Mentor Search Summer 2022 Projects

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

Austin J Brockmeier — Brain Image Analysis for Computer Aided Diagnosis of Cortical Malformations using AI, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, and Graph Signal Processing

The goal of this project is to begin the development (formulation, implementation, and initial testing) of a machine learning/computer vision algorithm to identify patterns in brain images indicative of neuropathology, specifically cortical malformations that may cause seizures. This will involve a statistical and computational approaches that could involve a combination of methods for computer vision, signal processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
The scholar will learn how to load and view neuroimages using programming interfaces (coding in MATLAB or python programming languages). The scholar will learn how to apply pattern recognition, machine learning, and classification methods to images. How to implement these and test the preliminary results. The scholar will learn about neuropathology.
Webpage: https://www.eecis.udel.edu/~ajbrock/

Email: ajbrock@udel.edu

Laura Lessard — Science Communication

The summer scholar will interview 2-3 students per week, and write communication pieces for each one. Written material will be reviewed by the mentor and used as marketing pieces for DE-INBRE.

Email: llessard@udel.edu

Jason Gleghorn — Investigating problems in maternal-fetal health and preterm birth

The Gleghorn Lab is an interdisciplinary research group that is focused on the lung, placenta, and lymph node to treat congenital birth defects, conditions associated with preterm birth, and maternal-fetal health complications. 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. 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.
Students will learn how to critically read the literature, design and perform experiments, analyze data, and present their work.
Webpage: https://www.gleghornlab.com/

Jeremy Crenshaw — Fall Prevention in a VA Outpatient Clinic

The goal of this project is to assess current fall-risk assessments being implemented in the Kent County VA Outpatient Clinic, identifying opportunities and barriers to implementing established VA fall-prevention toolkits and innovative interventions to improve reactive balance. The summer scholar will work with their academic mentor and VA collaborators to document current practice, review existing VA tools for fall prevention, identify gaps in those toolkits--particularly in the area of reactive balance, and begin to identify and plan new initiatives to improve fall prevention practice in the clinic.
The summer scholar will work with their academic mentor and VA collaborators to document current practice, review existing VA tools for fall prevention, identify gaps in those toolkits--particularly in the area of reactive balance, and begin to identify and plan new initiatives to improve fall prevention practice in the clinic.

Email: CRENSHAW@UDEL.EDU

Laurie Ruggiero — Community and Technology-based Health Promotion Projects

The overall project is focused on the development, implementation, and evaluation of technology-based and/or community-based health promotion interventions, such as an educational exergame tailored for older adults.
Summer scholars will have the opportunity to participate in research activities focused on tailoring, delivery, and evaluation of health promotion initiatives. For example, they may have the opportunity to work on a project focused on tailoring an educational exergame for older adults in senior centers. They will also have the opportunities to be involved in conducting literature reviews, data management, and community based implementation.

Email: RUGGIERO@UDEL.EDU

Joseph Fox — Bioorthogonal Methods for Peptide Hybrid Materials

The UD CHARM seeks to create nanostructured biomaterials by linking peptide-based nanorods to geometrical hubs. Fast bioorthogonal chemistry is needed to achieve the goals. The researcher will synthesize the organic building block containing bioorthogonal tetrazines, and in collaboration with UD CHARM researchers will use them as the 'glue' to assemble the materials.
Scholar will learn how to synthesis, purify and characterize organic compounds that will be subsequently used to link peptides to metal organic cage molecules. Time permitting, the scholar will use the synthesized compounds to create nanostructured peptide materials.

Email: JMFOX@UDEL.EDU