SPUR Alumni

Bret Peterson

Bret Peterson, Microbial Biology

Project Title: HIV Transcriptional Activation via KSHV ORF45 and Epigenetic Regulation

Faculty Mentor: Britt Glaunsinger

Project Description

Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a common infection among immuno-compromised individuals, in particular, in individuals infected with HIV. Experiments outlined in this proposal are aimed at uncovering the functional significance of a transcriptional activator’s (ORF-45) interactions with epigenetic factors, as well as determining how these factors contribute to activator’s ability to transcriptionally activate the HIV-1 promoter.

Grady Pierroz

Grady Pierroz, Genetics & Plant Biology

Project Title: How Does the Tissue Culture Process Affect DNA Methylation?

Faculty Mentor: Chelsea Specht

Project Description

The process of tissue culture should in theory lead to the development of exact clones of the parental plant. However, phenotypically aberrant plants are often produced that might be due to changes in the methylation profile of the plant’s genome due to stresses during tissue culture. Experiments outlined in this proposal will look at DNA methylation patterns at three different points in the tissue culture process of banana.

Stephanie Byun, Nutritional Science: Physiology & Metabolism

Project Title: Redox State and Overexpression of Thioredoxin Affect Seed Properties of Sorghum

Faculty Mentor: Peggy G. Lemaux

Project Description

Sorghum bicolor is a widely cultivated crop, favored for its nutritional value and ability to grow under unfavorable growth conditions. Experiments outlined in this proposal will investigate germination differences in seeds from plants engineered to overexpress thioredoxin h (Trx h), a naturally occurring redox protein. In addition, biochemical characterizations of seeds will look at differences in the state of starch and protein within the seed during germination.

Pui Ching (Steve) Lan

Student: Pui Ching Lan, Molecular Toxicology

Project Title: Analysis of Cellulase Secretion Pathways in Neurospora crassa

Faculty Mentor: Louise N. Glass

Project Description

Efficient degradation of organic matter plays a key role in sustainable use of our energy and feedstock resources. Many filamentous fungi are true experts in efficiently degrading recalcitrant the lignocellulosic biomass of feedstocks; however, little is known about production and secretion of their degrading enzymes. Experiments outlined in this proposal aim to elucidate different protein secretion pathways for the different degrading enzymes using the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa.

Xiao (Matthew) Jin

Student: Xiao Jin, Molecular Environmental Biology

Project Title: Plant Immune Responses to Bacterial Pathogens

Faculty Mentor: Jennifer Lewis

Project Description

The plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae causes disease in numerous plant species. Virulence is primarily achieved by the type III secretion systems involved translocation in the plant of effector proteins, thought to suppress host defense signaling. Recognition of effector proteins by resistance proteins induces a defense response. Experiments outlined in this proposal seek to use a wide range of plant species to investigate defense response to the P. syringae.

Olivia Cope

Student: Olivia Cope, Genetics and Plant Biology

Project Title: Systematics of Heliconia and Co-Diversification with Hummingbird Pollinators

Faculty Mentor: Chelsea Specht

Project Description

Hummingbirds are important pollinators of certain plants. Experiments outlined in this project involve the use of DNA markers to develop a phylogeny for plants in the genus, Heliconia, which are attractive to hummingbirds, that are important mediators for pollinating these plants. An attempt will also be made to develop ideas about the co-evolution of Heliconia with hummingbirds.

Cameron Musser

Student: Cameron Musser, Genetics and Plant Biology

Project Title: Developmental Evolution of Ginger Flowers

Faculty Mentor: Chelsea Specht

Project Description

Zingiberales, e.g., gingers, bananas, are tropical monocots with dramatic flowers that attract pollinators. It is of interest to understand how these flowers evolved. Protein modifications appear to play a major role in diversification in angiosperms. Experiments in this project will use viral induced gene knockdowns to test the role of specific genes in floral development, as well as protein-protein interaction assays to test the interactions of certain MADS box proteins.

Su-Jin Park

Student: Sujin Park, UND (???)

Project Title: Molecular Characterization of Transgene Induced Phenotypes

Faculty Mentor: Renee Sung

Project Description

Introduction of rice embryonic flower (EMF) genes into Arabidopsis were shown to rescue Arabidopsis emf mutants, but this also resulted in novel phenotypes, potentially through co-suppression of the transgene. Experiments in this project are designed to understand the molecular basis of the new phenotype in order to identify the target genes of the siRNA that is responsible for the novel phenotypes.

Lauren Kivlen

Mary Ahern

Students: Mary Ahern, Molecular Environmental Biology and Lauren Kivlen, Microbial Biology

Project Title: How Do Plant Cells Communicate With Each Other?

Faculty Mentor: Pat Zambryski

Project Description

Plant cells are surrounded by cell walls so that individual cells do not physically touch. To allow communication between cells, plants have evolved channels, called plasmodesmata (PD), which span the space between cells. Experiment in this project will use techniques, like fluorescence microscopy, to learn about the structure and function of PD through the investigation of mutants with increased or decreased PD-mediated cell-to-cell transport.

Pierre-Alain Blosse, Plant and Microbial Biology

"This showed me the life of a scientist much better than any of the classes I have taken at Cal."

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Stephanie Borges, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Professor Sharon Fleming

"I gained hands on research experience in addition to effective literature search skills. I got experience in the field and learned the processes that must be dealt with in order to use human subjects."

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David Garber, Agricultural Resources and Economics

Advisor: Professor Sofia Villas-Boas
"I learned the value of teamwork, how to use GIS and arcmap, and a lot of economic theory."

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Brian Kim, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Professor Andy Jackson

"I think if everything goes well, we will be able to publish this work with Brian as a coauthor."

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Laura Lagomarsino, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Assistant Professor Chelsea Specht
"Now, I know exactly what I want to do and what I want to study. "

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Maya Mileck, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Professor Peggy Lemaux
"Without a program like SPUR, I would never have approached a faculty member to ask to participate in their research project."

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Subhajit Poddar, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Professor Krishna Niyogi
"Once I began working with mutant strains of algae, I was totally hooked."

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Matt Stuckey, Environmental Sciences and Policy Management

Advisor: Professor George Roderick
Working on cloning nuclear genes to assess genetic variation within and among populations of C. behrii

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Jonathon Treffkorn, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Advisor: Professor Whendee Silver
"...a scientist must be prepared for all contingencies, and be ready to be flexible and make changes on-the-fly for any unexpected problems."

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Jenny Zhang, Plant and Microbial Biology

Advisor: Professor Bob Buchanan
"...the most important part in research is being able to interpret the results critically."

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