Tag Archives: RF2016-Week5

Emre, Türk Bilim Adamı

In my opinion, one of the most interesting chalk talks last week was Emre’s discussion on the Foxj1 protein, and its role in ependymal cells. I think it’s fascinating that the entire differentiation process of a cell can depend on solely one transcription factor. Our body contains millions of cell types, yet the mechanism that distinguishes a liver cell from a neuron from a skin cell can differ by just one protein. Emre is trying to understand why and how these proteins degrade so quickly, even though they are so important for ependymal cells. To do this, Emre is mutating various sites on the protein. After finding which site is responsible for degradation, Emre’s lab will use that mutated protein to overexpress Foxj1 in ependymal cells and observe how they react. This information can be crucial in fighting certain neurological diseases. Emre’s project was also particularly interesting to me, as my lab is using a completely different approach to combat neurological diseases.

May I Present to You, The One and Only Ricardo Matias!

This week, I had the opportunity to learn more about the research projects of my fellow BSURFers. Every one of them was very unique and interesting. I really enjoyed my peers’ presentations and thank them for such a great experience. Among all, I found Ricardo’s project about brain machine interface (BMI) to be the most intriguing, so I will be reflecting about it in more detail.

A brain-machine interface is a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device. Ricardo’s lab is seeing this interface as a possibility to restore mobility in the limbs of people who have paraplegia.  He particularly analyzes the lag times between neural firing rates and velocity in monkeys. He uses the data from the previous experiments where monkeys are given a joystick that controls a cursor on a screen and asked to move it to a specific target. He compares the lag times of bimanual tasks (monkeys use two joysticks to move two different cursors to two different targets) to those of unimanual tasks (monkeys use one joystick to move one cursor to one target) performed by monkeys and uses MATLAB to produce graphs that could help him understand the relationship between these two different type of tasks.

I think, in the future, the brain-machine interface could be a solution to people with different type of disabilities. Ricardo did a great job by presenting his very interesting project. I will be excitedly waiting to hear more about the developments in this project from Ricardo.


Chalk Talk Reflections

This past week I had the pleasure of getting to learn about the research of all of my peers in the BSURF Program. In particular, I found Yilin’s presentation about her research to be very fascinating.

Yilin and the lab she is in studies if a mutation in the scaffolding protein Shank2 is associated with bipolar disorder. She is involved with amplifying the gene of interest from patient samples using PCR for analysis of mutations. She also is perfecting the methodology of running these PCRs. Following this, she will have the samples sequenced and then computationally compare the sequences for similar mutations in an effort to see if such a mutation is associated with Bipolar disorder.

I found Yilin’s work very interesting in that I’ve not encountered much scientific literature on bipolar disorder or its causes; i thought her proposed mechanism of action (the mutated Shank2 protein) was very interesting and am interested to hear what her findings are following the computational analysis. Yilin did an excellent job presenting her research and it sounds as if she has a very exciting project to be involved with!

Chalk Talk Reflection

I really enjoyed hearing everyone give their chalk talks this week and learning just how diverse all of our projects are. From plant germination to genetic mutations, gene expression to viruses, each one of us is taking part in really interesting science.

One of the chalk talks that especially caught my attention was Ricardo’s talk about brain-machine interfaces (BMI). A brain-machine interface is a communication pathway between the brain and a system of devices composed of a decoder that interprets electrical signaling in the brain, a machine that translates signals into movement, and sensory feedback that relays signals back to the brain. This network of brain and machine communication allows for the development of brain controlled prosthetic limbs to be used by patients who suffer from paralysis such as quadriplegia. His project focuses on studying the relationship between lag times (the delay between neural firing and actual movement) and unimanual vs. bimanual actions in monkey models. This is done by comparing velocity models and neural firing models for each type of action. Studying lag times can help improve the efficiency of brain-machine interfaces by making movement feel more natural for humans.

What amazes me the most about his project are the possible applications brain-machine interfaces have for human health. The use of BMI in patients who suffer from limb paralysis would allow them to move again, essentially changing their lives. I really found learning about the engineering side of research to be interesting because of this direct application for humans.

I look forward to hearing about his findings as well as all my fellow BSURF researchers’ findings!

Chalk Talks and Mutations

Though I’ve heard bits and pieces about a variety of people’s research projects throughout the past five weeks, I haven’t heard them described in as much detail as they were during the chalk talks. Therefore, I found it really interesting to hear the diversity of fields that our projects covered, from plants models to animal models and genetics to engineering, yet there were definitely some common threads present. This week has really shown me how one field can branch into so many questions, yet so many different fields can also converge into one question (if that makes any sense).

One chalk talk that I really enjoyed listening to was Demi’s, for two major reasons (but not the only reasons!):

  1. The genome is a really interesting subject, and the ability to study its self-repair mechanisms and the functions of the genes within it always amazes me.
  2. We learned about a lot of these concepts in BIO201 (mutagenesis, DNA mismatch repair, cytosine deamination, etc.) and it’s refreshing to learn about real research involving them (also without being tested on it).

Demi’s project involves a transition mutation in the gene CAN1 in yeast and how the strand bias of the mutation significantly increases after removing the DNA mismatch repair mechanism. The driving question is what exactly causes this bias?

I’ll be looking forward to see in the upcoming weeks as to whether her results support either hypothesis (a polymerase causing mutations during replication or a stronger consensus sequence for a cytosine deaminase) and if any broader generalizations can be drawn from the research!