Eleven students, including five from the School of MCB, have been selected to receive 2022 Beckman Institute fellowships and awards. The awards, which fund interdisciplinary research that takes place over the summer, will be celebrated at a virtual gathering on Friday, July 29, 2022.
Read on to learn about the awards and MCB honorees, and stay tuned for updates about their summer projects!
Beckman Institute Undergraduate Fellowships
The Beckman Institute Undergraduate Fellows Program provides undergraduate students with a $3,000 award to pursue interdisciplinary research at the Beckman Institute during the summer. Entering its seventh year, the program is supported by funding from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.
William Dai is a rising junior studying molecular and cellular biology. He will collaborate with Dan Llano, an associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology, to study the location and function of neurons in the lateral cortex of the inferior colliculus, a key part our brain’s auditory pathway that helps us make sense of the sounds we hear. This study will be the first to characterize neurons in the inferior colliculus that release somatostatin, a neuropeptide that produces hormones; developing a deeper understanding of how somatostatin is distributed in this region can help researchers assess its role in stress and neurological disorders.
Emma Ibanez expects to graduate in December 2022, earning a B.S. in molecular and cellular biology and a minor in chemistry. She’ll collaborate with Justin Rhodes, a professor of psychology, to engineer the first transgenic anemonefish. Anemonefish are born exclusively as males, but possess the unique ability to undergo a complete male-to-female sex transition when required for reproduction; the genetic modification techniques pioneered by this study will deepen researchers’ understanding of the biological processes in the brain that facilitate male-to-female sex transition.
Sarika Kumar is a rising junior studying molecular and cellular biology. She’ll collaborate with Benjamin Auerbach, an assistant professor of molecular and integrative physiology, to study the molecular mechanisms that drive Fragile X syndrome, a neurodevelopmental condition that is linked to both autism spectrum disorder and extreme sensitivity to sound. By examining the biological processes in the brain that directly impact sound sensitivity, the team will build the necessary knowledgebase to help alleviate these symptoms in patients.
2022 Erik Haferkamp Memorial Award for Undergraduate Research
The Erik Haferkamp Memorial Award for Undergraduate Research allows a promising undergraduate neuroscientist to pursue research at the Beckman Institute during the summer. The $3,000 award is supported by friends and family in memory of Erik Haferkamp.
Kaitlyn Ortgiesen is a rising senior studying molecular and cellular biology with a minor in history. She will collaborate with Dan Llano on a project that uses high-resolution ultrasound microscopy to understand and combat Alzheimer’s disease. Often, individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s experience complications related to blood flow in the brain that can cause atrophy; by visualizing the brain's smallest blood vessels and microvasculature, Ortgiesen will add valuable information to a growing knowledgebase about the disease.
2022 Thomas and Margaret Huang Award for Graduate Research
The Thomas and Margaret Huang Award for Graduate Research supports graduate students studying human-computer intelligent interaction. The $3,500 award is supported by the Huang Fund.
Jilai Cui is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Neuroscience Program. He will collaborate with Martha Gillette, the director of The Neuroscience Program and an Alumni Professor of cell and developmental biology, and Rhanor Gillette, a professor emeritus of molecular and integrative physiology, to demonstrate how the brain’s glymphatic system, which clears metabolic waste during sleep, is impacted by neurodegenerative impairments. They’ll build and implement an interactive modeling tool to simulate the glymphatic system and measure its efficiency under normal and impaired conditions; designed for researchers and educators, the tool will enable new insights into the effects of neurodegenerative diseases on the glymphatic system.