Mentor Search_Summer 2019 Projects

Christiana Care Health Systems

Research Topic — Diabetes & Metabolic Diseases

Research Topic — Emergency Medicine

Research Topic — Family and 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/Children's Health

Research Topic — Behavioral Health

Research Topic — Cancer

Research Topic — Cardiovascular

Research Topic — Value Institute

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

Core Facility Training Intern

Shawn Polson — Developing and applying bioinformatics analysis to biomedical omics data

The Bioinformatics Core Facility enables biomedical and life science researchers at UD and partner institutions to apply data intensive methodologies, like genomics, to achieve their research objectives. Scholars would have the opportunity to work in the Bioinformatics Core through the summer helping to apply and/or design new analysis pipelines.
The exact projects worked on will be adapted to fit the scholar's background: computational or biological.

Email: polson@dbi.udel.edu

Jeffrey Caplan — Methods development in the Delaware Biotechnology Institute Bio-Imaging Center

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

Delaware State University

Sokratis 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. 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. The second part of this project focuses on pattern analysis and classification methods for computer-aided diagnosis of diseases such as osteoporosis and breast cancer. Finally, an additional research project is related to the development of automated cell segmentation and tracking techniques in time-lapse fluorescence microscopy imaging.

Email: smakrogiannis@desu.edu

Alberta Aryee — Enzyme therapy: Controlled delivery of digestive enzymes

Enzymes may aid the alleviation of certain digestive disorders and may be considered safe with fewer side effects. However, effective delivery of these digestive aids is hampered by destruction in the gastrointestinal tract and delayed delivery, among other factors. This research is aimed at studying innovative and efficient delivery mechanisms.

Email: aaryee@desu.edu

Fatima Boukari — Machine learning and Computer vision

Apply machine learning and computer vision tools to access images.

Email: fboukari@desu.edu

Hacene Boukari — Probing movements of fluorescent proteins in polymeric solutions

In this project, we will apply complementary fluorescence-based methods to probe the movements of proteins in model polymeric solutions, including fluorescence time-dependent confocal imaging, fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy, and fluorescence anisotropy. The results will provide insight into the behavior of proteins in crowded environments such as cells.

Email: hboukari@desu.edu

Harb Dhillon — Epigenetics of Behavior; Mapping functional effects of atypical neuronal circuits in C. elegans

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.
Different projects consist of teams focusing on behavioral, bio-imaging, genetic, epigenetic and molecular techniques within the larger umbrella of the lab's focus.

Email: hsdhillon@desu.edu

Michael Gitcho — Alzheimer's Disease; Inducible TDP-43 expression and the functional relationship between memory, network connectivity, and pathology

Our research focuses on TDP-43, the major pathological protein in frontotemporal dementia and motor neuron disease. TDP-43 has also been shown to be a secondary pathology in ~50% of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Our goal is to understand the functional relationship TDP-43 plays in memory, anxiety, sociability functional connectivity, plaque deposition and tau aggregation. Our current data suggest that TDP-43 could be a putative target for therapeutic intervention in AD.
Ongoing projects:
Age-dependent changes in mitophagy, mitochondrial dynamics, and metabolism associated with neurodegeneration.
Mechanisms of neurodegeneration in frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
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.

Email: mgitcho@desu.edu

Mohammad Khan — Breath-Sense –Mid-infrared Laser-based System for High-resolution Spectral Bio-Chemical Signatures of Lung Cancer in Exhaled Human Breath

This projects combined interdisciplinary fields of Electrical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering for Smart Systems and Disease Diagnostics.
Our long term goal is to elucidate the basis and origins of VCs in lung cancer in complex cell metabolic process. The objective of this proposal is to perform a high-resolution spectroscopic detection of gas-phase molecular line-transitions of VCs in exhaled human breath, and to build a portable breath analyzer instrument (Breath-Sense) based on optical technologies. Our central hypothesis is that, if trace VCs are indicators of lung cancer in exhaled human breath, then, cancer cells, when exposed to such VCs, will exhibit a unique response e.g. cell dysfunction or inflammation. This response will be encoded in the spectral profile of VCs as a direct result of absorption and off-gassing from cancer cells.

Email: mkhan@desu.edu

Y. Hwan Kim — Alpha-synuclein SUMOylation can be a regulatory target in Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common motor neurodegenerative disease, primarily characterized by the selective loss of dopaminergic neurons in the Substantia Nigra pars compacta and formation of intraneuronal inclusions called “Lewy bodies,” which contain alpha-synuclein as their major protein component. Although understanding neuropathological mechanisms of PD remains elusive, it has been reported that impaired proteasomal function can induce enhanced alpha-synuclein aggregates, which include SUMOylated form. In the halo of Lewy bodies, SUMO1 (Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier 1) co-localizes with a-synuclein in PD brains, suggesting that a-synuclein SUMOylation can be a potential target to regulate the protein stability and function in the dopaminergic neurons.
Our preliminary mouse data demonstrate that Ubc9-mediated SUMOylation enables dopaminergic neurons in the striatum to be more resistant to MPP+ induced toxicity and delays the protein degradation of alpha-synuclen. In addition, chronic MPTP injections remove the SUMO1 conjugation from alpha-synuclein. These results suggest that Ubc9-mediated SUMOylation in dopaminergic neurons can be neuroprotective against oxidative stress and SUMO proteases, SENPs can be stimulated by MPTP-induced oxidative stress. Therefore, SUMOylation of autosomal dominant PD-inducing proteins such as a-synuclein and LRRK2, can be a novel regulatory target to enhance protein stability/half-life and function in dopaminergic neurons. Our goal of this study is to identify the role of SUMOylation in vivo and ex vivo for protecting synaptic connections from oxidative stress and regulating PD-related proteins’ stability. Thereby, this study can provide insights into neuroprotective mechanisms of SUMOylation to regulate reactive oxygen species (ROS). SUMOylation and deSUMOylation can be a novel regulatory target to halt a-synuclein-mediated protein aggregation and prevent dopaminergic neuronal loss in PD pathology.

Email: yhkim@desu.edu

Gokhan Kul — Data Science; Clustering Quality Measurement Through Empirical Observations

Clustering is one of the natural first steps towards understanding big data. However, many clustering methods rely on the notion of pairwise similarity, which is challenging to compute for many types of data, especially when the underlying data and feature importance is unavailable. We conduct a rigorous evaluation of existing clustering quality methods in the literature applied to expert evaluated and generated datasets of various sizes to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We seek to propose a method that answers the question: "Is my dataset actually clustered?

Email: gkul@desu.edu

Hakeem Lawal — Role of acetylcholine release in the regulation of locomotion behavior

Dysregulation of cholinergic neurotransmission plays a role in the regulation of cognitive and locomotion function. Accordingly, a malfunction of this neurotransmitter system has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Although much is known about the cholinergic regulation in the brain, the precise mechanism through which a dysfunction in acetylcholine (Ach) release results in defects in locomotion and cognition is not well understood. Our lab uses Drosophila melanogaster to study the effect of changes in cholinergic release on ACh-mediated behavior in vivo. One critical element of cholinergic signaling is the vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT). In both mammals and flies, VAChT is required for transport of ACh from the cytoplasm into synaptic vesicles (SVs), for exocytotic release. The complete loss of VAChT activity in mice and flies has profound behavioral consequences including lethality. Point mutations that compromise VAChT activity in vivo have the potential to elucidate the complex relationship between altered ACh release and behavioral deficits. Indeed, an allelic series of Drosophila VAChT mutants, available in our lab, provides an excellent model to test this relationship. Moreover, molecular-genetic tools available in Drosophila allow us to bypass the lethality associated with a loss of Vacht function and to study the effect of changes in Ach release on behavior during aging. We hypothesize that VAChT point mutations that differentially alter cholinergic signaling will show a graded series of locomotion behavioral deficits that correspond to the severity of the mutation. To test this hypothesis, we are determining how point mutations in vacht affect different locomotion abilities in Drosophila. Further, we are performing genetic and pharmacological rescue of an allelic series of vacht point mutations in Drosophila. Together, these studies will help elucidate the role of changes in cholinergic release in mediating downstream behaviors.

Email: hlawal@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 — Gold-Nanoparticle and Nano-Diamond based point-of-care biomedical tests

The summer program students will participate in the research and development of the Gold-Nanoparticle and Nano-Diamond based point-of-care biomedical tests. The methods of fluorescence and absorbance spectroscopy combined with micro/nano-particle assays will be used for the proposed research.

Email: ymarkushin@desu.edu

Karl Miletti-Gonzalez — Cancer Research; CD44-mediated signal transduction pathway

The CD44-mediated signal transduction pathway (via its intracytoplasmic domain, CD44-ICD) will be study using cellular and molecular experimental techniques. Some of them include PCR,gene cloning, ChIP assay, cell transfections, reporter assays, immunoblotting, immunoprecipitations and proximity ligation assays.

Email: kmiletti@desu.edu

Murali Temburni — Molecular Mechanisms of Astrocyte Neuron Interaction in Development of Neuronal 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

Nemours A.I. DuPont

Robert Akins — Muscle Function in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Our team seeks to improve outcomes for children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) by better understanding the fundamental mechanisms contributing to neuromotor dysfunction. CP is the most common, severe, pediatric-onset motor disability and has a prevalence of about 1 in 323 children. CP is a set of disorders categorized by a static, non-degenerative encephalopathy arising in the developing brain that is associated with deficits in movement, posture, and activity. Spastic CP, which accounts for about 77% of cases, involves muscle hypertonia and is associated with movement control problems, contractures, and musculoskeletal deformities that frequently worsen over time. These worsening peripheral conditions are major causes of debilitation in affected individuals and often result in the need for multiple corrective surgeries. An improved understanding of muscle involvement in spastic CP is needed to help reduce progressive impairment, decrease the need for invasive surgery, and improve motor function and outcomes.
The student will participate in a larger collaborative study aimed at improving our understanding of muscle function in children with CP. The will interact with a translational research team comprising cell and molecular biologists, clinicians, engineers, and data science analysts. The student will be involved in testing two related sub-hypotheses of our broader studies. Specifically, they will work to characterize primary muscle stem cells called satellite cells. Since satellite cells exhibit characteristics of both muscle cells and stem cells, the student will help assess the myogenic potential (i.e., the ability to make muscle) and self-renewal potential (i.e., the ability to generate more stem cells) of populations of primary satellite cells from individuals with CP and from controls.

Email: robert.akins@nemours.org

Rochelle Haas — The role of rest in augmenting recovery in pediatric concussion with protracted recovery

Current CDC pediatric mild TBI guidelines recommend a brief (2-3 day) period of rest during the acute phase post injury, followed by a gradual return to everyday activities. Research on the benefits of resting patients outside of the acute phase are scarce.
We are looking to do a retrospective cohort study of children ages 10-17yrs who presented to the Nemours Concussion Program from 2016-2019 for initial evaluation >4 weeks from date of injury . Data collection and analysis will include: demographics, health history, injury characteristics, symptom report, exam findings and length of recovery.
The research student will conduct a chart review to collect data from the electronic health record, ImPACT/neuropsychological assessment and completed symptom checklist data. The student will meet regularly with team members and the statistician to analyze collected data and make data driven conclusions about the role of targeted brain rest in non-acute concussion/mild TBI management and potoential directions for further study.

Email: rochelle.hass@nemours.org

Reid Nichols — The Five Year Outcome of the Ponseti Method in Children with Idiopathic Clubfoot and Children with Arthrogryposis

A retrospective review will be completed of parent reported questionnaires (PODCI), foot pressure analyses and passive range of motion in children with arthrogryposis and children with idiopathic clubfoot following conservative management at age 5 years. Dynamic foot pressure analysis is completed using a pedobarograph (foot pressure mat). Conservative management will be reviewed and reported including number of casts, frequency of physical therapy, use of night splinting, and completion of Achilles tendon lengthening.
Weekly the student will observe with Dr Nichols in clinic and the operating room to gain experience and knowledge through direct patient contact with children with arthrogryposis. Daily students will complete retrospective review of data collected during patient evaluations in the gait lab for children with arthrogryposis. The student will be responsible for data review, analysis and assisting in writing up the results for presentation at national meetings and publication.

Email: reid.nichols@nemours.org

University of Delaware

Curtis Johnson — Magnetic resonance elastography of the brain

Measuring the mechanical properties of the human brain in vivo with magnetic resonance elastography -- an MRI technique. Mechanical properties are a window into brain tissue health and we use it for applications in neuroscience, neurology, and neurosurgery. Scholars will get experience in brain imaging, image acquisition and processing, and human subjects research.

Email: clj@udel.edu

Thomas Kaminski — NCAA/DoD CARE Concussion Research Project

The CARE Consortium endeavors to provide necessary infrastructure and scientific expertise to study concussion. Together, we are united in our goal to gain a better understanding of the neurobiopsychosocial nature of concussive injury and recovery in order to ultimately enhance the safety and health of our student-athletes, service members, youth sports participants and the broader public.

Email: kaminski@udel.edu

Hyosub Kim — Study of human sensorimotor learning

Research in our lab focuses on how humans learn to perform skilled movements. We combine psychophysical testing in healthy and patient populations with computational modeling in order to address this question. Current areas of interest include interactions between different learning processes supporting motor performance, the effect of practice on movement planning, and how information from multiple sensory modalities (e.g., vision and proprioception) is used to guide behavior. Ultimately, we hope this work will advance neurorehabilitation practice.
If you are interested in the brain, movement, math, and/or coding, you have probably found the right lab! The only real prerequisites to doing well in the lab are logical reasoning and a strong motivation to learn new things.

Email: hyosub@udel.edu

Michele Lobo — Parent Education to Promote Developmental Outcomes for Infants

We are assessing the effects of different interventions that focus on educating parents to interact and play with their children in ways we expect might promote motor, cognitive, and developmental outcomes. These interventions target infants and toddlers. Undergraduate research assistants assist with data collection in homes and day care settings, with behavioral coding of video data, with analysis of results, literature reviews, recruitment, and other research tasks.

Email: malobo@udel.edu

Jared Medina — Understanding how the brain represents the body

Our perception of our bodies is inherently multisensory, with information coming from a number of different senses (vision, touch, motor control, proprioception) to contribute to our sense of our bodies. Our lab has a number of projects in which we examine how the brain integrates information to provide us with a coherent sense of our bodies. We do this using four techniques:
1. Functional neuroimaging - We scan individuals while doing sensory, motor, and conceptual tasks to understand what parts of the brain are active for specific aspects of body perception.
2. Cognitive neuropsychology - Individuals with brain-damage show a striking array of deficits in body perception, ranging from a simple loss of touch, to more profound deficits such as alien hand syndrome (feeling like one does not have control over their own limb), supernumerary limb (feeling like one has three or more limbs), asomatognosia (loss of awareness of one's body), and more. We examine brain-damaged individuals to understand what these deficits tell us about how the brain represents the body, and to know how to develop future rehabilitative techniques.
3. Transcranial magnetic stimulation: We use non-invasive brain stimulation to transiently disrupt specific parts of the brain during perceptual tasks, to understand the role of different brain regions in body perception.
4. Body illusions: Our lab is developing new illusions of body perception, to further understand functional and neural processes involved in body representation.
Students who work in our lab will be involved in one (or multiple) projects like those describe previously.

Email: jmedina@psych.udel.edu

Susanne Morton — Mechanisms of Motor Learning in Health and Disease

Our lab focuses on how the brain learns new motor skills and how different factors, such as the timing and duration of learning sessions, can improve or diminish motor learning. We also test motor learning skills in people with neurological injury, such as stroke, and in people with acute or chronic pain.

Email: smmorton@udel.edu

Anja Nohe — Mechanism of a novel peptides CK2.3 and CK2.1

We developed two novel peptides CK2.3 and Ck2.1. These peptides are unique in that they can induce bone and cartilage formation. These features make the peptides potential therapeutics for the treatment of diseases such as Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis, however the mechanism is poorly understood. Using novel nanotechnologies combined, with state of the art imaging approaches and molecular biology we seek to determine their signaling pathways.

Email: anjanohe@udel.edu

Vijay Parashar — Gene cloning and protein purification of a bacterial signal transduction protein

Student will work with faculty member in the lab to conduct genetic techniques used in molecular cloning workflow. The student’s responsibilities will include: (1) setting-up PCR reactions, (2) plasmid isolation from bacteria, (3) running agarose gel electrophoresis, (4) performing gel extraction of nucleic acids, (5) performing genetic transformations in bacteria. Trainings will be given for each of the above tasks.
Theoretical knowledge in molecular biology and cloning will help. Previous experience in performing any of the above-mentioned tasks is a plus. Strong interpersonal skills are necessary.

Email: parashar@udel.edu

Juan Perilla — Molecular mechanisms of HIV-1 infection through the lens of the computational microscope

Determining the molecular details of the HIV-1 life cycle through the computational microscope.

Email: jperilla@udel.edu

Shawn Polson — Genomics and/or 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.
Positions are available for either wet-bench or computational (bioinformatics) projects.

Email: polson@dbi.udel.edu

Christopher Price — Understanding How Cartilage Works to Improve Joint Rehabilitation, Longevity, and Tissue Repair

The Price Lab utilizes a novel and unique cartilage explant testing strategy to study how cartilage works (e.g. its unsurpassed frictional properties and wear resistance). This new testing strategy, called the convergent stationary contact area (cSCA) explant testing configuration, was pioneered by our research team and allows for unprecedented control over the loading and sliding conditions that cartilage in the experiences, while being able to permit, for the first time, the recapitulation over hours to days of testing cartilage biomechanical outcomes on the bench-top that mimic those observed in vivo. This project will work with this setup to continue to explore the influence of sliding parameters (i.e. joint activity) on the biomechanics of cartilage, the cellular response of chondrocytes within cartilage to this activity, and to identify activity regimens that can be tuned to optimize the health and longevity of healthy cartilage and to rehabilitate cartilage that has been injured due to joint injury. These studies will given us a better understanding of how cartilage works within the complex environment of the joint, and inform new understanding of how joint usage and activity influences joint health and disease.

Email: cprice@udel.edu

Zhenghan Qi — Neural and cognitive mechanisms of language learning

Our laboratory applies eye-tracking, EEG, and fMRI techniques to study the mechanisms during statistical learning, verb bias learning, and word learning. We ask how the neural organization for language processing changes from childhood through adulthood and how differently language networks function in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and language impairment. We also ask how knowledge of our brain might enhance language learning and language intervention.

Email: zqi@udel.edu

Darcy Reisman — Recovery and rehabilitation after stroke

We have two lines of research in the lab, both focusing on different aspects of post-stroke rehabilitation. One focuses on studying interventions that can improve real-world walking activity after stroke and the other focuses on understanding how stroke influences motor learning, which is the foundation of post-stroke rehabilitation.

Email: dreisman@udel.edu

Gilberto Schleiniger — Mathematical Models for Tissue Organization and Maintenance

We develop mathematical models to explain how tissue organization is arrived at and maintained. Understanding how normal (healthy) tissue is maintained, will help understand the mechanisms causing loss of organization leading to diseases such as cancer.

Email: schleini@udel.edu

Karl Schmitz — Characterization of unusual bacterial proteolytic adaptors

All organisms have the ability to make and destroy proteins. In bacteria, protein destruction is carried out by complexes called proteases that recognize, unfold, and hydrolyze client proteins. By modulating the composition of the proteome, these proteases help cells respond to stress, adapt to changes in nutrient availability, and regulate virulence phenotypes. Proteases often cooperate with small protein adaptors to recognize specific classes of substrates from the complex cellular proteome. For example, the adaptor ClpS typically allows the ClpAP protease to recognize and destroy substrate proteins bearing bulky hydrophobic amino acids at their N-terminus. Curiously, we have identified several species of bacteria that possess a second copy of ClpS with unusual sequence features. We hypothesize that these ClpS paralogs allow ClpAP to recognize additional sets of protein substrates. This project involves purifying these unusual ClpS proteins and using a suite of biochemical and biophysical approaches to understand how they interact with protein substrates. These details will help us understand how bacteria switch between different proteolytic programs across different environmental contexts.

Email: schmitzk@udel.edu

Erica Selva — Signal Transduction and Structural Analysis

The Wnt pathway is an evolutionarily conserved signal transduction pathway that plays critical roles in organismal development, maintaining tissue homeostasis and when aberrant can cause human diseases, like cancer. This conserved signaling pathway is strictly regulated in both signal-producing and -receiving cells. Hence, gaining a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms that govern this crucial and enigmatic signaling pathway could lead to could lead to identification of therapeutics to treat diseases caused by aberrant Wnt signaling. Wnts, the signaling ligand of the pathway, are trafficked through the secretory pathway by a conserved multipass-transmembrane chaperone protein Wntless (Wls). Recent structural studies in the Selva laboratory have shown that a soluble form of Drosophila Wls, composed of the Wls large luminal loop, binds its cognate Drosophila Wnt, Wingless (Wg). Since this form of Wls lacks transmembrane domains is secreted and full-length Wls has been shown to escort Wg through the secretory pathway to the plasma membrane for release and downstream signaling, it is predicted that this soluble form of Wls should be secreted from the cell as a Wg-Wls complex when co-expressed. The goal of this project is to determine whether co-expression of Wg with a soluble form of Wls result in the secretion of Wg complexed with Wls in a conformation close to its in vivo native state in signal-producing cells, as Wls binds Wg/Wnt immediately following its biosynthesis and lipid modification in the endoplasmic reticulum. The goal of this project is to use co-immunoprecipitation to examine whether co-expression of soluble Wls and Wg in Drosophila cells exits as a complex within cells and in the media and if Wg lipidation is required for Wls-Wg complex formation. Results of these studies are anticipated to expand our understanding of Wg and Wls structure and function and pave the way for more in depth structural studies in the future.

Email: selva@udel.edu

Jennifer Semrau — Robotics for assessment and rehabilitation of the upper limb

We have found that after stroke, many individuals have proprioceptive impairments (trouble with perception of limb position and motion) and can have difficulty using vision to compensate for proprioceptive loss. While this is counterintuitive and contradicts common principles of current rehabilitative practice, it highlights an important knowledge gap in our understanding of how people use vision to guide their movements after stroke. Identifying individuals with significant impairments in visual perception of movement is important, as this is a common strategy used to retrain movement during rehabilitation. The goal of this project is to examine the relationship of sensorimotor performance between the upper limb (using robotics) and eye movements (using gaze tracking) to better understand how stroke survivors use vision to guide limb movement. This information will then serve as the foundation for the design and implementation of robotic rehabilitation paradigms. The involved student will gain hands-on experience in human-subject data collection, data analysis, and presentation of scientific results (e.g., lab group presentations, scientific poster presentations).

Email: semrau@udel.edu

Megan Sions — Evaluating the Effects of Two Different Physical Therapy Interventions for Low Back Pain in Older Adults: A Multi-Site Clinical Trial

This research study will explore whether a hip-focused treatment as compared to a low back-focused treatment leads to reduced disability and improved physical function in patients with hip-spine syndrome, i.e. low back pain with concurrent hip pain and weakness.

Email: megsions@udel.edu

John Slater — Development and Implementation of Microphysiological Systems

The Slater Lab combines engineered biomaterials, laser-based biomaterial manipulation, microfluidics, and tissue engineering to generate fluidized microphysiological systems to model disease processes with an emphasis on cancer metastasis and stroke. We implement these systems to better understand the fundamental biological processes driving disease progression and to develop and test new therapeutics.

Email: jhslater@udel.edu

Jia Song — Developmental Biology; regulation of development

My laboratory is interested in examining the regulatory roles of microRNAs in early developmental processes. microRNAs (miRNAs) are small,non-coding RNAs that repress the translation of target messenger RNAs in animal cells. The overarching hypothesis is that miRNAs modulate gene expression levels of various biological processes to ensure proper development. We use the sea urchin model to elucidate how miRNAs control gene regulatory networks and signaling pathways.

Email: jsong@udel.edu

Jessica Tanis — Characterization of Novel Factors that Regulate Signaling at the Neuromuscular Junction

At the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), post-synaptic 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. Formation and maintenance of NMJ structure, regulated synthesis, release and breakdown of acetylcholine and precise clustering, abundance and function of AChRs is required for proper neuromuscular transmission. We performed a screen to identify genes that regulate postsynaptic cholinergic signaling. We have discovered that two of the genes identified in the screen (clec-1 and epn-1) play an important role in the trafficking and/or stability of postsynaptic receptors. Potential summer projects include 1) studying presynaptic and postsynaptic structure in these mutants using confocal microscopy, 2) determining where the EPN-1 and CLEC-1 proteins localize utilizing transgenic animals and confocal microscopy, and 3) defining the physiological consequences of loss of these genes by conducting optogenetics experiments. This research could lead to the identification of novel molecular mechanisms that regulate cholinergic signaling at the NMJ, which may provide insight into congenital myasthenic syndromes and related muscle disorders.

Email: jtanis@udel.edu

Timothy Vickery — How do rewarding associations influence visual processing of features in the human brain?

The Vickery lab studies brain and behavior at the intersection of visual perception, learning, memory, and reward. We are particularly interested in how humans learn features of their environment, and unconscious and conscious learning of statistical associations between visual features and between a visual feature and rewarding outcomes. Our studies involve behavior/psychophysics, eye-tracking, and fMRI methods. In the current study, we will be examining short-term associations between visual features and reward, which primes performance in visual search tasks. We will scan human subjects' brain activity using fMRI during simple visual search tasks involving varying rewards, and examine brain activity using advanced analytic methods including "mutlivariate pattern analysis" -- the application of machine learning methods to fMRI data. Of particular interest is how reward might modify early visual brain activity associated to a particular visual features (e.g., a specific color or shape). Trainees will be trained to run subject in fMRI studies, and conduct fMRI analyses. They may also be involved in the generation of study ideas (behavioral), implementation of studies using Python or Matlab code, and/or statistical analysis in R.

Email: tvickery@psych.udel.edu

Mary Watson — Organic Chemistry; New Methods for Organic Synthesis

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. Researchers will develop expertise in organic synthesis, techniques to handle air- and moisture-sensitive compounds, and purification and characterization of organic molecules, in addition to the state-of-the-art in methods for organic synthesis.

Email: mpwatson@udel.edu

Yvette Yien — Erythroid specific regulation of heme synthesis

While heme synthesis is a ubiquitous process that happens in all tissues, red cells produce especially large quantities of heme during their development for hemoglobin production. In recent years, we are finding that mitochondrial proteins currently associated with housekeeping processes such as respiration also play key roles in up regulation of heme synthetic enzyme activity during red cell differentiation. One such regulator is the mitochondrial protein unfoldase, CLPX. CLPX plays a key role in regulation of ALAS, the first and rate limiting enzyme in the heme synthesis pathway, by control of its protein stability and enzymatic activity. We have also found that CLPX may control other enzymes in the heme synthesis pathway. Undergraduates working on this project will carry out enzymatic assays in CLPX -/- erythroid cell lines to identify the heme synthetic enzymes that are regulated by CLPX. In addition, they will also investigate the developmental defects in clpxa-/- and clpxb -/- zebrafish.

Email: yyien@udel.edu

Donald Watson — Organic Chemistry; Development of Catalytic Transformations for Organic Synthesis

Our lab develops new chemical reactions and catalytic transformations for the synthesis of biologically relevant molecules.
Sophomore level organic chemistry required

Email: dawatson@udel.edu

Roxana Burciu — Neuroimaging of motor control in Parkinson's disease

In the Motor Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Laboratory we focus on research issues relating to movement disorders, with special emphasis on Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that impairs movement as well as the ability to perform functions such as grooming, dressing, and other activities of daily living. While current pharmacological therapies provide beneficial effects on some of the motor symptoms of the disease, increased disability eventually develops in most patients. Specifically, as the disease progresses, people with Parkinson’s disease begin to experience walking and balance problems. The current project focuses on using a variety of neuroimaging tools including functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coupled with behavioral measures (e.g. wearable movement sensors) to characterize the brain mechanisms underlying neural control of lower limb movements in PD compared to healthy aging. Moreover, the project seeks to understand the relation between the functional and structural integrity of the motor control brain pathways in Parkinson’s disease and characteristics of parkinsonian gait patterns (e.g. reduced arm swing, slower turns and reductions in step length).
There will be many opportunities for a broad exposure to research in the field of clinical neuroscience. Students will have the opportunity to: 1) learn about Parkinson’s disease; 2) gain familiarity with how neuroimaging can be used to characterize disease-related brain changes; 3) assist with data entry, study visits (schedule dependent) and most importantly gain hands-on experience with processing and interpretation of behavioral and/or brain-based data; 4) learn new skills including how scientific presentation skills.

Email: rgburciu@udel.edu

Joseph Fox — Development of new types of chemical reactions with applications in chemical biology and synthesis

Research in the Fox group centers on the development of new types of chemical reactions, the application of these new reactions to the synthesis of natural occurring and designed molecules with biological function, and in the use of design concepts in organic synthesis for applications in materials science. The nature of the research program is highly multidisciplinary, and involves active collaborations with groups in peptide chemistry, bioorganic chemistry, surface science, computational chemistry, materials science, and radioimaging.

Email: jmfox@udel.edu

Shuo Wei — Regulation of Wnt signaling by LRP6 cleavage

Wnt signaling is a major signaling pathway that is crucial for embryonic development and tumorigenesis. We recently identified a cleavage of the key Wnt co-receptor LRP6 by cell surface proteases. The goal of this project is to understand how this cleavage affects Wnt signaling activity in human cells.

Email: swei@udel.edu

Ramona Neunuebel — Microbial pathogenesis; Molecular mechanisms of the intracellular bacterium Legionella pneumophila

The student will be involved in studying virulence factors used by the intracellular bacterial pathogen Legionella pneumophila to infect human macrophages. This will entail a multidimensional approach using microbiological, cell biological, and biochemical methods.

Email: neunr@uel.edu

Esther Biswas — Understanding the Genotype to Phenotype Correlation in Visual Disease

Our laboratory investigates the consequences of genetic variation observed in inherited visual disease on protein structure and function. We utilize a variety of including recombinant DNA technology, protein biochemistry, biophysical and bioinformatic analyses. Our findings are then compared to patient profiles available in the literature with the goal of creating a genotype-phenotype correlation.

Email: ebiswas@udel.edu

Anjana Bhat — UD Autism Lab fNIRS Study & Play Intervention Study

fNIRS Study: The aim of this research is to understand brain-behavior relationships using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) during various socially embedded motor tasks in infants/toddlers between 3 to 18 months, children between 3 to 14 years, and adults/adolescents from 15 to 50 years of age. In this study, we hope to better understand cortical functioning infants at risk for, children, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as typically developing populations during various social and motor skills performed in solo and socially-embedded activities. This research will help determine relevant neural biomarkers that could be used as outcome measures in future assessment and intervention studies.
Play Intervention Study: The broad objectives of this study are to evaluate the effects of 8-week long embodied interventions on the social communication and motor skills of children between 3 and 14 years of age. Our original studies examined the effects of the following movement themes: music and movement, dance, yoga, etc. on the social and motor skills of children. Recently, we have added a new movement-based intervention involving hippotherapy. We are also developing a play-based intervention protocol. We will examine effects of the various therapies on the social communication, behavioral, as well as motor skills.

Email: abhat@udel.edu

Behnam Abasht — Wooden Breast Myopathy in Broiler Chickens

Research in Dr. Abasht’s lab has focused on studying Wooden Breast, a novel muscle disorder of unknown etiology in commercial broiler chickens. The most severe cases of the disease are characterized by extreme stiffness of the breast muscle (pectoralis major), which can be detected by manual palpation. Using a combination of methods, including transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq), histology, electron microscopy, and bioinformatics, Dr. Abasht’s lab investigates and hopes to identify factors causing this myopathy in modern broiler chickens.

Email: abasht@udel.edu

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

Currently, the prescription process for ankle braces requires trial and error over numerous clinical visits, which results in highly variable, and often suboptimal, patient outcomes. We contend that prescribing ankle braces with a quantitative prescription model, by measuring the characteristics of the ankle braces and matching those characteristics to each patient’s needs, will provide meaningful improvements to every patient’s outcomes. Thus, the overall objective of this study is to compare effectiveness of traditionally-prescribed ankle braces to quantitatively-prescribed spring-like ankle braces for individuals post-stroke.

Email: schranke@udel.edu

Roghayeh Barmaki — Augmented Reality Team Based Learning

Learning by doing or active learning is shown to be one of the most effective ways of student success. In this project, we are investigating students’ engagement and success in a team-based; a subcategory of active learning; anatomy-learning scenario. We conducted a large-scale user study among undergraduate pre-medical students at Johns Hopkins (n=250) to understand the interaction between team members and the educational devices.
In our conducted study, students were asked to engage in an anatomy painting activity with their partners either using the textbook, or an Augmented Reality system, or a Virtual Reality Tablet application.
Using the Convolutional Neural Network Algorithms scanning the snapshots from the scene during activity, we are evaluating the effectiveness of collaboration among team members. We are interested in predicting successful team efforts.
Please join us to work on this exciting project to gain a unique research experience in data science, image analysis, and augmented reality.

Email: rlb@udel.edu

Mona Batish — Single molecule RNA imaging

Florescence in situ hybridization to study interactions between RNAs and RNA binding proteins involved in the pediatric cataract. This project will involve processing of fixed tissue sections from mouse eye and then hybridization with probes specific for RNA and Antibodies for proteins. The samples will be images using high resolution microscopy and images will be analyzed using custom programs in MATLAB.

Email: batish@udel.edu

Rahmat Beheshti — Obesity and data science

Obesity is a complex disease. Despite decades of research to identify effective ways to prevent and treat this disease, we are still far from declaring success in our fight against obesity. Similar to many other fields of research in biomedical sciences, applications of data science and machine learning methods show great promises to study obesity and understand this complex condition.
The goal of this project is to initially review the work that other scholars have done by applying various types of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques (including machine learning and data science methods). As part of this step, the gaps in existing work will be identified. The trainee will become familiar with some of the AI main techniques, as well as their applications in biomedical research.
After this, the trainee will have to opportunity to join one of the three (possibly four) ongoing projects in our lab. Three of our doctoral students are currently working on similar projects studying obesity and diabetes using various datasets. These datasets include brain imaging data, survey and behavioral data, and wearable devices data.

Email: rbi@udel.edu

Sam Biswas — DNA Replication

Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and in vitro mutagenesis will be used to determine structural changes in DnaB helicase in response to binding to its substrates elucidating steps in DNA unwinding.
It will be excellent training in understanding, enzyme mechanism, enzyme structure, in vitro mutagenesis, fluorescence spectroscopy, and FRET methodologies.

Email: biswassb@udel.edu

Thomas Buckley — Concussion Assessment, Education, and Research (CARE) program

The CARE Consortium endeavors to provide necessary infrastructure and scientific expertise to study concussion. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the neurobiopsychosocial nature of concussive injury and recovery in order to ultimately enhance the safety and health of student-athletes and the broader public. This project is the largest and most comprehensive investigation of sports related concussion ever conducted and seeks to develop a better understanding of the natural history of concussion in athletes.
The summer testing program encompasses a comprehensive neurological screening of student-athletes and this will be the fourth year of the program. Briefly, the testing program the summer scholar would be actively engaged in incorporates computerized neurocognitive testing, brief mental status screenings, multiple types of balance testing, gait assessment, vision screening, reaction time testing, and individual health history information. The summer scholar will be engaged as part of the larger research team consisting of 2 faculty members and three doctoral students. The summer scholar will be involved in data collection and analysis as part of their overall exposure to the program and will receive individual mentorship on the specific aims of the project. The opportunity to present data at regional or national conferences are available following the completion of the summer scholars program.

Email: tbuckley@udel.edu

Sheau Ching Chai — Effects of four-week supplemetation with ashwagandha and B vitamins on stress relief and mood: a pre- and post-intervention study

Long-term stress adversely affects mental and physiological states, thereby, leading to high blood pressure and metabolic disorders. Currently, about 77% of Americans regularly experience physical and emotional symptoms caused by stress. This 4-week study is looking for women who are ages 30-50 years old and have a smart phone. Participants will be asked to consume a chocolate chew containing ashwagandha and B vitamins twice daily for four weeks. Perceived levels of stress, mood status, physiological responses, and stress biomarkers will be assessed over the course of the study.

Email: scchai@udel.edu

Jeremy Crenshaw — Balance reactions in children with cerebral palsy

This project will focus on biomechanical analyses of how children with cerebral palsy differ from typically developing children in their ability to recover from a laboratory-induced fall.

Email: crenshaw@udel.edu

Melinda Duncan — Preventing Cataract Surgery Side Effects

The vertebrate lens is a remarkable tissue that has many evolutionary adaptations that allow it to remain transparent throughout life. Further, its cell biology is quite distinct from that of other tissues which results in it being the only epithelial organ which never develops clinically relevant cancers. Aging, ocular injury, genetic alterations or systemic diseases such as diabetes can lead to the loss of lens transparency, or cataract. Cataracts are the predominant cause of blindness worldwide and their incidence is increasing as life expectancies increase. Over the past thirty years, robust techniques to surgically treat cataract have been developed, greatly reducing cataract-related blindness in western countries. In the United States, cataract removal is the most common surgical procedure performed for any reason. While the short term visual outcome for patients undergoing cataract surgery is often excellent, a large proportion of operated eyes subsequently develop posterior capsular opacification (PCO), a condition often referred to as secondary cataract which requires additional treatment and can lead to poor vision in the long term.
My laboratory focuses on understanding the pathogenesis of cataracts, the molecular mechanisms responsible for the side effects of cataract and other ocular surgeries, as well as the regulation of lens development and cellular differentiation.

Email: duncanm@udel.edu

Dawn Elliott — Tendon and Meniscus Mechanical Testing

Structure and function of tendon and meniscus are altered with injury, aging and during healing. Our group studies the mechanics at microscope and entire joint level.

Email: delliott@udel.edu

Deni Galileo — Glioblastoma Brain Cancer Research

Student will culture human glioblastoma brain cancer cells and perform experiments in vitro and in a chick embryo brain tumor model. Student will learn multiple techniques such as cell culture, immunostaining, time-lapse microscopy, cell motility tracking, embryo microinjection and microdissection.

Email: dgalileo@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

Roberta Golinkoff — Child's Play, Learning and Development Lab

The Child’s Play, Learning and Development Lab, under the direction of Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, focuses on how children acquire language, develop early mathematical and spatial concepts, and learn through play. Responsibilities include working closely with other undergraduate interns, graduate students, and lab staff to assist with participant recruitment, data collection, data coding, and data entry. Additionally, interns attend weekly lab meetings where we discuss cutting-edge research in developmental cognition. This position allows for invaluable experience in a research setting with regards to language acquisition, spatial reasoning, research methodology, and learning how to dissect research papers.

Email: roberta@udel.edu

Karin Gravare Silbernagel — Evaluation and treatment of tendon injuries

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

James Hoffman — Brain Mechanisms of Emotional Capture of Attention

We are using recording of the brain's electrical activity (EEG) to investigate the mechanisms by which irrelevant emotional pictures capture visual attention.

Email: hoffman@udel.edu

Md Hossain — Biomechanics; Molecular basis of bone fracture

The objective of this project is to determine the molecular basis of osteoporotic fracture and unveil the implications of deficiency in chemical species and their arrangement in bone on its fracture toughness. Osteoporosis is a medical condition that causes more than 1.5 million fractures every year in the U.S. Yet osteoporosis continues to be underdiagnosed and undertreated, mainly due to the incomplete understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that govern the osteoporotic condition of a bone. Consequently, treating or preventing osteoporosis has not seen much clinical success – and the number of osteoporotic fractures keeps increasing at an alarming rate, particularly with the increased trend of our sedentary life- and work-styles. This project will investigate the root cause of fracture susceptibility, by examining the molecular details of the basic structural unit of the bone (called hydroxyapatite) and its interaction with the collagen matrix under different loading and species deficiency conditions. The overarching goal of the project is to design and develop a predictive capability in the form of a software for direct use as a complementary tool in clinical diagnosis of the osteoporotic condition. The students involved with the work will contribute to running various computer simulations to determine the behavior of a few chemically deficient model-bones under various mechanical loading conditions. They will be trained on various computational techniques available to explore the mechanical properties of bone at various length scales. The student(s) will learn how to use the state-of-the-art computing facility to determine the mechanical properties of bone.

Email: zubaer@udel.edu

Aimee Jaramillo-Lambert — Elucidate the interaction between TOP-2 and chromosome structure proteins in C. elegans meiosis

The instructions that guide the normal operations of a cell are contained within its DNA. In each cell the DNA is packaged into structures called chromosomes. Cells constantly divide to produce new cells that replace cells that are worn-out. During the process of division, it is of utmost importance that the chromosomes remain intact and that the correct number of chromosomes is distributed to each new cell. It is also essential that the reproductive cells, eggs and sperm, have the correct number of chromosomes and that these chromosomes also have the correct structure. When chromosome structure or number is compromised (aneuploidy) in eggs or sperm, the result may be a failure to produce offspring (infertility) or the offspring may fail to develop properly. Topoisomerase II (Topo II) is an enzyme whose normal function is to unknot and untangle DNA as cells go through mitosis. Topoisomerase II is present in many different cells including cells that are undergoing the specialized cell division of meiosis (the cell cycle that makes sperm and eggs). Our long-term goal is to understand the molecules and systems that ensure that each cell receives the correct number of chromosomes during meiosis. The goal of the INBRE Summer Scholar project is to identify proteins that interact with topoisomerase II in meiosis. This will be accomplished through co-immunoprecipitation and Western blot assays.

Email: anjl@udel.edu

Lisa Jaremka — Mindfulness and romantic relationship quality

Mindfulness interventions have become increasingly popular in psychological research, as the positive impacts of mindfulness become more well-known to researchers. The majority of research on mindfulness focuses in intrapersonal outcomes. Relatively little is known about whether mindfulness affects interpersonal outcomes. However, there is suggestive evidence that people who are chronically mindful have better relationship outcomes (e.g., higher romantic relationship satisfaction) than people who are not chronically mindful. These data suggest that a mindfulness intervention might improve thoughts and behaviors within romantic relationships. Accordingly, the goal of the proposed study is to test whether a mindfulness intervention (vs. an active coping control condition) affects self-reported relationship outcomes along with behavior during a relationship problem discussion.

Email: ljaremka@udel.edu

Wesley College

Malcolm D'Souza — Chemometric Analyses

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

Email: malcolm.dsouza@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

Erin Perchiniak — Apoptosis

Apoptosis or programmed cell death is a normal, physiological program required for proper development and for maintenance of proper cell turnover. Cells can also induce this apoptotic pathway in response to certain cellular stress. If the normal apoptotic mechanisms are not functioning properly, cells can continue to grow under circumstances or conditions that they should not typically survive. Improper regulation of the apoptotic pathway is one of several ways that cancer cells can continuously grow thus facilitating tumor formation. Many apoptotic proteins are evolutionarily conserved, indicating that this is an important pathway for many organisms in terms of development and stress response. In this set of experiments, we would like to test the apoptotic response of these strains to heat shock and to a chemotherapeutic agent, doxorubicin. Dose response curves will be set up for different time intervals for each of the yeast strains. Following treatment with either stressor, each yeast strain will then be plated to allow time for colony growth. Colony counts will be performed following incubation and these counts will be compared between each of the three yeast strains. The purpose of these experiments will be to determine whether the absence of either protein, AIF1 or BXI-1, alters the response to apoptosis compared to the wild type strain. Varying the apoptotic stressor can highlight differences in the particular apoptotic pathways utilized by yeast. Understanding what types of stress and which genes regulate apoptosis in yeast increases our overall understanding of apoptosis and the diseases that can result following a disruption in the pathway in humans.

Email: Erin.Perchiniak@wesley.edu

Derald Wentzien — TBD

Email: derald.wentzien@wesley.edu

Wilmington VA Medical Center

Kristen Hyland — Diabetes

Diabetes is an increasingly common disease. Hemoglobin A1c is most commonly used to assess long-term diabetes control, however, its clinical use is limited by several factors including kidney disease, autoimmune disease and red blood cell diseases (including anemia). Fructosamine is a surrogate marker that gives a two-week marker of overall blood sugar control, however, this laboratory value is not well-known to providers outside of the endocrine field. This project will entail a retrospective cohort study to analyze its uses and potential uses in primary care fields.
Additional Comments: This will be an IRB study, so Citi training will be required. Computer skills will be necessary to navigate charts and create Excel documents. Statistical analysis techniques will be utilized to analyze the data

Email: Kristen.Hyland@va.gov