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Undergraduate Research Program

2010-11 Cohort

Ann Bauer - Earth and Space Sciences, French and Italian Studies

Mentor: Bruce Nelson, Earth & Space Sciences

Where are they now?
Anne is pursuing a graduate degree in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Department at MIT.

UW research projects
1. High-Precision Pb Isotope Data from Crustal Xenoliths to Examine Magma Source and Crustal Interaction, Bezymianny Volcano, Russia
2. Using Cosmic Ray-Produced Isotopes to Determine the Glacial History of Antarctic Bedrock Surfaces

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
1. Not much is understood about the subsurface interaction of magma and the crust that it comes into contact with. In many cases, the crust gets incorporated into the magma and changes its isotopic signatures. In this study, I use high-precision Pb isotope and mineral composition data to compare the signatures of pieces of crust (in this case, xenoliths, or foreign material) entrained in magma as it rises to the surface and erupts and the magma that is hosting it. My preliminary conclusions confirm that little to no sediment is incorporated in the magma by subduction into its mantle source and also help characterize the composition of subsurface rocks in the area of Kamchatka, Russia.

2. The expansion and retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet has a major impact on global sea level. It is difficult to model the extent of the ice sheet prior to the most recent glaciation, but cosmic ray-produced isotopes in bedrock can be used to place limits on the extent of the ice sheet during past glaciations. Cosmic rays interact with the minerals in bedrock to produce unstable radioactive isotopes. We measure the relative concentrations of two radioisotopes, aluminum-26 and beryllium-10, both of which are produced in quartz when exposed to cosmic rays. These isotopes increase in concentration when rock surfaces are exposed during interglacial periods, and decay at different rates when bedrock surfaces are shielded by ice during times of glacial cover. The ratio of these two isotopes is therefore sensitive to the length of exposure and burial of the bedrock. For this project, bedrock samples were collected on elevation transects off of Scott Glacier and Reedy Glacier in the Transantarctic Mountains. Our data thus far demonstrate that the sampled surfaces have recorded cosmic ray exposure prior to the most recent glaciation and that the bedrock has had more exposure time at higher elevations than at lower elevations.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Don’t be shy! I was, and I regret it– I wish that I had gotten involved in research much earlier in my undergraduate career. You don’t need to have taken all of the classes in your major before you will be equipped to engage in research. The only thing you need is enthusiasm! If you work hard and are truly engaged in the subject, your mentors will both recognize and appreciate that.

Ellie Casey - Microbiology, Spanish & Portuguese Studies

Mentor: James Mullins, Microbiology

Where are they now?
Ellie is currently working as a Research Scientist in the Mullins Lab where she did her undergraduate research.

UW research project
Genetic Impact of Vaccination on Breakthrough HIV-1 Sequences from the Step Trial

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Even though the vaccine didn’t protect against infection, if we can establish the mechanism by which if affected the incoming HIV, this information could be used in the design of future HIV vaccines that will hopefully be more effective in blocking transmission of the virus.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Research is somewhat synonymous with frustration. It is not uncommon to work for weeks on an experiment only to have it fail. And then you have to try it again. In fact, I think not getting frustrated is probably one of the most challenging things in research. Developing a patience and an understanding that things take time (almost always more time than initially expected) is important so that you can keep moving forward with your work.

Michael Choi - Chemistry, Biochemistry

Minor: Mathematics
Mentor: Hannele Rouhola-Baker, Biochemistry and the Institute of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

UW research project
The Metabolism of Embryonic Stem Cells

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Embryonic stem cells are cells found in the developing embryo that are capable of forming all of the various tissues and cell types found in the body. Using human and mouse embryonic stem cells, I am researching how these cells obtain and utilize their energy sources. Previously, I have characterized how the metabolism of embryonic stem cells changes during development, and currently I am investigating the biochemical basis that drives these changes. With this research, I hope to further expand the knowledge that scientists have about embryonic stem cells in order to better utilize them for therapeutic and regenerative purposes.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
There is a ton of research going on at the University of Washington in all fields, not only in the sciences. I would advise any student considering undergraduate research to get involved because there is definitely a research project on campus that they will find interesting.

Benjamin Dulken - Bioengineering

Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Suzie Pun, Bioengineering

UW research project
Micelles Formed from Triblock Copolymers Used as Delivery Vehicles for Chemotherapeutic Drugs

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Chemotherapeutic drugs are very harmful to humans. They are extremely toxic and cause a great deal of suffering. By enclosing these toxic molecules inside of nanoparticles we can hopefully minimize the harmful effects on the normal body tissues, while still providing powerful tumor suppression.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I originally got involved in undergraduate research after working as a lab tech for a lab in the Department of Pathology. I made media and cleaned glassware for about 6 months, and I was subsequently offered an undergraduate research position in the lab. Needless to say, I found a passion for the research and have been able to carry that passion into my more recent research endeavors.

Byron Gray - Political Science, Law, Societies, and Justice, Asian Studies (South Asia)

Minor: South Asian Languages
Mentor: Sunila Kale

Where are they now?
Byron is currently finishing his multiple tracks of study at UW and preparing for graduate school.

He has recently received two very prestigious scholarships, the Rhodes Scholarship and the Beinecke Scholarship. The Rhodes Scholarship will take him to the University of Oxford in fall 2012.

UW research project
Currently I am engaged in research which examines the politics of personal law in post-colonial India. This project examines how different groups conceptualize and frame the law, and how these interpretations inform the political changes the legal system undergoes.

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My current research tries to understand how different groups in India interpret family law and how these interpretations affect struggles over changes to the legal system. At a basic level, this project is an attempt to explore the relationship between law and politics.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
For a student interested in getting involved with research in the social sciences my first suggestion would be to simply explore a variety of undergraduate classes and get a sense of the topics or issues which you find interesting. As you get a sense of things you might be interested in, take courses which place emphasis on a longer term paper or research project; often you will be able to explore a topic you are interested in but still have the support of an instructor. If you strike upon something promising you might then consider expanding it through an independent study and applying for funding for the work you are doing. Research is most rewarding when you have developed a personal investment or stake in what you are doing.

Albert Han - Psychology

Mentor: Jonathan Brown, Psychology

Where are they now?
Albert is pursuing a PhD in Organizational Psychology at the University of Southern California.

UW research project
Power Increases Pressure to Demonstrate Fairness

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
Those in power might be hypersensitive to threats to their ability to be seen as fair. They may experience distress in situations that might cause others to perceive them as being unfair. Accordingly, they may adjust their behavior to demonstrate fairness, even if that adjustment would not be the best choice. For example, a Black manager in a predominately white company may experience distress if one of his black subordinates asks him for extra help due to the possibility of his other subordinates (who are mostly white) perceiving favoritism.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
Doing research nurtures your critical thinking skills. It gives you the ability to analyze and interpret information. Doing research teaches you how to think.

Maggie Hellis - Near Eastern Studies, Comparative History of Ideas

Mentor: Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, History

Brandon Ing - Biochemistry

Minor: Music
Mentor: Marshall Horwitz, UW Medicine, Pathology

Where are they now?
Brandon is working as a Middle School Math teacher in Hawaii through the Teach for America Program

UW research project
Understanding the Genetic Basis of Hodgkin Lymphoma Pathogenesis

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my undergraduate research experience is collaborating with other professionals who know the science behind your research. When you engage in undergraduate research, most of the time you are working directly next to someone who has gone through graduate school and is filled with life-stories to tell. At my own bench, I am surrounded by a graduate student, a research scientist, and an MD/PhD Junior Faculty member. They have their own stories to tell but it’s also very encouraging to be surrounded by people who have gone through what you are going through and to see where that hard work will get you.

It is also very rewarding when you see the results of the experiment you have been working at for countless weeks on end. When you see the results, whether they support or refute your hypothesis, you feel a sense of accomplishment; a sense of success knowing that you aided in the work of something that is important and life-changing. Of course we all experience a sense of success when we do well in a class, but when you’ve finished an experiment, you get a feeling of high accomplishment knowing that you’ve aided in the understanding in this small area which may have a larger impact on others in the end.

Joy Kim - Computer Science

Mentor: Eve Riskin, Electrical Engineering

Where are they now?
Joy is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science & Engineering at Stanford University.

UW research project
MobileASL

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
To communicate while mobile, Deaf people usually just use English text and text messaging or email. The problem is, many Deaf people don’t use English as their first language and sign language is much more comfortable and natural to communicate in. Therefore, through MobileASL, we want to make it possible for Deaf people to communicate in sign language, much like hearing people are able to communicate by voice on regular cell phones. Cell phones aren’t that powerful, and video is complicated to process and transmit over a network, so these are two major problems that we have to deal with while developing MobileASL.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
I really like that the project I’m involved in is addressing very current and real technology issues in the Deaf community. Just last summer, I was able to assist in running a field study where we gave 11 Deaf high school and college students MobileASL phones to observe how they used it. I was able to speak with them about the situations in which they found MobileASL useful (such as calling each other for bus directions or finding each other when lost downtown) and hear from them directly that they thought MobileASL was totally awesome. That was really rewarding.

Vivian Lee - Biochemistry

Minor: Chemistry
Mentor: Anne Manicone, Medicine

Where are they now?
Vivian is now working for UW Medicine Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine / Department of Pediatrics as a Research Scientist I at the South Lake Union campus. Her projects involve generating primary cell culture for Cystic Fibrosis Core projects and studying the way in which lung and tracheal epithelial cells respond to nanoparticles.

UW research project
Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine project on understanding the mechanism by which leukocyte recruitment to the lung is regulated

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
We are studying the way in which white blood cells are recruited and activated in our lungs during injury to fight pathogens.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging aspect of undergraduate research for me has been the fear of making mistakes. It can be scary to make mistakes because many people invest their time and grant money into the projects. However I try to learn from my mistakes and never make the same mistake twice. It also helps to have friendly lab members always ready to answer your questions!

Kate Mead - Bioengineering

Minor: Philosophy
Mentor: Tom Matula, Applied Physics Lab

Where are they now?
Kate is currently pursuing a degree in Law at the University of Washington.

UW research project
Designing a pulsed, low intensity ultrasound bath to boost the growth rates of E. coli

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I am trying to create a machine that will “massage” tiny bacteria cells with sound, with the hope that they will grow faster than normal. Many common pharmaceuticals that we use on a daily basis are actually made by bacteria. If I can make bacteria grow faster, then we could potentially make drugs faster, and therefore, cheaper.

What is the most exciting and/or rewarding aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most exciting aspect of my research experience is the pressure to teach myself a variety of interesting skills that I could not develop in the classroom. Right now, I am working on the design of an electrical circuit. Before I started this project, I did not have much experience with circuit design, but I have been forced to teach myself and to navigate the electrical engineering literature so that I can design a circuit that can reliably do what I need it to do. My research projects have taught me how to be independent and pro-active with my education.

Mariam Shehata – Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology

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Mentor: Mei Wu, Oncology

Where are they now?
Mariam is currently working as a Family Services Coordinator at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

UW research project
Identification of Tumor Antigens Associated with Breast Cancer

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My work is aimed at identifying protein markers that are associated with the occurrence of breast cancer and can be used in the future for diagnosis as well as treatment.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research in your field?
Don’t think that you are not qualified to do research or that others maybe more qualified than you are. Undergraduate research is an exciting experience that everyone should consider.

Scott Swan - Biology

Minors: Earth and Space Sciences, Paleobiology
Mentor: Greg Wilson, Biology

UW research project
The Earliest North American Marsupial Ancestor from the Wayan Formation of Southeastern Idaho

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I am doing work on a recently discovered marsupial ancestor from Idaho. This specimen is remarkable due to the fact that it sets back the first incident of marsupial in North America to about 100 million years ago. This research will allow us to study the migration of mammals and marsupials through time. My project includes scoring the tooth (examining the characteristics) and comparing it to other marsupials in the same time period.

What is the most challenging and/or sometimes frustrating aspect of your undergraduate research experience?
The most challenging/frustrating aspect of my research is going through the writing process.