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Undergraduate Research Leaders (URLs)

Current URLs

The Undergraduate Research Leaders (URLs) are a group of outstanding undergraduate researchers from a variety disciplines. The URLs conduct outreach activities in conjunction with the Undergraduate Research Program and are available to share their experiences with other undergraduates.

Elise Butterfield
Major: International Studies and Dance
Minor: Spanish
Mentor: Hannah Wiley, Dance

Current research project
Dance research through embodiment with the Chamber Dance Company

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I study the political, social, and historical context of the dance works the Chamber Dance Company is presenting in order to better understand their substance and significance. I work with professors, MFA candidates in the UW dance program, and visiting dance scholars and performers. Additionally, I consult video and written documents relating to the works I am studying. The results of my research are used in rehearsals and performances, as well as documented in the form of an essay.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
To put yourself out there and find a listing on the URP website or meet with an adviser or professor who has similar interests to you. There are so many wonderful people and resources on campus that can help you get your foot in the door, allowing you to begin to pursue your passions outside of the classroom.

Contact

Cara Comfort
Major: Bioengineering, Neurobiology
Mentor: Dr. William Moody, Neurobiology

Current research project
A computational model of GABAergic cells to elucidate initiation of synchronous spontaneous activity in the developing mouse cortex.

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Brain development is a very complex process, in which billions of neurons manage to establish the correct circuitry. Due to its complexity, the mechanisms behind brain development are not fully comprehended. My current research project aims to help elucidate the mechanisms behind cortical development in the mouse model via a combination of physiology experiments and computational modeling in MatLab. In particular, I am investigating the initiation of synchronous spontaneous activity. These large-scale waves of electrical activity propagate throughout the cortex during the first week after birth and are crucial to cortical development.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
As UW is a major research institution, it is a perfect place to get involved in research, regardless of your field. If you are interested in bioengineering or neurobiology research, I recommend getting involved as soon as possible. A first step may be to research labs in the field to figure out what specific subdiscipline you wish to investigate further through research. Also it is important to consider whether you are interested in more computational or wet lab based research.

Contact

Kenji Doering
Major: Mathematics, Biophysics
Mentor: Jens Gundlach, Physics

Current research project
Nanopore DNA Sequencing: We use biological nanopore to sequence DNA strands by running current through the pores and observed different current level changes as each different nucleotide passes through the pore.

Nonlinear Optical SFG Scattering: Using the Sum Frequency Generation (SFG) of Infrared and Visible light scattering off particles in solution or reflection of surfaces, we can measure the measure the SFG wave to observe certain characteristics about the surface or particle.

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Nanopore sequencing is a way to streamline and cheapen current sequencing techniques that are used in many research fields.
SFG Scattering will help understand micromolecules at the atomic level as a means to better analyze small substances.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research by simply emailing a professor (Patrick Koelsch) whose work I found interesting and telling him that I would be interested in working along with him. The reason I wanted to do research was partially because I was interested in optical applications to biological systems, but also I wanted to know whether I was heading down a career path that was right for me.

Contact

Krittika D'Silva
Major: Bioengineering, Computer Science & Engineering
Mentor: Joan Sanders, Bioengineering

Current research project
Characterizing Phases of the Gait Cycle among Individuals with Lower Limb Amputations

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I conduct research on individuals with below-the-knee amputations. Currently, our work focuses on using force sensors within prosthetic sockets to collect data as individuals sit, stand, and walk. We are working on the development of software to categorize each phase. The motivation is to use the information while monitoring natural changes in swelling of the residual limb to ultimately develop sockets that are more robust and flexible.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I began working in my lab during the fall quarter of my freshman year. It began with a simple email to a faculty member within the Department of Bioengineering whose work I found interesting. At the time, I liked the idea of doing focused and innovative research work while contributing to the field I was studying. I definitely didn't do that immediately, but I'm working my way towards achieving that goal!

Contact

Marian Fairgrieve
Major: Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology
Mentors: Dr. Adam Luckenbach, Northwest Fisheries Science Center; Dr. Graham Young, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Current research project
Exploring Possible Roles of Gonadal Kisspeptins in the Reproductive Development of Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)

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Kisspeptins are proteins that help regulate puberty and reproductive function in many vertebrates. Currently, the study of fish kisspeptins has been restricted to the brain. I am working to determine the roles of these proteins in the gonads of immature fish as the function of gonadal kisspeptins during reproductive development is entirely unknown.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting moment in my undergrad research experience was when I got my first results of an experiment. I realized "Wow, this is a scientific first! No one on Earth knew this before now!" Discovering new things- no matter how small- is what I love about research.

Contact

Jennifer Gile
Major: Neurobiology
Mentor: Horacio de la Iglesia, Biology

Current research project
Circadian Modulation of Nueromotor Control

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My research focuses on understanding how the circadian system regulates the primary motor cortex.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Do not get discouraged if you do not get into the first lab that you apply for, just keep trying. It will pay off in the end.

Contact

Paige Haas
Major: Biology - Molecular, Cellular, Developmental
Mentor: Robert Steiner, Physiology & Biophysics

Current research project
Sexual Differentiation of Kiss1 Expression in the Mouse Brain

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Reproduction is regulated by the brain. I study the neurotransmitter kisspeptin, which is encoded by the Kiss1 gene and is required for puberty. Expression of the Kiss1 gene is sexually differentiated - females have higher levels of mRNA transcript than males. My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that explain when and how this happens.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
One of the coolest things about research is the connection you make with UW faculty. My first impression of my PI was while I was interviewing for a position in his lab. He explained that research is a unique educational experience that “levels the playing field” between professors and students, because no one knows the answer to the question being investigated. I think that concept is unique to research and something really worth experiencing. At a large university like UW, it can be hard to make connections with faculty, and undergrad research is a great way to change that.

Contact

Dory Harris
Major: Neurobiology
Minor: Quantitative Science
Mentor: Chris Hague, Pharmacology

Current research project
Characterizing the Role of the PDZ-Binding Motif of Adrenergic Receptors in vitro

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G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) are transmembrane receptors that illicits a cellular response when activated by hormones, drugs, or neurotransmitters. These receptors are vital to maintaining homeostasis. On the end of some GPCRs is a short sequence of DNA. Despite these receptors belonging to very different cells (i.e.. heart, brain, lung cells), this sequence is exactly the same. Our laboratory is studying the purpose of this sequence for possible drug targets such as beta blockers, antidepressants, and asthma medication. These new drugs could have less side effects as current drugs on the market.

What is the most exciting and/or challenging aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging part of research is learning to fail. You will fail more than you succeed when you are working on a research project and you have to learn to be okay with this fact. However, perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of research is when you do succeed. An exciting thing to think about when you consider research is that you are doing something that no one else has ever done!

Contact

Mollie Holmberg
Major: Biology (Ecology, Evolution, Conservation)
Minor: Global Health
Mentor: Luke Bergmann, Geography

Current research project
Modeling the Human Ecosystem

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My main project takes crop, forest and pasture lands and traces their products through global commodity chains to the human populations they eventually support. This work matters because it helps us understand how ecological/economic connections relate people to each other and the environment in different ways across the globe.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
After working for months to develop results, it is incredibly exciting to start finding stories within the maps my team has created and deciding how to narrate them. I love the creative space available here, even though it is by far the most challenging part of the research process for my project.

Contact

Jessica Hui
Major: Biochemistry, Neurobiology
Mentor: Dr. Albert Quintana, Biochemistry

Current research project
Cellular mechanisms of lifespan extension after mTOR blockade in a model of Leigh Syndrome

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We're investigating the mechanisms behind the effects of Rapamycin and mTOR inhibitors in genetically altered mice that are lacking an important unit of the electron transport chain in mitochondria, which causes energy defects and symptoms mimicking Leigh Syndrome. Understanding the extent and reasons behind the rescue caused by these drugs will help us gain a better understanding of the disease and how to better treat it.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved in undergraduate research when I was a sophomore, and I did so through approaching many poster presenters during the Undergraduate Research Symposium during my freshman year, and eventually being directed to a PI who almost always had spaces open for new undergraduates.

Contact

Anh Huynh
Major: Communication (Journalism), Psychology
Mentor: Dr. Anthony Greenwald, Psychology

Current research project
The Brief Implicit Association Test: not just association strengths

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The Implicit Association Test (IAT) has been used in psychological experiments to measure the strength of a person’s automatic associations between concepts. My current research uses a variation of the test called the Brief IAT (BIAT) with simplified instructions and different task structures to examine whether concepts are associated with positive or negative attitude. This research has the potential to support the development of more valid and useful IAT methods for establishing people’s unconscious attitudes toward individual objects and concepts.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Be yourself and make sure that psychology is what you're truly interested in. Keep in mind that research takes lots of time, effort, and passion, so be willing to devote all that -- and more. Also, take the initiative to explore different research opportunities and mentors to find your best fit. Last but not least, don't be afraid to ask questions or challenge concepts before and during your research. Without curiosity, there would be no research.

Contact

Ranee James
Major: Physics (Biophysics)
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Sarah Keller, Chemistry/Physics; Jay Parrish, Biology

Current research projects
Altering a membrane's lipid and sterol composition affects its temperature dependence
Characterization of a novel gene: a mutation causing progressive dendrite defects in Drosophila melanogaster

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I am currently working on two projects one in a chemistry lab, and another in a biology lab. In the chemistry lab, I study simplified versions of cell membranes. Discrete domains in these membranes are essential for various cellular functions, and our lab studies how and why these domains form. My project investigates which structural features contribute most to membrane immiscibility. My results will be interesting to biologists, chemists, and physicists who want to predict how different sterols affect membrane functionality. In the biology lab, we study how nerve cells form and maintain their shape using the fruit fly as a model organism. Defects in nerve cells are associated with neurological disorders such as Rett syndrome, Fragile-X syndrome, and Down syndrome, and in many cases the pathologies are progressive. I am identifying mutations that result in progressive defects in growth and stability with the hope that the genes affected by these mutations and the processes in which they regulate will provide new insight into human disease.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of my undergraduate research experience is when my experiments do not work correctly. The experiments we conduct as a part of the labs that we take for our science courses are constructed to work, but as I found out that's not how it usually works in research. Though this is challenging aspect it is really rewarding when I finally troubleshoot, and I am more appreciative when my experiments work the first time.

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Ross Jones
Major: Bioengineering
Mentors: Narendra Singh, Bioengineering; Henrik Sperber, Chemistry

Current research projects
Automated Quantification of Cellular Apoptosis and DNA Damage & The Effect of miRNA Secondary Structure and Drosha Expression on miRNA Biosynthesis

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I am developing analysis algorithms to automatically analyze images of cell samples with DNA radially diffused about the nucleus for levels of apoptosis, necrosis, and DNA damage. This will allow for much more rapid and less tedious analysis of such cell samples.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are processed in the nucleus by the microprocessor, comprised principally of the protein DGCR8 and the RNase Drosha. We are investigating how changes in rigidity of the structure of miRNAs between the Drosha cutting site and the hairpin loop effects processing efficiency of the miRNAs.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The people you meet in research labs are exceptional people who have a large amount of wisdom to impart onto you about anything from schoolwork to career paths to help with your project. It can also be really exciting to discuss possible projects and random ideas as well - these are always really fun and exciting, and can really lead to an exciting new direction sometimes.

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Katie Jung
Major: Business, Accounting
Mentor: Sam Yam, Foster Department of Management

Current research project
Want to Be Ethical? Just Don’t Think About It: The Effect of Thought Suppression on Ethical Decision-Making

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I mostly have focused on the effects of mental depletion (being tired, hungry, etc.) on ethical behavior.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became involved in research at the beginning of my junior year and loved it!! One of my roommates is an applied math major and another roommate is a psychology major and they are both heavily involved in research. They told me they saw postings for business research and I decided to give it a try just to expand my horizons and be exposed to different the opportunities that UW has to offer. I encourage everyone to at least consider the opportunity.

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Rylan Kautz
Major: Material Science and Engineering: Nanoscience/Molecular Engineering
Mentor: Marco Rolandi, Materials Science and Engineering

Current research project
Proton transportation: hysteresis switch device

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The primary focus of my project is to create field effect transistor devices whose current is carried by protons instead of electrons. The hope is to correlate this with living systems. As an example, nerve cells communicate this way, where proton transfer is the signaling mechanism. Future devices could be used to simulate brain function, set the groundwork in minimizing transistor computer components, or relate the proton transportation seen in our bodies to future medical device integrations.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my undergraduate research experience is applying classroom lessons to real life mechanics and usage. I am primarily involved in the device fabrication process and almost everything I have learned (chemistry, biology, physics, math, etc) as an undergraduate has come into play at some point while researching, so actually seeing your hard work pay off is nice to see. This can be very useful when you run into problems or failure, which happen a lot, and are then able to overcome them with your own skill set.

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Averi Kitsch
Major: Bioengineering
Mentor: Dr. Colin Studholme, Pediatrics & Bioengineering

Current research project
Autosegmentation of neonatal cortical brain regions for early detection of childhood neurocognitive abilities after premature birth

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Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm, and this number continues to rise with improved neonatal care and technology. The prenatal brain is rapidly growing during this time and there is evidence that premature birth is leading to adverse neurological events. I am developing an automatic approach for labeling MRI brain scans of premature infants in order to extract measures of brain development such as volume, surface area, and folding in specific regions of the brain. Labeling or segmentation provides meaningful information about brain health and allows for the possible identification of subtle disruptions in cortical growth and brain folding.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Do not worry about starting off with a small project; once you develop your skills you'll impress yourself and others with the work that you do.

Contact

Kevin Kwong
Major: Biochemistry, Public Health
Mentor: Dr. Keith Jerome, Microbiology; Dr. Nick Weber, FHCRC

Current research project
Alteration of Homing Endonuclease Recognition Site to Target Latent HBV Infection

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Basically, Homing Endonucleases (HE) are molecular scissors that target specific DNA sequences and create double stranded breaks. The sequence it targets can be altered by changing certain parts of the scissors that interact with DNA. My work involves engineering these changes so that the HE will target a specific sequence in the Hepatitis B (HBV) genome. In theory, the persistent cutting activity of these molecular scissors can disrupt the replication and viability of the virus. Success in my project could be a step towards developing a cure for a virus that, for some people that get infected, can not be cleared by the immune system and whom are then susceptible to a very high risk of developing liver cancer.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I first got involved with undergraduate research through iGem, a intercollegiate synthetic biology competition that occurs during the summer. During my freshman year, I found out that UW had a team and upon discovering the incredibly interesting research they had conducted in previous years, applied to join. I was accepted and it was a major learning experience. From iGem, I attained many of the lab skills I apply to my current research.

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Terence Leach
Major: Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology and Oceanography
Minor: Marine Biology
Mentor: Dr. Gabrielle Rocap, Oceanography; Michael Carlson

Current research project
Uncovering the Evolutionary Relationships of Pseudo-nitzschia

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In my lab, we work with a group of microscopic marine phytoplankton called diatoms. Diatoms account for 1/5 of global photosynthesis and they make up the base of many marine food chains. Specifically, my project focuses on a genus of diatoms called Pseudo-nitzschia. Pseudo-nitzschia are known for their formation of harmful algal blooms in which they produce a sometimes deadly neurotoxin called domoic acid (DA). In my project, I am attempting to find a trend or connection between DA producers on an evolutionary level by sequencing DNA sections of various species of Pseudo-nitzschia and putting them on a phylogenetic tree to find their relations to one another.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Getting into research can be both challenging and rewarding. Being a student comes first, so on top of studying and any other activities that you are already juggling with hitting the books, you will have to add research to your workload. Although this will be a challenge, especially at the beginning, over time you will find how to balance your work. Time management is a great skill to have for the future, so honing it now will benefit you immensely. Do not let the amount of work scare you off, because you will be doing research at a university, most labs will know you are also a full time student so in my experience, I have found that most labs are flexible to class schedules. School and research can also work hand-in-hand because applying the concepts you learn in class to real life will help you a lot in both your research and in class.

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Azeb Madebo
Major: Communication
Mentor: Ralina Joseph, Communication

Current research project
I’m currently researching how Habesha (Ethiopian/Eritrean) immigrants and their families negotiate racialized identities in America though the use of community spaces.

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The community spaces I will be exploring champion educational programing and social events, which feel familiar to newly immigrated patrons as well as those born in America but still identifying as Habesha – or with their respective home countries. Besides benefiting those with direct ties to Habesha communities, my findings will help Americans better understand and appreciate the fluidity and complexity of racial identities and categories. The findings from this research project will be indispensible for future research looking at how community spaces like the Ethiopian Community Center and Habesha “model minority” identities maintain, challenge, and potentially exacerbate racial discourses within the African American populations in America.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I became interested in pursuing undergraduate research after my sophomore year in Prof. Ralina Joseph’s internship class, which partnered with the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) in Seattle. I found the process of research, writing, and rediscovery to be tremendously rewarding – especially because I didn’t initially think it was possible for an undergraduate studying social sciences to become involved in research based knowledge production.

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Kevin Magnaye
Major: Biology (Cellular, Molecular & Developmental)
Mentor: Michael Bamshad, Pediatrics

Current research project
Comparing Ancestry Estimations from Y Chromosome, Mitochondrial DNA, and Autosomal Loci

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Three important tools are used to indicate an individual's ancestry are the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA. Both the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA are uni-parentally inherited, whereas autosomal DNA is bi-parentally inherited. Thus, autosomal DNA potentially contains more information regarding an individual's genetic heritage than the Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. Our lab is trying to understand how well the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA accurately predict autosomal DNA ancestry. This project brings to light an important ethical issue regarding direct-to-consumer ancestry tests. Some genealogical companies may only use mitochondrial DNA or the Y chromosome to indicate ancestry because they cost less and are more time efficient than autosomal DNA. This creates a strong ethical dilemma surrounding possibly incorrect results using these uni-parentally inherited tools. Also, this research could potentially advance personalized medicine. By accurately determining one's genetic ancestry, we could gain major insights about a specific population's susceptibility to diseases, and the efficacy of treatments and therapies.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
No matter how many problems you run into, you should continue to persevere. The trade-offs from the fantastic discoveries you could potentially make are the blood, sweat, and tears you exhaust in the process. Never give up and always try to reach success. Because no matter how long or difficult the process is, you always gain personal fulfillment.

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Jesus Martinez-Gomez
Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Mentor: Veronica Di Stilio & Kelsey Galimba, Biology

Current research project
Characterization of a Floral B-class Gene Homeotic Mutant in a Ranunclid

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I work on the genes which produce the organs of a flower. These genes are known to work together in different combinations; each combination produces a different organ of a flower. Since these genes are very important for the development of the different organs, they are highly conserved throughout flowering plants. For example, most of the genes involved in petal formation in tulips are the same ones involved in petal formation in tomatoes. Even though tulips and tomato are very distantly related, these genes work in a very similar fashion in both species. That being said, they don't function in exactly the same way, so it is interesting to study in what ways they interact differently and how this leads to all the different flower diversity that exists.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
For those of you who are considering a career in research/medicine, it is a fantastic opportunity to start now and establish a foundation by learning basic methodology and about current topics in research today.

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Alex Montano
Major: Public Health (B.S.)
Mentor: Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, Medicine/Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Current research project
Phenotypic Characterization of Patient-Derived HIV-2 Protease: Implications for Drug Resistance Testing and Salvage Therapy

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It is estimated that there are about 30-35 million cases of HIV worldwide and of those, only about 1-2 million of those are HIV-2. HIV-2 is endemic in West Africa and the lab I work in has a cohort of patients that we work with in Senegal, Africa. Compared to HIV-1, HIV-2 is categorized by a lower transmission rate between people, a slower decline to AIDs, and a lower risk of death. The project I have been working on involves looking at patients who are failing a class of drugs called protease inhibitors. Using patient blood samples from Senegal, I have been looking at the DNA sequences of the protease encoding region for these patients and looking for mutations that may confer drug resistance. Drug resistance is essentially when a drug loses its effectiveness for the patient taking it and therefore the patient begins to show clinical signs of HIV again. We have classified the mutations that we believe are causing this drug resistance and now we are working on a project to understand how a combination of these mutations together are affecting the effectiveness of other protease inhibitor drugs.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Undergraduate research has taken me so much further than I ever could have imagined and has absolutely shaped my undergraduate career. Participating in HIV-2 research has allowed me to gain a more informed understanding of HIV and to look at various aspects of treatment, policy, and patient care in a global setting through our cohort work in Senegal, Africa. I have had the opportunity to produce abstracts and posters, present at professional conferences, and to be published as a coauthor on a paper, which have taught me skills in public speaking and professionalism. In addition, I have been able to work closely with faculty and build strong academic connections outside of the classroom. I am challenged to look at our data differently, to be more analytical, and think about problems and potential solutions on my own. Research is never entirely easy but the outcomes and skills gained are always rewarding and worth the effort.

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Rosie Morrow-Okon
Major: International Studies, Human Rights Track
Minor: Global Health
Mentors: Denis Basic & Maria-Elena Garcia, Jackson School of International Studies
                 Matt Sparke, International Studies/Geography; Celia Lowe, Anthropology; and Luke Bergmann, Geography

Current research project
Enhancing Human Rights in Israeli-Palestinian Relations through an International Studies Framework

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Evaluation of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict by analysis through a historical framework, centered on the events and ideologies of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the early 1990's, provides a template for enhancing human rights efforts in the present-day Middle Eastern crisis. Comparison of this conflict against a successful internal political shift to promote peace presents the foundation for research in which the synergistic combination of knowledge gained through human rights coursework applies to a current humanitarian dilemma.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Ask questions, and follow up on questions you have in class! When you find a puzzle or a historical event that doesn't make sense or captures your curiosity, go to office hours, explore library books on the topic, write practice thesis statements, and above all don't let your pursuit of answers or explanations stop inside the classroom.

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Anisa Noorassa
Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Minor: History
Mentor: Jennifer Nemhauser, Biology

Current research project
Auxin: A Study in Yeast

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I am studying the interactions between receptor and repressor proteins in the Arabidopsis auxin signal transduction pathway. I am using a yeast-two hybrid assay to determine the binding strength between different repressor-receptor pairs. There are many different auxin repressor and receptor proteins in Arabidopsis and this diversity seems to allow for a variety of auxin mediated responses. This information will help us understand and explain the diversity in auxin repressors and receptors.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research has initiated me into the world of science and helped me to being my career as a biologist. My first few weeks in the lab were a dizzying flurry of techniques and experiments, few of which I could fully grasp. I was very dependent on my mentor and fellow lab members to guide my actions and piece together how each individual procedure related to our project as a whole. It came as a shock, weeks later, when I realized I could explain my experiments to the new lab technician, and plan my own days’ worth of research without extensive instructions. Research pulls together the strands of my academic education and my career aspirations and weaves them into tangible accomplishments and experiences I will carry forward with me as I finish my undergraduate degree, apply graduate school, and hopefully continue my education.

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Chinonso Opara
Major: Biochemistry
Mentor: William Atkins, Medicinal Chemistry

Current research project
Quantification of quantum dots in solution using surface plasmon resonance and analytical ultracentrifugation

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Quantum dots are nanoparticles made of semiconductor metals modified with surface ligands. Because quantum dots are currently being developed for biomedical applications, such as drug delivery and cellular imaging, it is vital to accurately and readily determine their concentration in solution. My project comes up with a way to do just that.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most rewarding aspect of my undergraduate experience is the freedom to be creative and propose answers to questions nobody has asked before.

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Harlan Pietz
Major: Biochemistry, Microbiology
Mentor: Keith Jerome, FHCRC

Current research project
Delivering DNA Cutting Enzymes for Targeted Provirus Mutagenesis in HIV Therapy

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Thirty-four million people worldwide currently live with HIV-1. Despite the availability of highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) which may prolong the lifespan of HIV patients, HAART does not target the latent viral reservoir in infected cells, enabling viral rebound in the absence of treatment. Introducing genetically-engineered DNA cutting enzymes (endonucleases) into HIV-infected cells may disrupt the integrated provirus. The site-specific DNA cutting activity of these endonucleases operating in conjunction with cellular error-prone DNA repair mechanisms may result in sustained damage to the integrated viral genome and prevent the virus from replicating. My research aims to develop a system using adeno-associated viruses (AAV) as vectors for delivering DNA cutting enzymes to HIV infected cells.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Working with and learning from an extremely talented group of professionals, from grad students to staff scientists -- people who I hope to emulate later in my career. Also, the process of making genetically-engineered viruses is very tedious but extremely rewarding when it works!

Contact

Margaux Pinney
Major: Chemistry, Biochemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Trisha Davis, Biochemistry; Jim Mayer, Chemistry

Current research project
Reversibility of Compound I Formation with Hydrogen Peroxide by Horseradish Peroxidase

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The goal of this project is to probe the potential reversibility of Compound I formation, a step traditionally thought to be irreversible. If this reaction proves to be reversible, this knowledge could then be used to describe cytochrome P450s. This research would be immensely important to pharmaceutical and toxicological research, as well as synthetic processes.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of research is getting used to being wrong or having your experiments fail, which is very common. Research in the lab is extremely different from lab courses, where everything is planned to work (if done correctly) and has been done before. Research requires a certain amount of grit to get through these times and focus on positive and exciting results. Getting used this aspect of research can be difficult, but is ultimately very rewarding.

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Sam Pizelo
Major: English Literature
Mentor: Eva Cherniavsky, English

Current research project
Corporeal Hauntings: Representations of HIV in South African Literature

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I'm looking into South African literature during the AIDS epidemic to understand how HIV is represented, or even repressed, and how Gothic themes might help us understand the human body when it is 'haunted' by outside species.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I entered UW as a transfer student my Junior year, and wanted to distinguish myself. I had questions without answers, and I wanted a challenge.

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Anthony Recidoro
Major: Biochemistry
Minors: Chemistry, Naval Science
Mentor: Ronald Y. Kwon, Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

Current research project
Neuronal Regulation of Regenerative Bone Growth in the Zebrafish Fin

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It has long been known that following amputation, certain vertebrates such as urodele amphibians and teleost fish possess a remarkable capacity to regenerate lost appendages. Danio rerio, or zebrafish, are one such organism, and have recently emerged as a powerful model for understanding the mechanisms mediating regenerative processes. Following fin amputation, zebrafish restore lost bones, nerves, blood vessels, and skin. In salamanders, limb regeneration has long been known to be nerve-dependent, though this process is believed to be independent of nerve conductance via the central nervous system. In contrast, in mammals, a growing body of evidence suggests that efferent nerve signals from the central nervous system regulates bone cell activity. My research project focuses on the role of nerves and neurotransmission in regulating regeneration and bone cell activity in the zebrafish tail fin.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Understand that you bring something new to the table. While you may have no experience in the research you get involved with, do not be afraid to ask questions and to give suggestions. Your perspective could be the last little spark needed to help your lab in making a novel discovery.

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Rachel Rosenzweig
Major: Materials Science and Engineering
Minor: Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering
Mentor: Marco Rolandi & Pegah Hassanzadeh, Materials Science and Engineering

Current research project
Investigating the microstructures and mechanical properties of chitin towards biomedical applications

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Our group is looking at biomaterials, specifically chitin, and how they can be incorporated into Materials Science and Engineering research. Since biologically materials are compatible with the human body and exhibit superior mechanical properties than most materials, they are especially vital in applications such as composites and biomedical devices.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in the beginning of my sophomore year by contacting a Professor I was interested in doing research with after seeing him present at my Intro MSE seminar class. After speaking with him about my research interests, he referred me to my current Research Mentor whose research he thought matched with my interest! I got involved in research to get a feel of what was being done in my field outside of my classes and to get hands on research experience.

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Ellie Stillwell
Major: Psychology
Minor: Philosophy
Mentor: Sapna Cheryan, Psychology

Current research project
How stereotypical work environments affect hiring decisions

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Our research studies stereotypes and how they can affect feelings of belonging to a group. One main focus of our lab is to investigate how stereotypes of computer science can discourage women from entering the field.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I've had a lot of unique opportunities to present my lab's research. One of my favorite occasions was when the lab presented at the PAWS-On Science Husky Weekend at the Pacific Science Center. It's an annual event where families from the Seattle area come and walk around the Science Center to explore all the research being done at the UW. Our lab attended and I had the chance to talk about some of our research on stereotypical environments with kids and families of all ages. That was really rewarding and a lot of fun!

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Mathew Summers
Majors: Neurobiology, Biochemistry
Mentor: Peter Ward, Biology

Current research project
Effects of Hydrogen Sulfide on Plant Growth

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Our work has the potential to develop a cheap and effective method of increasing commercial crop yields that would reduce the need for energy intensive, eutrophication-prone fertilizer production.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
I would advise "researching your research" by identifying local researchers in your area of interest, and then reading (or attempting to read) published scientific articles from that lab or professor. If you decide to contact a professor, mention these articles. Be honest and upfront about which parts you found interesting, and which you didn't quite understand.

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Talia Suner
Major: Biochemistry, Neurobiology
Minor: Mathematics, Chemistry
Mentor: Charles Chavkin, Pharmacology

Current research project
Investigation of the k-Opioid Receptor Cascade

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After treating cells with various agonists or antagonists of the k-opioid receptor, we isolate the cytoplasm of the cells and use Western blots to detect and quantify the presence of various proteins. In this way, we can characterize the protein cascade activated by the k-opioid receptor by isolating the cytoplasm at different time points and by using different agonists/antagonists.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Get involved early. This will give you the chance to change your mind if you realize that the research you are doing isn't tailored to your interests. If it turns out that you love the first lab you join, then you have the opportunity to work there for as long as possible.

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Nancy Thomas
Majors: Physics, Astronomy
Mentor: Joshua Bandfield, Earth & Space Sciences

Current research projects
(1) Aqueous Compositions and Surface Morphologies on Mars
(2) Kepler Transiting Exoplanets

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(1) Researching and mapping water-related minerals on Mars to determine where water could have existed in its past.
(2) Analyzing Kepler Spacecraft data to discover new exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I first became involved with research through the Washington NASA Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) during the summer before my freshman year. I wanted to find a way to transition into college life while exploring major options - research seemed like the perfect way!

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Alex Vaschillo
Major: Mathematics, Chemistry
Mentor: David Masiello, Chemistry

More info coming soon!

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Wenbi Wu
Major: Biochemistry, Chemistry
Mentor: David Ginger & Adam Colbert, Chemistry

Current research project
The Impact of Quantum Dot Surface Ligands on the Operation of Hybrid Polymer/Quantum Dot Solar Cells

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Solar technology is a potential source to help meet the growing demand for clean, renewable energy. We are currently trying to improve the efficiency of hybrid polymer/quantum dot solar cells by studying how the different ligands on the quantum dots influence the system.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Science research could sometimes be very frustrating and unexpected things happen all the time; however, do not give up and keep trying. When you get to the end, outcomes can be very exciting and every failure will be worthy.

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