MCBB PhD student Michael Zulch of the Larkin Lab was recently accepted into the 2020 Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology (SB2) Predoctoral Training Program cohort. The goals of the SB2 Program are to provide a unique, field-defining, and interdisciplinary training environment in synthetic biology. Participating graduate programs include: Biomedical Engineering, Bioinformatics, and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry.
Michael is interested in understanding the spatial organization of prokaryotic cells and their phenotypes in multicellular systems, and how this organization leads to emergent behaviors. He plans on investigating this using a multifaceted approach which includes next-generation single-cell sequencing, fluorescence microscopy, as well as bioengineering and synthetic biology.
Associate Professor Frank Naya in Biology has been awarded a one-year research grant by Pfizer Inc. to investigate the efficacy of a bispecific antibody (developed by Pfizer) in ameliorating the accelerated muscle degeneration, inflammation, and fibrosis that occur in one form of congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD). This collaborative research project will focus on testing the above therapeutic approach on an engineered mouse model that displays the severity and disease progression of MDC1A, a human CMD caused by a mutation in laminin, an extracellular matrix protein required for muscle fiber attachment and integrity. Congratulations to Professor Naya on this award!
In a new article just now out in Nature Biomedical Engineering, Professor Andrew Emili and colleagues report signaling perturbations in fibrotic heart tissue from human patients and transgenic mice suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and in an organ-on-a-chip (OOC) model of cardiovascular disease. Using quantitative phosphoproteomic profiling and integrative analyses, they identified pathway-level changes associated with maladaptive pro-fibrotic responses in diseased cardiac tissue. Given that preventing or reversing fibrosis is indicated for clinical management of heart failure and improving clinical outcomes, this study provides mechanistic insights and potential therapeutic avenues, while laying the groundwork for a follow up collaborative project with Chris Chen's team at the BU BioDesign Center supported by the Kilachand Multicellular Design Program.
Congratulations to Surya Pulukari for being selected as one of six CAS Harold C. Case Scholarship winners! The Case Scholarship is offered to outstanding BU juniors for support of their senior year and recognizes scholarly accomplishment and potential as well as extra-curricular activities that contribute to the University.
Surya is pursuing a dual degree in BMB in CAS and Human Physiology in Sargent College. During his time at BU he has been involved in two kinds of research at BU. First, he worked in a computational immunology lab on developing algorithms for predicting clinical outcomes of antibody treatments in HIV patients. Currently he works with Professor Abrams of the Chemistry Department in educational technology research, where he creates novel learning tools and courses and evaluates their impact on student learning. For a career after undergrad, Surya writes, “Medicine and education are my twin callings. I aspire to enter medical school to become a physician and a medical educator. In that way, I can treat patients, teach future doctors, and contribute to medical education research.”
Congratulations to Surya again for his great achievement. We encourage Biology and BMB students to check out the Case Scholarships and other opportunities available through BU’s Fellowships and Scholarships Office.”
The Biology Department congratulates Nicole Carter (CAS '17) on receiving the Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual Research Service Award. This award allows predoctoral students to have mentored research training while working on their dissertation research.
Nicole is currently a student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, pursuing her PhD in Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology. Nicole's research is in Dr. Joel Pomerantz's lab, which focuses on CARD11, a critical signaling hub for activation of B and T cells. Nicole reports,
"CARD11 signaling is frequently dysregulated in lymphoma and other cancers. We believe we have identified a novel suppressor of normal and oncogenic CARD11 signaling, and characterization of this novel suppressor is the focus of my PhD work. The F31 National Research Service Award from the National Cancer Institute will provide financial support to continue this research for the remainder of my PhD."
Nicole graduated with Honors in BMB in 2017. Her Honors Research was completed with Professor Tom Gilmore. Congratulations again to Nicole for this award!
The Biology Department congratulates a recent BMB alumni, Oscar Lam (CAS '20), on his acceptance into the National Institutes of Health's Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA). This program allows recent college grads the chance to spend one to two years performing biomedical research with NIH, while preparing to apply to graduate or professional degree programs. Oscar will be doing his research at the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, working in a lab under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases focusing on retroviruses. In addition to research, postbacs in the IRTA program have the opportunity to take classes, attend seminars, and access other resources to help with grad program applications and decisions.
At BU, Oscar performed his senior research with Dr. Sean Elliott's lab. Oscar's project was focused on the biophysical characterization of ferredoxins, small electron carrier proteins, from the anaerobic archaeon, Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A. Oscar primarily worked on the heterologous expression and purification of this specific iron-sulfur cluster-containing protein in the bacterium E. coli.
Congratulations to Oscar, we wish you the best in the IRTA program!
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Biology Christopher Schmitt has a new paper accepted in PLoS ONE. The paper investigates variation in the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 gene regions among a worldwide sample of 245 captive and wild savanna monkeys (Chlorocebus spp.); the proteins encoded by these gene regions are the primary keys by which SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) gains entry into cells to cause disease. He and his fellow researchers investigated genomic variation in these sequences to assess whether savanna monkeys might be as susceptible to disease as humans when infected with SARS-CoV-2.
This is important for two reasons: savanna monkeys have been shown to be a good biological model for SARS, a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 that relies on the same receptors, and so they want to establish if they would be a good model for vaccine development and testing; and savanna monkeys throughout their range in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean live in very close contact with humans. Their results suggest that most savanna monkeys are as likely as humans to become infected with SARS-CoV-2. For more information, see Professor Schmitt's explanation on Twitter.
Postdoc Yarden Cohen has a new paper in Nature entitled ‘Hidden neural states underlie canary song syntax’, is the result of research efforts by members of the Gardner-Otchy lab in the Biology department, members of CNS, Neurophotonics, and the Kotton lab at BU medical school. This work used miniaturized microscopes, developed in-house, to record neural activity in singing canaries and introduce a new model for the neural basis of complex behavior. The main finding is that neurons in the canary premotor cortex homologue encode past song phrases and transitions, carrying information relevant to future choice of phrases as ‘hidden states’ during song. This finding is a key property necessary for creating behavior with complex syntax like music, dance, and speech.
PK Kaushik, Biology major and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Minor (and recent graduate), has been named as one of two recipients of this year’s Sarah Joanne Davis Award awarded by the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program!
Sarah Joanne Davis was an alumnus of the BU WGS Program whose family established the award in her name at the time of her passing; the award is intended to support and encourage WGS minors who are making exciting new inroads in area the gender and sexuality research and activism.
We are so proud of you, PK! Congratulations!