Undergraduate Research Program

Levinson Scholars

2021-22

 

Varun in lab

Varun Sridhar, 2020-21 Levinson Scholar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren D'Amico - Public Health (Global Health)

Lauren standing outside smilingLauren D’Amico is a Junior majoring in Public Health- Global Health in the Bachelor of Science program. She Joined the Moussavi-Harami lab three years ago researching Hypertrophic (HCM) and Dilated (DCM) Cardiomyopathies. Her work focuses on using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to induce mutations in the sarcomeres of human induced pluripotent stem cells that are believed to lead to downstream pathologies similar to those with HCM and DCM. Lauren is also currently a Mary Gates scholar and has been an intern at the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute performing research for two consecutive summers. Outside of research, Lauren is a member of the club soccer team at the University of Washington as well as a Neuroscience club mentor and an Educational research Intern at Student Impact. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Lauren intends to pursue a career as a physician scientist. She is extremely grateful for her mentors Dr. Fardi Moussavi-Harami and Abby Nagle for their support in helping her learn more about performing research and being a scientist as well as assisting her with her future planning and goals. She would also like to thank Dr. Daniel Bernstein for supporting her in her first lab experience and helping her with becoming integrated into the scientific community. Lauren also deeply thanks Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their generosity and support of her project and academics.

Mentors:

Farid Moussavi-Harami, Cardiology

Project Title:

A hiPSCs Model of Cardiomyopathies

Eric Gery - Bioengineering (Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering)

Eric is a senior majoring in bioengineering with a focus on nanoscience and molecular engineering at the University of Washington. His interests in stem cell biology, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine led him to join the Murry Lab at the end of his freshman year. He is currently researching the role of stress granules in cardiomyocyte function. During and after myocardial infarction, the heart is in a state of stress, experiencing both hypoxic and metabolic stress. How the contractile cells of the heart respond and adapt to this stress and how this pathway can be manipulated to enhance recovery are important questions that remain to be answered, and these are the central focuses of Eric’s research. He is grateful for the guidance and support of his mentors Dr. Aidan Fenix and Dr. Charles Murry, and he would like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their generous support.

Mentor:

Aidan Fenix, Laboratory Medicine & Pathology; Charles Murry, Laboratory Medicine & Pathology

Project Title:

Testing the Role of Stress Granules in Cardiomyocyte Function

Annabelle Huang - Biology (Physiology); Philosophy

Annabelle Huang is a senior at the University of Washington studying Physiology and Philosophy. She joined the Kiem lab in her junior year and is researching gene therapy-based treatments for Fanconi anemia, a serious and devastating genetic blood disorder caused by mutation in the FANC genes of the FA/BRCA pathway, which is responsible for the regulation of DNA interstrand crosslink repair. It is characterized by eventual bone marrow failure and a greatly increased risk for malignant cancers such as acute myeloid leukemia. Annabelle is developing viral vectors that confer a selective protective advantage to treat Fanconi anemia, testing validity of the treatment using human stem cell and mouse models. This research is crucial in the creation of a clinically viable blood stem cell-based therapy for Fanconi anemia that concurrently protects patients from the high risk of secondary malignancies that are so prevalent. After her undergraduate education, Annabelle plans on pursuing an MD with a career in clinical, translational research, and bioethics. Annabelle is honored to be a Levinson Emerging Scholar and is grateful for the generosity of Dr. Art and Mrs. Rita Levinson. She would also like to thank her mentors Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem and Dr. Olivier Humbert for their continued support.

Mentors:

Hans-Peter Kiem, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine Oncology and Pathology; Olivier Humbert, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Project Title:

Lentiviral and Adenoviral Vector Gene Therapy Treatments for Fanconi Anemia

Alia Johnson - Molecular, Developmental, and Cellular Biology

Alia is a senior studying Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. She joined the Promislow in her junior year, investigating the effects of Alzheimer’s proteins in the metabolome and transcriptome by extracting the brains of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). Her current project aims to determine the effects of the aging drug rapamycin on the development of Drosophila larvae. This project hopes to identify the specific genes within the flies that leads to differing rapamycin response when applied to different Drosophila strains. Alia plans on continuing research with a PhD in pharmacology, and aspires to work in the field of pharmaco-genetics, studying the effects of drugs on different genotypes. Aside from research, Alia tutors in chemistry and math, and enjoys reading, watching horror movies, and playing volleyball for the UW club team in her free time. She would like to thank her mentors, Dr. Daniel Promislow and Ben Harrison, for their continuous support and guidance, and Dr. and Ms. Levinson for their generosity in supporting the researchers of UW.

Mentors:

Daniel Promislow, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology; Ben Harrison, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Project Title:

How Drugs Produce Different Effects in Individuals: A Fly Model

Chase King - Computer Science, Applied; Computational Mathematical Sciences

Chase is a senior studying Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, and Neural Computation & Engineering at the University of Washington. He is also pursuing Departmental Honors in Computer Science. In the past, he has worked at Beewriter, an artificial intelligence startup providing a web-based writing assistant. Here, he built out backend infrastructure, revamped the website, and researched and designed novel natural language processing models to catch mistakes and provide suggestions to writing in various languages. This past summer, Chase was a research intern at the Allen Institute for Brain Sciences, working in the MindScope Program alongside Dr. Saskia de Vries. His work leveraged the Allen Brain Observatory Visual Coding datasets and corresponding eye tracking traces to better understand saccadic eye movements made by mice and their influence on visual cortical brain activity. Chase’s present research is a continuation of this project: specifically, he seeks to investigate neural activity during saccades in an effort to gain a better understanding of the roles these eye movements play in visual processing, and how the brain uses this visual information to create perceptions and guide behavior. After graduation, Chase plans to obtain a Ph.D. in computer science, focusing broadly on computational neuroscience and how the circuitry of the brain can be applied to advancing artificial intelligence models. Outside of classes and research, Chase is an avid adventurer, balancing his academic life with hiking, road cycling, and camping in the mountains. Chase would like to thank his mentors, family, and friends for their unwavering support and guidance; he is also immensely grateful for Art and Rita Levinson for their generous funding of this project and their commitment to giving back to young aspiring scientific leaders.

Mentors:

Saskia de Vries, Physiology and Biophysics; Adrienne Fairhall, Physiology and Biophysics

Project Title:

Investigating Saccadic Eye Movements in Mice and Their Underlying Visual Cortical Activity

Kaushik Komandur - Microbiology, Public Health (Global Health)

Kaushik is a Senior at the UW pursuing a double major in Microbiology and Public Health-Global Health. During Spring Quarter of his Freshman year, he joined the Dichek Lab to work on a project that uses animal models to develop gene therapy for atherosclerosis. His current focus is on viral vector-mediated therapies that express ApoAI in blood vessels. ApoAI is a protein that removes cholesterol from blood vessels and also has anti-inflammatory effects. So far, he has analyzed rabbit vein grafts for evidence of reduced atherosclerosis after administration of ApoAI gene therapy. In his upcoming project, he will track vector-derived ApoAI in various rabbit tissues to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which it reduces atherosclerosis. Kaushik would like to thank Dr. Dichek and members of the Dichek Lab for the substantial support and mentorship they have provided him. He would also like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their commitment to supporting undergraduates who are passionate about research.

Mentor:

David A. Dichek, Cardiology

Project Title:

Tracking the GFP-ApoAI Protein to Study ApoAI Atheroprotection

Rachel Shi - Bioengineering (Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering)

Rachel is a senior studying Bioengineering (Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering) at the University of Washington. She joined the Buddy Ratner Biomaterials Group in Fall of 2020 and also works with the Center for Dialysis Innovation. Her research focuses on the development of polymeric membranes for nanofiltration of toxins in hemodialysis. She hopes for these membranes to be incorporated into portable dialysis devices to make the system more energy-efficient and promote filtration. After graduation, Rachel hopes to obtain a Master’s in Bioengineering before pursuing medical school and working as a physician-scientist. She is incredibly thankful for the guidance of her mentors Dr. Buddy Ratner and Runbang Tang as well as Art and Rita Levinson’s generosity in supporting her undergraduate research.

Mentors:

Buddy Ratner, Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering; Runbang Tang, Molecular Engineering

Project Title:

Urea-Permeable Polymeric Membrane for Selective Nanofiltration in Hemodialysis

Jamison Siebart -Bioengineering (Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering)

Jamison is a senior at the University of Washington studying Bioengineering (Nanoscience and Molecular Engineering) and minoring in Applied Mathematics. He joined Andre Berndts’ lab at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine in the winter quarter of his freshman year and has been working there ever since. In the Berndt Lab, Jamison has been working on the development of a high-throughput biosensor engineering platform that can be used to decrease the timeline that is associated with the generation of new protein-based biosensors. Specifically, he is interested in using this novel platform to develop a genetically encoded fluorescent indicator for the mu-opioid receptor, which is the most targeted receptor for pain management through opioid treatment. The ability to monitor the activation of the mu-opioid receptor in vivo has the potential to lead to a new understanding of the biochemistry and neural circuits associated with opioid addiction. Jamison is very passionate about the applications his research will have in the battle against opioid addiction and plans to continue his academic career in graduate school and obtain a PhD in Biomedical Engineering. He is grateful for the continued support and guidance from his mentors Andre Berndt and Michael Rappleye. Jamison is also honored and deeply thankful to have received the Levinson Emerging Scholar Award from the generous contribution of Dr. and Mrs. Levinson, which will help fund his research throughout his senior year.

Mentor:

Andre Berndt, Bioengineering

Project Title

Development of a Biosensor for the Mu-Opioid Receptor with Ligand Specificity

Valerie Tsai - Neuroscience; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Valerie is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Neuroscience and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. After working in the Perlmutter Lab, which explores methods in electrical stimulation as therapy for spinal cord injury, she realized her interests in neuroscience, and neuroscience research, lay more on the neuropsychiatric side, and during the end of her sophomore year, after hearing guest lecturer Professor Sam Golden speak in her Neuroanatomy course about his research, focused on the neurobiology of addiction, aggression, and other complex social behaviors, she reached out, hoping to join the Golden Lab. She was lucky enough to start at the lab that following fall, albeit remotely, during the beginning of her junior year. Since then, her role in the lab’s research has evolved: she’s participated in just about every project going on at the lab, from her original work helping uncover the neurological basis of appetitive and reactive aggression, to assisting with several computational components of a project focused on validating the performance of a newly-engineered fluorescent nuclear tag that would strengthen future brainwide neural activity-based analyses, to her current project, which entails the use of network and module-based approaches to analyze the dynamics of brainwide cellular activation datasets. She firmly believes understanding the motifs of neural activity underlying behaviors on a brainwide scale is key to uncovering the neurological basis of all behaviors, which is important not only in terms of clinical applications to treatments for patients with neuropsychiatric disorders, but also essential to our understanding of ourselves and human nature, and why each person experiences the things they do, and move about life in the way they do.

Through conducting research focused on the bigger picture of neuroscience, characterizing, classifying and better understanding behavior, Valerie hopes to better herself as a future physician-scientist, who is able to learn from patient’s stories to conduct research for them by never losing sight of the human heart that drives research, that drives us to understand each other and the world around us. She’s extremely grateful for the outstanding guidance and support from her mentors, Professor Sam Golden and Eric Szelenyi, as well as the rest of the Golden Lab. She would also like to extend her heartfelt thanks to Dr. Arthur Levinson and Mrs. Rita Levinson for their kind generosity in offering her the opportunity to continue to pursue her research, and is excited to continue to learn from and work with the Golden Lab. She can’t wait to see what direction her research takes her next!

Mentor:

Eric Szelenyi, Biological Structure; Sam Golden, Biological Structure

Project Title:

Visualizing Brainwide Cellular Activation Dynamics

Kiersten Tucker - Neuroscience

Kiersten is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Global Health and Classical Studies. For the last three years she has been working in the Lund Lab at Fred Hutch researching immunological responses to infectious diseases. Her current research project investigates the role of mucosal immunization to protect against herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). She has also worked in other cancer and immunology research labs since 2015, including labs at UCSF, Stanford University, and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Barcelona. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans on pursuing an MD or an MD/PhD to continue her passion for medicine.

Outside of research, Kiersten is a chemistry tutor at UW for CLUE, a counselor for Camp Kesem, an officer of Alpha Epsilon Delta (a pre-med honors society), and a visual field technician for the Eye Clinic of University Village. In her free time, she also enjoys playing soccer, hiking, cooking, and traveling.

She is extremely grateful for all the guidance she’s received from her mentor Dr. Jennifer Lund as well as the kind financial help from the Mary Gates Research Scholarship. She is also extremely honored to receive the Levinson Emerging Scholars Award, which would not be possible without the generous support from Dr. Art Levinson and Mrs. Rita Levinson.

Mentors:

Jennier Lund, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Project Title:

Investigating the Role of Intranasal Immunization to Protect Against HSV-2 Infection

Shenwei Wu - Chemistry (ACS certified); Mathematics; Physics (Comprehensive)

As a fourth-year student majoring in chemistry, mathematics, and physics, Shenwei has been actively engaged in the synthesis and characterization of colloidal semiconductor nanomaterials as a member of the Cossairt Group for the past three years. His previous work focused on II-VI and III-V quantum dots, nanorods, tetrapods, nanoplatelets, and 2D sheets, exploring their applications such as photocatalysis and integration to nanophotonics. Building upon this experience, Shenwei seeks to further investigate the potential of nanomaterials by implementing perovskite quantum dots as single-photon emitters in integrated photonic circuits. Through his studies, Shenwei hopes to unveil and understand more of nature’s mysteries and share his learning with others. For this reason, he enjoys working as a CLUE math tutor and physics teaching assistant. After graduation, Shenwei plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. Conducting research in the Cossairt Lab has been an invaluable component of Shenwei’s undergraduate career. He would like to thank the Cossairt Lab members and past graduates for helping him become a well-rounded scholar. Shenwei is grateful for Dr. and Mrs. Levinson’s support and is thrilled to further his research and education as a Levinson scholar.

Mentor:

Hao A. Nguyen, Chemistry; Brandi M. Cossairt, Chemistry

Project Title:

Colloidal Fabrication of Silica-Shelled Lead Halide Perovskite Quantum Dots as Single-Photon Emitters

Bill Young - Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Psychology

Bill Young is a junior at the University of Washington studying Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology along with Psychology. He has been pursuing undergraduate research in the Promislow Lab since his freshman year on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). His current research project focuses on how the expression of neuronal tau, the protein associated with AD, impacts mortality following a traumatic brain injury in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This award will enable Bill to pursue follow-up experiments on this project as well as explore his field of research further. After undergrad, Bill plans to apply to medical school and become a physician-scientist. He hopes to incorporate his research into his field of practice to improve the care provided to patients. Outside of his studies, Bill enjoys hiking, reading, and playing chess. Bill would like to thank his mentors Dr. Daniel Promislow and Dr. Benjamin Harrison for their incredible mentorship as well as Dr. Art Levinson and Mrs. Levinson for their kind generosity in providing this award.

Mentors:

Daniel Promislow, Pathology; Benjamin Harrison, Pathology

Project Title:

Impact of Neuronal Tau on Mortality following Traumatic Brain Injury