Undergraduate Research Program

Levinson Scholars

2019-20

 

Alice Ranjan in lab

 

Yong-Han Hank Cheng

Hank Chen Working in a Lab
Hank is a senior studying Biology at the University of Washington. Since freshman year, he has been conducting research on the genetics of Joubert Syndrome (JS) at the UW Hindbrain Malformation Research Program. Currently, he is using Next-Generation Sequencing to identify the genetic cause of patients that exhibit JS-Like features. The project can lead to an expansion of the phenotypic spectrum of JS and will improve the lives of JS-Like patients. He aspires to be a physician-scientist and live up to the ideal of physicians as caretakers and scientists. When he’s not busy doing pre-med activities, he enjoys biking around campus and cooking. Last summer, he researched the impact of human endogenous retroviruses on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He was blown away by the fireworks at the nation’s capital during July 4th and is excited to return to the NIH as a postbaccalaureate fellow once he graduates. He is honored to be a Levinson Emerging Scholar and is moved by the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Levinson. He would also like to thank his family for their support and Dr. Dan Doherty and the UW Hindbrain Malformation Research Program for providing exceptional mentorship.

Mentors:

Dan Doherty, Pediatrics

Project Title:

Using Next-Generation Sequencing to Determine the Phenotypic Spectrum of Joubert Syndrome

Sammi Cheung- Biology (Molecular, Cellular, Developmental)

Sammi Cheung in front of flowers
Sammi is a junior at the University of Washington studying Medical Laboratory Science. Her interest in genetics and molecular biology brought her to the Wasser lab in the summer of her freshman year. Since then, her lab work has deepened her passion for wildlife genetics and her coursework has sparked an interest in microbiology. Her current project combines both of these interests. She is mapping the gut microbiome of both pregnant and non-pregnant post-ovulatory (i.e., pseudopregnant) female gray wolves in northeastern Washington. Identifying differences in the gut microbiome between pregnant and pseudopregnant wolves provides a more accurate pregnancy metric for wolf populations. After graduation, she intends to work as a medical laboratory scientist for two years before returning to school to pursue a Ph.D. in laboratory science with a focus in genetics. Sammi would like to thank her mentors, Dr. Samuel Wasser and Dr. Ada Kaliszewska, for their time, effort, and advice, as well as the rest of the Wasser lab for their infinite support and encouragement. She would also like to thank Dr. Arthur Levinson and Mrs. Rita Levinson for their generosity, allowing her to complete a critical part of her research and training.

Mentors:

Samuel Wasser, Conservation Biology

Project Title:

Study of the Gut Microbiome of Pregnant Canis Lupis in Northeast Washington

Sarah Cooper-Neuroscience

Sarah Cooper in front of building
Sarah is a senior at the University of Washington majoring in Neuroscience and pursuing College Honors. In the winter of her sophomore year she joined the BioRobotics Lab under Dr. Howard Chizeck. Her work has focused on studying ways to improve deep brain stimulation as a treatment for essential tremor. Currently, Sarah uses neural and inertial measurement unit data to characterize the rebound effect, with the hope that improving our understanding of this phenomenon will inform future directions in developing adaptive deep brain stimulation technology to improve quality of treatment. Since the winter of her junior year, she has been funded by the Computational Neuroscience Training Grant and was able to attend the Society for Neuroscience 2019 conference and co-present a poster on preliminary findings from her project. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. Sarah is grateful for the mentorship of Dr. Howard Chizeck, Dr. Jeffrey Herron, and PhD student Benjamin Ferleger. She would also like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their generous support of her research.

Mentors:

Howard Chizeck, Electrical Engineering; Jeffrey Herron, Neurological Surgery; Benjamin Ferleger, Electrical Engineering

Project Title:

Stimulation Rebound in Deep Brain Stimulation for Essential Tremor

Caleb Ellington- Bioengineering and Computer Science

Caleb Ellington in front of purple background
Caleb is a 4th year undergraduate at UW studying bioengineering and computer science. He began his work in the Baker lab during January 2019 as part of a new machine learning initiative for protein structure prediction. As the structure prediction team began to grow, Caleb developed a strong interest in generative learning models. His current research focuses on developing state-of-the-art GANs to infer protein structure for hard-to-predict loop regions. After graduation, Caleb plans to pursue a Ph.D. in machine learning with applications for therapeutics design. Through this research, he hopes to make in-house pharmaceutical development an option for more low-resource medical facilities. Caleb would like to thank Sanaa Mansoor for her endless support, as well as Nao Hiranuma, Ivan Anishchanka, Hanbeom Park, David Baker, Eric Klavins, and Barry Lutz for their invaluable guidance.

Mentors:

Sanaa Mansoor, David Baker, UW Institute for Protein Design

Project Title:

Generative Learning Models Applied to Protein Distance Map Correction

Ian Engstrom- Biochemistry

Ian Engstrom portraitIan Engstrom is a junior at the University of Washington, hailing from Lincoln, Massachusetts, and majoring in biochemistry. He was first introduced to research in high school while interning at the Harvard Forsyth institute. Since then he has interned at the MIT Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and now works at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Lucas Sullivan’s lab investigating metabolic constraints on cancer cell proliferation, specifically targeting the amino acid aspartate. When he is not in the lab he is either in class or on the water. Ian rows for the University’s crew team and has raced in and won PAC-12 and National Championships. He also loves to play guitar and work with his hands; woodworking, timber framing, and blacksmithing when he is home. He would like to thank his mentor, Lucas Sullivan for his support in and out of the lab, as well as Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their continuing support for undergraduate research.

 

Mentors:

Lucas Sullivan, Biochemistry

Project Title:

Aspartate as a Metabolic Constraint in Cancer Cell Proliferation

Dane Johnson- Chemistry (ACS Certified), Biochemistry

Dane Johnson in front of arcsDane is a senior studying chemistry and biochemistry. In the summer of 2017, he joined the Cossairt Lab to help investigate the syntheses of indium phosphide quantum dots (InP QDs). InP is a promising alternative to toxic state of the art materials for light harvesting and emitting applications. His previous project focused on factors affecting the kinetics of InP syntheses. Currently, he is exploring methods to create blue-emitting InP QDs from new cluster precursors. Outside the lab, Dane enjoys music and working as a CLUE Chemistry tutor. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry. Dane would like to thank the Cossairt group for the support and research opportunity. He is thrilled to be a Levinson scholar and is grateful for Art and Rita Levinson’s support.

Mentors:

Brandi Cossairt, Chemistry

Project Title:

Chemistry and Applications of Quantum Confined Nanocrystals: Accessing New Indium Phosphide Clusters

Carina Kill- Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

Carina is a senior studying Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, with a minor in Linguistics. She is passionate about a variety of topics, ranging all the way from medicine, to art, to language, to environmental science, and more. During winter of her junior year, Carina had the opportunity to study abroad in China, exploring the cultural differences that influence environmental sustainability measures in the United States and China. Carina began working in Dr. Sharon L. Doty’s lab during the second half of her sophomore year, after attending her first research conference and realizing research might be something she would enjoy. Her current work in the lab focuses on the molecular analysis of microbes that live within plants and confer an array of benefits to their plant hosts. Last year, winning the Mary Gates Research Scholarship allowed Carina to pursue her interest in bioinformatics by performing the genome assemblies and analyses of the lab’s top twelve anti-fungal strains. This year, Carina is exploring the mechanisms that enable plants to communicate with the microbes inside them, with hopes to unveil a novel plant signaling pathway. Understanding the plant’s activation of beneficial microbial behavior has a wide array of implications, spanning the fields of agriculture and forestry, but also extending to chemical communication systems more generally. Outside of lab, Carina enjoys writing and making art for Grey Matters, an undergraduate neuroscience journal, and volunteering with Earth Corps to clean up parks around the Seattle area. After graduation, Carina plans to continue pursuing research, extending her scope to human systems with the eventual goal of conducting medical research. Carina is eternally grateful for the guidance of her lab mentors – past and present – that helped foster her love for the research process, and she would like to thank Dr. Art Levinson and Mrs. Rita Levinson for their generous support of this research.

Mentor:

Sharon L. Doty, Environmental and Forest Sciences

Project Title:

Elucidation of the Symbiotic Activator Controlling Nitrogen Fixation

June Kim- Bioengineering

June Kim smilingJune is currently a senior studying bioengineering here at the University of Washington. He has been involved in the Baker lab for three years and has developed a strong interest in protein engineering and drug delivery systems. His work focuses on engineering a protein nanoparticle with enhanced mRNA encapsulation capabilities in hopes of contributing to the development of a novel drug delivery vehicle. With increasing development of RNA-based therapeutics, June attempts to address the problems associated with current methods of delivery, while also assisting the work of other researchers in protein design applications. With interests in both the field of biotechnology and medicine, June hopes to make an impact in people’s lives by first working in industry and later pursuing medical school. Excited by the opportunity to be a part of a cohort of scholars, June would like to thank his mentor, Issa Yousif, for his guidance and Dr. David Baker for his continued support. Moreover, he would like to express his gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for their generous gift in supporting us in our academic pursuits.

Mentors:

David Baker, Biochemistry; Issa Yousif, Bioengineering

Project Title:

Engineering Self-Assembling Nucleocapsids with Enhanced mRNA Packaging

Haoyi Lei-Neuroscience

Haoyi Lei in libraryHaoyi is currently a senior studying neuroscience and minoring in LSJ. She joined the Kaeberlein Lab her freshman year to study Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in C. elegans. In the summer of her sophomore year, Haoyi interned at Gilead Sciences in the Oncology department. Through this experience, she was able to conduct cancer research in an industry setting and developed an interest for small molecule research. Her current research project involves using machine learning data to study human genes involved in AD in C. elegans. Her project focuses on genetically engineering AD C. elegans and using RNAi knockdown to test the effect of certain genes in AD. This approach should lead to a better understanding of the human genes that are dysregulated in human AD brains, provide a basis for genetically-dissecting the pathways that influence the mechanisms of tau and Aβ toxicity, and suggest new therapeutic targets. After graduation, Haoyi plans to pursue a career in medicine. Haoyi would like to thank her mentors Dr. Joshua Russell and Dr. Matt Kaeberlein for their continued guidance and the Levinsons for their generous support of undergraduate research.

Mentors:

Joshua Russell, Matt Kaeberlein, Pathology

Project Title:

Using C. Elegans to Study Human Brain Tissue in Alzheimer’s Disease

John Perr- Biochemistry

Jon Perr wearing a suitJon Perr is a senior majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Applied Mathematics. Winter quarter of his freshman year, Jon began studying super-resolution microscopy with the Vaughan Group at the University of Washington. Jon quickly developed a passion for biological research and has since become involved in a wide variety of research projects that range from super-resolution imaging to epigenetics. After applying super-resolution Expansion Microscopy (ExM) to the study of neuronal development in Drosophila with the Parrish Lab at University of Washingtonand researching epigenetic gene regulation with the Wang Lab at Stanford University School of Medicine, Jon transitioned to devising an ExM-based method for investigating the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Jon is also working with the Kueh Lab – University of Washington to reveal the epigenetic control of immune cell differentiation with super-resolution microscopy. After graduating, Jon plans to enroll in a doctoral program to study Molecular and Cell Biology or a related field. Jon is incredibly grateful for the mentorship provided by both the Vaughan Group and his collaborators. Jon would also like to thank Dr. Arthur Levinson and Mrs. Rita Levinson for their generous support.

Mentor:

Joshua Vaughan, Chemistry

Project Title:

Spatial Exploration of Enhancer-Promoter Relationships with Convenient, Low-Cost SABER-FISH Expansion Microscopy

Alice Ranjan-Microbiology and Molecular/Cellular/Developmental Biology

Alice Ranjan in labAlice is a senior at the University of Washington studying Microbiology and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. In her freshman year, she joined the Lagunoff Lab, where she has since studied the interplay between Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV), the innate immune system, and host DNA replication. KSHV is the causative agent of Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) and possesses lytic and latent phases. While lytic replication is important for KS pathogenesis, most cells are latently infected with KSHV. Therefore, there is a need to develop therapeutics that target latently infected cells. Accordingly, an experiment in the lab was performed to screen for host genes that are essential for the survival of latently infected cells but not uninfected cells. The screen identified Minichromosome Maintenance Complex Component 2 (MCM2), a protein involved in DNA replication, as an essential gene. The focus of Alice’s project is to investigate the role of other MCM proteins (MCM3, 4, and 6) and other DNA replication factors during KSHV infection. She hopes that insights gleaned from this experiment may aid in future efforts to develop antiviral drugs that target proteins involved in the establishment of latency and viral replication. Aside from research, Alice serves as an editor for Capillaries, a journal for students, faculty, and staff from all departments to write and create works of art about their experiences with health and healing and to reflect on community, national, and global health issues. After graduation, Alice hopes to engage in translational cancer research, and in the future, she plans to become a physician and pursue both clinical work and research. Alice is grateful for the mentorship of Dr. Michael Lagunoff and PhD candidate Daniel Vogt and for the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Levinson.

Mentor:

Michael Lagunoff and Daniel Vogt, Microbiology

Project Title:

Elucidating the Interactions between KSHV, MCM Proteins, and DNA Replication Factors during De Novo Infection

Parker Ruth- Computer Engineering and Bioengineering

Parker Ruth in labParker is a senior obtaining a double degree in Computer Engineering and Bioengineering. He is a member of the Interdisciplinary Honors Program and is pursuing Departmental Honors. His research explores the design of computational tools to improve access to healthcare. As a member of the Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp) research lab advised by Professor Shwetak Patel, Parker has researched methods of repurposing smartphone sensors for detecting sleep apnea via the deregulation of the sympathetic nervous system, screening for osteoporosis by measuring the natural frequency of bone, and quantifying physical activity using acoustic doppler sensing. He is currently focused on tackling cardiovascular disease screening by developing techniques for inferring blood pressure accurately and continuously using non-invasive sensors. The Levinson Emerging Scholars Award supports his efforts towards improving the quality and accessibility of healthcare. After graduation, Parker plans to obtain a PhD and ultimately pursue a career as a research professor. Parker is very grateful for the outstanding advice he has received from his current and past mentors, and for the generosity of Art and Rita Levinson. Parker is especially thankful for his family’s continual encouragement and support.

Mentor:

Shwetak Patel, Computer Science & Engineering

Project Title:

Noninvasive Continuous Blood Pressure Monitoring

Katie Spink- Psychology

Katie Spink smilingKatie is a senior majoring in psychology. In January 2019 she joined Dr. Katz’s Lab, which studies children and families who are experiencing adversity. One of the current projects is examining whole family adjustment in the context of pediatric cancer. Katie’s project is investigating the relationship between parental emotional styles and marital adjustment during the year following a pediatric cancer diagnosis. Katie’s career goal is to become a child clinical psychologist. In her future work, her aim is to support families by examining factors that enhance or hinder family functioning and child development, with an eye toward disadvantaged populations. She hopes to build on this understanding by developing and enhancing feasible, affordable interventions that will buffer disadvantaged families from negative health outcomes. She is grateful for the support and mentorship that Dr. Katz and her graduate student Laina Keim have provided over the course of this project. She is also honored and grateful for the support of the Levinson scholarship.

Mentor:

Lynn Fainsilber Katz, Psychology; Laina Keim, Psychology

Project Title:

Parent Meta-Emotion Philosophy and Marital Adjustment in Families of Children with Pediatric Cancer

Dennis Toepker-Biochemistry

Dennis Toepker smiling in labDennis is a Junior at the University of Washington studying Biochemistry. Ever since joining the Gu lab during his Freshman year, he has focused on the engineering and repurposing of chemically induced dimerization (CID) systems as in vivo drug molecule detectors. His most recent work focuses on flanking circularly permutated green fluorescent proteins with molecule-specific CID systems to design fluorescent-based biosensors. He aims to later develop a generalizable methodology for designing fluorescent-based drug biosensors in hopes of expanding the currently existing small molecule detection toolkit. In his free time, Dennis enjoys playing sports, video games, and coding. He thanks his PI Dr. Gu and his mentor Yuxin Pan for their guidance, as well as Dr. and Mrs. Levinson for generously supporting undergraduate research.

Mentors:

Liangcai Gu and Yuxin Pan, Biochemistry

Project Title:

Flanking Circularly Permutated Green Fluorescent Proteins with Chemically Induced Dimerization Systems to Design Drug Biosensors