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2017-2019 MARC Cohort






Maxamizing Access to Research Careers: Summer 2017-2019 Cohort

Marily Barron

Major: Applied Mathematics

Home City: Aromas, CA


Faculty Mentor: Professor Suzanne Sindi

Marily Barron is an Applied Mathematics major, an upcoming third year undergraduate, and expects to graduate Spring 2019. She is from Aromas, a small rural town near by Salinas. Marily is an aspiring physician and is thinking about MD/PhD programs. As a step foward, she was a member of Prep Medico (a 6-week program for aspiring doctors) during Summer 2016. She's involved in Medical CATS and Compass (a youth mentoring program). Soccer and walking are her hobbies but when she's home she prefers to horse ride. Marily believes in helping the San Joaquin Valley since it suffers from health disparities. With this said, after her education she wishes to work in around the Merced area. 
Assessing the Impact of 8 Weeks of Almond Consumption Measurements in Collge Freshmen
Marilyn Barron1Jaapna Dhillon2, Syed A. Asghar2, Quintin Kuse2, Natalie De La Cruz2, Emily Vu2, Suzanne S. Sindi1, and Rudy M. Ortiz, PhD1; Applied Mathematics1 Molecular and Cellular Biology2, School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
Biomedical research has provided support for the dietary benefit of almond consumption. However, most of the studies to date have considered only adult populations (age 40+). In this study, we assess the impact of chronic (8-weeks) almond snacking on college freshmen at UC Merced. We observed 73 UC Merced freshmen (mean age: 18.08, mean BMI: 25.44) for eight weeks. 35 consumed a control snack of graham crackers and 38 consumed an isocaloric amount of almonds (2 ounces, 325 kcal) for 8 weeks. Anthropometric and clinical measurements were collected before the study began and at the fourth and the eighth week. With this data, we have outlined a plan to generate multiple models to apply theoretical analyses to robustly assess the effects of chronic almond snacking on anthropometric and clinical outcomes. To date, we have not detected a significant difference in any of the anthropomorphic measurements. We continue to perform many of the biochemical measurements, but of those completed, we observe an increase in plasma HDL in the almond group at week 8 suggesting that chronic almond snacking has the potential to improve the metabolic profile independent of profound changes in anthropomorphic measures such as body mass or adiposity.

Asmaa Mohamed

Major: Biological Sciences

Home City: Merced, CA


Faculty Mentor: Professor Jennifer Manilay

Asmaa Mohamed is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced. She is majoring in Developmental Biology and minoring in Chemistry. She is currently working in Dr. Manilay's immunology lab. She is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2019. After graduating from UC Merced she plans to attend the University of California, San Fransisco to obtain her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. Asmaa is passionate about science communication and outreach. She is the outreach officer for the SACNAS Chapter at UC Merced. She is involved in other outreach activities on campus such as the BiotaQ Project, Engineering service learning-Project Get S.E.T., the STEM Center and much more. In her free time, Asmaa enjoys drawing, reading, embroidery and spending time with her family.
Analysis of Hematopoiesis in Mice with Altered Bone Homeostasis
Asmaa Mohamed, Gabriela G. Loots, PhD, and Jennifer O. Manilay, PhD; Molecular and Cellular Biology Unit, School of Natural Sciences, University of California, Merced
Sclerostin (SOST) protein regulates bone homeostasis by regulating the maturation of osteoblast to osteocytes in the bone. Previously, we found that SOST knockout (KO) mice displayed high bone mass, small bone marrow cavities and few hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. The role of SOST and the molecular mechanisms that mediate the crosstalk between hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and the different bone “niche cells” are incompletely understood, and our preliminary data indicate that HSCs in SOST-KO bones may be hyperproliferative. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms that regulate HSC proliferation in SOST-KO mice. To test the hypothesis that specific bone niche cells control HSC proliferation, we established a bone digestion protocol to analyze endothelial cells, osteoblasts, and mesenchymal stem cells by flow cytometry, and are currently optimizing the protocol to purify these cells by flow cytometry for gene expression analysis. We have determined that bone digestion for greater than one hour likely degrades the cells’ RNA, and we are currently assessing different strategies to increase cell yields and RNA integrity after flow cytometric sorting. Optimization of this protocol will allow us to perform real-time PCR using purified bone niche cells from control and SOST-KO mice, as well as perform functional HSC-niche cell coculture assays We also successfully performed bone analyses of bone niche cells from other gene knockout mice strains, demonstrating the utility of our technical protocol. Our studies could identify specific bone niche cells that control HSC fate, which could have applications for hematological diseases and immunity.