targets for neurological disorders including PD.

Email: yhkim@desu.edu

Karl Miletti — The CD44-ICD-mediated signaling pathway

Characterization of CD44 positive and negative breast cancer cells lines with regards their ability to manage oxidative stress. Potential inhibitors of the CD44-ICD-mediated signaling pathway will be tested.

Email: kmiletti@desu.edu

Qi Lu — Nanoparticle-Membrane Interactions and Their Effects on Biological Cells

We propose to utilize complementary experimental and simulation techniques to elucidate the effects of nanoparticles on the structural and dynamical properties of lipid membranes. The identification of key factors that determine nanoparticle-membrane interactions hold promises for targeted recognition plus elimination of cancer cells, especially those with metastatic phenotype. Three hypotheses will be tested in this proposed project: (1) Can nanoparticles be used to change the membrane fluidity thus a potential pathway to the treatment metastatic cancer? (2) Can the membrane charge be used for targeted recognition of cancer cells by nanoparticles? (3) Can the pore-forming capability possessed by nanoparticles be used to destroy cancer cells? The novelty of the proposed research lies at the possibility of using nanoparticle-membrane interaction for targeted recognition of cancer cells and then using the pore-forming capability of nanoparticles to destroy cancer cells. Nanoparticles here serve as both targeting and therapeutic agents.

Email: qilu@desu.edu

Yuriy Markushin — Lateral flow assay and nanoparticle-based assay development

There is an urgent need to develop non-invasive methods of cancer/other disease monitoring for the early detection, clinical staging and management of the disease. Identification of new molecular and subcellular biomarkers is one the most important current challenge.
We will be working on the development a highly selective immuno-test to measure the levels of the potential serum molecular and subcellular biomarkers in model liquids. The biomarkers of the panel will be evaluated according to their predictive potential for early diagnosis, staging and grading of the disease.
For the detection purpose, we will employ the recently developed at DSU the highly selective nano- and micro-particle and lateral flow immunoassay along with the commercially available Magprix multiplex technology.

Email: ymarkushin@desu.edu

Hacene Boukari — Imaging in Crowded Environment

In this project the goal is to investigate the effect of environmental crowding on the movement of biomacromolecules (e.g. proteins) and the biomacromolecule-biomacromolecule interactions. First, we need to collect time-dependent images of the biomacromolecules dispersed in concentrated or crosslinked biopolymeric systems. Second, we will apply machine-learning methods to not only track and monitor the movements of the biomacromolecules but also understand the nature of the host systems. It is expected that these fundamental studies will provide insight into the effects of crowding on the behavior of biological systems.

Email: hboukari@desu.edu

Michael Gitcho — Neurodegeneration associated with TDP-43 aggregation in Alzheimer's disease

Our research focuses on TDP-43, the major pathological protein in frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. TDP-43 pathology is also present in ~50% of those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Phenotypically mimicking AD, a newly classified disorder called limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE) accounts for 30-50% of dementia cases in those older than 80 years of age previously considered as AD. With over 30 million people world wide are currently diagnosed with AD, up to half are also likely to have TDP-43 proteinopathy.
Other current research interests include:
Age-dependent changes in mitophagy, mitochondrial dynamics, and metabolism associated with neurodegeneration.
NEW ALS rodent model of pathological TDP-43 to characterize.
Developing neuroprotective targets and exploring repurposed drugs that ameliorate aggregated TDP-43 for the treatment of AD, ALS, & FTD.
Mechanisms of cell and non-cell autonomous neurodegeneration.
Inducible TDP-43 expression and the functional relationship between memory, network connectivity, and pathology.
Our lab has a strong commitment to understanding mechanisms associated with neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease. We continue to strive and work with a deep dedication for research in hopes that one day we will live in a world without Alzheimer's Disease.

Email: mgitcho@desu.edu

Mohammad A Khan — Mid-infrared Laser-based Smart Sensing of Exhaled Human Breath

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the world. In the United States, lung cancer leads to more deaths than colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer combined; however, there is a 73% survival rate if detected at initial (1A) stage. There is strong evidence that volatile compounds (VCs) and disease signatures in exhaled breath are “fingerprints” of specific diseases such as lung cancer. Better understanding of the correlation between specific disease and metabolic processes, with a consistent model that establishes this link to unique set of VCs will significantly improve our ability for early detection and disease intervention. Exhaled human breath, contains oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of over 1000 different compounds. These molecules have both endogenous and exogenous origins and provide information about physiological processes occurring in the body as well as environment-related ingestion or absorption of contaminants. As such, characterizing these bio-signatures is essential to identify important components of disease proliferation and to improve therapeutic strategies to control the disease.

Email: mkan@desu.edu

Hakeem O Lawal — Effect of Changes in Acetylcholinergic Release on Synaptic Activity

The aim of this project is to use the Drosophila model system to investigate the effects of changes in acetylcholine synaptic transmission on cholinergic-linked behaviors. We have in our collection several point mutations in the vesicular acetylcholine transporter, the protein that mediates the packaging and transport of acetylcholine for synaptic release. This work therefore seeks to determine the effect of those mutations on locomotion, and learning and memory, two behavioral circuits regulated by acetylcholine.

Email: hlawal@desu.edu

Derrick C Scott — CHO Research or Caulobacter Research

We sequence and assemble the genomes of bacterial cell lines and also the transcriptome of chinese hamster ovary cells

Email: dcscott@desu.edu

Brian McNaughton — Developing novel biologics and antiviral and immunotherapy drug leads

Biologics (proteins) are a growing class of pharmaceuticals. Developing new biologics requires researchers be capable of generating new proteins in the lab, measuring their therapeutic activity, and developing new mechanisms of action for proteins as therapies. Students will design and generate novel proteins that target diseases like HIV and cancer, or generate proteins capable of recruiting the immune system to kill diseased cells. We will work closely with virologists, structural biologists, and analytical biochemists to develop new biologics tools and drug leads.

Email: bmcnaughton@desu.edu

Miki Ii — The roles of DNA repair factors and ribonucleases in neurogenesis and neuroal aging

DNA repair defects result in genome instability, carcinogenesis, accelerated aging, and cell death. In addition, accumulation of mutations in DNA repair genes are know to cause neurological disorders in humans. Ribonucleases are key mediators in RNA metabolism, which plays a role in regulation of gene expression. We found that each DNA repair factor and ribonuclease affects different types of neurons in C. elegans, leading to altered behaviors and accelerated neuronal aging. In this project, scholars will be focused on changes in gene expression to address the mechanisms of DNA repair factors and ribonucleases in developing functional neurons and slowing down neuronal aging.

Email: mii@desu.edu

Murali Temburni — Molecular Mechanisms of Astrocyte Neuron Interactions in the Development of Synchrony

The focus of my lab is to understand the role of a type of glial cell called astrocyte in the development of synchronous activity in the brain. Nerve cells or neurons communicate with each other by generating action potentials or spikes. In the awake brain the overall spiking activity of the hundred billion neurons appears random. However, when in deep sleep or under anesthesia, the spiking activity becomes synchronized between various regions in the brain. This type of synchronous spiking is thought to be necessary for the development and maintenance of the functional organization of the brain – neurons that fire together wire together! Synchronized spiking activity also occurs during epileptic seizures – epilepsy is currently an intractable disease with no cure. Our central hypothesis is that astrocytes play a central role in the synchronization of neurons in the brain. Our preliminary data using pure neuron only and mixed (astrocyte and neuron) cultures on multi-electrode arrays (MEAs) demonstrates that astrocytes are necessary for synchronization of the spiking activity. We are currently dissecting the molecular pathways within astrocytes that are necessary for the synchronization of neuronal spiking activity.

Email: mtemburni@desu.edu

Fatima Boukari — Machine learning and data analytics

Image segmentation and analysis using machine learning techniques. We study the use of deep learning for medical image classification, object detection and segmentation in many medical applications: Neurological, pathological, breast cancer, cardiological and brain.

Email: fboukari@desu.edu

Sokaratis Makrogiannis — Medical Image Analysis Methods for Tissue Identification and Characterization

The summer research student will participate in research work related to development and testing of mathematical methods and computer algorithms for medical image analysis. One of our central topics is tissue identification and characterization for disease diagnosis and therapeutic intervention using clinical imaging data. Applications include tissue quantification for studies of aging and age-related diseases from MRI and CT scans of the abdomen and lower extremities, or from mammograms. Our goal is to develop automated techniques using model-based, graph-theoretic, or atlas-based segmentation to delineate soft and hard tissues, namely muscle, inter-muscular adipose tissue and connective tissue, subcutaneous adipose tissue, and cortical and endostial bone. Furthermore, we aim to compute volumetric and shape characteristics to be used for identification of morphological changes because of aging, or pathologies such as type-2 diabetes and sarcopenia. The tissue quantification and characterization methods will be validated against reference masks and labeled data points for each category (healthy or disease). Another application of pattern analysis and classification is the computer-aided diagnosis of diseases such as breast cancer and osteoporosis from digital radiographs. An additional research project is related to the development of automated cell segmentation and tracking techniques in time-lapse fluorescence microscopy imaging. The segmentation and tracking performance is validated against manually generated reference standards over synthetic and real image sequences.

Email: smakrogiannis@desu.edu

Nemours A.I. DuPont

Nancy Lennon — Long-Term Gait, Mobility, and Daily Living Outcomes after Orthopedic Surgery for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Differences between High and Low Dose Rehabilitation

Children with spastic cerebral palsy often have limitations in mobility function and daily living tasks. Orthopedic surgery is a common recommendation for youth with spastic CP who have musculoskeletal deformities. There is good evidence to show that orthopedic surgery improves gait patterns one year after surgery. The daily function and mobility of children with CP typically decreases from baseline after orthopedic surgery and recovery of baseline function varies widely; taking from six to 36 months post-op. Physical and occupational therapy are typically recommended as part of a post-operative rehabilitation plan aimed at recovery of function and attainment of long-term mobility and daily function goals.
Hypothesis:
Patients who receive a high dose of physical and occupation therapy after surgery will have greater recovery of baseline function two years post-surgery compared to patients who receive a low dose of PT and OT.
Specific Aims:
1. To compare baseline and two-year post-surgery mobility outcomes (gait speed, daily walking activity, patient reported mobility) between groups with high dose and low dose post-op rehabilitation.
2. To compare baseline and two-year post-surgery daily living outcomes (patient reported ADLs and participation) between groups with high dose and low dose post-op rehabilitation.

Email: nancy.lennon@nemours.org

Amy Thompson — Implementation of Rapid Lyme Testing on Management of Children Presenting to the ED with Monoarticular Arthritis

Project Hypothesis: Implementation of rapid in-house lyme testing for patients presenting to the emergency department with monoarticular arthritis will reduce unnecessary consultations, procedures, hospital admission and intravenous antibiotics.

Email: amythomp@nemours.org

University of Delaware

Amy Biddle — The Equine Microbiome

Understanding the composition and function of gut microbial communities in horses.

Email: asbiddle@udel.edu

Anja Nohe — New therapeutics for skeletal formation and cartilage

We developed 2 peptides that have the potential to either restore bone or cartilage. the mechanism of action needs to be determined.

Email: ANJANOHE@UDEL.EDU

Catherine Fromen — Designing Inhalable Nanoparticle Vaccines

Dry powder delivery of inhaled pharmaceutics and vaccines holds great promise to directly control immune responses in the lung. Inhalable vaccines have demonstrated notable efficacy, providing organ-specific responses and universal protection across multiple mucosal sites in the body. The overall goal of the Fromen lab is to develop personalized inhalable vaccines to prevent and treat lung diseases. Our current research aims to engineer nanoparticle (NP) therapeutics that direct immune responses of innate antigen presenting cells (APCs) in the lung. We are specifically interested in identifying critical physiochemical properties of the nanoparticle design that influence APC activation. Recent preliminary data from our lab has suggested that APC longevity is intimately controlled by the amount and frequency of particulate internalization, NP surface charge, and particle degradation rate. In this project, we are looking to leverage these in vitro findings which have yielded more potent APC activation to create efficient pulmonary vaccines. These will be developed as inhalable dry powder systems and evaluated for aerosol lung transport in 3D printed lung models, while their immunological activity will be assessed in mammalian cell co-cultures and murine studies.

Email: cfromen@udel.edu

Curtis Johnson — Magnetic Resonance Elastography of the Brain

Measuring brain tissue mechanics in the live human brain using MRI

Email: CLJ@UDEL.EDU

Deni Galileo — Glioblastoma brain cancer stem cell research

The summer scholar will participate in in vitro research on human glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) that are currently being investigated in the lab. In particular, the role of adhesion molecule L1CAM in promoting GSC motility is being studied. In addition, invasion of GSCs into the brains of developing chick embryos is being studied.

Email: DGALILEO@UDEL.EDU

Elisa Arch — Objective Clinical Prescription of Passive-Dynamic Ankle-Foot Orthoses to Optimize Patient Outcomes

When people walk, their ankle joints help to hold them upright and move them forward. Ankle braces are often given to people who have had a stroke to help their ankle joints work properly. We think that ankle braces customized to meet the needs of each individual person will help them walk better. We have also developed a prescription model that tells us how to customize these ankle braces to address different levels of impairments experienced by people post-stroke such as decreased ability to move the ankle joint and weakened calf muscles [1-7]. The purpose of this study to compare the effectiveness of traditionally-prescribed standard of care ankle braces to our customized ankle braces. To accomplish this goal, we will first measure each person’s ability to move his/her ankle joint and the strength of his/her calf muscles. We will then customize and manufacture an ankle brace for each person based on this information. We will then measure how each person walks in the ankle brace customized just for them immediately after fitting of the brace, two weeks later, and then four weeks later. This study is a major step towards developing effective, standardized prescription guidelines that optimize outcomes of individuals post-stroke and other individuals with ankle-foot impairments with use ankle braces.

Email: schranke@udel.edu

Emily Day — Engineering nanoparticles for high precision therapy

Various projects are available in the Day Lab to develop nanoparticles for high precision therapy of cancer and other diseases. Our studies fall in three main realms of nanomedicine: (1) photothermal therapy, (2) gene regulation, and (3) biomimetic cargo delivery. Projects are available in all three realms, and students will be directly paired with graduate student and/or postdoctoral mentors to synthesize, characterize, and evaluate the nanoparticles they develop.

Email: EMILYDAY@UDEL.EDU

Erica Elva — The role of Wls in Wnt signaling

The goal of this project is to determine how previously identified mutations in the structure of Wntless (Wls) affect its ability to promote the secretion of Wnt ligands and influence downstream signal transduction. Using the Topflash Wnt reporter system in Drosophila cultured cells specific Wls mutations previously identified as being crucial for Wls oligermization and Wnt binding and secretory transport will be tested to determine if mutation of these amino acids influences the Wnt signaling pathway. The results of these experiments are expected to further our understanding of the critical role of Wls in Wnt signaling, a signal transduction pathway known to be both critical for normal human development and when aberrant result in the growth and proliferation of many human cancers.

Email: SELVA@UDEL.EDU

Ethna Fidelma Boyd — Vibrio genetics and genomics

Bacteria accumulate small, organic compounds, called compatible solutes, via uptake from the environment or biosynthesis from available precursors to maintain the turgor pressure of the cell in response to osmotic stress. Vibrio parahaemolyticus has biosynthesis pathways for the compatible solutes ectoine (ectABCasp_ect) and glycine betaine (betIBAproXWV), four betaine-carnitine-choline transporters (bcct1-bcct4) and a second ProU transporter (provVWX). The functional importance of these systems will be examined

Email: FBOYD@UDEL.EDU

Hendrik Reimann — Adaptation to Walking in Virtual Reality Environments

We will study how humans adapt to walking on a treadmill in Virtual Reality environments that are shown either in a head-mounted display or projected onto a large dome screen surrounding the treadmill. The treadmill is "smart" and speeds up or slows down based on the walking speed, so the user can walk at a variable, self-selected speed. This combined setup feels weird at first, but people usually get comfortable within a few minutes. In this project, we will measure this adaptation process and look for differences between the head-mounted display and the domed screen.

Email: jjeka@temple.edu

J. Megan Sions — Physical and Psychosocial Impact of Chronic Low Back Pain with Lower-Limb Loss

Between 36-89% of individuals living with lower-limb loss experience low back pain. Among adults with lower-limb loss, however, little is known about the characteristics of low back pain, or its impact on function. Previous studies have largely focused on physical causes and symptoms of low back pain following lower-limb loss; however, low back pain researchers recommend evaluating biological, psychological, and social characteristics among individuals with low back pain. This knowledge is necessary to improve understanding of the low back pain experience and pain-related disability and to develop comprehensive treatment models. In this project, we are exploring chronic low back pain among 90 adults with lower-limb loss. We are defining chronic low back pain according to the NIH Research Task Force on Chronic Low Back Pain recommendations and obtaining recommended measures from the Task Force’s “minimal dataset” of information related to low back pain. Finally, as inconsistencies have been reported in the literature regarding low back pain prevalence and experience among adults with different levels of limb loss, we are evaluating differences in low back pain-related disability between adults with an above-knee (n=45) and below-knee (n=45) amputation.

Email: MEGSIONS@UDEL.EDU

James Hoffman — Brain measures of emotion-induced blindness

In “real life”, stimuli that are high in emotion rapidly grab our attention even when we are deeply engrossed in other activities. An angry voice, a snarling dog, or the sudden appearance of a spider are all stimuli that will intrude into our awareness even when we are concentrating on something important. This is also readily apparent in a laboratory phenomenon known as “emotion induced blindness” or EIB. EIB occurs when people are searching a rapidly presented stream of scene pictures for a target scene (one that has been rotated 90 degrees left or right). Although these targets are normally easy to find, they become virtually undetectable when an irrelevant, negative emotional picture (examples: dangerous animals such spiders and snakes, mutilated bodies, etc.) precedes the target picture by about two tenths of a second. Longer intervals restore detection to normal levels. What causes this brief period of blindness? We have been studying this question by using EEG measures of brain activity to examine the processes responsible for EIB. EEG measures show that in the absence of an emotional picture, the target picture elicits activity over visual cortex within a few tenths of second after its appearance. This activity is totally suppressed, however, when the target is preceded by an emotional picture, presumably because the emotional picture automatically “grabs” attention and blocks awareness of the target. Not surprisingly, brain activity occurring later in time that is associated with conscious awareness of targets is also suppressed. Currently, we are using EEG to examine whether attention capture by emotional pictures is completely automatic or whether it can be suppressed when people are doing another difficult visual task. Preliminary results suggest that attention capture by emotional stimuli may not always be fully automatic.

Email: HOFFMAN@UDEL.EDU

Jared Medina — Multisensory integration and plasticity in neurologically intact and impaired individuals

Students can work on projects on two topics. First, our lab understands how we integrate information across multiple senses (vision, proprioception, etc.) to create a sense of the body. Students will analyze and collect data from various body illusions (e.g. the mirror box illusion) to understand how we engage in multisensory integration. Second, we are very interested in plasticity after stroke. In these projects, students will analyze and collect data from brain-damaged individuals to examine how motor, tactile, and multisensory behavior changes after stroke, and relate it to changes in brain structure and function.

Email: jmedina@psych.udel.edu

Jeffrey Mugridge — Mechanisms controlling chemical modification of RNA

RNA molecules in the cell are decorated with a huge diversity of chemical modifications. Writer, reader, and eraser enzymes control the installation, recognition, and removal of these modifications to influence RNA function and regulate gene expression. Many of these RNA-modifying enzymes are closely linked to important human diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and metabolic disorders. We will combine biochemistry, structural biology, and chemical biology to understand the mechanisms that control RNA-modifying enzymes and how their function is linked to human disease. Summer Scholars will work closely with myself and/or a graduate student in the lab to develop and carry out a summer project that significantly contributes to our efforts to understand the chemical, structural, and molecular mechanisms that control chemical modification of RNA in the cell.

Email: MUGRIDGE@UDEL.EDU

Jennifer Semrau — Sensorimotor Control and Robotic Rehabilitation Lab

On a daily basis, we use sensorimotor control to execute and modify movements that allow us to interact with the environment around us. Neurologic injury, such as stroke, can have devastating effects on motor and proprioceptive function and can lead to long-lasting impairment. Characterizing sensorimotor impairment and recovery after stroke in humans is a challenging but critical objective for the field of neurorehabilitation and neural recovery. Traditionally, quantifying impairment and recovery after stroke has relied on clinical scales that are subjective and often lack specificity and sensitivity to significant changes in neurologic function. To address these challenges, we have developed robotic assessments that allow for more sensitive, objective measurement of motor and proprioceptive deficits after stroke. Using robotic technology has allowed us to determine that proprioceptive deficits are very common after stroke (> 50% of individuals). Additionally, we’ve shown that the timeline of recovery for those with mild and moderate stroke may be longer than previously considered, and that recovery of motor function and proprioceptive function are dissociable and do not necessarily follow similar timelines. Identifying sensorimotor impairments and their evolution over the course of recovery is critical for optimizing neurorehabilitation after stroke and furthering our understanding of the brain-behavior connections that govern sensorimotor processing.

Email: SEMRAU@UDEL.EDU

Jessica Tanis — Characterization of novel regulators of post-synaptic signaling in C. elegans

At the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), postsynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) transduce a chemical signal released from a cholinergic motor neuron into an electrical signal to induce muscle contraction. Defects in cholinergic signaling at the NMJ are the underlying cause of severe muscle weakness observed in congenital myasthenic syndromes as well as the autoimmune syndrome myasthenia gravis. The molecular mechanisms that regulate proper postsynaptic AChR signaling at the NMJ are not fully understood. C. elegans body wall muscles are functionally comparable to vertebrate skeletal muscles and provide an excellent model for study of neuromuscular transmission. Wild-type animals exposed to levamisole, a pharmacological agonist of nicotinic AChRs on the body wall muscles undergo time-dependent, hyper-contracted paralysis. To identify novel genes that regulate cholinergic signaling, we performed a genome-wide RNAi screen for gene knockdowns that cause hypersensitivity or weak resistance to levamisole. We identified 156 gene knockdowns that caused altered levamisole response (18 resistant; 138 hypersensitive), 89% of which have human homologs.

Email: JTANIS@UDEL.EDU

Jia Song — microRNA regulation of development

We are interested to understand how microRNAs regulate development. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to the 3'UTR of target mRNA and suppress translation. In particular, we focus on discovering the function of microRNA-31 (miR-31) in regulating microtubule dynamics during embryos undergoing early cell divisions.

Email: JSONG@UDEL.EDU

Jocelyn Hafer — Mechanisms of changes in gait with age or osteoarthritis

Our lab will have a couple of projects active during the summer. One project will focus on analyzing gait, strength, muscle function, and x-ray imaging data from two data sets to understand the roles of gait and muscle strength in osteoarthritis progression. Another project will be testing methods for using wearable sensors to get meaningful gait biomechanics data.

Email: jfhafer@udel.edu

Eric Wommack — Biochemistry of genome replication proteins in viruses of microbes

Metagenomic studies of viruses within environmental and clinical samples have revealed that the global diversity of viruses is enormous. Most viruses observed through metagenomic studies show no similarity to previously known viruses leaving questions about the life-history strategies of the unknown viral majority. Genome replication is a process essential to the propagation of any virus. This study will focus on inferring the life-history strategies of unknown viruses from both bioinformatic analysis of sequence data from replication proteins, such as DNA polymerases, ribonucleotide reductases, and helicases, and biochemical characterization of synthesized proteins. Identifying genomic features of viruses that are predictive of particular life-history strategies is the long term goal of this work. However, these genome to phenome connections require the support of biochemical and microbiological evidence. The objective of this project is to gather this evidence.

Email: WOMMACK@DBI.UDEL.EDU

Kaja Jasinska — Neuroimaging of Language and Cognition

Our overarching research goal is to uncover the biological foundations and environmental influences underlying linguistic and cognitive processing that supports the emergence of skilled literacy. This research project will track how aspects of language (including phonology, morphology, grammar, and comprehension), and cognition (including working memory, attention, and executive functions) are represented and proccessed in the developing brain, and determine how environmental factors such as socioeconomic status and language background (i.e. bilingualism, biliteracy) shape the neurodevelopmental trajectories of these key linguistic and cognitive skills. This project will serve to advance an integrative framework of reading processes: the association between linguistic and cognitive abilities and literacy learning outcomes. Second, tracking development changes in neurobiological processes using functional neuroimaging technologies and integrated brain/behavior measures permits testing specific hypotheses about neural precursors of reading. Last, by examining enviornmental factors during sensitive periods for language (birth-7 years) and reading (4-12 years) development, the project will advance our understanding of when key predictors of reading outcomes are most malleable, and identify developmental windows where interventions may be maximally effective. Children and adult participants in our study will complete cognitive, language and reading tasks, involving auditory, visual, and/or print stimuli, while patterns of activation in the language network and reading network is measured using a Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy system (fNIRS). By collecting neural and behavioral data, it will be possible to gain insights into the course literacy development across various populations, providing a scientific framework for understanding development and learning outcomes.

Email: jasinska@udel.edu

Karin Silbernagel — Achilles and patellar tendon injury and recovery

The Delaware Tendon Research Group is an interdisciplinary team focused on improving treatment outcomes for tendon injuries. Our approach is to evaluate tendon health and recovery by quantifying tendon composition, structure, mechanical properties, along with patient’s impairments and symptoms. This allows us to develop a better understanding of the factors that affect healing so that tailored treatment can be developed. The close connection between our Tendon Research Group and the Delaware Physical Therapy Clinic enables conceptual ideas generated in the clinic to be explored in our research and in turn implemented in clinical practice.
Current studies include:
A prospective clinical trial comparing the effect of exercise as treatment for Achilles tendinopathy, between men and women. Recovery will be evaluated using outcome measures for tendon structure (US imaging) and mechanical properties (continuous shear wave elastography), along with validated measures of muscle tendon function and symptoms.
A randomized clinical trial evaluating the impact of activity modification during rehabilitation on recovery from patellar tendinopathy in active individuals.

Email: kgs@udel.edu

Lisa Jaremka — Mindfuless and Romantic Relationship Quality

One of the most robust findings in health psychology is that poor quality relationships place people at risk for an array of disease outcomes, including inflammation, depression, and premature mortality. Thus, identifying scalable interventions that improve relationship quality, thereby improving disease outcomes, is an essential public health goal. Mindfulness interventions, which encourage attention towards and acceptance of current experiences, are a promising target for improving relationship quality. For example, a mindfulness intervention improved self-reported romantic relationship quality relative to a non-active wait-list control. The wait-list comparison condition from prior work makes it unclear whether the mindfulness intervention itself or non-specific intervention factors (e.g., positive treatment expectancies) were driving positive relationship outcomes, a significant limitation. Thus, a critical next step is to compare a mindfulness intervention to an active control comparison condition. The overarching aim of this proposal is to experimentally test whether a mindfulness intervention improves relationship quality, assessed via both subjective and objective measures, relative to an active control comparison. We focus specifically on mindfulness and romantic relationship quality in this exploratory R21 because this focus builds on a well-established link between romantic relationships and disease outcomes. Romantic couples from the community will be randomly assigned to one of two arms: mindfulness vs. active control. Both interventions will be completed on a smart-phone for 14 days using identical intervention activities as our existing published research. After the 14-day period, couples will attend a lab visit and provide subjective and objective relationship quality data. This innovative study is the first step towards testing a mindfulness intervention as a means to improving relationship quality.

Email: ljaremka@udel.edu

Mary Dozier — Intervening to Enhance Parenting of Vulnerable Children

We are studying intervention effects on behavioral and biological outcomes of vulnerable children. Following a 10-session parenting intervention, we study children's and parents' behavioral and biological functioning.

Email: MDOZIER@UDEL.EDU

Mary Bowen — Understanding the Health of Older Adults in the Community

Data on 20 community-dwelling older adults' physical function, daily physical activity, sleep, and pain were collected for 6 months. This project is to review the associated literature and to learn how to examine and analyze these data. The student(s) will also work with graduate students on this project to learn more about the data analysis, cleaning, reduction, merging, process.

Email: MEBOWEN@UDEL.EDU

Melinda Duncan — Wound healing of the eye after surgery

Ocular surgery has improved the vision of millions of people worldwide, however, not all surgeries have a good outcome. We are investigating how the eye responds to surgery with the goal of identifying drug targets and drugs that will improve the healing response and reduce inflammation and scarring after surgery

Email: duncanm@udel.edu

Michele Lobo — Parent-child Play Activities to Promote Child Development

The goal of this project is to better understand how parents can positively influence their children's development through the play activities they engage in together. The project involves a review of educational resources available as well as analysis of practices local parents engage in with their children. The lab's prior work has shown that parent education can positively influence motor and cognitive outcomes for young children.

Email: MALOBO@UDEL.EDU

Molly Sutherland — Cytochrome c biogenesis in prokaryotes

Research in the Sutherland lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of cytochrome c biogenesis in bacteria. What are cytochromes c? They are proteins found in nearly all organisms including humans, plants, bacteria and Archaea that function in diverse electron transport chains for cellular respiration and other critical functions. Why are cytochromes c unique? They require covalent attachment of heme to a conserved motif (CXXCH) to function. Heme attachment or biogenesis is not well understood, representing a fundamental biological question. There are three pathways called System I, System II and System III for cytochrome c biogenesis that have different mechanisms to transport heme and attach it to cytochrome c. Systems I and II are found primarily in prokaryotes (bacteria) and are studied in the Sutherland lab. The project will involve characterization of the proteins in Systems I or II to understand how heme is transported and attached to cytochrome c.

Email: MSUTHER@UDEL.EDU

Mona Batish — Understanding extracellular RNA transport

Our laboratory focus on single molecule RNA imaging using fluorescently labeled probes. One of our interest is to develop constructs that can be used for tracking the packaging, sorting and transport of RNA among cells and to understand the mechanism and biological role of of RNA transport.

Email: BATISH@UDEL.EDU

Rahmat Beheshti — Predictive models of chronic disease

We have a set of projects that involve working with various modalities of health data including electronic health records, claims data, imaging data, and wearable sensors data. The common theme of all of these projects is using advanced machine learning techniques to analyze available datasets to predict future health conditions or outcomes. We have a special focus on studying obesity and diabetes in our lab.

Email: rbi@udel.edu

Roghayeh Barmaki — Virtual Reality for Healthcare Education and Rehabilitation

In this project you will work with high-end virtual reality devices to understand how real-world problems in healthcare, e.g. pain management, healthy decision making, communication biases can be solved with cutting edge technologies that virtual reality offers.
You will join the Human-Computer Interaction lab (HCI@UD) as part of this program and have a unique opportunity to have access to several facilities inside the lab and also UD Maker Gym. HCI@UD is one of the satellite sites of the Gym, and you can make several tangible and imaginary objects if you join us.

Email: rlb@udel.edu

Shawn Polson — Genomics and Bioinformatics approaches for Microbiome Research

My lab devises and applies new strategies for examining the role of microbes and their viruses in various environments ranging from organism-associated microbiomes to the marine environment. Scholars would get a chance to participate in this work through either helping to develop new approaches or applying existing approaches already in use by the lab.

Email: POLSON@DBI.UDEL.EDU

Sheau Ching Chai — Effect of fructose and salt diet on blood pressure

The study will investigate the combined effect of high fructose and high salt diet on 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure and cardiovascular reactivity in adults, using a pre- and post-feeding design. Non-obese adults, 21-45 years of age, will be assigned to consume a diet high in fructose and sodium daily for a 10-day period. Human specimens and blood pressure data will be collected.

Email: SCCHAI@UDEL.EDU

Thomas Kaminski — A Randomized Control Trial Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Get aHEAD Safely in Soccer™ Heading Intervention for Improving Safe Play and Reducing Concussion in Youth Soccer Players

In 2015, the U.S. Soccer Federation (US Soccer) enacted the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative, which included new guidelines that prohibit soccer heading in players aged <11 years and limit exposure to soccer heading in players aged 11-13 years. The primary intention of these guidelines is to prevent concussions in these at-risk age groups. However, these new guidelines do not provide a mechanism from which to teach proper soccer heading technique that may result in the reduction of long-term heading exposure and concussions, and enhance safe play. We recently partnered with the United Soccer Coaches (formerly known as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America – NSCAA) to develop the Get aHEAD Safely in Soccer™ (Get aHEAD) intervention to address this need. The Get aHEAD intervention is focused on educating youth soccer coaches on how to teach proper heading technique and safe play using progressive training and ball modifications, behavioral safe play strategies, and neck and core strengthening. However, the effectiveness of the Get aHEAD intervention has yet to be examined empirically. Therefore, we propose to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of the Get aHEAD intervention in reducing exposure to soccer heading and concussions in youth soccer by preparing players to properly head a soccer ball.

Email: KAMINSKI@UDEL.EDU

Thomas Buckley — Concussion & Subconcussive Research

There are two active projects students can be engaged with. The first is the the NCAA/DoD CARE Concussion research project in which student-athletes undergo a series of neurological screenings (cognitive, balance, vision, gait, and similar) both before they start in athletics and then again following a concussion. The second is a new project investigating the effects of collision sports and subconcussive blows (hits to the head which don't cause concussions) on neurological health across the lifespan.

Email: TBUCKLEY@UDEL.EDU

Timothy Vickery — Human visual perception and learning

Despite the fact that visual perception seems effortless, it is the result of myriad complex processes that are still poorly understood. Several on-going projects in my lab seek to better understand these processes using psychophysical and neuroimaging (fMRI) studies. In one project, we are examining ""mid-level"" vision -- visual processes that fall between simple scene analysis and high-level recognition processes. Part of mid-level vision is understanding the structure of scenes -- which parts of the image ""belong together."" We know of many cues that lead to such grouping, but we have a poor understanding of the mechanisms behind the cues. In my lab, we have taken an individual differences approach to understand how mechanisms underlying grouping cues are related. These projects involve large-scale data collection (on-line and in the lab) while subjects perform simple visual tasks. We plan to expand our work in this domain with neuroimaging studies (using fMRI) in the coming months.
In a second set of behavioral and neuroimaging studies, we are interested in how people unintentionally learn about the visual world (""visual statistical learning""). Incidental learning of predictive relationships may form an important part of daily learning and even inform visual perception, itself.

Email: tvickery@udel.edu

Velia Fowler — The lens nucleus as a determinant of whole lens stiffness

Presbyopia, or far-sightedness, is an age-related condition caused by the inability of the eye lens to change shape during accommodation (focusing from far to near). This inability of lens shape change has been associated with an age-related increase in lens stiffness. The mechanism(s) that lead to lens stiffness remain unclear. Previously, we have shown that with age, the lens' hard nuclear core increases in size and begins to occupy a large fraction of the lens. In this study, we will test the hypothesis that this nuclear core determines whole lens stiffness.

Email: VFOWLER@UDEL.EDU

Vijay Parashar — Towards discovery of new generation of bacterial anti-infectives

About Parashar lab:
There is an urgent unmet need for innovative therapeutics or vaccines to curb the emergence of bacterial drug resistance. One highly promising approach is to control bacterial behaviors by targeting signal transduction pathways to impair their ability to sense and respond to the environment. This approach minimizes survival pressure in bacteria and curbs their ability to develop resistance to the therapeutic or vaccine. Cyclic nucleotide second messenger (CNSM) signaling pathways that regulate numerous bacterial behaviors are therefore attractive targets for such interventions. However, the mechanisms underlying function of proteins in these pathways are not understood. Parashar laboratory uses atomic-resolution structural biology coupled with biochemical and genetic analysis to understand these mechanisms. For more information on the laboratory, please visit Parashar laboratory website.

Email: parashar@udel.edu

Zhenghan Qi — Multimodal neuroimaging research on language learning mechanism

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show highly variable language skills. We are interested in what is unique about successful language learners with ASD. Statistical learning (SL), a foundational ability to gain information from patterns in the environment, is key for language acquisition in typically developing (TD) children. Importantly, unlike many measures of language competence, SL does not require social communication, which tends to be hindered in many individuals with ASD. Our large multimodal project is currently geared towards examining behavioral performance across linguistic, nonlinguistic, visual, and auditory SL tasks across children. Using safe and non-invasive brain imaging techniques, we examine the neural activity and brain signatures that underlie effective language learning. Combining findings from all of these methodologies will enable us to provide a comprehensive characterization of behavioral and brain bases of SL learning and language ability across typically developing children and children with ASD.

Email: ZQI@UDEL.EDU

Aimee Jaramillo-Lambert — Investigate the role of topoisomerase II in chromosome structure

Our lab is interested in what causes differences in how chromosomes are structured in males vs. females. This project will examine the role of an enzyme called topoisomerase II in meiotic chromosome structure and how it interacts with other components that determine the amount of chromosome compaction needed to accurately segregate chromosomes during meiosis.

Email: ANJL@udel.edu

Esther E. Biswas-Fiss — Genotype-phenotype correlation in inherited visual disease

various projects are available in the Day Lab to develop nanoparticles for high precision therapy of cancer and other diseases. Our studies fall in three main realms of nanomedicine: (1) photothermal therapy, (2) gene regulation, and (3) biomimetic cargo

Email: ebiswas@udel.edu

Austin J Brockmeier — Monitoring Automatic Methods for Biomedical Image Classification

The FDA has approved a number of automatic systems (artificial intelligence software) for biomedical image diagnosis. A concern with these systems is that the quality assurance mechanisms are not built in. Systematic errors may be occurring without human oversight. Inherently, the systems may have difficulty distinguishing outliers or changes in image quality. The goal of this project is to review the current state-of-the-art and identify possible sources of errors or future errors, along with techniques for tracking and mitigating problems in deployed systems.

Email: ajbrock@udel.edu

Jeffrey L Caplan — Applications of Deep Machine Learning in Image Analysis

The Bio-Imaging Center provides hundreds of researchers access to state-of-the-art microscopy instrumentation and expertise. The center has a wide range of microscopes, including confocal, multiphoton, super-resolution, scanning electron, and atomic force microscopes. The common thread of all these instruments is that they generate images that need to analyzed. The Bio-Imaging Center has been developing methods to detect specific structures in both light and electron microscopy images using a type of machine learning that uses deep convolution neural networks. This project does not require any prior computational or microscopy experience. Instead, it will be an opportunity to explore a potential core facility or technical career path while working on the interface of computational biology and microscopy.

Email: jcaplan@udel.edu

Elise A Corbin — Load-dependent myocardial cell adaptions

This project involves creating 3D engineered heart tissue, in which cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts self-assemble into contracting cardiac microtissues (CMT) mounted on flexible cantilevers, to study "mechanical-memory" via load dependent changes.

Email: ecorbin@udel.edu

Charles Dhong — Exploring the limits of human touch

Compared to our other senses, we are relatively poor at designing for the sense of touch. Touch is inherently complex because how one touches an object affects how it feels. Furthermore, the sense of touch and devices to control touch have largely been ignored by the materials revolution. We seek to understand how touch works on a fundamental level and design devices which can recreate realistic tactile sensations.

Email: cdhong@udel.edu

Roberta M Golinkoff — Summer Intern in the Child's play, Learning, & Development Lab

Our lab studies child development, generally relating to language development, early math skills, and learning from play and media.

Email: roberta@udel.edu

Mari Griffioen — Peripheral sensory nerve function testing in pain studies

This study will compare the validity and reliability between a stationary (Medoc Pathway) and a portable (TSA 2 Advanced Thermosensory Stimulator) equipment used to measure peripheral sensory nerve function. The Medoc Pathway and TSA 2 are used to examine thermal sensory nerve function, which is one portion of a the Quantitative Sensory Testing (QST) protocol used to detect sensory loss (e.g., hypoesthesia, hypoalgesia) or sensory gain (e.g., hyperesthesia, hyperalgesia, allodynia) that may develop as a result of chronic pain.

Email: mgriffi@udel.edu

Xiaopeng Ji — Mechanisms Underlying the Contribution of Sleep Disturbances to Pain

This study aims to understand the relationship between sleep/sleep disturbances and pain perception and the development and maintenance of chronic pain. To achieve the research goal, we will conduct: 1) a systematic review; and 2) secondary analyses on how different forms of sleep disturbance (e.g., increased sleep latency, prolonged awakenings, social jet lag) are associated with pain, and the mechanisms of lifestyle factors (e.g., diet, inactivity, sociocultural) and comorbid conditions that contribute to impaired sleep in individuals with pain.

Email: jixiaop@udel.edu

John R Jungck — Image Analysis of Radiolarian Exoskeletons

The student will do quantitative image analysis of radiolarian tests with geometric, topological, and spatial statistics using three different software packages: Amira, JMP, and Ka-Me. This will follow on our 2019 published article in Theory in the Biosciences by doing digital dissections of two and three layered exoskeletons and their graph theoretic and geometric tests: Pitteway violations, Desch’s Law, Lewis’s law, and the Aboave-Weaire law.

Email: jungck@udel.edu

Hyosub Kim — behavioral and computational processes of motor learning in Parkinson disease

The overall objective of this proposal is to combine quantitative behavioral testing using robotics and simple virtual-reality systems, and computational modeling in order to generate fundamental knowledge regarding Parkinson disease-related impairments in movement initiation, online feedback control, and skill learning.

Email: hyosub@udel.edu

Jennifer Kubota — IFSN Lab Research

Students will engage in social neuroscience research in the IFSN lab. The students will investigate how we form impressions of other individuals.

Email: Psychological and Brain Sciences

John H Slater — Tissue Eningeered MicroDevices to Model Disease Progression

The Slater Lab focuses on generating vascularized and fluidized tissue engineered microdevices to model common human diseases with a focus on cancer and cardiovascular disease. We implement these engineered systems to monitor disease progression and cellular events that are difficult to watch using animals to better understand disease progression. We also apply these systems to develop new therapeutics to treat the disease.

Email: jhslater@udel.edu

Donald A Watson — The Development of New Methods for Preparation of Biologically Active Organic Compounds

Organic chemistry lies at the heart of modern biomedical research, as complex organic compounds are used as drugs for vast range of diseases (from cancer to acne - and everywhere in between), and also as probes to study biology and biochemistry. Increasing demands of selectivity and efficacy require the development of new chemical methods that allow those complex molecules to be prepared in rapid and economically viable ways. Our group focuses on the development of novel methods useful to prepare complex organic molecules for those purposes.

Email: DAWATSON@UDEL.EDU

Mary P Watson — New Catalytic Methods to Make Bioactive Molecules

INBRE researchers will develop new, transition metal-catalyzed methods that efficiently transform readily available starting materials into valuable products. We will particularly focus on reactions that deliver molecules with potential biological activity or other biomedical relevance.

Email: mpwatson@udel.edu

Ryan M Zurakowski — Modeling HIV drug distribution in human lymph tissue

We are developing computational models to predict the distribution of HIV antiretroviral drugs inside human lymph nodes for different conditions of disease and systemic inflammation. These models imply that lymph nodes may act as sanctuary sites of ongoing replication in otherwise treated patients.

Email: RYANZ@udel.edu

Anjana Bhat — Creative Movement as an intervention for children with autism

Our past research has shown the value of creative physical activities using music, dance, and yoga (Srinivasan et al., 2014, 2015, 2016a, 2016b). The broad objectives of this study are to evaluate the effects of creative movement and physical activity on the social and movement skills of children between 6 and 14 years of age. We will also examine changes in brain activity patterns following training. Students will have experience with data collections and/or data analysis.

Email: ABHAT@UDEL.EDU

Dawn Elliott — Orthopaedic tissue mechanics and function

Tears of the knee meniscus, tendon, and intervertebral disc are common injuries and a cause of disability. It is currently unknown how tears form and grow and how they affect surrounding tissue. We are seeking summer student to assist in testing these tissues.

Email: delliott@udel.edu

Jason Gleghorn — Projects in regenerative medicine

The Gleghorn Lab is an interdisciplinary research group that is focused on understanding how cells assemble into functional tissues. We develop and use microfluidic and microfabrication technologies to determine how cells behave and communicate within multicellular populations to form complex 3D tissues and organs. In particular, we use developing organs, microfabricated 3D organotypic culture models, quantitative analysis, and computational methods to investigate the biophysical forces and chemical signals that drive tissue growth, homeostasis, and disease. Our work integrates fundamental engineering, molecular, cell, and developmental biology, and materials science to delineate cellular behaviors and interactions at the cellular, tissue, and organ length scales. The long-term goals of this research are to develop techniques to engineer physiologically relevant 3D culture systems with well-defined structure, flows, and cell-cell interactions to study tissue-scale biology and disease. These techniques in combination with what we learn in our studies of the native cellular behaviors and interactions in the embryo will be used to define new therapeutic approaches for regenerative medicine.

Email: gleghorn@udel.edu

Karl Schmitz — Structure and function of tuberculosis proteases

All bacteria possess enzymes that recognize, unfold, and destroy protein substrates in the cell. These proteases adjust the composition of the cellular proteome, and thereby help bacteria respond to stress, adapt to changes in nutrient availability, and regulate virulence. In Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a globally important human pathogen, proteases have emerged as promising targets for novel antibacterial compounds. Recent studies suggest that mycobacteria tag some proteins for destruction through phosphorylation of the amino acid arginine. The Schmitz lab is working to understand what triggers arginine phosphorylation, which specific substrates are phosphorylated, and how cellular proteases recognize phosphoarginine (pArg) on protein substrates. The summer scholar will work with lab members to identify novel substrates by mass spectrometry, investigate degradation pArg-modified substrates by proteases in vitro, and use X-ray crystallography to determine the structures of novel pArg-binding proteins.

Email: schmitzk@udel.edu

Kathleen Brewer-Smyth — Could post-traumatic neurobiology and behavior be rehabilitated and associated epigenetic aging acceleration decreased in adult female trauma victims?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are urgent public health problems with serious long-term neurobiological consequences. This can result in epigenetic changes and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation of the stress hormone cortisol that can persist throughout life and increase risky behaviors (violence, substance use). It is not known if HPA axis dysregulation can be rehabilitated in adults or if improvements decrease risky behaviors. Our data suggest that longer time participating in homeless shelter programs is related to healthier salivary cortisol and decreased risky behavior in females. A larger sample is critical to answer these questions and control for related variables.
We hypothesize that that epigenetic age acceleration (EAA), low AM cortisol and diurnal cortisol slope (DCS) associated with ACEs can improve with supportive community programs; and steeper DCS predicts decreased risky behavior in adult women. Aim 1: Define relationships between ACEs, risky behaviors, and salivary cortisol among adult women. Aim 2: Determine if greater length of time in community programs (TC) (i.e. Sunday Breakfast Mission (SBM)) predicts higher AM cortisol, steeper DCS and decreased risky behavior. Aim 3: Evaluate relationships between EAA, TC, cortisol and risky behaviors.
This innovative study will provide pilot data for longitudinal research evaluating if HPA axis dysregulation, behaviors, and EAA can improve by participating in community programs; if risky behaviors decrease as HPA regulation improves; and how community programs may contribute to these outcomes in adult female ACEs victims. Should this research reveal that greater time in community programs predict HPA axis regulation, decreased EAA, and decreased risky behaviors, this research evidence will support cost effective rehabilitation using existing community programs to prevent serious inter-related problems of female ACEs victims that greatly impact public health.

Email: KBSMYTH@UDEL.EDU

Juan Perilla — Scientific visualization of cellular processes

The project is centered around creating content for novel communication platforms (virtual reality headsets, YouTube). Importance will be given to the communication of scientific findings to a broad non scientific audience.

Email: JPERILLA@UDEL.EDU

Salil Lachke — Lens development and eye disease

My laboratory has a number of mouse models of human disease, specifically cataract. These mice have specific genes that have been deleted. Therefore, it is possible to ask the question whether a certain gene has a function in lens development and when this function is disrupted, how does this lead to eye disease.

Email: SALIL@UDEL.EDU

Catherine Grimes — Increasing the diversity of bacterial peptidoglycan libraries

The project will aim to synthesize bacterial peptidoglycan fragments. These fragments will then applied to either SPR experiments for innate immune binding or glycan arrays for profiling antibody binding. The scholar will become an important team member in the study of innate immune activation from bacterial cell walls. The project is very much focused on the molecular details used by the system and as such much attention will be paid to the synthesis of pure bacterial cell wall fragments and their applications.

Email: CGRIMES@UDEL.EDU

Susan Sheehy — Veterans and College Athletes Together (VCAT)

Matching militay veterans with UD athletes as workout buddies and also providing wellness classes to the participating veterans over a 12-week period to improve the health and wellness of participating veterans while validating the effectiveness of such a program.

Email: sheehy@udel.edu

Megan Wenner — Vascular changes with aging in men and women

Our laboratory is studying the mechanisms contributing to vascular dysfunction in women and men as they age.

Email: mwenner@udel.edu

Shuo Wei — Xenopus as a model for neural crest induction and human birth defects

We have identified several genes whose mutations in humans cause birth defects in neural crest stem cell derived tissues. The goal of this project is to test if loss of function of these genes affects neural crest development in Xenopus tropicalis.

Joe Fox — Advancing Chemical Reactions for Applications in Biology

Current directions of my group are focused on developing new organic reactions with applications to chemical biology, protein target identification, drug delivery, photodynamic therapy, photoaffinity labeling, radiochemistry, and 3D tissue culture. Projects include developing new and general methods for directly installing tetrazines to complex molecules, including new classes of unnatural amino acids that were previously inaccessible. Our group has also developed a photoinducible version of the tetrazine ligation that works in the intracellular environment to enable bioorthogonal chemistry near the diffusion control limit.

Email: JMFOX@UDEL.EDU

Wesley College

Erin Perchiniak — Genetic alterations in C. elegans lead to changes in synaptic transmission at the NMJ

The laboratory of Dr. Jessica Tanis, at the University of Delaware, developed an assay to identify novel genes that regulate cholinergic signaling in C.elegans. Using the AchR agonist, levamisole, they performed a genome-wide RNAi screen for gene knockdowns that caused either hypersensitivity or resistance following drug treatment. Wild-type worms exposed to this agent undergo a time-dependent hyper-contracted paralysis. Using an existing library of C.elegans RNAi clones (17,469 clones), levamisole was added to worms that had been grown on each clone for the detection of phenotypes differing from the wild type worms. Her laboratory identified 156 gene knockdowns that resulted in an altered levamisole response (18 resistant; 138 hypersensitive), 89% of which have human homologs. The levamisole swim assay developed for this study will be used in the CURE proposed in this grant at Wesley College. This assay will be adapted and utilized as the initial stage of investigation in the laboratory component of a Cell Biology course. Students will learn many molecular and cellular techniques while they perform original research using the C. elegans system.

Email: erin.perchiniak@wesley.edu

Derald Wentzien — Analysis of Obesity Related Rates in the IdeA States

We will be analyzing obesity-related death rates in the IdeA states using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wonder data. We will be using SAS to analyze trends in the obesity-related death rates and correlations between the rates and certain demographic information such as gender, race and income.

Email: derald.wentzien@wesley.edu

Kathleen Curran — Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

The purpose of this project is to educate Delaware consumers about healthy lifestyle choices. The initial phase includes gathering background information using surveys.

Email: Kathleen.Curran@wesley.edu

Kevin Shuman — Effect of pharmaceutical drug precursors on aquatic microbes

Improper disposal of pharmaceutical drugs (e.g. antibiotics) can lead to their introduction to the environment. The presence of these drugs can result in the selection of antibiotic resistance or their possible bio-accumulation. Current projects are focused on how the drug precursors sulfonyl chloride and sulfamoyl chloride and determining how these drugs affect microbial populations from the St. Jones River in Silver Lake Park (Dover, DE).

Email: kevin.shuman2@wesley.edu

Malcolm D'Souza — Chemometric Analysis

Experimental study of the break-down of prodrug building blocks in polar protic and polar aprotic solvents.

Email: malcolm.dsouza@wesley.edu