Undergraduate Research Program

WRF Fellows

2021-22

Leslie Chao - Microbiology

Leslie Chao is a junior studying Microbiology at the University of Washington. She had the opportunity to join the Yang Lab in the winter of her sophomore year and has been working on better understanding the mechanisms of DSP premature truncating variant-mediated arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. Working under the guidance of Dr. Daniel Yang, her current project focuses on a mutation in a common desmosomal protein named desmoplakin, which is known to cause severe left ventricular cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy. To study the mechanisms of this DSP mutation, Leslie works with patient specific induced pluripotent stem cells to generate cardiomyocytes and then engineered heart tissues as models for arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. She is excited to continue working on this project and would like to thank her PI, Daniel Yang, and all the members in her lab for their help. She is also grateful for the Washington Research Foundation for supporting her research.

Mentor:

Daniel Yang, Cardiology

Project Title:

Elucidating the Mechanisms of Desmoplakin Premature Truncating Variants Leading to Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy

Zoe Lu Chau - Bioengineering

Zoe is a junior studying Bioengineering and working under the guidance of Dr. Kushang Patel in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Her research aims to develop and test a pilot study that strengthens the understanding of movement-evoked pain in older adults with knee osteoarthritis through random and physical activity-triggered ecological momentary assessment surveys.

After graduation, Zoe hopes to continue within the intersection of research and medicine to bioengineer clinically feasible solutions for improving patient care. She is immensely grateful for her mentors and the Washington Research Foundation for supporting her aspirations.

Mentor:

Kushang Patel, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

Project Title:

Utilizing Novel Trigger-based Ecological Momentary Assessments to Investigate Movement-evoked Pain in Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis

Daniel Guorui Chen - Microbiology and Informatics

Daniel Chen is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Microbiology and Informatics. He began research at his current lab (Heath lab at ISB) the summer of 2019 investigating melanoma subpopulations utilizing single-cell technologies, such as scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq. Currently, he uses the single-cell multi-omic paradigm to analyze COVID-19 peripheral blood mononuclear cells to identify the disease state effects of SARS-CoV-2 on patient immune systems. Recently, he has also joined the Greenberg and Gottardo labs at Fred Hutch investigating the pancreatic cancer tumor microenvironment through multi-omic measurements of single cells in a spatial context. After his undergraduate studies, Daniel intends to pursue an MD-PhD centered on applying biomedical informatic techniques onto human medical challenges. Outside of class and research he enjoys hiking in nature preserves, crocheting amigurumi animals, and playing the piano. Daniel is honored to receive the WRF fellowship and deeply appreciates and would like to thank the guidance from his mentors Dr. Yapeng Su and Dr. James Heath in furthering his undergraduate education and research experience, as well as his incoming mentors Dr. Philip Greenberg and Dr. Raphael Gottardo.

Mentors:

James Heath, Bioengineering; Yapeng Su, Fred Hutch

Project Title:

Integrated Multi-Omic Spatial Characterization of Therapeutic T-cell Dysfunction

Aryaman Satish Gala - Neuroscience

Aryaman is a senior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Data Science. He has been working at the Neural Engineering and Rehabilitation Design Lab under the guidance of Dr. Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad. His research interests are focused towards investigating the plasticity mechanisms of the brain that underly functional recovery after brain damage, in order to contribute to the development of stimulation based therapies to address neurological disorders. His current research involves the implementation of immunohistochemistry and electrophysiological techniques to quantitatively evaluate the effect of electrical stimulation on the expression of plasticity bio markers in Non-Human Primates that have undergone focal ischemic strokes.

He intends on pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience with the goal of integrating technological capacities with neuroscience to develop novel therapies that are clinically applicable and will help in treating individuals with neurological disorders. Outside of class, he is a Teaching Assistant in the informatics department. Besides academics and research, his interests lie in soccer, hiking, mixed martial arts and music. He would like to sincerely express his gratitude to his mentors, Dr. Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad, Jasmine Zhou and the NERD Lab members for their unconditional support and guidance. He would like to extend his heartfelt appreciation to the Washington Research Foundation for generously supporting the research he has always aspired to pursue.

Mentors:

Azadeh Yazdan-Shahmorad, Bioengineering

Project Title:

Probing the Mechanisms Behind Stimulation-Induced Plasticity After Ischemic Stroke in Non-Human Primates

Christina Kuismi - Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Christina Kuismi is a senior pursuing a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major and a Bioethics minor. Christina joined the Sullivan Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center during her junior year and began her research by performing experiments with cells that have mutations to specific metabolic enzymes that are sufficient to promote cancer, such as SDHB. With the help of her mentors Dr. Lucas Sullivan and Dr. Evan Quon and the support of the Washington Research Foundation, Christina plans to build off her preliminary research by determining the short- and long-term effects of SDHB addback in SDHB null renal cell carcinoma cells. To do this Christina will perform assays that reveal metabolic and epigenetic adaptations contributing to the behaviors of this cell line. After completing her undergraduate degree, Christina plans to pursue a PhD in molecular biology or genetics. Her long-term career goal is to work in the biomedical research field. Her specific interests are in researching epigenetic and genetic connections to chronic diseases. Christina is grateful for the mentorship and guidance from everyone in the Sullivan lab. She would also like to thank the Washington Research Foundation for their generous support of her research.

Mentors:

Lucas Sullivan, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Evan Quon, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Project Title:

Understanding Temporal Consequences of SDHB Restoration in Renal Cell Carcinoma

Hannah Lea - Biochemistry

Hannah is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in biochemistry. Hannah has been a member of the Theberge lab in the UW Department of Chemistry for the past three years. She has had the opportunity to work on multiple projects and has worked with multiple collaborators. Hannah’s favorite part about research is how much she is able to challenge and expand her knowledge through problem solving, thinking of new research projects, and presenting her work to members of the scientific community. She is excited to continue advancing her projects and see the impact she can make in advancing knowledge about signaling that occurs in the blood. After her time at UW, Hannah hopes to become a pediatric oncologist. She wants to combine her passion for medicine, working with children, and research to help patients and increase the research that is done on rare forms of childhood cancer. Hannah would like to thank her PI, Ashleigh Theberge, and all of her other mentors and members in her lab who have helped her to get to the point she is at and who gave her a chance to discover her love for medical research.

Mentor:

Ashleigh Theberge, Chemistry

Project Title:

Biologically-Homing Particles in Whole Blood to Measure Cytokine Levels

Tammy My Luu - Chemical Engineering

Tammy is a senior undergraduate student majoring in Chemical Engineering. She is interested in increasing accessibility of medical devices and improving health outcomes for patients. In the Human Photonics Lab under the mentorship of Professor Eric Seibel, she has been working on a fully automated compression chamber that will be integrated into a millifluidic device for cancer diagnostics. This device will allow for faster and efficient tissue analysis at a low cost. After graduating, Tammy hopes to work in the biotechnology industry and will consider furthering her education in the biological field. She would like to give thanks to Professor Eric Seibel for the opportunity and the Washington Research Foundation for supporting her research.

Mentor:

Eric Seibel, Mechanical Engineering

Project Title:

Millifluidic Compression Mechanism for Automated Breast Core-Needle Biopsy Handling and Diagnostics

Kaycie Opiyo - Biochemistry; Public Health (Global Health)

Kaycie is a senior at the University of Washington pursuing a dual degree in Biochemistry and Public Health-Global Health. She has been a member of the Wills Lab in the Department of Biochemistry since March 2021. Her work focuses on understanding metabolism, injury response, and tissue regeneration in frog species. She is grateful for the constant guidance and support she has received from her lab mentors Jeet Patel, Dr. Andrea Wills, and the other incredible frog scientists in the Wills Lab. In the future, Kaycie aspires to pursue a career in medicine and focus on providing primary healthcare services to underserved and disadvantaged communities while increasing the representation of people of color in medical professions. Kaycie’s current work in exploratory lab science is foundational to her future work as a physician, as understanding the processes that enable regeneration has the potential to guide the development of therapeutics to improve human health. She is passionate about having an equity-centered approach to science education and hopes to use the skills she gains both in the lab and through outreach to make science more accessible to people from a variety of backgrounds. Kaycie is grateful for the generous support from the Washington Research Foundation as she continues her research at UW.

Mentor:

Jeet H. Patel, Molecular and Cellular Biology; Andrea Wills, Biochemistry

Project Title:

Identifying the Fates of Glutamate During Xenopus tropicalis Tail Regeneration

Kiana Reynolds - Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology

Kiana Reynolds is a senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and minoring in Education, Learning and Society. Kiana joined the Murry Lab in her sophomore year and is currently studying how DNA methylation impacts gene expression in heart cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells in vitro. She hopes use this knowledge to derive mature heart cells that can be used to restore heart contractile function in heart attack survivors and open the doors for cell therapies that could treat millions of people who suffer from coronary heart disease. After undergrad, Kiana plan to further her education in medical school, with the hopes to advocate for members of her community who are disproportionately affected by many different health-related issues, and often avoid seeking help out of fear that their health concerns will not be taken seriously. Outside of research, Kiana is the President of the Black Student Union, and in her free time enjoys going to the gym, reading and watching K-dramas. She is extremely grateful to her mentor, Dr. Elaheh Karbassi for her guidance and pushing her to do her best work. Kiana would also like to thank like to thank Dr. Charles Murry his kindness and believing in her, as well as the Washington Research Foundation for supporting her in her research.

Mentor:

Charles Murry, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Project Title:

The Role of DNA Methylation in Human Cardiomyocyte Maturation

Tiara Schwarze-Taufiq - Neuroscience, Public Health

Tiara Schwarze-Taufiq is a senior undergraduate at the University of Washington majoring in Neuroscience and Public Health and minoring in Labor Studies. She joined the Young Lab in her junior year to pursue the molecular and cellular mechanisms behind Alzheimer’s Disease. The Young Lab utilizes stem cell technology that allows researchers to take human skin fibroblasts, differentiate them into neurons, and model neurodegenerative diseases in a plate. In her current role, Tiara uses these stem cell-derived neurons to study the role of tau, a microtubule-associated protein, in Alzheimer’s Disease pathogenesis. More specifically, in collaboration with her mentors, she studies the role of tau loss-of-function in cellular stress, the DNA damage response, and neuroinflammation implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease pathogenesis utilizing the techniques of immunocytochemistry, confocal microscopy, qRT-PCR, ELISA, and Western blot. This research could inform novel clinical interventions for not only Alzheimer’s Disease, but a wide range of tauopathies and other neurodegenerative diseases. Outside of her research, she leads Huskies for Neurodiversity, a Husky Seed Fund initiative to raise awareness and acceptance of neurodevelopmental conditions on campus. In addition, she is an intern at the Plus One Foundation, which provides grants that fund life-changing experiences and therapies for people with neurological disorders.

Mentors:

Jessica E. Young, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Project Title:

Probing the Role of Tau Loss-of-Function in Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis

Sharlene Shirali - Biology (Physiology)

Sharlene is a junior pursuing a major in Physiology, Biology. Her research project focuses on investigating the relationship between CFH/FHL-1 haploinsufficiency and regulators of complement activation, and their potential contribution to the pathology of early-onset macular drusen (EOMD), an inherited retinal degenerative disease. Sharlene considers research to be a key part of her husky experience, and is excited to continue working on, and advancing this project. She is deeply grateful for the advice and guidance of her advisors, and she genuinely thanks Dr. Chao and Dr. Lim for their continued encouragement, support, and mentorship. She sincerely thanks the Washington Research Foundation for their generous support that allows her to expand and deepen her education and further her research.

Mentor:

Jennifer Chao, Ophthalmology; Rayne Lim, Ophthalmology

Project Title:

Investigating the Relationship Between Complement Factor H and Regulators of Complement Activation in RPE Cells

Chardai Thomas - Biology

Chardai is a senior at The University of Washington studying Biology with a minor in Health Studies. Chardai has been in the Freedman Lab at ISCRM since June 2021 and during her time there, she has been using human stem cell lines to grow kidney organoids that have been modified with mutations for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). Under the guidance of her mentor Dr. Benjamin Freedman, her current aim is to create a model that more closely resembles PKD genetics by monitoring and experimenting with heterozygous cell lines.

Chardai is most interested in finding way to improve health outcomes working by in the intersection of science and medicine. Outside the classroom, Chardai is heavily involved on campus and the community holding leadership roles in various clubs and volunteering as a Health Scholar. Following graduation, she plans to apply for an MDPHD program.

Chardai would like to thank the WRFF, ISCRM, and UW Bothell for the opportunity to continue developing her research skills with Dr. Freedman and the tremendous amount of support she receives.

Mentors:

Benjamin Freedman, Medicine and Nephrology

Project Title:

Improving Disease Models in Organoids Heterozygous for Polycystic Kidney Disease