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Bryn Mawr Biology Student Summer Research Experiences

Student News Summer 2014

Bryn Mawr Biology majors are having an exciting summer, working at variety of jobs on campus, off campus, and out of the country!  Here is a sampling of how some of our students are spending their summers...

Jennifer Acosta (BMC ’16)… received a Science Horizons Research Internship to conduct neuroscience research at Drexel University Medical School. The lab Jennifer is working in studies the effects of macrophages and the healing of pediatric traumatic brain injury survivors. Jennifer is studying the effects of activated microglia cells and inflammation after an injury using rat models. She tells us: “It's been really great so far! I've been learning a lot about the brain and it's mechanisms.“

Amanda Actor (BMC ’16)… is conducting research at Tel Aviv University in Israel through their new Summer Research Program in the Biological and Neuro Sciences. Amanda is working with Dr. Uri Ashery to examine the role hypoxia plays in neurodegeneration of the hippocampus in Alzheimer's Disease. Specifically, Amanda is investigating how hyperbaric chambers can be used as a therapeutic technique for Alzheimer's in a murine model. She is also using in vitro calcium imaging via GCamp5 as well as micro electrode array cultures to observe neural networks in both wild type and Alzheimer mouse models to better understand amyloid-beta plaque buildup in the Alzheimer brain.

Kaeun Bae (BMC ’15)… is doing research in Dr. Monica Chander's lab at Bryn Mawr, where she is studying the effects of two mutations of the Streptomyces coelicolor bacterium. One of its natural products, actinorhodin, is a redox-active antibiotic that is hypothesized to be removed from the cell through a membrane transporter (Act exporter). I has also been suggested that the SoxR gene regulates the production of Act, as a null mutant overproduces Act. Strains with each of these mutations were found to be viable. Our hypothesis is that these two mechanisms compensate for each other when one malfunctions and both contribute to Act resistance. To test this hypothesis, Kaeun is constructing a mutant that lacks both the control of Act production and is deficient in the Act exporter – this will allow her to determine if these mechanisms account for the resistance to Act and therefore produce a mutant that displays reduced fitness compared to the wild type strains and mutants with only one of the mutations.

Caitlin Bauer (BMC ’16)… is working with Bryn Mawr’s Dr. Tom Mozdzer as a part of the TIDE project, and is studying the effects of nitrate fertilization on salt marches in the Plum Island Ecosystem of Massachusetts.  The TIDE project (Trophic Cascades and Interacting Control Processes in a Detritus Based Ecosystem) is a long-term experiment, which studies the effects of fertilization by having researchers add fertilizer to a tank which drips it into the creeks in a controlled manner.  Each fertilized creek is paired with a control creek; one fertilized creek began receiving fertilizer 6 years ago and the other began receiving it 11 years ago. This is Caitlin’s second summer on the project and she primarily focuses on plant traits, but she is also helping out on other projects involving fish, snails and other aspects of the marsh. Specifically, Caitlin has been working with another Bryn Mawr student (Elena Johnson) to take clip plots of multiple plant species (Tall Spartina alterniflora, short form Spartina alterniflora, Distichlis spicata, and Spartina patens) to help identify some of the differences in above ground morphology. Elena is using these data to calibrate a canopy sensor to hopefully lessen the number of clip plots they will need to take in later years.  They are also identifying differences in vegetation between the different marshes, such as which species are present and dominant on the marshes.  Later this summer, Caitlin will head down to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to start doing some genetics work on tall form Spartina alterniflora samples from the TIDE marshes starting from the early years of fertilization for both the unfertilized control creeks and the fertilized creeks, as well as some samples that she and Elena collected from a marsh in Sippewissett that is a part of a separate long term fertilization experiment.

Lindsay Burak (BMC ’15)… spent her summer working a bit in a research lab, where she was able to follow up with a few experiments that she had started last summer. Lindsay also spent a lot of time shadowing a local doctor who works in Internal Medicine. Lindsay tells us: “I mostly observe and take notes, however I have progressed to taking stats, such as heart beats, blood pressure, temperature, etc.  It's been very exciting and has really solidified my love of medicine and my journey to pursue it in the future!”

Miriam Doepner (BMC ’16)… is spending her summer working in Dr. Wei Tong's hematology lab at CHOP through the Clinical & Translational Science Awards (CTSA) internship program at UPenn. The lab focuses on studying the molecular mechanisms involved in cytokine receptor signaling in hematopoiesis, HSCs, and leukemogenesis. Miriam has specifically been looking at the effect of the HECTD1 E3 ligase on JAK2 and ubiquitin. Additionally, she has been helping a research technician study the BRISC complex and how it is involved with JAK2 and ubiquitin. Miriam tells us that she loves this experience and hopes to continue doing research at Bryn Mawr College.

Carolyne Face (BMC ’15)… is working in Dr. Tamara Davis's lab at Bryn Mawr this summer, investigating how histone modification may be involved in regulating the tissue-specific imprinting of Rasgrf1. She is using ChIP to isolate modified chromatin from tissues displaying monoallelic expression and conducting allele specific qPCR to determine the relative levels of maternal and paternal DNA containing permissive and repressive modifications. Using this data, the Davis lab will be able to determine whether modifications at various regions of Rasgrf1 are correlated with expression levels in a tissue and allele specific manner, which may provide insight into the role of histone modification in the tissue-specific imprinting of Rasgrf1.

Caroline Fleet (HC ’16)… is spending her summer working with Professor William Williams and the photography archives in Haverford's Special Collections. In addition to cataloguing recent additions to the collection Caroline is assisting Professor Williams in updating older records, organizing gallery exhibits, and compiling bibliographic information on the artists represented in the collection.

Alex Francendese (BMC ’15)… spent her summer as an intern with a Boston-based strategy consulting firm focused on healthcare and life science companies.  Alex was assigned to case teams on a variety of assignments including an assessment of a novel technology to improve the manufacturing process for moisture-sensitive pharmaceuticals, research on the competitive landscape of current and in-development neurodegenerative drugs, and an evaluation of the commercial potential of a next-generation intraoperative MRI solution. This internship has been a valuable experience for Alex because, in addition to having teaching her a lot about promising drugs and technologies coming into the market, it has also exposed her to the business side of science.

Fiona Gambanga (BMC ’15)… is working in the Chander lab at Bryn Mawr. Fiona is investigating the antibiotic producing bacterium Streptomyces. The main aim of the research is find out how Streptomyces coelicolor are able to produce the redox active antibiotic actinorhodin (Act) without getting destroyed by the antibiotics themselves. Prior research and evidence shows that one Act-detoxification mechanisms may be regulated by the redox-sensing transcription factor, SoxR.  Fiona has spent most of her time this summer making mutants of SoxR regulated genes that code for enzymes at different steps of the Act-producing pathway. The mutants are being made using Redirect technology: a PCR targeting system.  Fiona’s specific aim is dealing with one gene, ActVI-orf-2, which encodes the mono-oxidoreductase in the S. coelicolor in the ACT biosynthetic pathway. After mutating this specific gene, she will analyze the mutant bacterial cell composition using qPCR and HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to see if it is this gene functions as a physiological activator of SoxR. Fiona tells us: “I love the fact that the research has medical significance as it could lead to identification of new antimicrobial agents and resistance mechanisms.“

Rachel Hager (BMC ’15)… is back at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland this summer. This is Rachel’s second summer doing research in the marshes of SERC with Phragmites australis, an aggressive invasive plant species. This summer, Rachel’s research focuses on the influence of the Phragmites invasion on carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions. Methane, the second most abundant trace greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, is over 20x more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping radiation. Rachel is using methane fluxes, soil incubations, pore water analysis, and extrapolated models  to determine the effect of the Phragmites invasion on the biogeochemical processes of carbon. In recent years, the aggression of the Phragmites invasion has exploded resulting in profound effects on community dynamics and changes in greenhouse gas emissions.

Nicole Hamagami (BMC ’16)… is doing research at Bryn Mawr, where she is working on the imprinted mouse gene Rasgrf1, which is paternally expressed in a tissue-specific manner. Specifically, Nicole is examining the differences in modified histone distribution at the Rasgrf1 gene locus between mono-allelic and bi-allelic tissues to determine the involvement of these modified histones in tissue-specific gene expression. Nicole is using a procedure known as chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) coupled with allele-specific amplification of DNA using quantitative PCR to locate modified histones that are preferentially distributed on either or both parental alleles of the gene. Ultimately, NIcole hopes to determine whether histone modifications directly correlate with DNA methylation in regulating differential gene expression.

Kathy Kimple (BMC ’16)… spent her summer doing an internship at a clinic for the undeserved called Sea Mar Community Health Center in Tacoma, Washington. Kathy had the opportunity to work directly with some of the nurse practitioners helping patients, doing paperwork, and just other odd jobs around the clinic. Kathy also took an MCAT prep course at the beginning of the summer as she plans to take the MCAT in January before it switches to the 2015 format.

Joanna Kosmaoglou (BMC ’15)… worked as an intern this summer at the Penn Center for Women's Behavioral Wellness, which is part of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania). The center is run by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists conducting many ongoing studies related to women's health and cognitive testing. Joanna participation in a Fetal Adrenal Study required her to go to medical practices in the city and recruit pregnant women for this study in order to examine how stressful or adverse experiences a healthy mother may have experienced as a child could potentially affect birthing outcomes. The women were between 8-17 weeks of their gestation period and Joanna had them fill out some questionnaires about their stress levels and sign consent forms so the center's researchers would be able to access their infant delivery report upon delivery of their baby. Joanna tells us: “It was interesting to see the range of scores that I received from the women that consented to participating in this study. There was also a longitudinal component to this research study that I would tell these women about, and those who had the time to participate would agree to come in for six scheduled visits throughout their pregnancy, up to 6 months postpartum. On the last visit, they would bring in their 6 month old infant, and he/she would be assessed with a stress startle test as well. One of the early study visits would conduct a 3D ultrasound image of their baby's adrenal gland around 25 weeks of their pregnancy, in order to see how this gland is affected by a mother's stress. The hypothesis is that a baby's adrenal gland would be larger with a mother that experienced more trauma in her childhood and therefore would produce more cortisol.” Although Joanna’s internship is coming to an end soon, she hope continue working on this study as part of a Praxis course in the spring.

Getrude Makurumidze (BMC ’16)… spent her summer working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. During the first two weeks of my internship, Getrude shadowed radiologists and surgeons in the Breast Imaging Center, where she was able to observe procedures like stereotactic biopsies, ultrasound guided biopsies, seed localization, MRI, mammography, and a lot of screening with the radiologist. Getrude also got to observe breast lumpectomies and a bilateral mastectomy with the surgeon as well as shadow the surgeon in clinic. Following this experience, Getrude moved to the Integrative Medicine Service, where she worked with therapists and participated in outpatient therapies like fitness, Tai Chi and Qigong, and she observed inpatient acupuncture, massage, music therapy and yoga. Getrude also did a literature search on an herb (Sea buckthorn) that is being used by a number of cancer patients, and wrote a monograph on it that will be posted on the website soon. This website has many entries on herbs, botanicals, supplements and other therapies that are used by patients to supplement mainstream cancer treatment. Finally, Getrude examined data on all of the patients who used the MSKCC Integrative Medicine outpatient service since 2009. From the data she analyzed, she was able to determine the utilization of various therapies in 2013 as well as the trends in usage of the outpatient service over time. Getrude tells us: “My final presentation was today and it went well. I had a really wonderful experience working in both Integrative Medicine and Breast Imaging.”

Lauren Morse (HC ’16)… spent part of her summer WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in France, where she did a lot of gardening, cooking, and cleaning for a bed and breakfast establishment. For the rest of the summer, Lauren volunteered at Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City. There, she tells us, she is: “learning basic plant identification and doing a lot of weeding and maintenance in the gardens.“

Shayoni Nag (BMC ’16)… is working at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department. Stationed in the VCA lab (vascularized composite allotransplantation) lab, Shayoni is working on a project that focuses on elucidating the mechanism of lymphatic regeneration in the setting of tolerance, rejection, and immunomodulation of skin allografts. This project aims to demonstrate the immunomodulatory properties of lymphatic inhibition in a mouse model of skin transplantation. Currently Shayoni is in the process of determining if lymphatic re-connection in recipient and donor tissues is an important step in the regulation of immune response by coordinating antigen presenting cell (APC) trafficking. Shayoni tells us: “This project a great a new experience for me as it is the first time I am able to be hands on in animal operating rooms and perform animal surgeries on mice, including the skin grafts themselves.”

Sofia Oleas (BMC ’15)… is spending her summer working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on sofia summer 2014Assateagune Island, VA, where she is monitoring shorebirds such as Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers. Sofia tells us: “Monitoring Piping Plovers is important because they are endangered. Similarly, Least Terns and Black Skimmers are also endangered and are found in the same habitat as Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers.” Although Sofia only collected data on Least Terns and Black Skimmers occasionally, she is happy to be a part of the effort towards their conservation. Because American Oystercatchers are neither listed as endangered nor threatened, but other shorebirds in the same habitat are, data collection on their numbers and fledge rates are an important step towards their official conservation. In addition to her work with shorebirds, Sofia also collected deceased Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrels (DFS) to monitor the impact of motor vehicles on the island's subpopulation. Although the DFS were recommended for delisting in 2012, the process is long and is dependent on further data collection. The picture depicts Sofia next to a Piping Plover enclosure that she constructed with other biology interns to protect the Piping Plovers' eggs from depredation (red foxes, ghost crabs, greater black back gulls, etc).

Rachel Shields (BMC ’15)… is continuing to do in the T. Davis lab at Bryn Mawr this summer. Rachel is investigating how DNA methylation patterns at the paternally methylated, paternally expressed mouse Rasgrf1 gene change during embryonic development. It has been established that the DNA methylation of other paternally methylated imprinted genes, H19 and Gtl2, contracts and re-expands during embryonic development, but it is now know at which developmental stage this occurs. Rachel is studying the upper differentially methylated region (uDMR) of Rasgrf1 to determine how its DNA methylation pattern changes. This analysis is done utilizing DNA extracted from mouse blastocysts as well as 6.5, 9.5 and 12.5 day embryonic tissues to determine when DNA methylation and re-expansion occurs.

Emily Spica (BMC ’15)… has spent her summer continuing with her ongoing research project in Dr. Greg Davis’s lab at Bryn Mawr College. Emily is working towards better understanding the mechanisms that allow female aphids to switch between sexually vs. asexually reproducing forms in response to varying daylight length. Emily has been investigating juvenile hormone (JH), an insect hormone that has been implicated in these changes and potentially mediates the effect of photoperiod. To clarify this role, Emily is making targeted measurements of JH titer during sexual induction. In addition, Emily is also using next-generation sequencing to identify genes that are differentially expressed during early specification and differentiation of sexual fate.

Chloe Thangavelu (BMC ’16)… spent the summer working at a start-up biotech company in Palo Alto, California as a graphic design intern. Chloe worked on a project where she was illustrating new techniques for genome sequencing.

Prerana Vaddi (BMC ’16)… is spending her summer in Philadelphia working at Drexel, HUP, and CHOP. While at Drexel, Prerana is working with the Center for Family Intervention Science (CFIS) trying to understand how trauma and suicidality relate. In addition, Prerana is also investigating how attachment-based family therapy impacts emotion regulation and the internalization/externalization of emotional problems. This August, she’ll be presenting a poster on this work at the American Psychological Conference in Washington D.C.  At HUP, Prerana works at the FTD center, studying frontotemporal dementia, a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects nearly 10,000 people every year. In particular, Prerana is focusing on how single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and environmental factors affect the age of onset of FTD.  Additionally, she studies the predictive validity of heritability by conducting pedigree analyses of affected individuals. Finally, at CHOP, Prerana is studying how temporal lobe epilepsy contributes to functional changes in the dentate gyrus via imaging and staining techniques and transgenic mice models.

Katia Vlasova (BMC ’15)… is working in the T. Davis lab at Bryn Mawr this summer, where she is looking at DNA methylation patterns at the differentially methylated region of the imprinted Gtl2 gene in mouse. A previous analysis of the linked imprinted gene, Dlk1, revealed an unusually pattern of DNA methylation which manifested as an unexpectedly high percentage of hemimethylated sites – it was found that at approximately 1/3 of the CpG dyad sites, only one of the complementary DNA strands exhibited DNA methylation. The aim of Katia’s project is to carry out the same type of analysis at Gtl2 to ascertain whether this pattern is unique to Dlk1 or whether this high percentage of hemimethylation is a common feature of imprinted genes.

Halle Watkin (BMC ’16)… has spent her summer conducting research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, MA. She has been developing immunoassay protocols, including ELISAs, for the Institute to use to detect the concentrations of various antibodies within cell culture supernates, serum, and plasma. She has also developed fundamental skills in running Bradford assays and preparing cell lysates. In addition to her work at ALS TDI, Halle has continued shadowing Attending Radiologist Dr. Valerie Fein-Zachary at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Attending of Emergency Medicine Dr. Jeffrey Schneider at Boston Medical Center.

Amy Wiedenfeld (BMC ’16)… is conducting research at University College Cork in Ireland this summer. Amy is working on a project about intertidal sea grass (Zostera noltii). She tells us that she spent several days in the field helping collect samples of the sea grass, which grows on mudflats, and that she mostly works in the lab sorting through biomass samples and sediment samples. Once the biomass samples are sorted into aboveground and belowground biomass, wet and dry weights are calculated. The sediment samples have to be sieved to find out the silt fraction and the sand fraction to find out what type of sediment the sea grass grows in.

Christina Xie (BMC ’16)… spent part of her summer shadowing a doctor at the Orange County (California) Migraine and Headache Center.


Students conducting research in the Bryn Mawr Biology Department include:

Kaeun Bae (BMC '15) - Chander lab

Caitlin Bauer (BMC '16) - Mozdzer lab

Lyntana Brougham (BMC '16) - Mozdzer lab

Amanda Cline (BMC '16) - Shapiro lab

Ishani Das (BMC '15) - Brodfuehrer lab

Carolyne Face (BMC '15) - T. Davis lab

Fiona Gambanga (BMC '15) - Chander lab

Emily Geoghegan (BMC '17) - Mozdzer lab

Rachel Hager (BMC '15) - Mozdzer lab

Nicole Hamagami (BMC '16) - T. Davis lab

Katrina Obieta (BMC '15) - Brodfuehrer lab

Rachel Shields (BMC '15) - T. Davis lab

Emily Spica (BMC '15) - G. Davis lab

Mahira Tiwana (BMC '16) - Brodfuehrer lab

Katia Vlasova (BMC '15) - T. Davis lab


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