Undergraduate Research Program

WRF Fellows

2022-23

Olivia Brandon - Neuroscience, Public Health (Global Health)

Olivia is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Neuroscience and Public Health-Global Health. She joined the team at UW Medicine’s Neonatal Neuroscience Lab in January of 2021; and has been involved with various basic science and clinical studies that have inspired me to become a physician-scientist. Olivia’s project centers around the resiliency of the ferret brain to injury, specifically to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality and morbidity worldwide. The ferret provides an excellent model to investigate HIE due to its gyrified brain and gray-to-white matter ratio that is similar to humans. Brain slides from ferrets and rats are used to investigate brain resiliency. Identifying the pathways associated with the resiliency of the ferret brain to injury at the transcriptome level could help inform future therapies to treat infants at risk for HIE. Her time in the lab has empowered her to be an innovator and look for solutions, improvements, and new perspectives in academia and research. Olivia is also President of the Equestrian Team at UW and an avid animal lover, fostering cats in my free time. She would like to thank Dr. Tommy Wood and Kylie Corry for their ongoing support of my research career, and the Washington Research Foundation for providing opportunities like this to support undergraduate research.

Mentor:

Thomas Wood, Pediatrics

Project Title:

Using rat and ferret organotypic brain slices to investigate pathways associated with resilience to brain injury

EJ Brannan - Chemistry


EJ is a junior at the University of Washington majoring in chemistry and minoring in music. He joined the Xiao Lab in the Summer of 2021 to study metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which are crystalline, porous extended solids that are formed through coordination between metal cations and bridging organic ligands. His research aims to better understand charge transport and magnetism in MOFs to enable the design of new conductive porous materials that can use electricity to drive chemical processes. To achieve this, he is working on synthesizing a series of highly-tunable 1D metal-organic chains that exhibit delocalized π systems and high electrical conductivity. He is studying how structural parameters such as geometry and metal/ligand identity influence these materials’ overall electrical and magnetic properties. He would like to thank his PI, Dianne Xiao, and his mentor Ashlyn Kamin for furthering his undergraduate experience through their supportive guidance in this project.

Mentor:

Ashlyn Kamin, Department of Chemistry

Project Title:

Understanding Conductivity and Magnetism Through 1D Metal-Organic Chains

Abby Burtner - Biochemistry

Abby Burtner is a junior at the University of Washington majoring in Biochemistry. She is broadly interested in immunology and protein design. She is currently working on a project in the King Lab at the Institute for Protein Design designing de novo proteins to bind Toll-Like Receptor 3 (TLR3), a key receptor that activates the innate immune system. This project has implications for the development of next-generation vaccine technologies. She has previously been involved in other research projects examining the skeletal diversity of squirrels and the origin of bat flight in the Santana Lab in the UW Biology Department and in examining zebrafish craniofacial phenotypes at the Maga Lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Her research background in evolutionary and computational biology and her Honors Chemistry/Biochemistry coursework at the UW have inspired her interest in protein design. After her undergraduate studies, Abby intends to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry addressing human biomedical challenges. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and running around Seattle and the PNW. Abby is honored to receive the WRF fellowship. She would like to thank her mentors Chloe Adams and Dr. Neil King for furthering her undergraduate education and research experience, as well as her previous mentors Dr. Chris Law, Dr. Sharlene Santana, and Dr. Kelly Diamond for their much-appreciated guidance and support.

Mentors:

Chloe Adams, Biochemistry; Dr. Neil King, Biochemistry

Project Title:

De novo design of Toll-Like Receptor binders for vaccine development

Nuria Chandra - Computer Science

Nuria is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in global health. She is interested in leveraging computational tools to improve our understanding and treatment of human disease. At the end of her freshman year, Nuria became involved in research at the Pediatric Pain & Sleep Innovations Lab, studying acute and chronic pain after surgery and trauma. Nuria currently works in the Mostafavi Lab where she uses deep learning to study regulatory genetics in immune cells. Nuria is also working with Dr. Rekha Thomas to research the relationship between graph approximations using spectral graph theory and sparse graphical designs. After graduation, Nuria plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. Nuria is incredibly grateful for the support of her past and present mentors including Jennifer Rabbitts, Alexander Sasse, Rekha Thomas, and Sara Mostafavi.

Mentors:

Sara Mostafavi, Department of Computer Science

Project Title:

Deep learning of immune cell regulatory genetics

Zoe Chau - Bioengineering

Zoe is a senior studying Bioengineering and working under the mentorship of Dr. James Lai and Dr. Barry Lutz. Her research aims to design and optimize a 3D-printed housing device to accommodate the DiagnosDisk, a novel flow-through assay that utilizes temperature-responsive polymers for rapid sample enrichment and detection of salivary SARS-CoV-2 antigens. Combining the DiagnosDisk and assembly device enables rapid, sensitive, simple, and inexpensive point-of-care testing that will limit COVID-19 infection spread and address a major shortcoming of salivary diagnostics by introducing increased sensitivity. After completing her undergraduate studies, Zoe aims to continue working at the intersection between cutting-edge biomedical technology and patient experience to improve healthcare. She would like to express her immense gratitude to her mentors and collaborators, particularly Dr. Lai, Dr. Lutz, Dr. Patel, and her lab colleagues. She would also like to thank the Washington Research Foundation for their generous support of her research.

Mentors:

James Lai, Bioengineering; Barry Lutz, Bioengineering

Project Title:

DiagnosDisk and Assembly Device for Sensitive and Rapid Point-of-Care SARS-CoV-2 Detection in Saliva

Tran Luu - Bioengineering

Tran is a senior at the University of Washington – Department of Bioengineering. Currently, she is working at Professor Suzie Pun’s lab under the mentorship of Dinh Chuong (Ben) Nguyen. Her research utilizes the Virus-Inspired Polymers for Endosomal Release (VIPER), previously developed by the Pun Lab, to gain an advanced understanding of the antigen localization resulting from the endosomal release mechanism in peptide-based cancer vaccines to generate a better tumor-killing response. After graduating, she hopes to pursue graduate school to develop an effective and low-cost design for vaccine formulations to help patients avoid the expensive, prolonged burden of traditional treatments. She would like to express her gratitude and appreciation for her mentors’ dedicated support. She also wants to thank the Washington Research Foundation for their generous support of this project.

Mentor:

Dinh Chuong (Ben) Nguyen, Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute; Professor Suzie Pun, Department of Bioengineering

Project Title:

Utilizing Mannosylated Virus-Inspired Polymers for Endosomal Release (VIPER) Drug Delivery System to Investigate Antigen Release During Endosomal Escape

Eesha Murali - Bioengineering


Eesha is a senior studying bioengineering and working under the guidance of Dr. Michael Regnier in the Department of Bioengineering. Eesha joined the Regnier Lab during her freshman year and her work focuses on determining the role of microtubules in cellular remodeling mechanisms during contractile dysfunctional diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She hopes that the results from her study will help further the understanding of the complex cellular remodeling mechanisms that occur during abnormal contractility and inform possible treatments and cell therapies in the future. Eesha would like to give special thanks to her mentor Dr. Ketaki Mhatre and her P.I. Dr. Michael Regnier who pushed her to work hard, conduct quality research, and think critically about the experiments she runs. After completing her undergraduate degree, Eesha plans to pursue a combined MD/Ph.D. program to continue to be at the intersection of bioengineering and medicine. As a physician-scientist, she hopes to merge her love of research with her passion for medicine and implement cutting-edge technology to improve the quality of care for her patients.

Mentor:

Dr. Michael Regnier, Bioengineering

Project Title:

Microtubules Maintain Passive Tension and Myofibril Formation in Developing Cardiomyocytes

Dessirée Ortaç- Biology, Diversity Studies

Dessirée Ortaç is a senior pursuing a Biology major and a Diversity Studies minor. During her sophomore year, Dessirée was named an Undergraduate Research Fellow by UW’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. Intrigued by the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, she joined Dr. Jennifer Davis’ lab, interested in understanding how the heart repairs and remodels following an injury. Currently, one of the very exciting frontiers in medicine includes the replacement of injured heart tissue with induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CM). A shortcoming of this technology is the relative immaturity of iPSC-CMs. Therefore, projects focused on studying cardiomyocyte maturation are key. With guidance from her mentors, Dessirée plans to investigate the role MBNL1 (an RNA-binding protein) plays in promoting iPSC-CM maturation. Her project aims to determine the effects of MBNL1 overexpression on iPSC-CM transcriptional, structural and metabolic maturity. To do this, Dessirée will differentiate induced pluripotent stem cells into cardiomyocytes, then she will perform qPCR, electron microscopy, and a seahorse assay. Following graduation, Dessirée intends on pursuing an MD-PhD. She would like to thank her mentors, as well as the Washington Research Foundation for all their support.

Mentor:

Jennifer Davis, Bioengineering

Project Title:

Investigating MBNL1’s Role in Promoting Cardiomyocyte Maturation

Fumika Sano - Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Fumika is a senior studying Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology with a minor in Bioethics. Her research focus has been on APOL1 risk variants, which are associated with much higher risks of severe kidney diseases. In the Freedman lab, she studies pathophysiology of the APOL-1 associated nephropathy utilizing kidney nephron organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells. This year, Fumika is thrilled to further advance her project through establishing an inducible expression system for APOL1 in kidney organoids to more effectively model associated nephropathy with a possibility of use for therapeutic drug discovery. She aspires to pursue medicine in the field of organ transplant. Her long-term career goal is to be involved in both research and clinical practices to improve the quality of life of patients with kidney failures. She sincerely appreciates this opportunity to become a part of the WRF Fellowship community, and she would like to extend her gratitude to her mentors, Dr. Benjamin Freedman, Dr. Nicole Vo, and Dr. Benjamin Juliar for their guidance.

Mentor:

Benjamin Freedman, Department of Medicine (Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine); Nicole Vo, Department of Medicine; Benjamin Juliar, Department of Medicine

Project Title:

Development of an inducible APOL1 gene expression system in human kidney organoids

Vrishabhadev Sathish Kumar - Computer Science

Vrishabhadev Sathish Kumar is a senior at the University of Washington studying Computer Science with a specialization in Data Science. Vrishabhadev joined the Lidstrom Lab for C1 Metabolism in October 2020 to process, cluster, and analyze vast bulk-RNAseq datasets characterizing the gene expression of the non-model organism M. buryatense, a bacterium with the ability to metabolize methane. While the lab’s centering mission is to engineer methanotrophs such as M. buryatense to reduce global atmospheric methane, Dr. Mary Lidstrom and her colleagues first require a much deeper understanding of the genetic mechanisms by which they function. With mentorship from Dr. David Beck and CSE Ph.D. student Erin Wilson, Vrishabhadev’s research focus gradually widened into developing a standalone software tool designed for biologists like Dr. Lidstrom to help fill this need. By presenting interactive data visualizations that summarize machine learning analysis of RNAseq data, biologists can more easily generate insights, define new experimental questions, and confirm putative biology using their vast experimental datasets. After his undergraduate studies, Vrishabhadev aspires to pursue a career as a physician-scientist. He intends to apply computational methods to complement and accelerate cutting-edge biological research to tackle challenges in human health. His motivation lies in translating research efforts in academia to impactful changes in treatment at the bedside. By bridging disciplines with an open mind, he hopes to push the limits of medicine. Outside of research, Vrishabhadev is an activist in computing for social good space. Aiming to break down notions of computer science as an ivory tower and democratize the technologies we learn in class with an inclusive framework, he leads Impact++, an initiative at UW to bring together like-minded students to tackle technical projects with the real-world scope and inspire our greater community to take part in the change. Vrishabhadev is honored to receive the WRF fellowship to support this independent research project and widen the breadth of his undergraduate education. He is truly grateful to Dr. Beck, Dr. Lidstrom, and Erin Wilson for their endless mentorship, guidance, time, and confidence in him and his work.

Mentor:

Dr. David Beck (Chemical Engineering, adjunct Computer Science and Engineering, adjunct Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences), Dr. Mary Lidstrom (Chemical Engineering)

Project Title:

Transcriptomic exploration of methanotroph M. buryatense using unsupervised Machine Learning and interactive data visualization

Meg Takezawa - Biochemistry


Meg is a junior at the University of Washington majoring in biochemistry. For the past two years, she has worked in the Theberge Lab in the Department of Chemistry. She is focusing on developing a novel diagnostic device for saliva collection and utilizing microfluidic cell culture to study cellular signaling. Her main project this year is incorporating multiple cell types in an open microfluidic cell culture device to understand mechanisms in allergic and asthmatic inflammation. Throughout her time in the lab and her classes, she grew passionate about learning about biochemical processes that lead to significant macroscopic changes within the environment. Meg is eager to combine this research interest with her minor in Global Health to evaluate how to effectively help underserved populations and/or the environment in which they live. After graduation, she intends to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry to study critical chemical processes to address environmental and global health issues. Meg would like to thank the Washington Research Foundation for their generous support and everyone in the Theberge Lab who has encouraged her to pursue a career in research.

Mentors:

Ashleigh Theberge, Chemistry; Yuting Zeng, Chemistry

Project Title:

Developing an in Vitro Model of Tissue Inflammation Using an Open Microfluidic Cell Culture Device