Twelve students, including five undergraduates from the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology, have been selected to receive 2023 Beckman Institute fellowships and awards. The awards, which fund interdisciplinary research that takes place over the summer, will be celebrated at a poster session on July 28. Read on to learn about the School of MCB honorees and stay tuned for updates about their summer projects.
2023 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.
"The blood-brain barrier is more permeable at certain times of day. Tight junction proteins, including zonula occluden-1, or ZO-1, are responsible for blocking harmful substances from entering the brain paracellularly. My goal is to find the times of day when ZO-1 is expressed to determine when the blood-brain barrier is more permeable. This has significant implications for determining the role of the circadian clock in blood-brain barrier permeability by tight junction alteration. The results can contribute to therapeutic development for neurological disorders such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease."
"I am examining sensory processing difficulties in a transgenic rat model of Fragile X Syndrome, a common genetic form of autism. I will do so by measuring audiogenic seizure susceptibility and severity in FXS rats. These results could contribute to the development of clinical therapies targeting the debilitating manifestations of sensory dysregulation (i.e., auditory overstimulation) experienced by individuals with autism."
"Currently, there is little understanding of the mechanisms connecting the effect of oxygenation of the tumor microenvironment, or TME, on the cancer stem cell, or CSC, phenotype because no technology exists with enough spatial resolution to study these relationships. In response, we have designed a novel logic-gated probe, which links reporters of hypoxic conditions in the TME and of CSCs denoted by the biomarker of aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A1. This probe is impactful because CSCs pose challenges for treating cancer as traditional methods can enrich them, in turn creating more aggressive cancers with higher potential for recurrence."
2023 Carle Neuroscience Institute Undergraduate Research Award
The Carle Neuroscience Institute Undergraduate Research Award offers collaborative summer research projects in magnetic resonance neuroimaging. Research will take place at the Beckman Institute and the Carle Neuroscience Institute.
Matt Babik is majoring in biochemistry.
"My current research involves studying Fragile X Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and the molecular pathways that can be used to treat its symptoms. What inspired me to apply for the fellowship was not only to further expand my interests in neuroscience, but also to gain clinical knowledge on neuroimaging. As I intend to pursue an M.D/Ph.D., I am most excited to use these opportunities to directly explore the connection between the clinic and the lab bench."
2023 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.
"There is currently not a way to classify neurons imaged using a new form of high-resolution of imaging known as multiphoton microscopy. This imaging technique allows us to image individual neurons in behaving animals. My research will use machine learning algorithms to classify neurons imaged using this technique and will develop models to predict how neurons will respond to acoustic stimuli."