Mentor Search Summer 2022 Projects

ChristianaCare

Bench/Translational Science — Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute

Research activities will include the opportunity to shadow and, as conditions allow, conduct assays and other laboratory methods to study topics such as cancer stem cells, cancer immunology, and cancer disparities. Other research activities can include reviewing and abstracting data from electronic health record (EHR), cancer registry, and other sources (e.g., pathology reports) to conduct basic research. When available, there may include opportunities to gain experience with gene editing techniques. All Christiana Care Scholars will complete rotations in the following programmatic areas:
Shadowing in one of the twelve multidisciplinary disease site centers (MDCs) where patients with cancer meet with their treatment team, which can include surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other allied/support clinicians. Learn more about multidisciplinary cancer care, meetings with supportive oncology clinicians, including genetic counselors, dietitians, health psychologists, social workers, and nurse navigators. Opportunities to join tumor conferences where a multidisciplinary group of clinicians discuss diagnostics and treatment planning for cases. Opportunities to join community outreach activities. Opportunities to join cancer journal clubs, scientific seminars, and didactic presentations. If not placed with a bench/translational science mentor, the opportunity to shadow. If not placed with a population/clinical science mentor, the opportunity to shadow.

Population/Clinical Science — Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute

Research activities will include opportunities to assist with new primary data collection, such as administering self-report and interview-based instruments, the use of devices and other technologies, and direct observation to study topics related to the intersection between physical and psychological well-being, health behavior, and access to care. Other research activities can include reviewing and abstracting data from the EHR and other clinical data systems. All Christiana Care Scholars will complete rotations in the following programmatic areas:
Shadowing in one of the twelve multidisciplinary disease site centers (MDCs) where patients with cancer meet with their treatment team, which can include surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and other allied/support clinicians. Learn more about multidisciplinary cancer care, meetings with supportive oncology clinicians, including genetic counselors, dietitians, health psychologists, social workers, and nurse navigators. Opportunities to join tumor conferences where a multidisciplinary group of clinicians discuss diagnostics and treatment planning for cases. Opportunities to join community outreach activities. Opportunities to join cancer journal clubs, scientific seminars, and didactic presentations. If not placed with a bench/translational science mentor, the opportunity to shadow. If not placed with a population/clinical science mentor, the opportunity to shadow.

Delaware State University

Alberta Aryee — Fabrication and Characterization of Delivery Systems for Selected Biomolecules

During this guided study, the student(s) will be trained in conducting literature reviews and analytical techniques employed in the development, characterization and evaluation of selected nano-delivery systems for antioxidants and other biomolecules. The student(s) will also be trained in data analysis, technical writing and presentation.

Email: aaryee@desu.edu

Michael Gitcho — Medial Temporal Lobe Staging of Pathological TDP-43 Reduces Network Connectivity 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 worldwide are currently diagnosed with AD, up to half are also likely to have TDP-43 proteinopathy. Therefore, understanding mechanisms associated with the pathogenesis of TDP-43 in AD could lead to the development of therapeutics.
As a Summer Scholar you will have an opportunity to learn animal behavior, histology, biochemistry, and cell culture techniques in order to gain a better understanding of the pathogenesis of frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and other TDP-43 proteinopathies.
Webpage:https://www.gitcholab.com

Email: mgitcho@desu.edu

Mohammad A Khan — Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy integrated with learning techniques for High Precision Sensing

Exhaled human breath analysis is a noninvasive approach to profile chemical composition for the early detection and diagnosis of several diseases. Exhaled breath is mainly composed of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, and inert gases, but also contains a trace amount of organic compounds, saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, that are potentially biosignatures of a specific disease, e.g. lung cancer. Volatile organic compounds (VoCs) are generated into the body by inhalation from the environment. Exogenous VoCs are inhaled and absorbed through the lung or absorbed through the skin, generated or metabolized by the cells' biochemical process. However, VoCs metabolized endogenously can travel through the bloodstream into the lungs where it is exhausted from the body.
In this research we focus on three aspects of exhaled breath analysis, (i) develop mechanical lung model and functions of lungs with volume and pressure profiles and interactions (origin, pathway, and reaction) of VoCs with lung (epithelial) cells, (ii) develop computational techniques, e.g. machine learning to understand spectroscopic profiles of chemical in lung and generate predictive transport models overtime of healthy and non-healthy individuals, and, (iii) design and develop mid-infrared laser-based systems to accurately profile VoCs in the 5- 11 um spectral range. The overall goal of this project is to investigate the state-of-the-art in research on health bio-sensing early disease diagnosis.

Email: mkhan@desu.edu

Hwan Kim — Identifying Potential Therapeutic Targets in Parkinson's Disease Mouse Models

In collaboration with HanSeok Ko at Johns Hopkins medicine, we found that external stress including alpha-synuclein preformed fibrils (PFF) reduces the senescence markers such as Lamin B1 and HMGB1, but enhanced the level of cell-cycle arrester, p21 in in vitro, ex vivo and mouse brains (Verma et al., Cells, 2021). Using Western blot and immunohistochemistry, we also found that these cellular senescence markers within reactive astrocytes as indicated by enlarged cell bodies within GFAP-positive cells and Iba1-activated microglia were responsive in a-syn PFF injected mouse brains. These results indicate that PFF-induced pathology could lead to astrocyte and/or microglia senescence in PD brains, which may contribute to neuropathology in this model. Targeting senescent cells using senolytics could therefore constitute a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of PD. As a follow-up study, we test a hypothesis that the senescence processes result in the failure of maintaining the homeostasis in dopamine neurons or surrounding astrocytes/microglia, which is associated with PD pathology. With measuring the levels of senescence markers in the PD-related regions including the striatum and Substantia nigra from PFF-injected PD mouse model or human PD brains, we will determine the effects of cellular senescence in inducing dopaminergic neuronal loss and PD pathology and verify the validity of using senolytics in halting PD pathology. This study will allow us to understand the senescence aspects of the neuropathology of PD, which may reveal potential new therapeutic targets using senolytics for preventing neurodegeneration including PD. Currently, we are testing senolytics in the PFF-injected PD mice and further developing a nanoparticle for a potential therapeutic application with a senolytic and ROS scavengers to target senescent and/or reactive damaged astrocytes (or microglia) in PD models.

Email: yhkim@desu.edu

Hakeem Lawal — Acetylcholine Synaptic Release in the Brain

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.
The student will learn basic Drosophila genetics needed to run an experimental study. The trainee will also perform behavioral analyses like locomotion and will be trained in how to analyze and present their data. The student will also be trained in how to review and present on scientific literature.
Webpage: www.lawallab.org

Email: hlawal@desu.edu

Jinjie Liu — Computer Simulation of Optical Properties of Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles have been widely used in biomedical research. In this project, we study the optical properties of nanoparticles by numerically solving the Maxwell's equations of electrodynamics. Applications include scattering of gold nanoparticles, gold-coated nanoporous materials, nanodroplet, thin films, etc.
The summer scholar will conduct a literature review, run computer code, and prepare a poster or oral presentation.

Email: jliu@desu.edu

Qi Lu — Evaluating the Reflective Spectral Profiles of Lipid Membranes in Relation to the Concentration of Cholesterol

Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) are excellent model systems for studying physical aspects of biological membranes where the interaction between lipids and proteins takes place. The key advantage of GUVs is that they can be observed directly under the light microscope because of their large sizes, comparable to those of mammalian cells. Numerous studies have shown the effects of cholesterol on the phases and structures of the lipid-cholesterol membranes. The lipid “structures” inside the membrane ocean are known as lipid rafts. Cholesterol (CHOL) increases the rigidity of lipid vesicles by forming raft-like structures. In this project, we will focus on the lipid reflective spectral profiles obtained from the hyperspectral dark-field microscopy and we studied their correlations to different concentrations of cholesterol (10, 20, 30, and 40 mol%). We will study how the reflective spetral profiles from the lipid membranes are correlated their phase and integrity.
Students will learn to prepare GUVs with phospholipids and cholesterol. They will also learn to use the Cytoviva system to collect reflective spectral profiles from the lipids membranes. They will analyze the reflective spectral profiles from GUVs mixed with various concentration of cholesterol to deduce the correlation between the reflective spectra and the integrity of lipid bilayers.

Email: qilu@desu.edu

Yuriy Markushin — Development of a Sensitive Lateral Flow Antibody Test

The purpose of Summer Scholars Program is to develop a more sensitive COVID-19 antibody Lateral Flow Assay (as well as assays for other health conditions) which reduces the chance of a false negative. Instead of having one expensive test for a disease, pooling different samples for the same analyte might help in not wasting resources. This will be an important for utilizing the pooling approach in COVID-19 testing as well as in checking immunity development and immunity sustainability in general population, especially now when some new COVID-variants are coming.
The summer scholar will participate in: sample preparation, Lateral Flow Assay test experiment, recording results by a scanning test-reader, analyzing results, reading scientific publications, writing a report, preparing the final presentation.

Email: ymarkushin@desu.edu

Brian McNaughton — Evolving Novel Protein-RNA Complexes for mRNA Editing

Proteins evolved in our lab have been used for mRNA editing. We will develop methods to identify novel protein-RNA interactions, with the goal of enabling multiplexed mRNA editing.
Researchers will learn about molecular biology, protein expression/purification in bacteria, protein and RNA biology, and methods in protein evolution.

Email: bmcnaughton@desu.edu

Karl Miletti — Phenotypic Characterization of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells

The INBRE scholar will phenotypically characterize several triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cell lines to study a potential association between the expression and function of the CD44 receptor and their oxidative stress response.
The INBRE scholar will participate in the following research activities: cell culturing, RT-PCR, cell viability and toxicity assays, chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) assays, western blotting, proximity ligation assays and cell imaging.

Email: kmiletti@desu.edu

Qiquan Wang — Spectroscopy Study of Pesticides-biomolecules Interaction

The use of pesticides has gained increasing attention due to their hazardous potentials to human health and environmental safety. The interaction/binding at molecular level between pesticides and active biomolecules remains largely unknown. This project aims to study the interaction of selected pesticides and biomolecules using various spectroscopy technologies, and investigates the impact of the interaction on the original functions of the targeted biomolecules.
In this project, student(s) will use FT-IR, UV-VIS, and fluorescence spectroscopy method to investigate the interaction between selected pesticides and hemoglobin. Pesticide, hemoglobin and iron-porphyrin samples will be purchased from commercial companies. Data from various spectra will be analyzed to interpret the intensities of the possible interactions. The interaction mechanisms and the relationship between pesticide structure and interaction intensity will be identified and discussed.

Email: qwang@desu.edu

Yanfeng Yue — Polymer Membrane for Virus Isolation

Find solutions to develop new routes to introduce extra nanopores into microporous composite membranes to improve large particle adsorption and will test products’ potential to be used as a filler in N95 respirators and surgical masks to block virus transmission.
Researchers will prepare polymer membrane by using electrospinning method and further screen these membranes for large molecule adsorption

Email: yyue@desu.edu

Nemours

Sonali S. Barwe — Pediatric Leukemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common pediatric leukemia. Majority of patients are cured, but about 10% of patient’s experience disease relapse due to drug resistant leukemic cells. The bone marrow microenvironment comprising stromal cells, osteoblasts, endothelial cells, along with secreted extracellular matrix components and soluble factors provides a sanctuary for leukemic cells. Adhesion and retention of leukemic cells within the bone marrow is a major contributor to drug resistance and relapse. We and others have shown that chemotherapy drugs are unable to kill leukemic cells co-cultured with stromal cells (to mimic the bone marrow microenvironment) as efficiency as in monoculture. Signaling induced by cell surface proteins such as CD81 plays an important role in this process. CD81 knockout cells had reduced bone marrow microenvironment induced chemoprotection and altered expression of cell surface proteins. Identification of cell surface proteins regulated by CD81 is crucial to develop novel therapeutic options to overcome the adhesion-induced cyto-protective effect and prevent relapse.
Cell culture and flow cytometry will be utilized to determine leukemia cell binding to stromal cells and to evaluate cell viability following exposure to chemotherapy drugs.

Email: sbarwe@nemours.org

Sigrid A. Langhans — A Translational Approach to Evaluation of Hippo/YAP Signaling in Pediatric Brain Tumors

The prognosis of many pediatric brain cancers remains poor. However, with advances in our understanding of how cancer cells interact with their immediate environment, pathways that relate information from the tumor microenvironment have moved to the forefront in cancer drug discovery. Hippo/YAP signaling is part of a network of major signaling pathways involved in organ development and function. It also serves as a regulatory hub integrating information from a cell’s microenvironment with its phenotypic behavior. In cancer, including in pediatric brain cancers, aberrant YAP activation has been implicated in cancer cell dedifferentiation and proliferation, in promoting genomic instability, and in therapeutic resistance. Despite this, little is known about YAP activation in specific tumor subgroups. This project is a bed to bench (clinical to lab) model of investigation: by reviewing clinical information and tissue samples of children with brain cancer, we will first describe clinical, genetic, and neuroradiologic findings, classify the patients into subcategories, then explore the specific regulators and pathways for mutation through laboratory analyses.
Aim 1. Develop a database of Nemours patients diagnosed with benign and malignant brain cancers who have genetic testing results and group by type. Aim 2. Determine subgroup-specific YAP activation levels in pediatric brain tumors.

Email: sigrid.langhans@nemours.org

Zhengyu Ma — Tumor Activated Alloreactive T Cells for Cancer Immunotherapy

One of the major breakthroughs in cancer therapy in recent years is the development of engineered T lymphocytes (T cells) that can recognize and kill cancer cells. T cells using chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) recognizing CD19, a pan-B cell marker expressed on all cancerous B cells, have been approved by the FDA for B cell malignancies based on striking results in clinical trials. Using CAR T cells to treat solid tumors, however, has not been as successful. Unlike CD19, biomarkers for solid tumors, i.e., tumor antigens (TAs), tend to be expressed in a heterogeneous fashion in tumors, with only a fraction of tumor cells expressing a particular type of TA. As a result, therapeutic T cells that are capable of targeting and killing tumor cells expressing a particular type of TA are often incapable of halting tumor growth due to the expansion of TA-negative tumor cells. To overcome these challenges, a T cell therapy strategy that targets a wide range of tumor cells is urgently needed. We propose to develop Tumor Activated Alloreactive T cells (TAATs) that target all tumor cells expressing HLA class I (HLA-I), which are present on almost all nucleated cells in the body, including many types of tumor cells. This approach exploits T cell alloreactivity, i.e., the ability of T cells from one individual to recognize and kill cells from another individual. To prevent toxicities associated with targeting normal tissues that also express HLA-I, a control mechanism is incorporated in TAATs to restrict their alloreactivity to tumors and to avoid normal tissues. We hypothesize that TAATs are capable of killing both TA+HLA+ and TA-HLA+ cells in tumors without causing significant normal tissue damages or graft vs host diseases. To test our hypothesis, we will 1) establish the process of generating TAATs; 2) test the ability of TAATs to kill TA+HLA+ and TA-HLA+ tumor cells in cell cultures and in animal models.

Email: zma@nemours.org

Suken Shah — Predictive Modeling of Social Determinants of of Health and Influence on Treatment Progression of Patients who have Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

To date, social determinants of health (SDOH) have not been adequately studied to determine how a clinician can engage in shared decision making with patients and parents who have Adolescents Idiopathic Scoliosis to provide optimal outcomes. With the collection and analysis of this data, we hope in the future to provide the treatment team with an understanding of clinical, patient reported outcomes (SRS-22r) and SDOH data in developing an appropriate treatment plan. This will also help to lessen the burden on the patient and family from a financial, functional and emotional perspective
The summer scholar will be involved in the understanding of the protocol, how to collect the data from the electronic medical record (EMR), utilization of REDCap, preparation of data for statistical analysis and manuscript submission. Person will interact with investigative and clinical staff during visits of patients with AIS to understand the treatment of AIS and subsequently understand the data that is captured in the EMR. Finally, person will have a schedule to meet with clinical and investigative team to discuss project progression and have full integration within the department.

Email: suken.shah@nemours.org

University of Delaware

Behnam Abasht — Targeting Genomic Regions Identified Through Genome-wide Association Study of Wooden Breast

Wooden Breast myopathy (WB) has emerged as a global threat to broiler production due to severe deterioration of meat quality in affected muscles. Despite its prevalence and the fact that broiler producers and primary breeding companies have expressed immense interest in a timely and economic solution, there is currently no approach available to effectively prevent this disease. Through association analyses, we have recently identified genomic regions associated with WB. The purpose of our project is to conduct an in-depth analysis of these genomic regions to identify and characterize candidate mutations that cause WB. We aim to (i) validate while at the same time increase mapping precision of these regions, (ii) identify candidate mutations that cause WB in each target region and determine their roles in metabolic dysregulation and cellular dysfunction. A new sequencing approach will be used to sequence target genomic regions in 800 broiler chickens. The application of this new technology is revolutionary in that it will enable detecting all types of changes in DNA among individuals [single nucleotide ("1-letter" changes), insertion/deletion (< 50-letter changes) and structural (>= 50-letter changes)], allowing identification of top significant changes (mutations) causing WB. Additionally, association analysis using these mutations in each target region and molecular phenotypes (gene expression and metabolites) will allow studying the cause of WB.
Students will be involved in histopatologic analysis of chicken P. major muscle specimens to score muscle lesions;
tissue sample processing and high quality DNA and RNA isolation and qualification; and new protocol optimization for high throughput RNA isolation.

Email: abasht@udel.edu

Elisa Arch — Design & Prescription of Orthotic Devices

Two research projects will be available this summer. The first project involves prescribing customized ankle-foot orthoses for individuals post-stroke. This project will involve literature reviews, collection of motion analysis data as individuals post-stroke walk while wearing the customized ankle-foot orthoses, and processing and analyzing these data. The second project involves designing, testing, and collecting human subjects data with customized foot orthoses. The participants in this study will be healthy individuals. This study will also involve literature reviews, collecting motion analysis data as healthy individuals walk while wearing the customized foot orthoses, and processing and analyzing these data.
Summer Scholars will conduct literature reviews, assist with collecting motion analysis data on human subjects, and processing and analyzing data.

Email: schranke@udel.edu

Roghayeh Barmaki — Innovative Augmented and Virtual Reality Technologies for Biomedical Applications

Come and join us working on the novel use of advanced technologies in machine learning, virtual and augmented reality in high-impact, invaluable applications in biomedical education and healthcare.
This year, was not like any other year, and all of us have learned a lot more about the values of remote learning and therapy in the global pandemic era. In the HCI lab, we are using hard-core machine learning tools to solve problems in healthcare, particularly physiotherapy, and educating these concepts using virtual assistants, gamification, and immersive technologies in broad.
The summer scholar will participate in weekly meetings with the mentors, and lab members, conduct comprehensive literature reviews, develop new programs and games (using C# or Python Languages), and engage in scholarly writing with the research team. Students will benefit from having access to state-of-the-art technologies and equipment on virtual and augmented reality, and human biomarker sensing, and receive comprehensive support during and beyond the INBRE Program for additional research or teaching opportunities, career path decision making, and other support for assuring their success.

Email: rlb@udel.edu

Mona Batish — Understanding Role of Non Coding RNAs

Our lab works on single molecule RNA imaging. Students will learn how to design probes, fix cells and then use fluorescence microscope.
We work on understanding role of coding and non coding RNAs in various biological contexts including development, cancer and other diseases.
Student activities: microscopy, mammalian cell culture, image analysis

Email: BATISH@UDEL.EDU

Rahmat Beheshti — AI For a Healthier Life

We have a couple of projects that aim at identifying effective ways to prevent chronic diseases occurrence using large-scale data (mostly in the format of electronic health records).
The scholars who joined our lab in the past have been involved in the entire life cycle of a research article creation from idea formation to implementation and evaluation.

Email: rbi@udel.edu

Amy Biddle — Equine Microbiome Project

Students will work on questions to identify the structure and function of equine digestive tract communities, focusing on bacteria, protozoans, or parasites.
The equine digestive tract harbors an assortment of prokaryotic and eukaryotic members. Projects could range from using anaerobic techniques to culture commensal organisms to computational approaches to surveying communities.

Email: ASBIDDLE@UDEL.EDU

Jeremy Bird — Exploring the Biological Functions of Non-canonical RNA Cap Structures

My lab is interested in a newly discovered form of RNA modification, specifically capping of the RNAs with primary metabolites such as NAD(H). We are trying to work out how these metabolite caps affect the function of a given RNA molecule (i.e. the effect of capping on stability, localization in the cell and ability to be translated). In Escherichia coli and other bacteria, the most highly NAD(H)-cappedRNAs are small regulatory RNAs and a small subset of mRNAs. We are particularly interested in the function of these specific RNAs.
Independent projects for INBRE scholars include work on characterization of sRNA function, mechanism of NAD-capping of RNAs by RNA polymerases and development of new methods for detection/quantitation of metabolite capping. Scholars will be responsible for their own research project and given the opportunity to learn proper sterile technique while handling micro-organsims, plasmid transformation, bacterial physiology, PCR, cloning, gel electrophoresis, RNA extraction and Northern blotting.

Email: JGBIRD@UDEL.EDU

Mark Blenner — Engineering Bispecific Antibody Producing Cell Lines

Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are the industry standard for production of monoclonal antibodies. Bispecific antibodies are among the fastest growing therapies. Unlike natural antibodies that can only bind to a single antigen, bispecifics simultaneously engage two antigens. This project will develop a CHO cell line that is designed for optimizing bispecific antibody vector design. The outcome of the project is a better understanding of vector design rules and the effect of cell line development on the product quality, which are key determinants of therapeutic efficacy.
Summer Scholars will learn mammalian cell culture, molecular cloning, and product quality analytical methods. Scholars will participate in group meetings, and present their work. Inclusion of the project data in publication is a desired outcome.
Webpage: www.blennerlab.com

Email: BLENNER@UDEL.EDU

Bruce Boman — Mathematical Modeling to Discover Mechanisms that Drive Cancer Development and Growth

The project involves using mathematical modeling to discover novel mechanisms that drive cancer development and growth and how to target these mechanisms to develop new approaches for cancer treatment. The mathematical modeling involves both discrete and continuous models for mechanisms that control normal tissue organization & how dysregulation of these mechanisms causes tissue disorganization in cancer.
The student will work with a multidisciplinary team of scientists in the Center for Applications of Mathematics in Medicine (CAMM) in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. The goal will be to discover the reaction kinetics that link two signaling pathways (retinoid & WNT) that control the organization of cells in normal tissue and how imbalance between these two pathways leads to tissue disorganization that drives cancer development and growth.

Email: BRBOMAN@UDEL.EDU

E.Fidelma Boyd — Bacterial Responses to Osmotic Stress

Few studies have examined the role of DMSP as a universal osmotic stress protectant for marine heterotrophic bacteria. Our overall hypothesis is that marine species belonging to the family Vibrionaceae have evolved to utilize DMSP as well as other compatible solutes for osmotic stress protection using BCCT transporters for uptake.
We will show that DMSP is transported into the cell by high affinity BCCT transporters and we will determine the structural and functional changes in these transporters that allowed DMSP uptake as a substrate. Our knowledge of how expression of BCCT transporters are regulated is limited, and we will use an unbiased discovery based approach to uncover BCCT regulators.

Email: FBOYD@UDEL.EDU

Kathleen Brewer-Smyth — Pathways to Healing for Women after Abuse and other Trauma

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

Thomas Buckley — Sports Related Concussion Assessment and Recovery

The purpose of this study is to develop tests which are used to diagnose a concussion and to identify recovery from concussion in UD student-athletes. Specifically, we utilize a diverse array of clinical neurological tests including cognition, balance, vision, symptoms, eye movement and tracking, mental health questionnaires, and instrumented gait measures. During the summer, we will be testing student-athletes from numerous sports on their baseline (pre-sport participation) tests.
Student activities include: 1. Conducting clinical neurological assessments (after comprehensive training) during baseline concussion tests 2. Managing data (e.g., data cleaning, organization, filing, etc) 3. Reviewing and discussing scientific studies on concussion related topics along with graduate students, post-doc, and professor.
Webpage: sites.udel.edu/buckley-concussion-research/

Email: TBUCKLEY@UDEL.EDU

Joshua Cashaback — Task Exploration and Motor Learning in Healthy Aging and Parkinson's

An open question is whether the ability to utilize movement variability is conditioned on reinforcement feedback (whether a motor action was successful), error feedback (the direction and magnitude of a movement error), and their interplay. Our objective is to disentangle both the roles of and interplay between reinforcement­based and error­ based processes when human use movement variability to explore and adapt to new motor tasks.
Students will be involved in every aspect of this project including literature review, participant recruitment and collection (approximately 50 participants), data processing (Python), and statistical analysis (Python). We plan to present this work at national and international conferences, and prepare for manuscript submission to a high-impact journal.

Email: JOSHCASH@UDEL.EDU

Sheau Ching Chai — Polyphenol-rich Foods and Chronic Disease Prevention

Participants will be asked to consume polyphenol-rich foods for 12 weeks. Cardiovascular risk factors and memory performance will be assessed before and after the 12 weeks intervention.
Summer scholars will be trained to conduct phone interviews, in-person interviews, anthropometric measurements, data collection, data entry, and process and analyze human specimens.

Email: SCCHAI@UDEL.EDU

Lauren B. Covington — Family Sleep Study and Child Sleep and Diet Study

The Family Sleep Study is looking at the concordance of sleep health between low SES caregivers and their children, and identifying multilevel socio-ecological factors that relate to sleep health in the dyad.
The Child Sleep and Diet study is identifying the relationship between sleep health and diet quality in preschoolers and their parents.
I have a few pending grants, so may have a study that is beginning recruitment and data collection.
Both of the above studies will be in the data cleaning/analysis phase. The Summer Scholar will assist in data cleaning, analysis and interpretation. They will also help with manuscript preparation, which may include a literature review, and depending on their writing contribution, may be included as a co-author.

Email: lcovingt@udel.edu

Emily Day — Nanomedicine

Various projects are available in the Day Lab to develop nanoparticles for high precision therapy of cancer, hematologic disorders, and maternal-fetal health complications. 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 a graduate student and/or postdoctoral mentor to synthesize, characterize, and evaluate the nanoparticles they develop. If necessary, some projects or portions of projects can be handled remotely, for example by having the student focus on data analysis, figure preparation, or other tasks that do not require in-person presence.
Research activities may include: nanoparticle synthesis and characterization, in vitro testing, data analysis, literature evaluation, figure preparation, and more.
Webpage: www.sites.udel.edu/daygroup

Email: EMILYDAY@UDEL.EDU

Mary Dozier — Brain and Behavioral Outcomes of Early Intervention

In this study, we examine the efficacy of an early parenting program on child brain and behavioral outcomes. Children followed since infancy are scanned at ages 13, 14, and 15, and other behavioral and biological outcomes are examined.
Scholars will assist with research assessments of infants, parents, and adolescents. Scholars could assist with scanning (magnetic resonance imaging), with parent-child interactions, and other assessments. Also, scholars are likely to be involved in behavioral coding.
Webpage: www.ABCintervention.org

Email: MDOZIER@UDEL.EDU

Melinda Duncan — Injury Response of the Ocular Lens

Cataract surgery is a true marvel of modern medicine which has greatly reduced the burden of blindness, particularly in developed countries. However, like all surgeries, cataract surgery is not without its side effects. Posterior capsular opacification (PCO) results when lens cells remaining behind after surgery proliferate, migrate into the visual axis, and produce scar tissue which distorts the patient's vision. While this, the most common negative outcome of cataract surgery, can be treated as well, each further intervention reduces final visual outcome, and can cause or exacerbate other blinding ocular conditions such as retinal detachments and glaucoma. We have discovered that some integrins and extracellular matrix molecules are critical for PCO development. We are investigating the molecular mechanisms by which these molecules drive PCO in the hopes of identifying clinical interventions to block this potentially blinding condition. This work is supported by an R01 grant from the National Eye Institute
Students will be involved in wet lab investigations including tissue sectioning, immunostaining, PCR.

Email: duncanm@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.
Types of activities: dissection, MRI, image analysis, mechanical testing, biochemistry, image segmentation, programming.

Email: DELLIOTT@UDEL.EDU

Ibra S. Fancher — Hyperglycemia and Endothelial Dysfunction in Obesity

This project will aim to determine if hyperglycemia, an independent cardiovascular risk factor associated with obesity, alters the expression of i) genes/proteins that handle fatty acid and glucose metabolism and ii) genes/proteins of the glycocalyx which transduce mechanical stimuli into chemical signaling. The students will test their hypotheses via qPCR, Western blot, and flow cytometry, approaches that are established in the lab and are presently being conducted by undergraduate students with success.
Students will be immersed in a wet lab environment and contribute to important studies that drive the research program. This will allow them to be, at a minimum, co-authors on published studies and to present their findings at international conferences. The students will be encouraged to submit their work for internal and external awards.

Email: ifancher@udel.edu

Velia Fowler — Actin Network Structure in Normal and Abnormal Red Blood Cells

The biconcave disk shape and deformability of mammalian red blood cells (RBCs) rely upon a network of short actin filaments connected by long spectrin strands that are attached to the plasma membrane. Genetic defects in the spectrin-actin network result in hemolytic anemias with abnormal RBC shapes, membrane instability and reduced RBC lifespan in humans and mice. However, the changes in network structure and organization that lead to abnormal RBC shapes and membrane instability are not understood. This project will investigate spectrin-actin network structure and organization in normal and abnormal RBCs from mice or people with hemolytic anemias. We will use fluorescence microscopy to determine locations of network proteins and evaluate RBC shapes. By examining RBCs from transgenic mice or human patients with genetic mutations in network proteins, we can uncover the molecular and structural basis of RBC shape, deformability, and physiology.
Students will experience: Collection of blood from euthanized mice. Fluorescent antibody labeling of proteins in red blood cells. Confocal fluorescence microscopy of antibody-labeled proteins in red blood cells. Image analysis of fluorescence confocal images. Reading selected papers from the literature on red blood cells Participation in group lab meetings. Presentation of results at lab meetings.

Email: VFOWLER@UDEL.EDU

Catherine A. Fromen — Designing Mucosal Immune Engineered Therapeutics for Inhalable Vaccines

Research in the Fromen lab focuses on expanding conventional particulate drug delivery to treat respiratory diseases, which remain a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Prevalent lung diseases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lower respiratory infections, and lung cancers are each an entry on the global list of top ten leading causes of death and combine for over 8 million deaths annually (not to mention the global havoc caused by SARS-CoV-2). While humans have been delivering treatments directly to the lungs via aerosols for hundreds of years, most lung conditions remain poorly managed with limited and ineffective treatment options. To make fundamental improvements in pulmonary drug delivery, our lab explores how therapeutics behave in the unique environment of the lung. In this project, students will work on a team to develop inhalable nanoparticle vaccines or build new models of the lung to study how to improve aerosol therapeutics.
Students will learn how to design novel particle therapeutics, generate and test aerosol formulations, apply 3D printing and/or bioprinting to build tissue culture models, and test efficacy using both in vitro and in vivo methods.
Students will work within existing teams within the Fromen lab to develop a range of skills, including CAD, 3D-printing, particle design and fabrication, aerosol characterization, fluid modeling, chemical analytics, cell culture, and immune assays, flow cytometry, and fluorescent and live cell imaging. Students will also gain experience working in a productive academic research lab and develop research skills including oral presentations, lab notebook documentation, literature assessments, and assist in manuscript presentations.
Webpage: sites.udel.edu/cfromen/

Email: cfromen@udel.edu

Deni Galileo — Glioblastoma Research

Participate in research on human glioblastoma stem cells, including experiments in vitro and in vivo in novel chick embryo brain tumor model.
Student will culture cells, perform immunostaining, and participate in in vitro and in vivo experiments. Student could perform time-lapse motility analyses of cells in vitro. Use of confocal microscopy is likely.
Limited to UD students who are interested in completing a senior thesis.

Email: DGALILEO@UDEL.EDU

Roberta Golinkoff — 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.
Students help with everything from scheduling families to come into the lab, to helping run the studies, and code and enter the data. Tasks also vary depending on our interns' interests. Some interns will also be trained on coding children's behaviors, like where little babies are looking on a screen or how preschoolers construct legos. We also have a weekly lab meeting where we read and discuss recent research articles.
Webpage: https://roberta-golinkoff.com

Email: ROBERTA@UDEL.EDU

Zubaer Hossain — Developing a Framework to Detect Osteoporosis without using MRI/CT

We propose developing a new method for diagnosing osteoporosis (OS) without requiring extensive clinical tests or MRI/CT scans. OS is an asymptomatic skeletal disease causing significant economic and health impacts worldwide. Currently, the osteoporotic state of a bone is characterized by an average microscopic measure of bone mineral density (BMD). However, BMD requires MRI/CT scans, which are expensive and not accessible to all, and it does not provide a complete measure of bone strength. Also, sub-micron scale material heterogeneity and hierarchical imperfections that may correlate with dietary habits and physical activities of individuals are undetectable from BMD. As a result, assessing patient-specific bone health conditions remains unfeasible. To address this limitation, we aim to establish a new method for detecting OS based on the asymmetric mechanical response of bone to cyclic loadings, such as walking, cycling, push-pull exercises, and weightlifting. Our hypothesis is that bidirectional loading can thus provide sufficient information to assess bone's internal mechanical state and its role in fracture susceptibility. To test the hypothesis, we will develop an information library consisting of the mechanical response of different hierarchical configurations and chemical compositions of the bone and correlating that information with available MRI/CT scan-based mapping of bone mineral density.
The project will involve reading literature data as well as analyzing MRI/CT scan reports and using a machine learning approach to extract the features that describe the bone structure and bone mineral density (BMD). The information will then be used in software to develop a correlation between mechanical loading and the dominant MRI/CT features (involving distribution patterns of BMD).

Email: zubaer@udel.edu

Thomas W. Ilvento — Statistical Consultants

Summer interns will be mentored as consultants for INBRE summer research projects.
Students will participate in conducting workshops and training in the use of Excel, JMP, or R/Python for statistical analysis of summer data.
Open to Statistics majors.

Email: ILVENTO@UDEL.EDU

Aimee Jaramillo-Lambert — Determine the Role of WEE-1 Kinase during Meiosis in C. elegans Spermatogenesis

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. Our long-term goal is to understand the molecules and systems that ensure that each cell receives the correct number of chromosomes during meiosis. WEE-1 is a kinase that phosphorylates another kinase, CDK-1, to prevent cells from entering mitosis or meiosis at an inappropriate time. In C. elegans WEE-1 prevents meiosis from proceeding prematurely, however, the effects of loss of WEE-1 function in spermatogenesis are unknown. The goal of the INBRE Summer Scholar project is to characterize the role of WEE-1 in meiosis of spermatogenesis. This will be accomplished through embryonic viability assays, immunofluorescence and microscopy.
The summer scholar will participate in basic lab activities such as buffer preparation and C. elegans husbandry. The summer scholar will also perform experiments including embryonic viability assays, gonad dissections, immunofluorescence, DNA staining, and microscopy.

Email: ANJL@UDEL.EDU

Lisa Jaremka — Stress Reduction Program for Romantic Relationships

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. The overarching aim of this proposal is to experimentally test whether a stress reduction intervention improves relationship quality, assessed via both subjective and objective measures, relative to an active control comparison. Romantic couples from the community will be randomly assigned to one of two intervention arms. 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 stress reduction intervention as a means to improving relationship quality.
Students will help recruit couples and complete the PRE and POST intervention visits with couples. Some of this includes collecting blood pressure and heart rate data. Students will also clean and upload behavioral data.
Webpage: www.lisajaremka.com

Email: ljaremka@udel.edu

Xiaopeng Ji — Sleep and Circadian-related Health Disparities in Racial and Ethnic Minority Adolescents and Emerging Young Adults.

The integration of health disparity causal pathways and sleep and circadian-related mechanisms is needed to understand and address sleep health disparities in racial and ethnic minority groups. The overarching goal of this study is to understand sleep and circadian mechanisms underlying health disparities (i.e. cognitive function and cardiovascular risk factors) in adolescents and emerging young adults (i.e. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander subpopulations).
To achieve the research goal, we will conduct: 1) systematic reviews on sleep-related health as well as responses to sleep interventions in racial and ethnic minority groups (i.e. Asian Americans); and 2) secondary analyses on how sleep-related health outcomes differ by racial and ethnic minority groups and identifying factors that contribute to sleep health disparities, using the PI-collected data and publicly available datasets (e.g. NCHS and NHANES); and 3) explore sleep phenotypes (i.e. dim light melatonin profile, sleep duration/quality via ActiGraph, and sleep EEG) in adolescents and emerging young adults in racial and ethnic minority groups.
The scholar will review the literature on studies that have examined the contribution of sleep and circadian-related health disparities and possibly involve in participants recruitment and secondary analyses. The information gained from the abovementioned activities will then guide the design of a research study protocol, IRB protocol and REDCap project site for further mechanism exploration.

Email: JIXIAOP@UDEL.EDU

John R Jungck — Self Assembly Models of Viral Capsids

Viral capsids self-assemble through the entropy-driven process of releasing water bound to individual subunits (capsomeres). Most viral capsids are related to icosahedra with 20 subunits (and multiples of them: 60, 120, 180, etc.). We model them with three mathematical models: (1) Nobel prize winning Caspar-Klug equations; (2) Dürer nets; and, (3) Schlegel diagrams. We have successfully built self-assembling icosahedra, dodecahedra, and decahedra at the meso-scale. We have also explored using analogs of RNA-mediated self assembly using Hamiltonian path connected Schlegel diagram models of icosahedra. However, we have experienced major problems in producing models because of the precision needed to glue 120 miniature magnets in the correct position and orientation on the 20 sub-units. Therefore, instead of 3D printing, we are currently exploring casting models in negative molds. In addition, we will build shakers controlled by rheostats to determine parameters of optimal self-assembly.
The students will be designing and building 3D models of viral capsomeres capable of self-assembling and/or self-folding into various 3D models and constructing devices to determine kinetic and thermodynamic criteria for optimizing self-assembly of full structures. If the students have programming skills, we will build agent-based models of the self-assembling process especially the inhibition of achieving full structures when kinetic dead-ends (subassemblies that prevent the construction of full structures).

Email: jungck@udel.edu

William Kenkel — Neurodevelopmental Consequences of Cesarean Delivery in an Animal Model

Our lab is broadly interested in how different birth experiences impact the levels of several critical hormones in the newborn. These 'birth-signaling' hormones steer the development of the newborn brain in ways that produce long-lasting consequences and we hypothesize that this may be why cesarean delivery has been associated with several adverse health outcomes in offspring, namely changes in social behavior, cognitive function and an increased risk of overweight / obesity. We are investigating this using an animal model, the socially monogamous prairie vole.
The Summer Scholar will be involved in the hands-on conduct of behavioral neuroscience research at the level of both behavior and brain tissue. The Summer Scholar will gain experience conducting behavioral neuroscience experiments, analyzing their results and presenting findings. Our lab will work with the Summer Scholar to carve out an independent project for them within the broader scope of our research project, which has direct relevance to: social behavior, endocrinology, metabolism / obesity, cognitive function, neuroscience, and development.
Webpage: besvolelab.com

Email: wkenkel@udel.edu

Hyosub Kim — Mechanisms of Human Sensorimotor Learning

This project aims to understand how humans are able to acquire and adapt motor skills. Through a combination of behavioral experiments involving reaching and computational modeling, we will clarify how the motor system processes different types of error signals to improve movements, how practice leads to automaticity, and how perceptual processes contribute to effective movement control.
The summer scholar will get first-hand experience with research in experimental psychology and the study of human motor learning through active participation in lab meetings, mentor meetings, data collections, data analyses, and presentations. The goal is for the student to both learn more about the research process as well as make a meaningful contribution to their project.
This research experience is particularly suited for students who are interested in cognition, movement, and math.
Webpage: https://osf.io/y75ud/wiki/home/

Email: HYOSUB@UDEL.EDU

Amber Krauchunas — Studying Molecular Components of Reproduction in C. elegans

Students will participate in one of several research projects in the lab studying reproduction in the model organism C. elegans. Projects include linkage analysis to map new mutations, phenotypic characterization of sterile mutants, and analysis of sperm competition between various mutant strains.
Students will learn how to maintain and culture C. elegans, carry out genetic crosses and fertility assays, and learn microscopy techniques to visualize and characterize the worms and their gametes.

Email: ARKRAUCH@UDEL.EDU

Salil Lachke — Gene Expression Analysis of Lens

Characterize gene expression in normal and gene-specifically perturbed lens.
Students will learn to section lens tissue and perform immunostaining with antibody, learn to isolate RNA and perform RT-PCR, and learn to isolate DNA and genotype mice.

Email: SALIL@UDEL.EDU

Chi Keung Lam — Use of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells in Studying Cardiac Diseases

This project will use induced pluripotent stem cells to derive cardiac cells and use the cells for drug testing.
Student will learn fundamental molecular biology techniques and how to culture mammalian cell lines.
Webpage: cklamlab.bio.udel.edu

Email: LAMCG@UDEL.EDU

Shannon Lennon — The Role of Nutrition on Cardiovascular Health

Our current project is a controlled feeding study that manipulates dietary sodium and potassium intake. Subjects consume three different diets, each for 10 days. Subjects come into the laboratory on the last day and undergo a variety of tests . We collect blood and urine samples as well as functional data related to blood vessel function.
The Summer Scholar would learn to handle biological samples, observe and help with data collections on our human subjects. They would be involved in data entry and some data analysis. The Summer Scholar will be able to utilize some of the collected data to answer a research question and present this at the Undergraduate Research day.
Webpage: https://sites.udel.edu/lennon-cvnutr-lab/

Email: slennon@udel.edu

Michele Lobo — Impact of Caregiver-child Interactions and Infants’ Environment on Child Development

This project will involve the analysis of video and outcome measure data from a randomized controlled trial of an early intervention program aimed at advancing infant development. The study has a number of assessments that were performed. Students will review videos and be trained to use software to code the behaviors of children while the children interact with toys and caregivers. Students will analyze the data to determine whether there are differences in how the caregivers and children interact based on the intervention they received. In addition, the project will involve analysis of the child’s home environment to evaluate the presence and potential impact on development of objects like infant containers (e.g., bouncers and activity centers) and toys.
Scholars will work closely with our team to learn to code and analyze children’s and parents’ behaviors as well as coding and analyzing data related to children’s physical environment. This process may also involve field visits to daycares and retail stores. They will review and discuss the literature related to development, play, and learning. They will work to graph, analyze, and summarize the results from these projects. In addition, scholars will have opportunities to review and discuss literature on related topics and to engage in other ongoing projects in the lab.
Webpage: https://sites.udel.edu/move2learn/our-team-2/

Email: MALOBO@UDEL.EDU

Matthew Louis Mauriello — Computer Mediated Monitoring and Just-In-Time Interventions for Improved Performance and Burnout Mitigation

Monitoring physiological symptoms during computing tasks opens up numerous opportunities to support user wellbeing. Our aim is to create computer mediated assessment and informatics tools that allow office workers, students, and other heavy computer users to self-monitor, develop skills, and better manage their personal wellbeing while performing cognitively heavy tasks toward improving productivity and avoiding burnout. Our preliminary work focuses on two classes of users: university students and university adjacent mental health service workers. With respect to these two populations, recent studies have shown that burnout is related to academic achievement and the nature of counseling work puts counselors at risk for secondary traumatic stress and compassion fatigue.
As part of this project, we plan to undertake needfinding engagements to deepen our understanding of the work these populations engage in as well as their circumstances, experiences, risks, and needs. We plan to iteratively co-design with users the development of effective solutions (e.g., sensing technologies, informatics dashboards, interventions) responsive to these requirements and clarify the potential impacts such tools can have. Our aim is to design technology, conduct pilot studies, and produce design implications for self-monitoring and self-care tools that would better server these populations.
Students will develop new tools and algorithms for sensing and intervening during computer mediated task. They will also assist with literature reviews, user studies, as well as data management and analysis.
Webpage: https://sensifylab.cis.udel.edu/

Email: MLM@UDEL.EDU

Jared Medina — Examining Multisensory Integration and Proprioception in Stroke

Our brains take in information from a variety of different senses (vision, touch, proprioception, motor processing) to represent our body. Exactly how our brain combines all of this information into a seemingly effortless percept of our bodies in space is an unanswered question. A novel way to examine this question is by what happens when these processes break down due to brain damage. Based on this, we have two projects that primarily involve examining perceptual processing in individuals with brain-damage due to stroke. First, we plan to examine how individuals with stroke integrate information across different modalities, using various body illusions (e.g. the rubber hand illusion, mirror box illusion, etc.) Second, we plan to examine this question this using a robotic system that controls visual input and body position.
Summer Scholars will participate in literature review, testing neurologically intact (control) and brain-damaged individuals, data analysis, and (if possible) design and programming of experiments.
Webpage: www.jaredmedina.com

Email: JMEDINA@UDEL.EDU

Susanne Morton — Assessing Motor Learning in Health and Disease

Our lab will have opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in 1 of 2 possible studies in the lab that examine motor learning. The first study is examining the relationship between procedural learning (motor learning) and cognition and will be conducted in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment. The study will examine multiple forms of locomotor learning and conduct comprehensive cognitive testing in these patients. The second study is examining reinforcement-based motor learning, or learning that happens through decision-making processes promoting the selection of behaviors that are most likely to be followed by a rewarding stimulus.
Our lab uses 3-dimensional motion capture (recording of limb movements), a split-belt treadmill, force plates, and clinical assessments to quantify human movements. We have a focus on understanding brain mechanisms of motor learning that are most relevant for rehabilitation interventions in a variety of patient populations.

Email: smmorton@udel.edu

Anja Nohe — Role of BMP Signaling During Bone and Cartilage Formation

BMP2 is a growth factor that regulates stem cell differentiation into various cell types. The mechanism how BMP2 exerts its effect and how BMP2 can activate different differentiation pathways is not well understood.We recently identified Casein kinase II as a key regulator of BMP2 mediated differentiation. The goal is to determine the different signals activated by CK2that lead to the various differentiation pathways.
Students activities:Isolation of stem cells from human femoral heads. Imunofluorescent staining of cells and image analysis. Cell culture methods and Western blotting.

Email: ANJANOHE@UDEL.EDU

Vijay Parashar — Biochemical Characterization of Second Messenger (c-di-AMP) Cyclase Protein -DisA

Bacteria utilize dedicated nucleotide derivatives as “second messengers” to modulate the cellular response to environmental stimuli (first messengers) by relaying the signal from sensor molecules to the cellular targets. The repertoire of bacterial nucleotide second messengers known so far includes cyclic AMP (cAMP), cyclic GMP (cGMP), guanosine pentaphosphate and tetraphosphate (ppGpp), cyclic di-GMP, cyclic di-AMP, and cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP). These ubiquitous molecules regulate cellular pathways related to replication, transcription, translation, cellular morphology, metabolism, and DNA repair among others. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and it most often affects the lungs. Second messengers such as c-di-AMP contribute significantly to M. tuberculosis pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance. This project aims to understand the functional characteristics of M. tuberculosis DisA protein using a wide range of techniques such as protein over-expression, affinity purification, enzymatic assays, and x-ray crystallography.
Webpage: https://xtalsmgddp.wixsite.com/parasharlaboratory

Email: parashar@udel.edu

Justin Parreno — The Regulation of Disease by the Actin Cytoskeleton

We are interested in understanding how the actin cytoskeleton guides basic biological and disease. In particular, we are interested in delineating the involvement of actin network reorganization in regulating articular cartilage, tendon and ocular lens pathology. Through the insights gained from our studies, we strive to develop actin-based therapeutics to prevent disease as well as methodologies to regenerate disease tissues. Our vision is to develop novel actin-based therapeutics against disease.
Students will be exposed to cell/tissue culture, imaging and image analysis, and gene/protein expression analysis. There is also potential to learn 3D bioprinting of tissues for drug development assays.
Webpage: parrenolab.com

Email: jparreno@udel.edu

Shawn Polson — Connecting Genotype to Phenotype in Microbial Host-virus Systems

Our lab investigates the community ecology and dynamics of microbes and the viruses that infect them. In collaboration with other labs we have been working on new approaches for collecting viral phenotypic and integrating it with the metagenomic analyses we do to understand viral genotypes. A variety of projects under these themes would be available covering various stages of the research ranging from collection of phenotypic data to bioinformatics analysis of metagenomics data.
Wet-bench laboratory and bioinformatics analysis projects are available. Laboratory based projects might involve microbial virus culturing, microscopic characterization/enumeration, or performing experiments to determine or validate viral phenotypes. Bioinformatics projects might include analysis of genomic and metagenomic data, integration of these data with viral laboratory data, or development/testing of new software for analysis of these data.

Email: POLSON@UDEL.EDU

Darcy Reisman — Locomotor Recovery Post-stroke

In our work we conduct both mechanistic and intervention studies in people living with stroke. These studies focus on two primary areas - motor learning and physical activity. In our more mechanistic studies we are currently examining the role of cognition in post-stroke locomotor learning. In our intervention studies we are examining moderate to high intensity locomotor training and behavioral interventions for improving real world walking activity.
Student activities:Assisting with data collection with people with stroke including clinical tests and motion capture testing. Assisting with data processing and data analysis. Participating in lab meeting which includes reviewing and discussing papers and data from the lab.

Email: DREISMAN@UDEL.EDU

Shannon Robson — Dietary Approaches for Cardiovascular Health Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of family meal frequency as an intervention target (as compared to increasing fruit and vegetable intake) in addressing the primary prevention of CVD. The study is a behavioral-based intervention delivered to parents with a child (6-12 years-old) considered to be at risk for cardiovascular disease based upon parent risk factors.
Summer scholars will have the opportunity to assist with human subjects recruitment, study eligibility screening, and collection of data. In addition there are opportunities for observation of behavioral-based intervention sessions. All scholars will also gain a understanding of the current literature about family meal frequency and associated outcomes.

Email: ROBSON@UDEL.EDU

Gilberto Schleiniger — Mathematical Models of Tissue Organization

To understand the mechanisms of tissue loss of organization characteristic of many diseases, we seek to model normal tissue so as to be able to interrogate the model for the ways loss of organization occurs.
Student will: 1. Learn what types of mathematical models have been used to study tissue organization. 2. Consider questions to be addressed by modeling. Derive new models based on specific biological assumptions to address those questions. 3. Learn how to use models to simulate the behavior of tissue. 4. Explore possible mechanisms for loss of organization.
Webpage: https://www.mathsci.udel.edu/people/schleini

Email: SCHLEINI@UDEL.EDU

Karl Schmitz — Structure, Function, and Dysregulation of Bacterial Proteases

All cells possess ATP-fueled proteases that carry out the regulated destruction of cellular proteins. Proteases help cells respond to environmental changes, enforce protein quality control, and modulate specific cellular pathways. In some bacteria - including the major human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis - proteases are promising antibiotic targets. We study how cells regulate protease function, and we aim to discover small molecules that kill pathogenic bacteria by disrupting protease activity. This project focuses on Clp proteases, which are present in both bacteria and human mitochondria. Using purified protease components, we will use a suite of in vitro assays to interrogate how proteases assemble, how they recognize protein substrates, and how small molecules inhibit their function. Additionally, we will use X-ray crystallography to determine the 3-dimensional structure of proteolytic complexes.
The summer scholar will review the literature and carry out biochemical and biophysical experiments in the lab to study protease assembly, activity, and inhibition by small molecules.

Email: schmitzk@udel.edu

Jennifer Semrau — Robotics for Rehabilitation and Assessment in Stroke

Our lab studies movement of the upper limb using robotics in individuals with and with stroke. In particular, we are interested in studying something called proprioception (the ability to sense where our body is). Many stroke survivors have difficulty with this and we are working to creating new robotic assessments and treatments to better understand proprioception after stroke. The student would be involved in a current project aiming to create a new robotic treatment for proprioception in stroke.
The student would be involved in robotic data collection, data analysis, data presentation, and interaction with patient and non-patient participants. The student would also be expected to participate in weekly lab meetings and journal clubs where we review current cutting edge scientific literature.

Email: SEMRAU@UDEL.EDU

Fabrizio Sergi — Studying Recovery of Motor Function in Post-Stroke Individuals using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)

In this project, you will support an on-going study that uses fMRI to study how individuals post-stroke recover their motor function as a result of a behavioral neurorehabilitation program.
Webpage: www.udel.edu/hurolab

Email: FABS@UDEL.EDU

Lisha Shao — Investigating the Effect of Social Stress on Reproductive Behaviors in Drosophila

We will study the mechanisms intersecting stress and reward systems using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. The powerful genetic toolkit and research resources in Drosophila allow the identification of the genetic and neural basis of behavior at unprecedented resolution.
In this project, we will determine the effect of extreme social density on flies' reproductive behaviors, including courtship, copulation, and egg-laying (in females). We will further identify the genetic and neural representations of intensity and dynamics of social density.
The students will have the opportunity to learn and practice fly genetics. The students will perform behavioral experiments on flies that have been exposed to different social densities. The students will analyze the behavior data and present their findings in lab meetings.
Webpage: https://shaolab.bio.udel.edu/

Email: shaol@udel.edu

Karin Silbernagel — Recovery from Achilles tendon and Knee ligament Injuries

We are a multi-disciplinary group of physical therapists, athletic trainers, physicians, biomechanists, and community partners. Our team consists of researchers from across the United States and around the world. We perform research that spans from the basic science to clinical intervention. Our research aims to advance understanding of tendon and ligament injuries and repair/reconstruction so that tailored treatments can be developed in individuals across the life span from sedentary to elite athletes. We have ongoing clinical studies on exercise treatment for patients with Achilles tendon and Patellar tendon injuries. We also have ongoing research looking at outcomes in patients with Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries.
The summer scholars will be involved in performing data collections including ultrasound imaging, functional testing, and biomechanical gait analysis-. There will also be opportunity to observe and assist physical therapists as they provide treatment for the patients in our research studies.
Webpage: https://sites.udel.edu/kgs/

Email: kgs@udel.edu

Kevin Solomon — Developing Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus as a Platform for Modular RNA Vaccines

Rod-shaped plant viruses are an interesting class of protein nanoparticles with several desirable attributes including biocompatibility, precise hierarchical nanostructure, tunable size and aspect ratio, and potential for surface functionalization. Our group recently expressed one member of this group, the Barley Stripe Mosaic Virus (BSMV) in E. coli for the first time, enabling rapid production and engineering flexibility. We now aim to harness synthetic biology/chemistry and protein engineering to decorate the surface of these plant viral particles with various functional ligands, including agonists for the CD40 and TLR immune receptors.
The student joining this project will learn to grow mammalian cells in vitro to quantitatively assess their activation by these functionalized particles (via ELISA and flow cytometry). This will ultimately support our effort to establish structure-property relationships for rational adjuvant/vaccine design. The student will also test human sera for preexisting immunity against BSMV by measuring antibody levels via ELISA.
Webpage: solomonlab.weebly.com

Email: kvs@udel.edu

Jia Song — Post-transcriptional Regulation of Early Development

Our laboratory uses the sea urchin as a model organism to understand how miRNAs mediate development – the process by which a single fertilized egg becomes a complex organism with different cell types, tissues, and organs. Sea urchins shed huge numbers of eggs and sperm, and undergo external fertilization, resulting in transparent embryos that allow us to observe the dynamic process of development. Sea urchins share the same major gene families as humans, and the process by which they develop is remarkably similar, on the cellular and the molecular level. Results from our research will reveal shared molecular mechanisms of fundamental processes. Some of the basic processes we study include how cells adopt a particular fate and how cells regulate cell division.
Summer scholars will immerse in research that involves culturing sea urchin embryos, learning about developmental biology and molecular biology concepts. Students will use basic molecular biological tools to make recombinant DNA, generate RNA probes, and image embryos.

Email: jsong@udel.edu

Molly Sutherland — Cytochrome c Biogenesis in Bacteria

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 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.
The Summer Scholar will learn basic microbiological and biochemical techniques. They will characterize protein variants (mutants) of proteins in System I or II using well-developed functional studies under the direction of the PI and a graduate student. Students will learn to work with E. coli cultures, run protein gels and do western-blot analysis.

Email: msuther@udel.edu

Jessica Tanis — Identification of Genes Required for Extracellular Vesicle Biogenesis

Nearly all cells release extracellular vesicles (EVs), which mediate the intercellular transport of biological macromolecules. EVs play active roles in regulating physiological processes and propagating pathological conditions including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. One specialized site for EV shedding is the primary cilium, a conserved signaling organelle. The mechanisms underlying biogenesis of heterogeneous EVs shed from cilia are unclear. In the model system Caenorhabditis elegans, EVs are shed from two sites on primary cilia of select sensory neurons. Using super-resolution microscopy, we are determining the impact of specific genetic mutations on EV shedding.
The Summer Scholar will work with the model organism C. elegans. Research will involve performing genetic crosses, PCR, and super-resolution microscopy.

Email: jtanis@udel.edu

Timothy Vickery — Cognitive Neuroscience of Visual Learning and Memory

In this project, we seek to understand how people learn about the visual world when they are not even trying to do so. In the real world, a wealth of statistical information is present (e.g., toasters are most often found on kitchen counters). Some of this we learn explicitly, but much of it is learned outside of intention and awareness. We are interested in what kinds of information people learn, and what shapes what they learn, when they are not even trying to learn. Currently we focus on how other types of knowledge constrain (or do not constrain) this learning, how such constraints affect the neural underpinnings of learning (measured in humans with neuroimagin), and how to model this kind of learning using neural network modeling.
Scholars will help plan and implement behavioral studies. In the course of this they will learn some programming (Javascript or Python) and statistical analyses in R. They may also assist in completing fMRI research, and may be involved in computer modeling efforts.
Webpage: cogneurolab.org

Email: TVICKERY@UDEL.EDU

Liyun Wang — Physical Activity on Cancer Bone Metastasis

My lab studies how to maximize the benefits of exercise on cancer patients at risk of developing bone metastasis. We use mouse models, advanced imaging, and histology to examine the effects of treatments.
The summer scholars can help with the exercise component (handling animals), processing bone samples for histology, analyzing images and quantifying data. My previous summer students usually have a publishable abstract by the end of 10 week work.

Email: LYWANG@UDEL.EDU

Mary Watson — Development of Catalytic Reactions for Biomedical Applications

Efficient access to new molecules with potential biological activity is critical in the development of new medicines. This research will focus on the development of new catalytic reactions to deliver motifs important to pharmaceutical development.
This research will involve state-of-the-art techniques in organic synthesis, reaction development, and catalysis. Researchers will learn to conduct reactions under inert atmosphere, purify and characterize organic molecules, and be exposed to cutting-edge techniques in high-throughput experimentation.
Webpage: https://sites.udel.edu/mpwatson-lab/

Email: MPWATSON@UDEL.EDU

Eric Wommack — Genome to Phenome Investigations in Viruses of Microbes

Cellular microbes — bacteria, archaea, and protists — exist wherever resources necessary for cell growth are available, which is just about everywhere. Wherever we find cellular microbes we also find their viruses in abundance. These viruses of microbes are not only efficient machines for killing cellular microbes, but during infection, viruses alter their microbial host cells in fascinating ways. Indeed, without viral infection and lysis, communities of cellular microbes would grind to a halt due to a lack of genetic exchange and available growth substrates. The work of the Viral Ecology and Informatics Laboratory (VEIL) at the University of Delaware focuses on dissecting how viruses influence the inner workings of microbial communities. In particular, we use the tools of microbiology, molecular genetics, microfluidics, and bioinformatics for observing viruses within microbial communities. Our work largely focuses on direct observation within environmental or clinical samples; however, we also study viruses through laboratory cultivation.
Interns in the VEIL will join an active team of three faculty and several graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. The work of the lab is highly collaborative and interns are often exposed to a wide cross-section of microbiological laboratory techniques including cell culture, PCR and molecular cloning, microscopy, and microfluidics. In this project we will also heavily emphasize DNA and protein sequence analysis as well as biochemical investigations of DNA replication enzymes.

Email: WOMMACK@DBI.UDEL.EDU

Jennifer Gallo-Fox — TBD

TBD

Email: gallofox@udel.edu

Health Care Informatics — Mentor to be determined

This project will involve working with a multidisciplinary group of computer and data scientists to improve the health of Delawarians by accessing statewide medical claims data in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of how medical care is accessed by Delawarians and the outcomes of this care. This project is seeking scholars with a functional understanding of database and analytics, ETL tools; knowledge of database and data quality principles, practices, and theories. A working knowledge of Sql is required along with at least one of Postgres, Python, Tableau or MicroSoft PowerBI .

Esther Biswas-Fiss — Genotype-Phenotype Correlations in Age Related Macular Degeneration

Despite being the leading cause of debilitating visual impairment in individuals over the age of 65, no targeted therapy or treatments exists for atrophic (dry) Age Related Macular Degeneration MD because the drivers of the disease remain poorly defined. The complex etiological pathway of AMD is not yet fully understood, but there is a clear genetic influence on disease risk. A high proportion of rare ABCA4 variants predicted to be damaging are identified in patients diagnosed with late-stage AMD. Further studies are required to understand the functional link between ABCA4 variation and AMD are required to more clearly understand the pathophysiology of this disease and establish a genetic marker for AMD.
We have developed approaches to bridge the knowledge obtained from genetic testing with structural and biochemical consequences of variants in the ABCA4 gene in patients diagnosed with inherited retinal dystrophies. We utilize these approaches to accurately predict the functionality of variants of unknown significance and understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathophysiology of ABCA4-linked disease.
Research trainees in this laboratory will have an opportunity to explore the consequences of genetic variation in ABCA4 using a variety of in silico and in vitro approaches, including bioinformatic and recombinant DNA based tools. Correlation of our findings with relevant clinical data will allow for a better understanding of the role of ABCA4 in AMD.
Students will experience: 1) Bioinformatic analyses - in silico modeling of disease associated variants 2) Recombinant DNA techniques - creation of constructs used to express recombinant proteins harboring the AMD associated genetic variants 3)Functional analyses of variant and wild type proteins. 4)Correlate biochemical/bioinformatic data with clinical phenotypes available in the scientific literature

Email: ebiswas@udel.edu

Wilmington VA Medical Center

To Be Announced —