2013-2015 UC LEADS Cohort





2013-2015 Cohort


Arthur Chow

Major: Biological Sciences 

Home City: Tracy, CA

Contact: achow4@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Professor Jennifer Manilay

Arthur Chow is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in molecular cell biology. He works with Professor Manilay, whose research focuses on the development of B-lymphocytes in mice and how they fare during hematopoiesis. Arthur expects to graduate in Spring 2015. After his undergraduate career, Arthur hopes to either obtain a Ph.D. and perform clinical research, or attend medical school and eventually become a pediatrician. Aside from research, Arthur also works in the admissions unit of UC Merced as a Bobcat caller assisting incoming freshman with any questions or concerns about the university. He especially enjoys this job because he feels it is important to help inexperienced students get prepared for the challenges that arise during their undergraduate careers. In his spare time, Arthur enjoys running, playing soccer, solving Rubik’s cubes and assembling computers. He also enjoys going home and spending quality time with his sister and parents on the weekends.
Analysis Of Immune System Cells In Sclerostin-Deficient Mice
Arthur Chow*, Larrisha Coney*, Yvette Pellman, bachelor’s of science, and Professor Jennifer O. Manilay, molecular and cell biology
*equal contribution
When sclerostin (SOST), an essential glycoprotein for proper bone formation, is absent, hyperactive bone growth occurs along with a decrease in bone marrow cavity size. Recent studies have shown that Sost has significant influence over developing bone marrow environments that sustain B cells; however knowledge of its role in B cell function is limited. We are investigating the effects of age and gender on B cell function in Sost-knockout mice. Peripheral blood samples will be analyzed at set time points to observe changes in mature and immature B cell populations in Sost-knockout and B6 mice. We hypothesize that B cell populations will be altered in the absence of Sost, and if so, will raise questions for certain anti-SOST antibody drug treatments of osteoporosis.
Additionally, we are testing the efficacy of zinc-based fixation for flow cytometric analysis of immune cells in Sost-knockout mice. Zinc-based fixation can reduce research costs considerably, if epitopes are not altered by the fixation. To investigate this, fresh and zinc-fixed splenic cells obtained from a B6 mouse were fluorescently compared by staining them with CD19, CD11b, CD45, Ly-6C, CD4, CD8, and CD11C antibodies. Both cell types displayed similar fluorescence intensity, indicating the possible practicality of zinc-fixation on other cell types. For future experiments, we will test antibody cocktails and apply this method to cells in Sost-KO mice.

Youstina Gad

Major: Physics 

Home City: Merced, CA

Contact: ygad@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Professor Michael Scheibner

Youstina Gad is a third-year undergraduate student in physics. She researches quantum dot molecules and their possible implications on future technologies. She also serves as a Sunday school teaching assistant working with preschool kids and translating between English and Arabic. She came from Egypt in 2008 in pursuit of a better education and better opportunities to serve the community. She values community service and feels it is the most effective way to influence society. She hopes to work in a position that helps people and values science.
Measuring Dipole-Dipole Interaction in Biexcitons in InAs/GaAs Quantum Dot Molecules
Youstina N. Gad, Mark Kerfoot, Cyprian Czarnocki, Davis Lu, Christopher Bush and Professor Michael Scheibner, School of Natural Sciences
Quantum dots have an inherent inhomogeneity due to lack of human control of their exact growth. Basically, no two dots are alike. This inhomogeneity makes it difficult to couple dots together in a way one would couple atoms to form a molecule. Therefore, to control such a system, one needs to device a different way of interaction that is independent of structural details. Electric fields, for example, provide such a mechanism. Here we aim to optically measure the dipole-dipole interaction between two excitons that occupy separate quantum dots in a closely spaced quantum dot pair. The optical transition, with the two excitons, is similar to the neutral exciton transition, but with a slight change in the energy, that is due to the dipole-dipole interaction between the two excitons. We determine the dipole-dipole interaction by a comparative measurement between the transition energy of the state with one exciton, and the state with an exciton in each dot. This measurement will then be usable in controlling a system of coupled quantum dots, so called quantum dot molecules, for use in quantum information processing and in the creation of logic gates implemented as optical switches.

Charlesice Hawkins

Major: Biological Sciences 

Home City: Alliance, OH

Contact: chawkins2@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Professor Masashi Kitizawa

Charlesice Hawkins is pursuing two bachelor’s of science degrees, in cognitive science and human biology. She expects to graduate in Spring 2015 and continue on to graduate school to obtain her Ph.D. in neuroscience. She has had experience working in a computational cognitive neuroscience lab and is involved in a molecular biology lab. She intends to examine the molecular mechanisms of different neurological disorders. In her spare time, she enjoys quad skating as a roller derby referee.
Evaluating Brain Pathology in a Rat Model of Type II Diabetes Mellitus: a Possible Link with Alzheimer’s Disease
Charlesice C. Hawkins, Carlos Rodriguez-Ortiz, Ph.D., Ruben Rodriguez, Professor Rudy Ortiz and Professor Masashi Kitazawa, School of Natural Sciences
Type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a fast growing disease, as more than 20 million people are affected in the U.S. It occurs when the body develops a resistance against insulin and does not properly utilize glucose. Insulin resistance and other comorbidities of T2DM such as hypertension, inflammation and increased oxidative stress may damage blood vessels in the brain. Approximately 60-70 percent of T2DM patients develop neuropathic conditions, and it has also been listed as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the exact molecular link between T2DM and AD has not been fully elucidated. To investigate this connection, brains from a Cholecystokinin-1 (CCK1) receptor mutant rat model for type II diabetes and obesity were examined using biochemical and histological techniques in search of features of AD-like neuropathology. This rat model develops a metabolic syndrome characteristic of T2DM in an age-dependent manner. In the present study, oxidative stress, amyloid-precursor protein (APP), inflammation, and synaptic markers were examined. There were slight increases in inflammation and APP in the brain of T2DM rat model, suggesting that T2DM phenotypes may trigger AD-like neuropathology at later ages. In perspective of such trends, longitudinal examinations of brain pathology of this model will further provide insights into the molecular link between T2DM and AD.

Kimberly Nguyen

Major: Chemical Sciences 

Home City: Sunnyvale, CA

Contact: knguyen44@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Professor Patricia LiWang

Kimberly is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in chemistry. She is involved with Professor Patricia LiWang’s lab, which is studying chemokines and their role in HIV entry inhibition and anti-inflammation, and is under the instruction of post graduate Li Zhang. Through hard work and perseverance, Kimberly intends to graduate with her degree in Spring 2015. Growing up as the eldest child of three in a home with only one parent, she has learned how to motivate and push herself to achieve more. She truly believes one’s future will be determined by one’s will and efforts.
Sub-cloning of Highly Potent HIV Inhibitors 5P12 RANTES and 5P12 RANTES-Linker-C37 into Pichia Pastoris Overexpression System
Kimberly Nguyen, Megan Schill, Li Zhang and Professor Patricia LiWang, School of Natural Sciences
HIV plagues approximately 34.2 million people worldwide and 2.5 million new HIV cases were discovered in 2011 alone. Currently, there is no approved cure but progress has been made towards HIV prevention. The proteins 5P12-RANTES and 5P12-Linker-C37 have been shown to be potent HIV entry inhibitors. These inhibitors bind to chemokine receptor CCR5 embedded in the cell membrane of T cells, and the linked C peptide moiety of 5P12-Linker-C37 also binds to the HIV protein gp41, to prevent conformational changes necessary for the entry of HIV into the cells. Presently, these proteins are being studied for possible use in animal and clinical trials. However, protein production of these inhibitors using Escherichia coli has resulted in low yield. We hypothesize that utilizing a eukaryotic overexpression system, Pichia pastoris, will increase protein production. For this reason, molecular biological techniques including PCR, restriction enzyme digestion, ligation, and transformation were used to sub-clone the DNA sequences encoding 5P12-RANTES and 5P12-Linker-C37 from a pET28a E. coli vector into a pPICZα vector. The product vectors have been sequenced to check for proper insertion of the gene and will be used for later integration into Pichia pastoris for a series of expression tests.

Nicholas White

Major: Bioengineering

Home City: Garden Grove, CA

Contact: nwhite6@ucmerced.edu

Faculty Mentor: Professor Kara McCloskey

Nicholas White, called Nick for short, is a junior in bioengineering and researches tissue engineering, looking specifically at vascular growth and production to see if there is a way to manipulate the vascular growth for diseases such as cancer and a few brain disorders. He expects to graduate in Spring 2015. Nick has spent a few years serving on management teams and has been developing professional skills that he hopes to one day take into industry as he hopes to design a cost effective way to treat many diseases. Nick believes in making his mark through community service, and hopes to change the lives of many through medical, social and economic means. He works with the National Society of Black Engineers to help the community, serving as the Northern California Zone chair, and is a representative for the pre-college, college and professional chapters. He enjoys traveling, learning and working on stuff that is interesting.
Site Directed Differentiation of ESC-EC Using a Fibronectin-VEGF Matrix Blend
Drew E. Glaser1, Nicholas S. White2, Professor Kara E. McCloskey1,2; 1Biological and Small-scale Technologies graduate group, School of Engineering
It has been observed that fibronectin (Fn) contains binding sites for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and may aid VEGF-activated differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in to endothelial cells (ECs). Moreover, directed VEGF-Fn binding may be used in a less complicated and more cost effective approach to site-directed differentiation such as “click chemistry.” Therefore, we examined the extent of the physical binding between soluble VEGF and Fn. and After verify the binding between VEGF and Fn, we then determined the correlating number of vascular progenitor cells, by measuring Flk-1 expression after four days in induction from ESC in our patented serum-free induction medium. Preliminary data indicates that the VEGF does bind to sites in the fibronectin matrix. After quantifying this phenomenon, we have examined that this growth factor-matrix blend may be used to enhance site directed differentiation of ESC-EC.