CAURS-NURJ Special Edition Issue

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Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium

Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal Special Edition Issue

Volume 1 | 2015 1

About CAURS To the reader, Welcome to the first collaboration between the Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal! Having just finished its eleventh year, CAURS is still hosting record numbers of undergraduate students from all disciplines in Chicago’s universities. This student-run symposium is made possible by the undergrads presenting their research, their evaluators, and those who continually recognize the contributions made by undergraduates in the pursuit of knowledge. This past symposium, CAURS’s Inter-School Board featured free poster printing, a more select number of featured oral presentations, a keynote speech by a New York Times bestselling science writer, and a publication of the abstracts of the awarded students. We believe that these endeavors were largely successful, and so you can expect to see most of these features return at next year’s symposium. We would like to highlight some of our oral and poster presenters from this year’s most recent symposium on April 11, 2015 at the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center. These intelligent, engaging, and creative undergraduates presented their research from all disciplines, from STEM to anthropology to economics. We are honored to present to you our Best Poster Presentation and Best Oral Presentation winners, as well as the Honorable Mentions in each discipline. We are also delighted to share the Best Presentation from each of our partner institutions—Calumet College of St. Joseph, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago—as well as the six featured oral presenters. We are very happy to partner with NURJ, and we hope you enjoy reading these profiles of such hardworking students. We would like to thank the staff of NURJ, particularly Monica Cheng, the editor-in-chief, for such a phenomenal issue, our Inter-School Board, and the featured students herein themselves. Most sincerely, Dana Dahhan Director


Tamara Gedankien Director

Saad Khan Director

From the Founder The Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium was established to help encourage, promote, highlight, and celebrate the achievements of undergraduate students conducting research. It was also meant as a venue for helping undergraduates in the Chicago area learn about the research of their peers, network with faculty, interact with industry representatives, and receive both wisdom and inspiration from invited speakers. It has been wonderful to see CAURS grow and improve over the years. The inaugural event was held in 2005 with just over 70 undergraduate research presenters from four Chicago area universities (Loyola University Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago). The focus was almost solely on the physical sciences. Today, the symposium is open to all academic disciplines and areas of study, from physical chemistry to cultural studies, and it has grown to become one of the largest student-run undergraduate research conferences in the country. Of late, CAURS has drawn up to 300 undergraduate research presenters from more than a dozen institutions. What has been even more remarkable to see is how well organized the symposium has become. Many individuals in recent years have commented on how professional the event feels. This is a real testament to the efforts of the student organizers, who work year-round to arrange pretty much every aspect of the symposium.

Chandler D. Robinson, MD MBA MSc Founder, Chicago Area Undergraduate Research Symposium



Elizabeth Larsen (’15) is a senior in the Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern University, where she is studying Economics and Global Health. She is interested in research at the intersection of politics, poverty, and disease. She plans to work as a consultant next year at McKinsey & Company, before matriculating to Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Tackling Childhood Malnutrition: An Investigation of Innovative Grassroots Approaches Around the World Sociology and Anthropology Elizabeth Larsen, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: William Leonard

As of 2013, approximately 161 million children under the age of 5 years old suffer from stunted growth globally (WHO). Malnutrition has profound, negative consequences on children’s physical and cognitive growth and development. This cross-regional study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of alternative grassroots nutrition interventions for combating childhood growth stunting. The study was carried out over three months across ten case study sites in Guatemala, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, Nepal and Cambodia. A mixed method, comparative study design was used, and data was collected using interactive interviews and qualitative field observations. The data were analyzed using NVivo qualitative data analysis software, Microsoft Excel software, and manually. The study revealed four elements that were important for improving growth outcomes across the programs. First, agricultural solutions tend to be the most cost effective, sustainable, and high impact nutrition interventions. Second, targeting new mothers produces better nutrition outcomes in young children. Third, group education classes help to establish social bonds that increase program impact. Lastly, government partnerships promote long-term sustainability. This study also uncovered numerous challenges facing the field of nutrition, including vast variability in the efficacy of nutrition innovations, little cohesion in monitoring and evaluation indicators among programs, and difficulty finding ongoing, apolitical funding sources. Further research into how to effectively scale grassroots interventions while preserving their deep impact is needed. 4

Stephanie Bi (’16) is majoring in Biological Sciences and English Language and Literature. She is passionate about medical ethics, health policy, and broadly, the intersection of the humanities and natural sciences. She hopes to attend medical school in the future and aspires to be a physician-writer.

A Theoretical Analysis of the Universal Design model as Applied to Queer Healthcare Disparities Social Justice Stephanie Bi, University of Chicago Discrimination against queer patient populations permeates science and healthcare, even in research on the very field itself, resulting in chronically damaging and sometimes life-threatening consequences. This theoretical and methodological analysis examines the day-to-day and longterm disparities that queer individuals face in healthcare, the factors that make the queer patient population unique among other minority groups, and the responsibility of the doctor in delivering “universal” care. This study evaluates the benefits and consequences of applying the Universal Design (UD) model, which has been used in disability studies and education to help reduce disparities in quality of healthcare for queer patient populations. Cultural competency as taught in medical school education is specifically focused upon in this literature review as the entry point for improvement.

Characterization of the First Inducible Malaria Promoter Using Transgenic Parasites Biological Sciences Sara Hammer, Loyola University Chicago

Sara Hammer (’15) is majoring in Biology with minors in Bioethics and Spanish Language & Literature. She currently works as a medical assistant at Feinberg as well as Dr. Kanzok’s Malaria lab. She plans to attend medical school in the future.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stefan Kanzoka Co-authors: Cecile Swift, Ahad Bagasrawala, Miho Usui, Dr. Stefan Kanzok

The regulation of gene expression in the malaria parasite Plasmodium is not well understood and only very few genetic regulatory elements are currently known. Plasmodium is able to survive and develop in the harsh conditions in the mosquito, with the help of its antioxidant response systems. We have recently shown that the parasite upregulates a prominent antioxidant defense protein 1-Cysteine Peroxiredoxin (1-Cys Prx) in response to oxidative stresses. To better understand the regulation of this inducible gene I cloned the putative minimal promoter of the 1-Cys Prx gene of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei in front of a luciferase reporter gene. I then isolated P. berghei infected red blood cells from a mouse and transfected the reporter construct into parasites. Next, I selected for transgenic parasites in infected mice. The parasites were isolated and the activity of the putative 1-Cys Prx promoter was analyzed using a quantitative luciferase assay. The results of this work provide first insights into the regulation of an inducible defense and the presence of an antioxidant response element.


Claire Short (’16) is a psychology major and hopes to study neuronal plasticity in learning and memory in graduate school. A few of her passions include biological imaging, education, ukulele playing, and debating topics in philosophy.

Identifying Biomolecular Markers of Impulsivity and Alcohol-Induced Changes in the Prefrontal Cortex Biological Sciences Claire Short, University of Illinois at Chicago Principal Investigator: Jamie Roitman Co-authors: Matthew McMurray, Jamie Roitman

Adolescence is a time period that involves a significant increase in impulsive decisions and potential experimentation with drugs and alcohol. The brain region critical for inhibiting these impulsive decisions, the prefrontal cortex, is still developing during this period. Thus, the underdeveloped nature of brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex during adolescence may explain some of the increase in risky decisions, relative to their older counterparts. This developing neurocircuitry may also be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and may alter its developmental trajectory, thereby having long-term repercussions from casual abuse. In this study, a rodent model of alcohol abuse was used to study the effects that daily adolescent alcohol exposure has on adult impulsivity. Our lab has previously identified a regional impairment in the function of the prefrontal cortex caused by alcohol consumption in adolescence. In order to identify the biomolecular cause of this impairment, RNA expression will be assessed via qPCR, focusing on major receptor types in this brain region (dopaminergic D1, D2, and D3 receptors, and nicotinic and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors). The appearance of these receptors has been shown to affect reward, motivation, and reinforcement in decision-making and addiction studies. However, little research has been done in studying the roles of these receptors on alcohol related changes in the prefrontal cortex. Results of this study will shed light onto the way in which adolescent alcohol intake affects decision-making in adulthood and will guide future research in finding novel treatments for this destructive epidemic.


George Baker (’16) studies neurobiology and is interested in pursuing a future in cancer medicine. Outside of schoolwork, he spins music on his own radio show at the university radio station and is on the university boxing team.

Joseph Coomes (’15) studies chemistry. After graduation, he will be commissioning in the U.S. Air Force and is reporting for pilot training shortly thereafter. His career goals include teaching chemistry at the U.S. Air Force Academy and working on global issues surrounding pharmaceutical development.

Inhibition of the Hedgehog Pathway With a Gli-Targeted Transition Metal Complex Biological Sciences George Baker & Joseph Coomes, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Thomas J. Meade Co-authors: Elizabeth A. Bajema, Thomas J. Meade

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most commonly-diagnosed cancer, is associated with overactive signaling of the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway. Previous approaches have disrupted the pathway via upstream inhibition, but the pathway has been shown to develop resistance to these treatments. To overcome this challenge, we have targeted the final step in the Hh pathway, the Gli zinc finger transcription factor (TF). TFs regulate gene expression through sequence-specific DNA binding. Historically, TFs have been considered undruggable due to a lack of deep binding pockets. However, the Meade lab has developed Cobalt(III)-Schiff base complexes (Co(III)-sb) that inhibit zinc finger TFs through a histidine-binding mechanism. Selective inhibition is achieved through attachment of an inhibitory Co(III)-sb moiety to the DNA recognition sequence of target TFs. We have observed successful binding of these complexes to Gli protein via EMSA studies. These Co(III)-DNA complexes were then introduced into a model cancer cell line, NIH/3T3 SHh-Light-II, and their efficacy was analyzed via luminescence assay, showing that Hh pathway signaling was inhibited by 60% when treated with Co(III)-DNA complexes. We are currently investigating the success of this system in the C3H/10T1/2 cell line. In order to effectively deliver the conjugate to mammalian systems and expand the model’s utility, we are investigating conjugation of Co(III)DNA to a gold nanoparticle with a thermally labile DNA linker.


BEST ORAL PRESENTATION Brandon Rayhaun University of Chicago


Brandon Rayhaun (’15) will be pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at Berkeley in the hopes of becoming a particle theorist. His main work has been on exploring moonshine phenomena, but he plans to become involved in high energy and condensed matter physics in graduate school.

Inside the Monster: Traces of Singular Moduli and Moonshine for the Thompson Group Mathematics Principal Investigator: Jeffrey A. Harvey

The last century witnessed the development of deep and surprising ideas that furthered the connection between mathematics and physics. In 1998, Richard Borcherds was awarded the Fields Medal for his proof of the Monstrous Moonshine conjectures, a web of elegant ideas elucidating the relationship of the Monster group to number theory and string theory by exhibiting it as the symmetries of a particular scale invariant quantum field theory. Since then, more moonshine phenomena have been discovered, each suggesting the existence of some more general structure, and although progress is being made every day, the true inner workings of the theory remain only partially understood at best. Our work details a new moonshine phenomenon associated with the Thompson group, a group which in some sense can be thought of as living inside the Monster.


BEST POSTER PRESENTATION Benjamin Bernstein Northwestern University Benjamin Bernstein is also the recipient of the Best in Institution Award for Northwestern University.


Memory Routines for the Transformation of Visuospatial Representations Social Sciences Principal Investigator: Steven Franconeri, PhD, Northwestern University Co-authors: Brandon Liverence, Steven Franconeri

Tasks like map-reading, perspective-taking, and mental simulation all involve transforming (e.g., rotating or reflecting) internal visuospatial representations to match current/imagined viewpoints. Here, we explored the memory routines that implement such transformations, by quantifying their associated mental costs. Participants searched for targets within a 4x4 configuration of realworld objects (viewed one-at-a-time through a central window), using keypresses to move between positions (thereby changing which object Benjamin Bernstein (’15) is a Cognitive Science major, was visible inside the window). The configuration remained stable for 30 and he completed his honors trials (enabling participants to acquire a robust memory representation) thesis with postdoctoral fellow but then changed; participants then completed 10 additional trials. We Brandon Liverence in Steven Franconeri’s Visual Cognition contrasted the costs of transforming intrinsic (object-centered) versus Lab. Bernstein’s research interests global (world-centered) reference frames of visuospatial representations. broadly concern the nature of There were 3 transformation types: 1) Intrinsic: objects’ orientations spatial representation and the visuospatial underpinnings of rotated 180° but positions remained unchanged; 2) Global: positions and number representation. orientations rotated 180° in sync; and 3) Both: locations rotated 180° but orientations stayed upright. We observed slower RTs after transformation versus before for Global (2.06sec/trial) and Intrinsic (0.63sec/trial), which differed significantly. Notably, though Global (where objects’ positions changed and orientations were “upside-down”) was more visually distinct from the initial configuration than Both, Global was significantly less costly than Both (2.85sec/trial), underscoring the contribution of intrinsic reference. These results suggest that visual scenes are redundantly encoded in terms of multiple spatial reference frames, and each must be transformed independently.



Side Chain Effect on IR Spectra of Heterogeneous Peptide Sequence: Theoretical Investigations of a Series of Tripeptides (A-X-A) Chemistry Logan Cole, Calumet College of St. Joseph Principal Investigator: Ahmed Lakhani, Ph.D., Calumet College of St. Joseph

Raman and VCD studies of peptides and proteins are often focused on the amide I at ~ 1650 cm-1 (mainly amide C=O stretch), but the lower energy amide II (~1550 cm-1) and III (~1300 cm-1) transitions (mixes of NH deformation and C-N stretch) also give conformationally sensitive IR and Raman bands, respectively. We have studied the effect of the side chain on the spectra of a series of tripeptides AXA, (X=G, V, L, F, W, S, K, Y, N), which are capped at N- and C- termini to yield AcAla-Xxx-Ala-NHMe. The geometry of the tripeptides was constrained to either -helical, (-57, -47), 310-helical (-60, -30) or PPII-helical (-78, 149) conformations by fully optimizing all the coordinates except at the DFT BPW91/6-31G** level of theory. The harmonic force field (FF), atomic polar tensor (APT), and atomic axial tensor (AAT) values were calculated at the same level for frequency and intensity (IR and VCD evaluation). Since the amide modes are mixed among the residues, 13C=18O labeling of the A-X-A amide group was used to simulate a shift of that amide I frequency down by between 40 to 60 cm-1 thereby resolving the contribution of such labeled residues from the rest of the amide groups 12C=16O. Logan Cole (’17) is pursuing Comparison of these results for the AXA series showed distinct patterns a future in Biomechanics or of side chain impact on the diagonal force constants for the X residue. Physical Therapy. He is also continuing more research with his mentor and looking ahead to the next CAURS meeting.


“Wait, What Do You Mean “He?”: Perceptions of Male Victims of Intimate Partner Violence Social Sciences Jack O’Brien & Yvita Bustos, DePaul University Principal Investigator: Dr. Theresa Luhrs

The purpose of this study is to investigate university students’ perceptions regarding victims of intimate partner violence (IPV). Prior research has suggested that both men and women perceive female perpetrated violence towards men as more acceptable than male perpetrated violence towards women (Arias & Johnson, 1989). In addition, men are less likely to seek help in IPV relationships (Hoff, 2012). In this study, students were Jack O’Brien (’16) is a asked to watch a video interview of either a male or female victim of IPV. Psychology major with a Participants were asked to rate how violent they perceived the abuse to Community concentration. His be, the perceived masculinity and femininity of the victim, the perceived research interests are violence prevention in adolescent reasons the victims stayed in the relationship, and interest in participating populations and public schools, in a focus group with victims of IPV (an indirect measure of social distancing). as well as the perceptions of male victims of intimate partner Data collection has been completed. We hypothesized that a male victim violence. would be perceived as less masculine than the average male. Similarly, we predicted that male participants would be less empathic towards the male victim and would attempt to socially distance themselves. Finally, we hypothesized there will be a significant difference between the number of perceived barriers to leaving an abusive relationship for male and female victims. This investigation is important in understanding how male victims are perceived. It is vital that any victim of IPV is supported.


Measurement of Elastin Expression After In Vitro Application of Potassium Channel Openers in RFL6 Cells Tech Jaya Parulekar, Illinois Institute of Technology Principal Investigator: Jessica Wagenseil, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis Co-authors: Catalin Staiculescu, Jessica Wagenseil

The goal of this study is to develop an in vitro assay for elastin expression using RFL6 cells, which were derived from fibroblasts present in rat lung tissue. Vasodilating pharmaceuticals that encourage production of elastin and helper proteins by smooth muscle cells in the arterial wall, particularly potassium channel openers, may increase functional elastic fibers, decrease vessel stiffness, and be a viable treatment option for hypertension. Different dosages of minoxidil and diazoxide, pharmaceuticals within this class, were applied to RFL6 cells, with elastin amounts in response to drug treatments being assessed using a commercial Fastin Elastin assay. From the results obtained, it can be interpreted that diazoxide and minoxidil exhibit changes in elastin content as drug concentration increases, with an especially significant elastin content level at 50 µM concentrations for both drugs. Seeing as these drugs exhibit an effect on increasing elastin content, future work involves transitioning from application of drug to cell line to application of drug to primary cells. Applying minoxidil and diazoxide to arterial cross sections, for example, would be an even more appropriate Jaya Parulekar (’15) studies model for elastin production in blood vessel walls. Overall, this Chemical Engineering and has project will shed light on optimal pharmaceutical doses for accepted a Postbaccalaureate Research Fellowship within increasing elastin expression and also provide a relatively high the Epithelial Systems Biology throughput method for testing additional anti-hypertensive drugs Laboratory of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that may affect elastin expression, subsequently decreasing arterial of the National Institutes of stiffness and blood pressure.

Health. Parulekar plans to attend medical school afterward.

The Role of Chemokine Receptor CXCR7 in the Neuronal Development and Regeneration in the Olfactory System Biological Sciences Kushal Bakshi, Loyola University Chicago Regeneration in the central nervous system is uncommon and occurs in only three separate areas of the nervous system. Neural regeneration occurs in the olfactory system throughout life, but it is currently unknown what factors activate the neural stem cell population in the olfactory epithelium. This population generates excitatory neurons with long projecting axons that synapse in the olfactory bulb in the brain. We hypothesize that chemokine receptors are responsible for this activation process throughout development as well as in response to injury. We have detected the expression of chemokine receptor CXCR7 in both the olfactory epithelium and olfactory bulb using Western blotting. We will be investigating the localization of CXCR7 in the olfactory epithelium and the olfactory bulb using immunohistochemistry. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the activation and subsequent proliferation of stem cells to functioning projection neurons can have important outcomes for patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.


Anne Krok (’15) is graduating from the University of Chicago with an A.B. in Biological Sciences with a specialization in Neuroscience, and a Minor in Statistics. She will be working as a Research Technician at Columbia Medical Center in New York City next year, and then plans to pursue a career as a physician scientist. Krok is interested in applying our understanding of neurobiological mechanisms of brain disorders to develop preventative and therapeutic options for treatment.

Chronic Caffeine Treatment and the D2-Mediated Aberrant Motor Learning Hypothesis Biological Sciences Anne Krok, University of Chicago Principal Investigator: Xiaoxi Zhuang, Ph.D., University of Chicago Co-authors: Jessica Koranda, Xiaoxi Zhuang

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by progressive decline in motor function resulting from the gradual degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. Epidemiological studies consistently show that smoking and caffeine intake are inversely correlated with incidence of PD. However, mechanisms of such protective effects are poorly understood. Our lab has found the contribution of dopamine D2 receptor-mediated aberrant learning to PD motor symptoms in animal models. The current study aimed to determine the impact of chronic caffeine treatment (cCAF) on aberrant motor learning. C57BL/6 mice were administered caffeine water, with treatment continuing during training on an accelerating rotarod task in two phases: an initial acquisition phase under dopamine signaling blockade and a relearning phase when mice are retrained on the rotarod without dopamine blockade. Aberrant learning was also evaluated using a haloperidol-induced catalepsy paradigm. We have demonstrated in our earlier studies that dopamine signaling blockade during the acquisition phase will result in aberrant learning. Results demonstrate that during acquisition, cCAF appears to be protective. cCAF was protective for withdrawal groups during relearning, but males with cCAF on board had hindered performance. Further evaluation is needed to determine if lower incidence of PD in caffeine-drinking populations may arise from protection against the acquisition of aberrant motor learning.


The Identification of MG-160 as a Novel Target of Polysialylation Biological Sciences Navika Shukla, The University of Illinois at Chicago Principal Investigator: Karen Colley, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago Co-authors: Helena Palka Hamblin, Ph.D., Karen Colley, Ph.D.

Polysialylation is a unique post-translational modification involved in neuronal development and synaptic plasticity. Recent studies have also implicated a role for polysialic acid in tumor progression, establishing a strong association between increased polysialic acid expression and tumor malignancy. The major cellular target of polysialylation is the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM); however, the synaptic cell adhesion molecule (SynCAM-1) and the neuropilin-2 receptor (NRP2) are also known targets for polysialylation. Based on the results of previous studies, which have indicated that other Navika Shukla (’17) is majoring in chemistry and polysialylation targets may exist, we undertook a study of the has a strong interest in molecular biology and polysialylated proteins within a rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) biochemistry research, particularly in relation cell line. From the results of mass spectrometry on the RBL cell to human disease. Shukla intends to pursue a degree in medicine and eventually go into line, we hypothesized that the membrane sialoglycoprotein, academic medicine. MG-160, maybe a novel target for polysialylation. Examination of endogenous MG-160 within RBL-2H3 cells through western blotting assays provided evidence to support the role MG160 as a polysialylation target. Further analyses were conducted through transfection assays of MG-160 within Cos-1 cells. Analysis of the transfection models through western blotting and immunofluorescence supported our previous findings by demonstrating the polysialylation of MG160. Interestingly, MG-160 is already thought to play a role in cancer metastasis, and our findings raise the possibility that the polysialylation of MG-160 may impact its tumorigenic effects. Further studies can be done to investigate this relationship.



The Role of Rab35 on the Localization and Trafficking of BACE1 Biological Sciences Elizabeth Woo, University of Chicago Principal Investigator: Gopal Thinakaran, Ph.D., University of Chicago Co-authors: Margaret Kalish, Gopal Thinakaran, Ph.D.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by deposition of amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides in brain senile plaques. Aß peptides are derived from the sequential cleavage of the transmembrane amyloid precursor protein (APP) by ßeta-site APP cleaving enzyme I (BACE1). While therapeutically targeting BACE1 effectively lowers Aß production, other adverse phenotypes arise. Therefore, understanding of the cell biology of BACE1 is necessary for alternative therapeutic strategies. It is understood that BACE1 cleaves APP within endocytic compartments; therefore, modulating BACE1 localization to Elizabeth Woo (’17) is studying economics and in these compartments may lower APP processing, and ultimately, Aß production. the future hopes to continue Rab35 is a GTPase that recruits Eps15 homology domain 1 (EHD1) to early her research on therapeutic endosomes to promote fast recycling of cargo, including BACE1, to the plasma targets for AD while practicing neurosurgery and membrane. EHD1 regulates BACE1 localization to the transferrin receptor (TfR)developing economic models positive recycling endosome in both neurons and non-neuronal cells. In this for International Health study, we have begun to characterize the role of Rab35 in BACE1 localization. policy dealing with AD. We find that BACE1 localization to recycling endosomes increases when Rab35 dominant-negative (DN) mutant is overexpressed. Additionally, overexpression of Rab35DN allows greater internalization of BACE1 from the cell surface. Finally, we found that a greater amount of BACE1 is expressed at the cell surface when Rab35DN mutant is overexpressed. These data are the first pivotal steps in understanding the mechanisms of the endocytic pathway of BACE1 and in hopefully predicting new therapeutic targets.


Charles Schurman (’16) is studying Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Material Science and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Bioengineering, Biomolecular Engineering, or another related field. Outside of research, he is member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and enjoys singing in the choir and playing the piano.

Elucidating the Transformation Mechanism Behind Citrate Capped Ag/Au Alloy Nanoparticles by Galvanic Replacement Biological Sciences Charles Schurman, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D., Northwestern University Co-authors: Liane Moreau, Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D.

Galvanic Replacement is a well-known method for creating hollow nanoparticles. It is a reduction reaction driven by the difference in charge of metal ions in solution versus ions in a sacrificial template structure. The morphology and atomic composition of the final structure can be tuned as a function of the amount of free ions introduced into the system. In the case of gold and silver, three Ag+ ions are replaced by every one Au3+ ions introduced, which results in a hollowing of the Ag template. The mechanism behind this hollowing has not yet been verified on the atomic scale. Previously, this reaction has been classified using TEM analysis of large cubic nanoparticles with the strong organic surfactant Polyvinylpyrrolidone (Xia et al. 2004). To simplify calculations, our study uses 20-nm diameter Ag spheres and citrate surfactant. The efforts of this study are two fold – to control the growth and transformation of this new system and to atomically trace the reaction mechanism. The use of UV-Vis Spectroscopy, TEM and STEM visual analysis, EnergyDispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (EDX), Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS), X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF), and X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure (XAFS) have been combined to classify this reaction. The size, geometries, atomic composition, and atomic domain sizes have all been found at various stages throughout the reaction. Ongoing studies are aimed at fully elucidating the transformation mechanism.


A TBX5 Driven Network Suppresses Atrial Fibrillation in the Adult Heart Biological Sciences Jenna Bekeny, University of Chicago Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have implicated a number of genetic loci in AF susceptibility, including the transcription factor TBX5. TBX5 is known for its role in cardiac development, and continues to be expressed in the adult atria. To study the postdevelopmental role of TBX5, TBX5 was removed with a tamoxifen-inducible Cre recombinase when mice were 6-8 weeks of age. Adult TBX5-deleted mice rapidly developed spontaneous AF, characterized by a surface electrocardiogram showing an irregularly irregular ventricular rate and an absence of p-waves. Mice heterozygous for adult TBX5 deletion showed a similar, though less penetrant, phenotype. To understand the mechanisms of AF onset after TBX5 removal, we evaluated transcript expression of a number of candidate genes linked to AF by qRT-PCR. We found that removal of TBX5 in the adult disrupted expression of a number of ion handling genes including gap junctional proteins (GJA1, GJA5), sodium channels (SCN5a, SCN7a), SR calcium channels (RYR2, SLN, ATP2a2), and potassium channels (KCNJ3, KCNJ5). Mice heterozygous for adult TBX5 deletion also show partial downregulation of these channels. We define a TBX5-dependent network in the atria that maintains atrial conduction. Disruption of this network manifests as atrial fibrillation. These studies shed insight on the genetics and mechanisms of AF in humans.

Structure and Metal-Binding of a Unique PcoC-like Copper Chaperone Biological Sciences Joseph Hurley, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Amy C. Rosenzweig, Ph.D. Co-authors: Kenney, G.E., Lawton, T.J., Rosenzweig, A.C.

Biological methane oxidation can be performed by two enzymes in methanotrophic bacteria: the iron-containing soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) and the copper-containing particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO). Expression of these proteins is controlled by a mechanism known as the “copper switch,” i.e. sMMO is primarily expressed under low-copper conditions (<5 µM) whereas pMMO is upregulated under high-copper conditions. The expression of pMMO creates a large demand for intracellular copper. It is hypothesized that the influx of copper is facilitated by a CopC, which neighbors 75% of sequenced pMMO operons. CopC has well-characterized homologs in the genomes of Escherichia coli (pcoCD), Pseudomonas syringae (copCD), and Xanthomonas campestris (copCD), where it serves to export toxic Joseph Hurley (’15) is a excess copper from the periplasm. In most methanotrophic bacteria, however, senior studying biology. the canonical Cu(I) binding site is completely missing. Sequence clustering After graduation, reveals the so-called canonical Cu(I) site is in fact absent from the majority of he will complete an IRTA fellowship at the CopC protein sequences. Here we present the crystal structure, metal-binding National Institutes of properties, and biological diversity of this unique Cu(II) chaperone. Health before pursuing graduate school in biochemistry.


Kevin Zhao (‘16) is currently working on drug discovery and chemical biology to better understand and develop therapeutics for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He plans to attend medical school or MD/Ph.D. to further his studies in human physiology.

Developing Therapeutics and Identifying Targets for the Treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Biological Sciences Kevin Zhao, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Richard B. Silverman, Ph.D., Northwestern University

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that results in death shortly after diagnosis. There is currently only one FDA approved drug for treating ALS, but it only extends life by 2-3 months. My project works on designing and developing better treatments for ALS. Furthermore, I will utilize the general chemical scaffold to perform a target-identification study to identify the mechanism of action of our lead compounds. From high-throughput studies, we have previously identified arylsulfanyl pyrazolones as a hit drug scaffold for alleviating cell death caused by mutations in Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), which is known to be linked to some cases of ALS. Further drug modification has shown that changing the sulfur into nitrogen significantly increases potency. My project works with this lead arylazanyl pyrazolone scaffold and modifying this compound to identify better treatments for ALS. Following this, I have designed a probe compound utilizing a scaffold in this drug development process to serve as a covalent marker in locating where in the cell this compound interacts. This probe compound needs to fulfill certain requirements in order to serve as a probe: comparable in potency with the lead compound, bioavailable to reach target, selective activation to covalently modify with residues nearby, and able to engage in click-chemistry for pull down affinity assay.


Development of Planktonic and Biofilm Bacterial Communities in a Laboratory Scale Model Drinking Water Distribution System Physical & Geophysical Sciences Nicole Minalt, Loyola University Chicago Drinking water distribution systems (DWDS) contain large numbers of viable microorganisms that exist in structured, surface-attached communities called biofilms. While non-pathogenic bacteria generally dominate these biofilms, the presence of pathogens in DWDS biofilms has been documented. Analysis of drinking water is routinely used as an indicator of pathogen presence within DWDS; however, the relationship between bacterial communities in the bulk water and biofilm communities within DWDS is poorly understood. We used a laboratory-scale pipe loop system inoculated with a bacterial consortium from a municipal DWDS to explore the relationship between attached and planktonic bacterial communities. Next-generation sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes was used to assess taxonomic composition of planktonic and biofilm communities. Robust biofilms developed in the system within several weeks, and these established biofilms resisted colonization by a laboratory strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01. Sequencing results indicated that planktonic and biofilm communities were initially similar in taxonomic composition, but planktonic and biofilm communities diverged significantly over the six week study, producing distinct communities. Biofilm communities were also more taxonomically diverse and consistently included sequences from the pathogenic genus Legionella, which was rarely detected in the bulk water. These results suggest that the monitoring of water may not be adequate to characterize DWDS bacterial communities or to detect the presence of pathogenic organisms within DWDS.

Between Man and Beast: Human-Animal Metamorphosis as a Reflection of Morality in the Lais of Marie de France Humanities & Fine Arts Kirsten Lopez, DePaul University My paper will be focused on the use of animal symbolism in the twelfth-century writings of Marie de France. In particular, this paper will reference the collection of her twelve lais, or short tales within which two of the tales contain transforming animals as major characters in the plot: “Bisclavret” and “Yonec.” I intend to prove that Marie de France’s use of animals was meant to provide a commentary on twelfthKirsten Lopez (’15) is studying anthropology and history and century morality that focused on the proscribed moral perceptions will continue her research on of masculinity and femininity perpetuated by courtly literature and Marie de France in her senior culture. Marie de France’s perspective as an educated woman in English thesis. This September, she will attend the University society provides an opinion rarely offered in medieval texts, and it is this of Edinburgh for a one year specific understanding of English twelfth-century culture and values that MSC in Medieval Literatures I wish to concentrate on. The use of animals as a behavioral foil to the and Cultures. human characters demonstrates how, despite his superiority to all other creatures, his actions often prove that humans are more savage or beastly than animals. Using existing scholarship related to the theme of metamorphosis in medieval literature, I will analyze the behavior and interaction of both men and women with animals, and between the men and women themselves. The animals are a means of measuring the moral fortitude of each gender against the unchanging nature of their wild counterparts and showing how society’s preconceptions of male or female goodness were often influenced by the symbols of good and evil in the natural world.


Decrypting the Tau Phosphorylation “Code” of Alzheimer’s Disease Through Production of Site-Specifically Phosphorylated Tau Tech Matt Amrofell, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Michael Jewett, Ph.D., Northwestern University Co-authors: Javin Oza, Michael Jewett, Ph.D.

The Tau protein functions as a microtubule stabilizer in neurons. However, when Tau becomes hyper-phosphorylated, neuronal axons degrade due to microtubule destabilization and neurofibrillary tangle formation. These biomarkers are commonly observed and associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, the mechanistic understanding of the phosphorylation “code” behind this process remains unclear. We Matt Amrofell (’17) is studying hypothesize that combinatorial effects of multiple phosphorylation chemical engineering, with a drive the severity of the disease state. My work seeks to produce sitespecific interest in synthetic specific phosphorylated Tau at seven disease-associated sites, singly biology and metabolic engineering. He plans to and combinatorially. I will use a phosphoprotein production platform study those topics further in developed in the Jewett lab that employs three primary innovations: (1) An graduate school or work on engineered orthogonal translation system (OTS) capable of incorporating them in industry. a phosphoserine residue at genetically encoded sites, (2) genomically reengineered E. coli strains that support Amber codon suppression by the engineered translation apparatus, and (3) a cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) platform for expression of human phosphoproteins. The combination of these technologies expands the genetic code to enable the site-specific incorporation of phosphoserine into proteins. I have generated a human-Tau construct optimized for expression in E. coli, as well as variants with amber codons for phosphoserine incorporation. Phospho-Tau variants will be evaluated in microtubule stability and neurofibrillary plaque formation assays. These experiments will provide a foundation for elucidating how the quantity, density, and distribution of serine phosphorylation contribute to Tau-based pathology.


Multilingual Exposure Impacts Early Sociolinguistic Judgments Social Sciences Danielle Labotka, University of Chicago Language is primarily used for communication, but humans can also use information from a person’s speech, such as errors, to make social judgments about them. Exposure to a multilingual environment may afford more experience with communicative patterns, thus making one less likely to judge others’ errors negatively. To test the impact of language exposure on children’s choices in social partners, we tested three different language populations, 3- and 4-year-old monolingual, exposure, and bilingual children, on their understanding of pragmatic errors. Children were provided with two speakers –one who made a pragmatic error (i.e. saying something unrelated to the conversation) and one who did not. Then, we asked children to identify who said something “funny or rude” and who they would rather be friends with. While children across all language groups were accurately able to identify the pragmatically incorrect speaker, bilingual children were less likely than monolingual and exposure children to use this information to influence their friendship preferences. That is, bilingual children, who may encounter errors in communication more often than their monolingual and exposure peers, may reserve judgment on others’ communicative errors while the other two groups do not. Our findings have implications for the social impact of early multilingualism.

Motivational Effects on Implicit Learning Social Sciences Danbee Chon, Northwestern University Principal Investigator: Paul Reber, Ph.D., Northwestern University Co-authors: Kelsey Thompson, Susie Turkson, Paul Reber, Ph.D.

Previous research has indicated that better implicit learning may occur on a state of regulatory misfit, as regulatory fit seems to induce better learning on conscious tasks. To investigate this idea of regulatory misfit, this study utilized the approach-avoid motivation theory, of which approach motivation seeks to be rewarded, and avoidance motivation seeks to avoid punishment. Implicit learning is a type of memory in which previous experiences assist in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of what is gained from experience. The project’s key question is to examine the effect of cognitive origin of motivation. We hypothesized that the regulatory misfit groups (positive + avoid & negative + approach) will exhibit better implicit learning than the fit groups (positive + approach & negative + avoid). 128 participants were randomly assigned into one of the four conditions before completing an implicit motor sequence learning task, which measures learning on a covertly embedded 12-item repeating sequence by comparing participants’ performance on the repeating sequence with unpracticed sequences. A factorial ANOVA revealed that our hypothesis was partially supported, as participants primed with avoid motivation displayed significantly better Danbee Chon (’15) is a psychology major sequence-specific learning than the approach motivation interested in social psychology research in group. We relate these findings to the research regarding industrial or business setting. Her postthe motivation theory, which indicates that avoid motivation graduate plan is to be a research coordinator at Kellogg School of Management. Currently, is generally more powerful than approach motivation and she is studying self-complexity, stereotype discuss implications for motivation effects on skill learning. threat, and socioeconomic status as well as continuing her work with motivation and implicit learning.


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MISSION STATEMENT I. To demonstrate the strength of Northwestern University’s undergraduate research. II. To provide undergraduates from academic departments across the University means to publish the results of their research. III. To inspire and expand further research by undergraduates. 24

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