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A large group of people standing outside of a building, smiling. Two women in the front are holding a large check

San Diego ARCS Chapter presenting a check to President Adela de la Torre.

ARCS® Foundation is a nationally recognized organization run entirely by women philanthropists. Their mission is to boost American leadership and advancement in science and technology by providing funding to help the country’s most brilliant students create knowledge and innovative technologies.

The San Diego Chapter of ARCS began in 1985 and has grown from the original four founders to more than 100 members today. Over 460 San Diego State University scholars have been awarded upwards of $3.3 million in scholarships over the past 32 years.

Achievement Rewards for College Scientists 2021–2022:

 

  • Amanda Alker
  • Maricruz Carillo
  • Jessica Griffin
  • Roslynn King
  • Tiffany Luong
  • Kyle Malter
  • Ashley Nguyen
  • Adrian Rivera
  • Laura Sisk-Hackworth
  • Kevin Walsworth
  • Jennifer Waters

2021-2022 Scholars

Amanda Therese Alker

Ph.D. Biology (candidate)
Cell and Molecular Biology; Environmental Microbiology
Joint SDSU / UC San Diego

B.A. in Biology
Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University

Amanda Alker closeup

About Amanda

Amanda’s passion for the marine environment started with a scholarship to attend environmental science summer camp in elementary school. As a student from a low socio-economic household, this opportunity illuminated a path towards a career as a scientist. Amanda now works to help students navigate their own paths into STEM fields by mentoring undergraduate students in the laboratory and helping them apply to graduate school and fellowships. Amanda’s PhD research investigates probiotic marine bacteria and studies how they associate with marine animals to help them adapt to changing environments. Amanda plans to finish her PhD in the Spring of 2022 and is currently seeking a postdoctoral researcher position in host-microbe interactions.

Personal Interests

My academic interests include mentoring students and enhancing scientific communication. Outside of science, I enjoy live music – the funkier the better – surfing, running, backcountry camping, and SCUBA.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation award signifies recognition of both my accomplishments and my potential in research and academia. I am particularly honored to be recognized by the ARCS Foundation because of its history with female leadership. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of strong independent women, which makes the support from the ARCS Foundation even more impactful to me. Furthermore, I appreciate the financial support and the investment in my future because they allow me to continue my doctoral research and reach for higher impact projects. The supplementary funds make my salary more sustainable as a graduate student with real-world financial responsibilities.

Award Donor

Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund

Current Research

My current research investigates different bacterial cues capable of inducing metamorphosis in marine animals and develops genetic tools to elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for these transformative processes.

Over the past year, I adapted a broad host range genetic toolkit of modular plasmids for use in diverse marine bacteria. With the help of three undergraduate trainees, we screened diverse species of host-associated marine bacteria to determine if they could be genetically manipulated.To visualize host-microbe associations, we generated fluorescent strains of environmental isolates capable of inducing metamorphosis and imaged them using microscopy.

Furthermore, I got CRISPRi gene knockdown technology to work in marine bacteria, opening up the possibility to interrogate gene function in any of the successfully screened marine bacteria. Not only will these developments enable scientists to study the underlying mechanisms driving the process of metamorphosis, but also for aquaculture and biomedical discovery.

Additionally, I participated in a two month internship at the Smithsonian Marine Station this past summer, where I characterized the genetic basis of bacterial metamorphosis cues on coral larvae. I found that corals respond to very specific bacterial cues and may be killed by cues that influence other animals to undergo metamorphosis. The results of this work will inform decisions for future coral restoration products.

Publications & Posters

Alker A.T. et al. Draft genome sequences of ten bacteria from the marine Pseudoalteromonas group. Microbiology Resource Announcements. August 2021, 10 (32) e00404-21 DOI: 10.1128/MRA.00404-21

Alker, A.T.; Delherbe, N.; Purdy, T.N.; Moore, B.S.; Shikuma, N.J. Genetic examination of the marine bacterium Pseudoalteromonas luteoviolacea and effects of its metamorphosis-inducing factors. Environmental Microbiology, August 2020. [https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.15211]

Cavalcanti, G.S.; Alker, A.T.; Delherbe, N.; Malter, K.; Shikuma, N.J. The influence of bacteria on animal metamorphosis. Annual Reviews of Microbiology, 2020, 74:1, 137-158. [DOI: 10.1146/annurev-micro-011320-012753]

Alker AT, Sneed JM, Delherbe N, Purdy TN, Demko A, Moore BS, Paul VJ, Shikuma NJ. A marine bacterium produces different factors that stimulate animal metamorphosis. Oral Presentation. International Coral Reef Symposium (Virtual). July 2021.

Alker AT, Jones JE, Dunbar TL, Sneed JM,  Paul VJ, Shikuma NJ. A bacterial toolkit to investigate the genetics and function of marine Pseudoalteromonads. Poster presentation. World Microbe Forum (Virtual). June 2021.

Awards & Honors

ARCS Foundation, Inc. San Diego Scholar, 2020-2022; International Coral Reef Society Student Travel Award, 2020; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Internship Award, 2020; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2017-2022

Benefits to Science and Society

Bottom-dwelling marine animals release their babies into the water, where they swim in search for an environmental cue indicating a suitable place to settle onto the seafloor. Certain bacteria coating submerged surfaces can serve as this cue. My research investigates probiotic marine bacteria and shows how they produce different cues that influence the babies to settle down. Harnessing settlement-inducing bacteria and their specific cues paves the way for the production of coral settlement products and could be used in aquaculture to increase settlement efficacy.

Maricruz Carillo

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering (candidate)
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

M.S. in Mechanical Engineering
San Diego State University

B.S. in Bioengineering
San Diego State University

Woman with long dark brown hair

About Maricruz

Maricruz was born in Rosarito, Mexico where she grew up until the age of ten. After finishing fourth grade, her parents decided to move to the USA in order to flee the insecurity in the country and provide better opportunities to her and her 3 siblings. From an early age, she noticed her strength in science and math and so during senior year of high school, she took an Intro to Engineering elective course that ultimately led her to pursue a career in engineering. She now works at San Diego State University in the Powder Technology Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Eugene Olevsky. Her research focuses on 3D printing and sintering of ceramics to be used for bone repair. She always knew she wanted to use engineering to make a positive impact on the world and she hopes to use this technology to revolutionize the orthopedic industry. Her end goal is to provide a solution which will provide a better quality of life to patients all over the world.

Personal Interests

Most of my free time goes to my small business called Menos Waste which provides natural home made products, workshops and lifestyle tips that are good for you, your wallet and the planet. Or when there is a swell, you can find me surfing somewhere on the San Diego coast!

My ARCS Award

Financial burden has been present for the entirety of my educational career which has limited me in many ways before. With this ARCS scholarship, I can stop worrying about my finances this year and focus on what matters most – my life changing research. On a more practical level, this scholarship will allow me to pay for my living expenses without accruing more student loan debt and it allows me to graduate on time too! I am so grateful for the generosity of the donors. Your help allows students like me to achieve their dreams and conduct the research that is necessary to truly leave this world better than when we got here.

Award Donor

Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund

Current Research

Bone is an incredible mechanosensory organ, difficult to recreate. The current gold standard for bone repair is using autografts from the patient’s iliac crest. Although this technique has been used for years, extraction-site morbidity, limited size/shape availability and need for re-operation are surprisingly common issues. The goal of my research is to provide a scaffold manufacturing solution which produces biocompatible, customizable, and load bearing scaffolds that mimic native bone properties.

My research mainly focuses on the biocompatible geometry and compressive strength of the ceramic scaffolds produced. Using a powder-based 3D printing method, I can use hydroxyapatite (the largest component of bone) to print, obtain micro porosity within the structure (for nutrient adsorption), design specific macro porosity (for osseointegration and vascularization), and apply surface roughness (for cell adhesion). Then, utilizing advanced sintering techniques after printing, I can control the microstructure of the material to obtain an implant with high mechanical strength. Furthermore, a thermo-mechanical model will be developed to predict final scaffold shape and properties using a finite element program. Predicting the final geometry and strength of the scaffolds will be crucial in matching the implant to the injury and patient.

Publications & Posters

Carrillo, M.H., Lee, G., Maniere, C. and Olevsky, E.A. (2021), “Additive manufacturing of powder components based on subtractive sintering approach”, Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 27 No. 9, pp. 1731-1736. https://doi.org/10.1108/RPJ-01-2021-0006

G. Lee, M. Carrillo, J. McKittrick, D. G. Martin, and E. A. Olevsky, “Fabrication of ceramic bone scaffolds by solvent jetting 3D printing and sintering: Towards load-bearing applications,” Addit. Manuf., vol. 33, 2020, doi:10.1016/j.addma.2020.101107.

Carrillo, M. Fabrication of ceramic bone scaffolds by solvent jetting 3D printing and sintering: towards load-bearing applications. The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society Conference, San Diego. 2020

Carrillo, M.; Olevsky, E. 3D Printing via Binder Jetting and Consolidation of Nano Alumina Bone Scaffold Prototypes. Montezuma Publishing, San Diego State University. 2018.

Awards & Honors

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Scholarship, 2021; National Science Foundation Innovation-Corps Grant, 2020; CSU Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program Fellowship, 2020; CSU Graduate Student Research Symposium First Place, 2020

Benefits to Science and Society

By combining innovative 3D printing technologies and advanced sintering techniques, I can leverage the advantages of each to extend the concept of personalized medicine to the orthopedic space which will improve the quality of life for millions of patients worldwide. Personalized medicine is the future, yet it has been limited in orthopedics because there is a missing link between manufacturing and biology. In my research, I close the gap and open the door to improved solutions for orthopedic patients.

Ashley Dang-Nguyen

Ph.D. Chemistry (candidate)
Organic Chemistry; Synthetic Methodology
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Chemistry with Biochemistry concentration
San Jose State University

Woman with dark hair and glasses in front of foliage

About Ashley

Pharmaceutical synthesis involves many multi-step syntheses that can be complex and wasteful. Ashley aims to find methods to streamline parts of pharmaceutical synthesis, such as ways of generating large drug libraries when screening for potential new drugs. Ashley is interested in the design and synthesis of catalysts for regio-control in electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions. She hopes to develop methodologies to help streamline how different pharmaceutical analogues are made during the development process. Ashley is also interested in generating and controlling electrophilic radical species generated from photoredox chemistries, a powerful tool to achieve new reactivities. She hopes to learn about the innerworkings of her catalyst-controlled system so that she can extend it beyond electrophilic aromatic substitutions.

Personal Interests

In my free time I am an avid rock climber and fiber artist. If I am not on the wall, I can be found binge watching tv shows while embroidering or crocheting. I also have a pug named Oliver.

My ARCS Award

It is incredibly humbling and motivating to be honored for the work I am doing for my PhD in organic chemistry. The ARCS Foundation award is a prestige that I am truly grateful for receiving as it is an incredible scientific achievement for early career scientists. I thank the ARCS Foundation for seeing my potential and alleviating a financial burden which will allow me to focus on my research.

Award Donor

Drs. Mara and Larry Ybarrondo/ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

The goal of my research is to develop catalyst-controlled regioselective methodologies for the addition of radicals into pharmaceutically relevant aromatic scaffolds. Particularly, I am interested in directing electrophilic perfluoroalkyl radicals (i.e. CF3) into aromatics and heterocycles. I propose to use a Lewis basic catalyst (LBC) approach to control the regioselectivity of electrophilic radical additions through a mechanism that is analogous to electrophilic aromatic substitution (SEAr). Bifunctional catalysts that contain Lewis bases and a H-bonding handle have been shown to form non-covalent interactions with the substrate via hydrogen bonding, allowing for the directed activation of the electrophile and subsequent coordination to the substrate. My preliminary data suggests that different LBCs can yield different constitutional isomers and mechanistic studies for this project will be able to reveal key features of the inner workings of Lewis basic catalyst control to develop more specialized catalysts for a variety of reaction systems.

Publications & Posters

Nguyen, A. D; Zanolini, R. J.; Gustafson, J. Selective functionalizations of arenes and heteroarenes via SEAr and related transformations. Wiley: Handbook for C-H Functionalization. 2021, (Book chapter accepted)

Cardenas, M.; Nguyen, A. D.; Brown, Z.; Heydari, B.; Heydari, B.; Vaidya, S.; Gustafson, J. Atropisomerism as an inspiration for new chemistry. Arkivoc. 2021, i, 20-47.

Nguyen, A. D.; Millan, E. A; Gustafson, J. L. Photocatalytic Oxidative C-H Thiolation: Synthesis of Benzothiazoles and Sulfenylated Indoles. National Organic Chemistry Symposium (NOS) by American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, June 23 – June 27, 2019. (Poster)

Dinh, A. N.; Nguyen, A. D.; Millan, E. A.; Albright, S. T.; Cedano, M.; Smith, D. K.; Gustafson, J. L. Photocatalytic Oxidative C-H Thiolation: Synthesis of Benzothiazoles and Sulfenylated Indoles. Synlett. 2019, 30, 1648-1655.

Awards & Honors

University Graduate Fellowship 2020-2022; Tom Ragan Memorial Endowed Scholarship 2020, 2021; Harry E Hamber Memorial Scholarship 2020, 2021

Benefits to Science and Society

The goal of my projected research is to make more potent analogs of pharmaceuticals in an efficient way. Current methods to do so involve pre-functionalizing materials and more synthetic work rather than making the base compound and selectively adding functional groups to it. My research aims to empower late-stage functionalization as a tool in pharmaceutical synthesis for electrophilic additions.

Jessica Eileen Griffin

Ph.D. Ecology (candidate)
Community ecology of eelgrass beds in a changing ocean
Joint SDSU & UC Davis

B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Sciences
University of Connecticut

Woman wearing pink, orange, white and black striped dress smiles while standing on the beach

About Jessica

Jessica is a marine ecologist born and raised in southeastern Connecticut. After graduating from the University of Connecticut with her bachelor’s degree and working at the University of Vermont as a research technician, she came to SDSU to earn a PhD in marine community ecology with Dr. Kevin Hovel. Her research interests are rooted in a commitment to conservation of marine ecosystems, which she pursues through her studies on interactions between eelgrass and bivalves in California bays and estuaries. She plans to pursue a career where she can use her graduate training to inform conservation of coastal habitats such as seagrass beds, mangroves, and salt marshes, all of which provide vital habitat to marine organisms and important services to people.

Personal Interests

I enjoy hiking, exploring new places, and reading both memoirs and historical fiction.

My ARCS Award

I am grateful to receive recognition and support through this award. It is particularly meaningful to me that the ARCS Foundation is a women-run organization, and I hope to pass on their support by mentoring women in my field as my career advances. I am honored to become a part of the ARCS community, and appreciate that this award will allow me to focus on my research without undue financial stress.

Award Donor

The Heller Foundation of San Diego

Current Research

I study interactions between bivalves and eelgrass in California bays and estuaries, and how these interactions are affected by anthropogenic change, such as climate change and invasive species. In particular, I study how invasive Asian mussels affect native fauna in eelgrass beds, and I study how light and temperature mediate interactions between clams and eelgrass. Bivalves filter particles out of the water, providing more light for eelgrass photosynthesis and growth; however, in some cases bivalves excrete toxic chemicals that may harm eelgrass. I ask whether environmental conditions may hold the key to why interactions vary under different circumstances. These questions are becoming increasingly important as climate change and eutrophication affect temperature and water clarity in eelgrass beds.

Publications & Posters

Griffin, J.E., B.P. O’Malley, and J.D. Stockwell. 2020. The freshwater mysid Mysis diluviana (Audzijonyte & Väinölä, 2005) (Mysida: Mysidae) consumes detritus in the presence of Daphnia (Cladocera: Daphniidae). Journal of Crustacean Biology 40(5): 520 – 525.

Griffin, J.E., G. Park, and H.G. Dam. 2019. Relative importance of nitrogen sources, algal alarm cues and grazer exposure on toxin production of the marine dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella. Harmful Algae 84: 181 – 187.

Becker, D.M., J.E. Griffin, and C. Miller. Identifying factors that contribute to positive and negative student experiences at field-based institutions (in) Women of the Wild: Challenging gender disparities at field stations and marine laboratories. Lexington Books, Washington, D.C. in press.

Awards & Honors

Dr. Susan Lynn Williams Memorial Graduate Award; COAST Graduate Student Research Award; Mesa Foundation Innovation Grant

Benefits to Science and Society

My research focuses on understanding threats to California eelgrass beds, such as climate change, invasive species and eutrophication. Eelgrass beds provide vital ecosystem services, such as wave attenuation, reduction of sediment erosion, and creation of habitat for economically important animals, such as Dungeness crabs. My research will contribute to conservation of these important habitats and the services they provide to society.

Roslynn Beatrice King

Ph.D. Geophysics (candidate)
Marine Electromagnetism
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Geological Engineering
Colorado School of Mines

Roslynn King headshot

About Roslynn

Roslynn is interested in the design, fabrication, and use of controlled-source electromagnetic instruments to study hazards and potential resources that have direct implications for human life located on the continental shelf. More specifically, she is interested in identifying and analyzing marine hydrocarbon seeps, fluid pathways, freshwater resources, and archeological sites so as to reduce ambiguity in current climate models, establish ecological baselines, manage groundwater resources in coastal communities, and aid in the current understanding of human migration pathways into the New World.

Personal Interests

I like to spend my time playing lacrosse, gardening, brewing beer, painting, and diving into some solid podcasts or audiobooks. When I have the time, I really love backpacking in areas with good fishing holes.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS award has made me feel more confident as a young scientist and has motivated me to produce research that will make this community proud. Additionally, this award has alleviated some of the financial stresses that arise from living in San Diego. With this burden lessened, I feel refreshed and excited to continue to produce high quality work and share my findings with both scientific societies and this organization.

Award Donor

Legler Benbough Foundation

Current Research

Sea-level rise following the Last Glacial Maximum (~20 kya) submerged millions of square kilometers of coastal landscape, obscuring multitudes of geologic phenomena, prior environments, resources, and cultural sites from direct observation. Traditionally, the subseafloor of this region has and is investigated using the seismic method, which is a valuable geophysical tool, but is not sensitive to all physical properties. Thus, the marine controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) method has experienced significant development, as the method can be sensitive to geology and features that have little to no seismic signature.

My research explores the use of CSEM to identify and characterize natural and anthropogenic resources on the continental shelf. These targets include shell middens (cultural sites of maritime hunter-gathers), marine hydrocarbon seeps (ex: submerged La Brea Tar Pits), and submarine fresh water. As shell middens are typically small and difficult to resolve, I am developing a novel bottom-towed CSEM system that is aimed to facilitate their discovery.

Thus far, I have used CSEM methods to identify and characterize greenhouse gas emitting marine hydrocarbon seeps and sources and I have identified a significant lens of freshwater that extends offshore San Diego; this could be a new resource for the region or could represent a pathway for saltwater encroachment into our aquifer. I plan to build upon these studies by directly sampling these features; for example, this summer I plan to collect micro- and macro- fossils from submerged hydrocarbon seeps using ROV in the hopes to reconstruct the paleoenvironment of Southern California.

Publications & Posters

King, R. B., Constable, S., Maloney, J. M., & Danskin, W. R. CSEM Survey Identifies Fresh Submarine Groundwater: Interim Report. Interim Report for distribution to the United States Geological Survey. July 2021.

King, R.; Maloney, J.M.; Constable, S. Controlled-source electromagnetic methods (CSEM) to detect and characterize resources and hazards on the continental shelf. AGU Fall Meeting 2019. December 2019.

King, R.; Maloney, J.M.; Constable, S.; Gusick, A.E.; Braje, T.; Ball, D. Feasibility of detecting submerged landforms and archaeological resources using controlled source electromagnetic methods. AGU Fall Meeting 2018. December 2018.

Duross, C.; Hylland, M.D.; Hiscock, A.; Personius, S.; Briggs, R.; Gold, R.D.; Beukelman, G.S.; McDonald, G.N.; Erickson, B.A.; McLean, A.P.; Angster, S.J.; King, R.B.; Crone, A.J.; Mahan, S.A. Holocene surface-faulting earthquakes at the Spring Lake and North Creek sites on the Wasatch fault zone: Evidence for complex rupture of the Nephi Segment (Vol. 28, pp. 1-119). Utah Geological Survey 2017

DuRoss, C.B.; Hylland, M.D.; Hiscock, A.; Beukelman, G.; McDonald, G.N.; Erickson, B.; McKean, A.; Personius, S.F.; Briggs, R.; Gold, R.; Angster, S.; King, R.; Crone, A.J.; Mahan, S.A. Paleoseismic investigation to determine the mid-Holocene chronology of surface-faulting earthquakes on the Nephi segment of the Wasatch fault zone, Utah and Juab Counties, Utah. US Geological Survey, NEHRP Final Technical Report 2014

Awards & Honors

Award of Student Support – NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2020-2022; Invited speaker for the Marine Seismology Symposium, 2021; Invited Speaker for the Meeting of the Science Advisory Panel of the Coastal Plain of San DIego Groundwater Sustainability Plan, 2020; Award of Student Support – National Park Service Preservation Technology & Training Grant, 2019

Benefits to Science and Society

My research aims to identify phenomenon on the continental shelves that have been obscured from direct observations due to changes in sea level. These features may aid in our understanding of past climates and human histories or may be potential resources such as freshwater. Data regarding the locations and characteristics of these cultural and natural resources will help create robust strategies to protect and manage these targets or sensitive ecosystems located just offshore our coastal communities.

Tiffany Luong

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Phage Biology
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
University of California Los Angeles

TIffany Luong

About Tiffany

Bacteriophage (viruses that can selectively infect and kill bacteria) treatment currently lacks approval in the United States, but can be deployed as an emergency treatment when antibiotics can no longer treat life-threatening bacterial infections. During Tiffany’s PhD research, she developed a phage production and purification methods to produce high-quality, clinically safe phage preparations for personalized patient treatment. Importantly, this method addresses the current bottleneck hampering access to rapid phage therapy and aims to standardize the purification of phage particles for research and clinical applications to ensure patient safety. Her ongoing research will address the tripartite interaction between phages, bacteria, and mammalian cells to better optimize and ensure the safety of phage therapy.

Personal Interests

My interests include the traditional Chinese game mahjong, food and travel, video games, building model kits, and science fiction and fantasy literature.

My ARCS Award

ARCS has had a profound impact on my development as a scientist and a scientific communicator in the last year. ARCS has connected me with Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, an inspirational female scientist in the phage community, and allowed me to not only share my research with her, but to receive her support and mentorship. Recognition as an ARCS scholar has allowed me to share my research with my peers as well as other amazing women who support the ARCS community.

My current research project has allowed me to perform state-of-the-art experiments that generate large genomic data sets, rich with clues as to how phages and mammalian cells interact (RNA-seq) as well as how bacteria mutate in response to phage treatment (DNA sequencing). Support from ARCS has made it possible for me to obtain equipment (laptop, computational resources) for my training as a bioinformatician. This has been critical to my productivity as a scientist and for the next stages of my project. Ongoing support from ARCS will enable me to attend not only bioinformatics workshops and training, but also to attend international conferences next year.

Award Donor

Hervey Family Fund

Current Research

Bacteriophages, phages for short, are viruses that specifically infect bacteria and are currently under investigation for their ability to treat drug-resistant bacteria infections. In the last few decades, phages have been used in clinical studies worldwide to treat a variety of life-threatening drug-resistant bacterial infections. Several clinical studies conducted in the United States and Europe have supported the safety of phage use, though not necessarily its efficacy.

I reviewed recent clinical phage studies to decipher the nuances of phage treatment and its outcomes. Of the 59 clinical trials and single patient studies conducted between 2005-2020, 50 case studies reported successful resolution of bacterial infections or improvement of chronic infections during treatment using phages and antibiotics (Luong et al. 2020, Clinical Therapeutics).

However, the production, administration, and treatment of phages remains non-standard, making it difficult to precisely identify how phages should be formulated for widespread use. As with antibiotics, bacteria can mutate to become phage-resistant. As part of my PhD research, I have begun a project deciphering how to select phage that minimize bacterial resistance during phage therapy, how to dose for single or dual-phage treatments, and how to best minimize undesirable bacterial mutations that result from phage treatment. 

Finally, my ongoing thesis work continues to study the interactions between phages and the innate immune system. In the last year I have exposed phages to lung epithelial (surface) cells and immune cells such as macrophages (first responders to pathogens in the body). By collecting genetic material from the cells at different time points, I am studying what types of signals are released by the cells in response to phages. I am currently analyzing these data sets to decipher whether phages elicit specific pro-inflammatory responses or anti-inflammatory responses, and what cellular pathways are affected by these signals.

Ultimately, I plan on using these results to study how phage therapy can be conducted as safely as possible in the future.

Publications & Posters

Luong T, Schumann A, Conrad D, Roach D: Draft genome sequence of the multidrug-resistant strain Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA291, isolated from cystic fibrosis sputum. Microbiology Resource Announcements 2021, 10(36):e0057221.

Luong, T.; Salabarria, A.-C.; Roach, D.R. Phage therapy in the resistance era: Where do we stand and where are we going? Clinical Therapeutics 2020, 42, 1659-1680

Luong, T.; Salabarria, A.; Edwards, R.A.; Roach, D.R. Standardized bacteriophage purification for personalized phage therapy. Nature Protocols 2020, 15 (9), 2867-2890

Mizuno, C.M.; Luong, T.; Cederstrom, R; Krupovic, M.; Debarbieux, L.; Roach, D.R. Isolation and characterization of bacteriophages that infect citrobacter rodentium, a model pathogen for intestinal diseases. Viruses 2020, 12, 737

Flyak, A.I.; Ruiz, S.; Colbert, M.D.; Luong, T.; Crowe, J.E.; Bailey, J.R.; Bjorkman, P.J. HCV broadly neutralizing antibodies use CDRH3 disulfide motif to recognize an E2 glycoprotein site that can be targeted for vaccine design. Cell Host & Microbe 2018, 24, 703–716

Awards & Honors

ARCS Award 2020-2021; San Diego State University Graduate Fellowship 2021; Rees-Stealy Research foundation Fellowship 2021; 3rd Place, 3 Minute Thesis Competition, SDSU

Benefits to Science and Society

Phage therapy is a treatment currently under investigation for its ability to treat both acute and chronic drug-resistant bacterial infections. I am currently investigating the efficacy and safety of this therapy.  However, phages require bacterial hosts to replicate, making purification of phages incredibly important to prevent bacterial residues from harming patients. During my PhD, I developed a method to highly purify phage formulations for use in clinical treatments. To date, we identified and purified phages for emergency clinical use against a variety of bacterial infections including bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), osteomyelitis (bone infection) and even chronic infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (genetic lung disease).

In addition to my ongoing research projects, I have also worked with non-profit organizations to publish trilingual (English/Spanish/Bulgarian), K-12 accessible phage research in the Science Journal for Kids and Teens as well as to provide training and phage resources to scientists at COANIQUEM, an NGO that helps children with burn wounds.

Kyle Evan Malter

Ph.D. Biological Sciences (candidate)
Host-Microbe Biology
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Chemistry
University of California Los Angeles

Kyle Malter

About Kyle

Kyle Malter was born and raised in San Diego and has been an avid surfer his whole life. He grew up in a scientific household where his mother earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, introduced him to science at a very early age, and led the future scientists and engineers program at his school. Kyle was an Eagle Scout at 18 and worked as an ocean lifeguard, EMT, and surf instructor before starting at UCLA. Kyle graduated UCLA with a B.S. in Biochemsitry, graduating with departmental highest honors and magna cum laude. After graduating UCLA, Kyle worked as a volunteer in the Joan Heller Brown lab at UCSD Pharmacology before entering the PhD programs at SDSU and UCSD in their joint doctoral program where he currently studies animal development in response to microbes.

Personal Interests

My interests include surfing, photography, and guitar. I am an avid builder and I have shaped and glassed many of my own surfboards, built guitars, and make and sew clothes. Most my free time now is spent chasing my 2 year old daughter around the neighborhood.

My ARCS Award

Becoming an ARCS scholar has been one of my goals since entering the SDSU Biology joint doctoral program and I am so glad that I have been able to join this great organization. I feel that joining this organization will not only benefit my research in the short term, but will help contribute to opening opportunities in the future. Having the wonderful women of ARCS supporting me and my science is incredible, and I look forward to making this organization proud.

I hope that I can continue contributing to science in America and now with the ARCS foundation behind me, I believe that I can reach even greater heights. Having already published multiple high impact science papers, I am confident that I will continue publishing high impact works now with the support of the ARCS foundation. I also look forward to opportunities of outreach with the ARCS foundation, sharing science and my research with the non-science community as well as students who are interested in the STEM field. This fellowship will help in many different facets of my research including but not limited to, outreach with the support of this wonderful community, supporting my ability to spend more time focused on research, and the ability to interact with other ARCS scholars and supporting members who all share the same goal of advancing science.

Award Donor

Hervey Family Fund

Current Research

I am currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Nicholas Shikuma where our research hopes to understand how bacterial communities may influence and contribute to animal development. We have recently made significant progress in understanding how bacterial proteins can be injected into animals and alter certain cellular processes. Our work has determined that bacteria can inject proteins directly into animal cells to control their function and behavior. We have recently discovered two bacteria produced proteins, which are injected into an animal and control two major cellular processes.

One protein is a toxin, which is targeted to the animal cell nucleus and degrades DNA. I published this finding in 2019 in the high impact journal, Cell Reports, as a co-first author. We followed up this study last year and discovered that this process is completed through a highly specific eukaryotic signaling pathway mediated by protein kinase C and the mitogen activated protein kinase pathways. This finding is significant because it further validates the role for these bacteria in mediating animal development. We have submitted this paper to Developmental Biology and are currently responding to reviewer critique. We hope to publish this paper before the end of 2021.  

To continue understanding how these pathways are activated we have made significant progress this last year in discovering the function of the effector protein. Our work has shown that this protein contains lipase activity, and we are working to understand how the lipase activity is directly stimulating metamorphosis. This finding will then link together all the research I have completed thus far and provide a complete story for how a bacterium stimulates animal development. I hope to finish this study and publish this as my last paper for my PhD in spring 2022. 

I have also provided insight as a contributing author on a review article, which was published late 2020 in the Annual Reviews of Microbiology. This review highlights the role of aquatic bacteria and their role in development of marine animals, such as corals. Our review also highlights how bacteria contribute significantly to other natural processes, such as marine invertebrate colonization of ship hauls, known as biofouling. This process can be highly detrimental to the environment due to increased fossil fuel consumption and understanding how to prevent bacteria from increasing biofouling can significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Publications & Posters

K Malter, M Esmerode, M Damba, E Forsberg, and N Shikuma, Lipidomics of Tubeworm Metamorphosis in Response to Bacteria Reveals a Role of Protein Kinase C and MAPK Signaling (in review, submitted Jan 2021).

Amanda T. Alker, Bhumika S. Gode, Alpher E. Aspiras, Jeffrey E. Jones, Sama R. Michael, David Aguilar, Audrea D. Cain, Alec M. Candib, Julian M. Cizmic, Elise A. Clark, Alyssa C. Cozzo, Laura E. Figueroa, Peter A. Garcia, Casey M. Heaney, Alexandra T. Levy, Luke Macknight, Anna S. McCarthy, John P. McNamara, Kelvin A. Nguyen, Kendall N. Rollin, Gabriella Y. Salcedo, Julia A. Showalter, Andrew D. Sue, Tony R. Zamro, Tiffany L. Dunbar, Kyle E. Malter, Nicholas J. Shikuma. (2021) Draft Genome Sequences of 10 Bacteria from the Marine Pseudoalteromonas Group. Microbiology resource announcements, 10(32). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/MRA.00404-21

G Cavalcanti, A Alker, N Delherbe, K Malter, NJ Shikuma. (2020) The Influence of Bacteria on Animal Metamorphosis. Annual Reviews of Microbiology. 74:in press. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-micro-011320-012753

I Rocchi*, C Ericson*, K Malter*, S Zargar, F Eisenstein, M Pilhofer, S Beyhan and NJ Shikuma (2019). A Bacterial Phage Tail-like Structure Kills Eukaryotic Cells by Injecting a Nuclease Effector. Cell Reportshttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.06.019.

C Ericson*, F Eisenstein*, J Medeiros, K Malter, G Cavalcanti, RW Zeller, DK Newman, M Pilhofer and NJ Shikuma (2019). A Contractile Injection System Stimulates Tubeworm Metamorphosis by Translocating a Proteinaceous Effector. eLife. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.46845.

Blackwood, E. Plate, L. Paxman, R. Malter, K. Wiseman, L. Kelly, J. (2017) High-Throughput Screen Identifies Novel Small Molecule Stress Regulator That Confers Cardioprotection During Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury. Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, 11(112), 154.

Awards & Honors

James and Mary Crouch Memorial Scholarship, 2018; American Society of Microbiology outstanding abstract award, 2017; Graduated magna cum laude, 2014; UCLA Academic Scholarship, 2012-2014

Benefits to Science and Society

My research aims to understand how microbes (bacteria) influence animals during development. Currently, there is little known about how microbes contribute to human and animal health. It has been widely accepted that environmental factors play a major role in the development of the human immune system and nervous system function. However, how bacteria contribute to this development is unclear. To address this question and determine the different ways bacteria can interact with animals and mediate their development and health, our research takes advantage of a marine tubeworm, which requires bacteria to undergo development into the adult stage.

Studying this tubeworm, allows us to determine how bacteria affect animal development. The knowledge that our research provides, paves the groundwork required to understand more complex systems such as the human gut microbiome. Our laboratory has identified the specific bacterial protein which is injected into the animal host and promotes their development. Our research has pioneered this discovery of bacterial proteins and we are currently working to better understand their intricacies. The understanding of animal-bacteria interactions can inform future studies of highly complex microbial ecosystems. We can then begin to use more targeted methods to determine a highly directed role for these microbes in human and animal health. Our laboratory’s long-term goal aims to understand how a complex mix of microbes associated with human and animal hosts contributes and controls the normal hosts’ development.

The tubeworm we use to conduct this research is also a major contributor to ship hull biofouling. Biofouling is the buildup of hard-shelled marine organisms on the bottom of ship hulls. For large cargo and military ships this can lead to increased fuel consumption and a significantly larger carbon footprint. The larvae form of these organisms recognizes specific bacteria found on the ship’s hull and this interaction leads to the settlement and growth into their hard-shelled adult form. By studying the interactions between the animal and the bacteria we can work to mitigate this problem by developing techniques and treatments which will prevent the buildup of marine organisms on the ship’s hull. This will have a significant impact on how the shipping industry contributes to climate change.

Adrian Rivera

Ph.D. Structural Engineering (student)
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering
San Diego State University

Man in a grey suit, blue collared shirt, and striped tie stands outside with a bridge visible

About Adrian

Adrian Rivera is currently a 4th year doctoral student in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in the Structural Engineering Department. His research is focused on analyzing manufacturing imperfections in aluminum honeycomb sandwich composites. The impact of this research will increase the understanding of how imperfections affect the material performance of aluminum honeycomb cores, allowing engineers to better identify potential failure of future aerospace structural designs.

As a doctoral student, Adrian has interned at NASA Glenn Research Center as well as NASA Langley Research Center. Adrian was born in San Diego, California and his family originated in Puerto Rico where he was drawn to aerospace from his visits to the Arecibo Observatory. In 2018, Adrian Rivera was awarded the NASA Fellowship Activity which has funded his research that has led to 2 conference publications. Recently, Adrian has been awarded the ARCS scholarship for the 2021-2022 cohort which will allow him to continue his work until his expected graduation of June 2023. After the completion of the doctorate, he plans to continue his work as a Pathways position at NASA Glenn Research Center and being part of the foundation of the Artemis Generation to get us back on the moon and beyond. As an undergraduate at SDSU, Adrian was a IMSD scholar and has been involved in local outreach throughout San Diego County providing science day seminars and STEM activities at public libraries.

Personal Interests

My personal interests include tennis and cooking. As a former barista I also have a passion for coffee.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS award will help me continue to focus on my current research as well as continue outreach with mentoring of undergraduate and transfer students. For me the award allows young scholars to continue pushing the boundaries of science and promote inclusion and community among SDSU graduate students. This is increasingly more important with the new normal that is living in a pandemic.

Award Donor

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

My current research is focused on analyzing manufacturing imperfections in aluminum honeycomb sandwich composites. Aluminum honeycomb core is a common structural component that has been used in a range of industries from automotive to aerospace. The manufacturing of these aluminum honeycomb cores introduces a variety of imperfection sources that can change the expected performance of the initial design.

To better understand the effect of imperfections on performance, a detailed model was constructed using X-ray computed tomography. CT scans are routinely used to create 3D images of human body parts. In a similar fashion, a much stronger CT scan was used to capture the resultant honeycomb structure after the manufacture of a panel with the same specifications as one used on a space launch system.

The X-ray images were converted into finite element models which simulated load conditions for compression and pure shear in order to understand the effects that imperfections have on the compression strength and transverse shear respectively. It was found that imperfections through the thickness of the aluminum honeycomb, such as waviness, introduced during the curing process of the composite panels, significantly reduced the compression performance of the aluminum honeycomb core.

Publications & Posters

(2021) Characterization and Modeling of Cell Wall Imperfections in Aluminum Honeycomb Cores using X-ray CT Imaging. AIAA Scitech 2021 Forum.

(2019) Investigation of crushed response of aluminum honeycomb sandwich composites and sensitivity to manufacturing imperfections. NASA Glenn Research Symposium 2019.

(2018) Characterization of Low-velocity Impact Damage in Sandwich Composite Panels. San Diego State Research Symposium. San Diego, United States.

(2017) A numerical study to investigate the effects of impact damage in buckling-critical honeycomb sandwich structures. NASA Langley Research Center Structural Branch Meeting. Hampton, VA.

(2017) A numerical study to investigate the effects of impact damage in buckling-critical honeycomb sandwich structures. ABRCMS Conference. Phoenix, AZ.

Benefits to Science and Society

The impact of this research will increase the understanding of how imperfections affect the material performance of aluminum honeycomb cores, allowing engineers to better identify potential failure of future aerospace structural designs. Furthermore, the tools used to construct finite element models of honeycomb core materials can be used for design optimization, improving the reliability and performance of fracture critical structures. The broad impact of this research can be seen in safety equipment as well as a non-destructive evaluation method for airplane wing parts that use aluminum honeycomb core materials. Being able to predict performance of parts with manufacturing imperfections will help in gauging correctly the life span of critical components, potentially saving lives during commercial airline travel as well as manned space missions.

Laura Sisk-Hackworth

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (student)
Host-Microbe Interactions
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Biological Sciences 
California Polytechnic State University

Woman with long auburn hair

About Laura

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy reading, gardening and hiking.

My ARCS Award

I am so grateful to the support from the ARCS foundation. I greatly appreciate the networking opportunities that being an ARCS scholar presents and the validation that comes from recognition by such a wonderful organization! Support from the ARCS foundation also greatly reduces financial stress, so that I can focus more on the research and mentoring that I love.

Award Donor

Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation

 

Current Research

You probably remember puberty as a time of immense and confusing changes, but you might not know that the microbes in your gut were changing with you! My research focuses on how the physiological changes that we experience during puberty, like soaring hormone levels and metabolic shifts, affect which microbes live in our gut and what they do there! Knowing how puberty shapes the gut microbiome will help us better understand microbiome-related diseases that emerge during puberty, like polycystic ovary syndrome and type I diabetes.

Awards & Honors

2020-2021 CMB Joint Doctoral Program Outstanding Research Achievement Travel Award, 2020-2021; Rees-Stealy Research Foundation Fellowship, 2021; Finalist, Student Research Competition, SCASM Virtual Student/Educator Meeting, 2021; National Institutes of Health F31 Fellowship (Perfect Score), 2021-2024

Benefits to Science and Society

Puberty is a critical period in human development with lasting impacts on health. Some diseases that emerge during puberty, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, type I diabetes, and irritable bowel disease, are strongly linked to the gut microbiome in sex-specific ways. Likewise, many sex-specific physiologies that emerge during puberty, such as immune function and cognition, associate with gut microbiome composition. Therefore, knowing how puberty shapes the gut microbiome will increase understanding of how these diseases and key aspects of physiology develop. This will open the door for more microbiome-based therapies and prevention strategy. To date, no studies have investigated a causal role of puberty in the sex-specific differentiation of the gut microbiome. My research will fill this gap by revealing how puberty causes the sex-specific maturation of the gut microbiome.

Kevin Walsworth

Ph.D. Organic Chemistry (candidate)
Phage Biology
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Biochemistry 
California State University, Chico

Man standing outside

About Kevin

Kevin’s research is focused on the design and synthesis of new drugs to help
fight various diseases. He is currently working on two projects; one is the
synthesis of a marine natural product that is active against colon cancer, and
the other is the design and synthesis of a new class of hepatitis C drugs. By
synthesizing these compounds, he has been able to further optimize new
analogues that will be more potent and selective to their targets.

Personal Interests

I am a very big baseball fan (go Braves!). I also enjoy playing video games, hiking, and drinking coffee.

My ARCS Award

I am incredibly grateful to be named an ARCS scholar. I cannot express enough how honored I am to be recognized by such a great organization. Support from the ARCS foundation is a reminder that my work is appreciated by the broader community. Thank you for the support, and I hope that my work will continue to do justice to this award.

Award Donor

Robin Luby/ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

Palmyramide A is a cyclic depsipeptide consisting of three amino acids and three hydroxy acids; the most notable of these is dimethylhydroxyhexanoic acid (DMHHA). I am using novel chemistry developed in our lab to add a silicon derived directing group with a high degree of stereo control on DMHHA. More recently, I have been focusing on connecting these pieces and thereby completing the total synthesis. Once this is accomplished, my plan is to structurally modify the natural product to determine its molecular target, and then synthesize targeted derivatives with more anti-cancer activity.

Hepatitis C is a single stranded positive-sense RNA virus, which means that its genome is replicated and translated with little to no proof-reading. Current therapies target the viral protein responsible for replication of the virus’s genetic material; however, there is a high likelihood of that protein mutating, rendering the drugs ineffective. My research is working on targeting the viral RNA itself, focusing on segment of RNA that is highly conserved (subdomain IIa of the internal ribosome entry site [IRES]). When our compounds bind to the IRES, they make it impossible for ribosomes to bind, rendering the virus unable to replicate. Once I synthesize potential ligands, I will work with the Hermann lab at UCSD to test their affinity against the HCV IRES.

Publications & Posters

Schmit, D., Milewicz, U., Boerneke, M., Burley, S., Walsworth, K., Um, J., Hecht, D., Hermann, T., Bergdahl, BM. Syntheses and Binding Testing of N1-Alkylamino-Substituted 2-Aminobenzimidazole Analogues Targeting the Hepatitis C Virus Internal Ribosome Entry Site. Aust. J. Chem 2020, 73, 212-221

Walsworth, K., Bender, A., Separovic, B., Bergdahl, BM., Metzger, R. The Conformations of Virginiamycin M 1 Diacetate, an Inhibitor of Guinea Pig Brain CCK-B Receptors, in Selected Solvents. Aust. J. Chem 2020, 73, 230-235

Walsworth, K., Hermann, T., Bergdahl, BM. (February 2020) Designed Synthesis of Small Molecules Active Against Hepatitis C Virus. Oral presentation at San Diego State University Student Research Symposium, San Diego, CA

Walsworth, K., Nelson-Hall, T., Molina, J., Bergdahl, BM. (January 2020) Synthesis of Small Novel Methylsulfoximine Derivatives Active Against the Hepatitis C Virus. Poster presented at CSUPERB, Santa Clara, CA

Walsworth, K., Bender, A., Moser, A., Bergdahl, BM. (January 2020) Total Synthesis of a novel marine Anti-Cancer Natural Product Palmyramide A isolated from the Pacific Ocean Palmyra Atoll. Poster presented at CSUPERB, Santa Clara, CA

Walsworth, K., Simon, A., Nelson-Hall, T., Molina, J., Bender, A., Hermann, T., Bergdahl, BM.  (August 2019) Synthesis of New Hepatitis C Virus Translation Inhibitors. Poster presented at the American Chemical Society National Meeting, San Diego, CA.

Awards & Honors

Best Upper Division TA 2018-2019; Harry E Hamber Memorial Scholarship, Tom Ragan Memorial Endowed Fellowship

Benefits to Science and Society

Natural products and their derivatives make up approximately 35% of the global medicine market and have always been a rich source of therapeutics.  Our efficient route to Palmyramide A, along with our designed syntheses of HCV therapeutics, give insight into how these molecules interact with their targets.  Even if the specific compounds I have been working on turn out not to be viable drug candidates, what we learn from our mechanism of action and SAR studies can help us to design better therapeutics in the future.

Jennifer Waters

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Ovarian Cancer
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Biology
San Diego State University

Blonde woman in red shirt against a white wall

About Jennifer

Jennifer grew up in Encinitas and attended SDSU from 2011-2015, where she earned her B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Cell and Molecular Biology. During those years, she was an active member of the club water polo team and the triathlon club, as well as serving as the President of the Biomedical Technology Student’s Association. She got a job at a small biomedical startup after graduation and spent 3 years at Organovo researching liver fibrosis and fatty liver disease before returning to graduate school. Jenny is now pursuing a doctoral degree in a lab that studies ovarian cancer progression and relapse.

Personal Interests

Outside of the lab, Jenny enjoys rock climbing, baking, and trail running with her dog.

My ARCS Award

Being a recipient of the ARCS Foundation award has been an indescribable source of relief. It has helped alleviate some of the financial stress associated with graduate student life and has enabled me to focus more on the work I need to do instead of worrying about how to remain financially stable. On top of that, being recognized for the research I’m doing in the lab has really helped me recognize the impact that this work could have. It has helped me reframe the way I think about my project and has provided me with a renewed sense of determination to tackle my upcoming research goals.

Award Donor

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

The way ovarian cancer spreads is heavily influenced by signals from the cells and tissues that surround the tumor, which is collectively referred to as the tumor microenvironment. Jenny is researching the impact that one component of the tumor microenvironment called preadipocytes have on the way ovarian cancer cells spread to the omentum, which is a fatty tissue that attracts ovarian cancer cells and has the highest tumor burden in patients. She hopes to identify potential drug targets that could reduce the rate of omental metastasis in ovarian cancer.

Publications & Posters

Robinson M, Gilbert SF, Waters JA, Lujano-Olazaba O, Lara J, Alexander L, Green SE, Burkeen G, Patrus O, Holmberg R, Wang C, and House CD. (2021) Characterization of SOX2, OCT4 and NANOG in ovarian cancer tumor initiating cells. Cancers.

Waters JA, Robinson M, Gilbert S, Alexander L, and House CD (2019) Role of Secretory Factors from Obese-Derived Omentum in Supporting Ovarian Cancer Progression. American Association for Cancer Research 110th Annual Meeting

Awards & Honors

Presidents Award at Student Research Symposium, 2021; Rees-Stealy Foundation Fellowship, 2021; Thermo-Fisher Scientific Cancer Research Association Grant, 2020;

Benefits to Science and Society

A better understanding of the contributions by the omentum to the tumor microenvironment has the potential to uncover targetable pathways that could be used to develop new cancer therapeutics. Because this work is focused on understanding the influence of preadipocytes on cancer cells, it is possible that it could even have implications for other cancers besides ovarian, such as breast and pancreatic cancers which also present in close proximity to fatty tissues.

2020-2021 ARCS Alumni

Mariel Manaloto Cardenas

Mariel Manaloto Cardenas

Ph.D. Chemistry (candidate)
Organic Chemistry; Asymmetric Catalysis in Medicinal Chemistry
Joint SDSU / UC San Diego

B.S. in Chemistry
UC San Diego

Mariel Cardeneas

About Mariel

Obtaining ‘large-scale,’ industry-standard quantities of enantiomerically pure (i.e. the correct conformational and stereochemical structure of) drug scaffolds represents a major challenge in drug discovery, as the traditional state of industry currently lacks time and cost- efficient processes. This is likely due to the current lack of catalytic, synthetic, and asymmetric methodologies amenable with medicinal chemistry efforts. Mariel started conducting graduate-level research under Dr. Jeffrey L. Gustafson at SDSU. She has since developed some of the desirable, general strategies to access pharmaceutically relevant scaffolds.

Personal Interests

Mariel still enjoys Harry Potter and frequently rewatches the series with a bowl of ice cream. She also enjoys going to rock concerts (particularly for music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s), and her pastime is walking around San Diego.

My ARCS Award

I strongly think that the ARCS Foundation award has largely benefited me in alleviating financial stressors that are related to graduate student life. It means so much to me as well to know that I am amongst a group of students that can develop science towards the community. It resets my focus that science is to largely “change the world” and advance ourselves and improve the quality of humanity. As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve been super humbled and grateful to attend ARCS meetings. I’ve gotten to talk with so many people involved, and it’s actually allowed me to become even more determined to shape my research with that goal in mind. With the award, I can really hone in and shape this research without worrying about the burdens in graduate student life (like money-problems, financial setbacks, etc.).

Award Donor

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter / Robin Luby

Current Research

There is renewed interest in leveraging atropisomerism to synthesize more potent and selective N-heterocyclic pharmaceuticals. One unaddressed challenge is the narrow window of synthetic methodologies to directly access these important atropisomeric scaffolds on desired “gram-scale” quantities.

Mariel and her coworkers in the Gustafson group at SDSU have reported an atroposelective nucleophilic aromatic substitution towards a diverse range of these aforementioned compounds in high enantioselectivities and optimal yields.

Mariel selected thiophenols to add into these pharmaceutically relevant N-heterocycles since the resulting product is synthetically and medicinally useful in drug discovery. Examples of N-heterocycles we have directly functionalized with this chemistry include 3-aryl pyrrolopyrimidines (PPYs, a well-studied kinase inhibiting scaffold) and 3-aryl quinolines (which are ubiquitous in many drug and ‘drug’-like compounds).

Currently, Mariel and her colleagues are developing other nucleophilic reactions such as asymmetric Minisci- type chemistries, vicarious nucleophilic substitutions, and enantioselective cyclizations.

Publications & Posters

Cardenas, M.M.; Saputra, M.A.; Sanchez, A.N.; Robinson, C.J.; Valle, E.; Gustafson, J.L. Accessing pharmaceutically relevant 3-arylated N-heterocycles via atroposelective synthetic methodologies. American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, Fall 2019. 26 August 2019, 29 August 2019, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

Cardenas, M.M.; Saputra, M.A.; Sanchez, A.N.; Robinson, C.J.; Valle, E.; Gustafson, J.L. Development of atroposelective syntheses of pharmaceutically relevant N-heterocycles. 46th National Organic Chemistry Symposium. 26 June 2019, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Cardenas, M.M.; Saputra, M.A.; Sanchez, A.N.; Robinson, C.J. Valle, E.; Gustafson, J.L. Developing atroposelective syntheses to access diverse pharmaceutically relevant scaffolds. American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition, Spring 2019. 1 April 2019, 3 April 2019, Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL

Cardenas, M.M.; Toenjes, S.T.; Nalbandian, C.J; Gustafson, J.L. Enantioselective synthesis of pyrrolopyrimidine scaffolds through cation-directed nucleophilic aromatic substitution. Org. Lett. 2018, 20, 2037-2041. [doi: 10.1021/acs.orglett.8b00579] [PMID: 29561161, PMC5909700]

Awards & Honors

University Graduate Fellowship Award, SDSU in May 2019; ARCS – San Diego Scholar, SDSU in Aug 2019; NIH Funded Student, SDSU in Aug 2017; Cal Vet Student, Cal Vet Services in Aug 2015.

Benefits to Science and Society

Atropiomerism (also referred to as axial chirality) is ubiquitous in all of drug discovery, as 30% of FDA approved drugs since 2011 possess at least one interconverting axis of atropisomerism. While this number is striking, the current ‘industry standard’ is to avoid creating stable atropisomers when possible and treating rapidly interconverting atropisomers as achiral. The current lack of synthetic methodologies to obtain ‘large-scale,’ industry-standard quantities of atropisomerically-pure drug scaffolds, and the reliance on chiral HPLC separation, is not useful for medicinal chemists involved in the drug discovery process.

Molly Clemens

Molly Elizabeth Clemens

Ph.D. Ecology (candidate)
Viticulture and AgroEcology
Joint SDSU & UC Davis

B.S. Environmental Science
Fordham University, New York

Molly Clemens close-up

About Molly

Molly’s thesis is an interdisciplinary investigation of adaptations in vineyards, with the goal of sustainable agro-ecological solutions to the threats of climate change. She has modeled the phenological timing of hundreds of international grapevine varieties in response to climate change, and she reviewed in depth the impacts of elevated carbon dioxide on grapevine ecology. She is working on her last chapter at the Fondazione Edmund Mach in Italy on genetic transformations of grapevines using cutting edge CRISPR cas9 technology. These transformations developed grapevine with higher drought resistance.

Personal Interests

When I’m not in the lab or travelling, I love to be in the water surfing or paddle boarding. I spend a lot of time baking and cooking, which I think comes from my love of lab culture.

My ARCS Award

It’s hard to describe the impact the ARCS award has had on me, because the relief of financial stress is a gift that I truly can’t say thank you for enough. I have been able to prioritize my research over financial stability. This year especially, I have been able to support myself, rather than ask for assistance from my family. It has been so validating to be supported by ARCS. It created security for me in probably the most insecure time of my life.

Award Donor

Heller Foundation of San Diego

Current Research

My dissertation in the Global Change Research Group focuses on the effects of climate change on vineyards in California, France, and Italy. We work on climate simulations to test genetic, phenological, and morphologic changes from elevated carbon dioxide and temperature on grapevines. I used microCT x-ray tomography scans to visualize changes in grapevine leaf tissue anatomy. I quantified microRNA to characterize graft incompatibility at the ISVV in France. I modeled the grapevine phenological response to climate, as well as an in-depth review of elevated carbon dioxide impacts on grapevine.

At the Fondazione Edmund Mach in Italy, we are using CRISPR cas9 genetic transformations of grapevines for higher drought resistance. I am using previous RNAseq results to quantify gene expression in the transformed plants, compared to wild type, to identify genetic response to drought. This genetics work will contribute to a global effort to make grapevine a more sustainable crop.

My thesis is an interdisciplinary investigation of adaptations in vineyards, with the goal of sustainable agro-ecological solutions to the threats of climate change.

Publication & Posters

Clemens, M.; Walker, A.; Wolkovich E. A comprehensive ecological study of grapevine sensitivity to temperature; How terroir will shift under climate change. GiESCO, Thessaloniki, Greece June 21-28, 2019

Valim, H.D.; Clemens, M.E.; Frank, H. Joint decision-making on two visual perception systems. Computational Intelligence, Cognitive Algorithms, Mind, and Brain (CCMB), 2014. IEEE Symposium

Awards & Honors

Chateaubriand Fellowship, French Embassy 2019; Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship, Area of Excellence Center for Climate and Sustainability Studies, San Diego State University 2016 and 2017; Fulbright Graduate Research Fellowship 2014; Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship, Fordham 2013

Benefits to Science and Society

Winegrapes are one of the world’s most expensive and culturally important crops, currently facing climate change impacts like drought, heat waves, and increases in pest pressure. I hope that my research will benefit the grape growing communities by providing alternative varieties and sustainable solutions to some of these problems. Specifically, we are working on drought resistance grapevine varieties, which will hopefully be used in the industry one day. The current varieties we are testing in our experimental vineyard could help local growers in Temecula and Fallbrook choose alternatives that are more drought and heat tolerant.

Lucas Aaron Luna

Lucas Aaron Luna

Ph.D. Biochemistry (candidate)
Molecular Mechanisms of Diseases
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Biochemistry
UC Santa Barbara

Lucas Luna

About Lucas

Lucas investigates mechanistic questions at the intersection of biochemistry, cell biology, and medicine. He explores how altered enzyme activity impacts human health using kinetic, structural and cellular tools. He is involved in several projects regarding altered protein function and cellular metabolism. Currently, his research project focuses on studying hypermutated phenotypes of human DNA polymerase epsilon, frequently present in colorectal cancer. He will study how exonuclease domain mutations affect fidelity and processivity to further understand how DNA replication errors are created and propagated.

Personal Interests

I like jiu-jitsu, weight-lifting, hiking, hanging out with friends, and learning Portuguese.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS award has had a monumental influence on my passion and the quality of my work. It has increased my motivation to make lasting contributions to the scientific community, and I feel like it will accelerate my degree completion. The network that ARCS provides will also be invaluable to my career development, and I have enjoyed forming connections with my university cohorts. The award has made purchasing lab reagents and materials much easier, as well as facilitated day-to-day life here San Diego. The ARCS award has inspired me to give back to the student community at SDSU. I have decided to become more involved in chemistry tutoring and have started tutoring students in general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. It is a very rewarding experience to give back to the community and I hope for it to continue through the rest of my PhD career. An additional benefit to the tutoring experience is that I can influence someone to continue a degree in chemistry or biochemistry and inspire them to seek out a research position.

Award Donor

Drs. Mara and Larry Yarbarrando / ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

I study how changes in the cellular environment can reroute metabolism by altering the catalytic activities of metabolic enzymes such as Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1).

IDH1 catalyzes the reversible conversion of isocitrate to alpha ketoglutarate. There is an unmet need to show how changing the cellular environment regulates normal IDH1 activity.

Typically, the forward and reverse reactions are balanced to meet the metabolic needs of the cell. However, when the cellular environment is perturbed by a change in pH, the catalytic activity of proteins can change and the equilibrium of the forward reaction and reverse reaction can be shifted. In our recent project, we investigated the biochemical and cellular pH- dependent consequences of IDH1 activity and provided a structural rationale for our observations.

We concluded that the forward reaction of IDH1 is strongly pH dependent as reaction rate decreased as the pH became more acidic. When we then lowered the intracellular pH of cells chemically, we found that the concentrations of IDH1-related metabolites and tumor-related metabolites decreased – reflecting the results of our biochemical analysis.

We then used computational algorithms to provide a structural basis for our biochemical observations and identified potential pH-sensing amino acid residues buried within the IDH1 core that may play a role in correct catalysis as well as pH sensitivity.

Publication & Posters

Luna, L. A.; Lesecq, Z.; Avellaneda Matteo, D.; White, K.A.; Hoang, A.; Scott, D.A.; Zagnitko, O.; Bobkov, B.A.; Barber, D.L.; Schiffer, J.M.; Isom, D.G.; Sohl, C.D. An acidic residue buried in the dimer interface of Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) helps regulate catalysis and pH sensitivity. Biochemical Journal 2020, 477(16), 2099-3018

Bernatchez, J.A.; Coste, M.; Beck, S.; Wells, G.A.; Luna, L.A.; Clark, A.E.; Zhu, Z.; Hecht, D.; Rich, J.N.; Sohl, C.D.; Purse, B.W.; Siqueira-Neto, J.L. Activity of selected nucleoside analogue protides against Zika virus in human neural stem cells. Viruses 2019, 11(4), 365-381

Avellaneda Matteo, D.; Wells, G.A.; Luna, L.A.; Grunseth, A.J.; Zagnitko, O.; Scott, D.A.; Hoang, A.; Luthra, A.; Swairjo, M.; Schiffer, J.M.; Sohl, C.D. Inhibitor potency varies widely among tumor-relevant human Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) mutants. Biochemical Journal 2018, 475(20), 3221-3238

Bernatchez, J.A.; Zunhua, Y.; Coste, M.; Li, J.; Beck, S.; Liu, Y.; Clark, A.E.; Zhu, Z.; Luna, L.A.; Sohl, C.D.; Purse, B.W.; Li, R.; Siqueira-Neto, J.L. Development and validation of a phenotypic high-content imaging assay for assessing the antiviral activity of small molecule inhibitors targeting the Zika virus. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 2018, 62(10), 1-10

Awards & Honors

Tom Ragan Memorial Endowed Scholarship 2020; University Graduate Fellowship 2019: Prebys Biomedical Research Endowed Scholarship 2019; Harry E. Hamber Memorial Scholarship 2018, 2019.

Benefits to Science and Society

With the Isocitrate Dehydrogenase project we hope to establish how metabolic enzyme activity is affected by changes in the cellular environment, and we hypothesize that the reverse reaction is favored at lower pH levels.

We will also show how cellular metabolism is regulated by intracellular pH. In our new polymerase project, we will identify unique mechanisms of novel polymerase mutations and help inform a treatment strategy in colorectal and uterine cancer patients.

Amelia Odine Stone-Johnstone

Amelia Odine Stone-Johnstone

Ph.D. Mathematics Education (candidate)
Undergraduate Mathematics Education
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

M.A. Mathematics
University of California San Diego

B.S. Mathematics
University of Rochester

Amelia Odine Stone-Johnstone

About Amelia

Amelia’s research project aims to identify the impact that corequisite mathematics courses have on students intending to pursue majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A corequisite course is an instructional intervention where students are enrolled in a college-level course while simultaneously receiving academic support. The results from this research will help instructors and program coordinators design impactful support courses that will increase student retention, foster greater interest in the sciences, support students’ educational growth, and prepare students for subsequent courses.

Personal Interests

Some of my interests and hobbies include piano, tabletop role-playing games, mahjong, food & travel, video games, science fiction and fantasy literature.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation award introduces an opportunity to connect with scholars across disciplines. I was enculturated into the field of mathematics education through involvement with the Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education at SDSU. Through this network I was able to build meaningful relationships and learn from scholars across disciplines. I view this acceptance into the ARCS community as another opportunity to connect with scholars outside of my field. It is through these cross-disciplinary conversations that we can develop consequential and sustainable programs for STEM-intending undergraduates.

Award Donor

Ingrid Benirschke-Perkins and Gordon Perkins

Current Research

Developmental education programs simultaneously serve as gateways and gatekeeps to higher education for historically marginalized students. While these programs may equip students with the necessary tools needed for success in foundational STEM courses, students’ academic path may be stymied by various features of developmental education (e.g., financial burden tied to the extended time to degree completion).

Many states in the US have taken legislative action to end these programs, but ending them without replacing them with adequate academic support mechanisms does little to ameliorate the inequity experienced by marginalized students

One solution being explored is the corequisite model – where students are dually enrolled in a college-level course and a structured support mechanism. Research shows this model can improve course outcomes, but little is known about students’ lived experiences while enrolled.

My research addresses this pressing issue through three research aims: 1. describe how the corequisite model is implemented at two institutions. 2. examine how opportunities to engage in course content are dispersed in corequisites and how enrollment in a corequisite affects student engagement in their main course. 3. understand the impact on the student, in terms of perceptions of efficacy and interest in mathematics.

Publication & Posters

Pilgrim, M.E.; McDonald, K.K.; Offerdahl, E.G.; Shadle, S.E.; Ryker, K.; Stone-Johnstone, A.; Walter, E.M. An exploratory study of what different theories can tell us about change. In Transforming Institutions: Accelerating systemic change in higher education; C. Henderson, M. Stains; Accelerating Systemic Change in STEM Higher Education Network; Pressbooks: forthcoming 2020.

Reinholz, D.L.; Stone-Johnstone, A.; Shah, N. Walking the walk: Using classroom analytics to support faculty members to address implicit bias in teaching. International Journal for Academic Development 2019. https:// doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2019.1692211.

Reinholz, D.L.; Corrales, A.; Stone-Johnstone, A. The access network: supporting the construction of social justice physics identities through student partnerships. International Journal of Students as Partners 2019, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v3i2.3788.

Stone-Johnstone, A.; Reinholz, D.L.; Mullins, B.; Smith, J.; Andrews-Larson, C. Inquiry without equity: A case study of two undergraduate math classes. Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education. Oklahoma City, OK, February 2019.

Awards & Honors

Sowder Research Award, Fall 2020; Nicolas A. Branca Memorial Scholarship, Fall 2018;
University of Southern California Provost Fellow, Fall 2011.

Benefits to Science and Society

The corequisite model was designed to support students needing additional academic support in college-level courses. There is a dearth of research around students’ experiences in these courses. This research is meaningful since corequisites can potentially help address equity and access issues for marginalized populations in the sciences. The findings from this study can inform the development of future corequisite courses, as well as identify equitable practices that have contributed to student success in introductory mathematics courses.

Theresa Leigh Ute Burnham

Theresa Leigh Ute Burnham

Ph.D. Ecology (candidate)
Ecology; Marine Fisheries Ecology and Management
Joint SDSU / UC Davis

B.S. in Biology
Northeastern University

Theresa Burnham headshot

About Theresa Leigh

Around the world, marine fisheries are threatened by increasing demand for seafood and warming oceans. Theresa’s research focuses on improving management of the lucrative, but vulnerable, spiny lobster fishery in Southern California and Mexico. By gathering fishing data, biological characteristics, and genetic signatures from lobsters along the Pacific coast, Theresa aims to create modern, climate-ready solutions for the environmental problems faced by small-scale fisheries and the coastal communities that rely on them.

Personal Interests

I spend my free time hiking and biking in nature, cooking and baking at home, or volunteering for political campaigns.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation award is meaningful to me in many ways, chiefly in celebrating my research goals and accomplishments. Outside validation is extremely rewarding, and being welcomed into the ARCS community provides a new network of hard-working scientists to collaborate with and entrepreneurial women that I admire. Further, the financial component of the award helps ease the stress and inflexibility that come with pursuing a doctoral degree while living in poverty. The ARCS Foundation award will provide valuable flexibility as I advance in my career and aid me in reaching my full potential as a professional scientist.

Award Donor

Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund

Current Research

Motivated by a deep appreciation for the inherent value of our oceans and coastal community members, my research aims to enhance the sustainability of the California spiny lobster fishery in the face of global change.

My dissertation work is focused on three components of the fishery: (1) management, (2) population structure, and (3) impacts of climate change. To address the management aspect, I am developing a predictive simulation model that compares the effectiveness of different management procedures in various scenarios (e.g. future climate states). I am working with California Department of Fish & Wildlife to create a model that can be implemented directly into management.

For my second chapter, I am using next-generation sequencing techniques to determine the genetic signatures of lobsters over 800 miles of their range. Identifying genetic differences between subpopulations may help managers develop more effective, spatially-explicit conservation methods.

Finally, I am analyzing the relationship between the lobster fishery and increasingly frequent marine heat waves to understand how climate change may impact California’s fifth most valuable marine fishery. This component will be useful to fishers as they plan future fishing seasons under new climate norms.

Publications & Posters

Burnham, T.L.U.; Dunn, R.P.; O’Rourke, S.; Miller, M.; Hovel, K.A. Implications of spatially variable demography and fishing behavior of a binational fishery. 6th Annual International Marine Conservation Congress. 18 August 2020, Virtual

Knight, C.J.; Burnham, T.L.U.; Mansfield, E.J.; Crowder, L.B.; Micheli, F. COVID-19 reveals vulnerability of small-scale fisheries to global market systems. Lancet Planet. Health. 2020; 4:e219

Burnham, T.L.U.; Miller, M.; O’Rourke, S.; Hovel, K.A. Clarifying population structure of the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus). 100th Annual Western Society of Naturalists Meeting. 3 November 2019, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Saley, A.M.; Smart, A.C.; Bezerra, M.F.; Burnham, T.L.U.; Capece, L.R.; Lima, L.F.O.; Carsh, A.C.; Williams, S.L.; Morgan, S.G. Microplastic accumulation and biomagnification in a coastal marine reserve situated in a sparsely populated area. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 2019; 146:54-59

Awards & Honors

Ecological Society of America Policy Section Registration Grant 2020; University of California UC MEXUS Small Grant Award 2018-2019; University Graduate Fellowship, San Diego State University 2017-2019; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Holling’s Scholar 2013-2015

Benefits to Science and Society

My research will enhance our understanding of the biology and ecology of the valuable California spiny lobster, promoting the creation of more effective management strategies. This outcome can benefit fishers and coastal communities that depend on this species for livelihood and recreation. This is important as fisheries face increasing threats due to warming oceans and overexploitation. My findings will also be applicable to other marine fisheries species that occur across national boundaries and experience different environmental conditions throughout their range.

Nicholas Benjamin Williams

Nicholas Benjamin Williams

Ph.D. Chemistry (candidate)
Renewable Energy
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.A. in Chemistry
Washington and Jefferson College

B.A. in Economics
Washington and Jefferson College

Nicholas Williams

About Nicholas

Nicholas is working on developing sustainable photoelectrochemical methods to generate hydrogen gas using semiconductor- organometallic hybrid materials to supply the growing hydrogen economy.

This work has also developed methods of using surface sensitive techniques to observe catalyst decomposition. Additionally, he is using novel materials for electrochemical coenzyme regeneration.

Coenzymes, which are used by enzymes to drive catalytic reactions, are costly and are one limitation to larger scale enzymatic catalysis.

Being able to control recycle coenzymes in an efficient, scalable, and controllable manner would provide significant benefits in this field of catalysis.

Personal Interests

I enjoy camping at places like Death Valley, Yellowstone, and the Black Hills. Some of my other hobbies include painting and baking; I always enjoy making a warm loaf of bread on a day off.

My ARCS Award

To me ARCS has provided several important tools to develop as a scientist. ARCS has proven an effective means to meet other young scientists in a variety of interesting fields and to open a door to meet many previous ARCS Scholars though this common bond. ARCS has also provided me with time to grow, not only as a scientist dedicated to my research but also as a person. I would otherwise have spent this time worrying about financial matters.

Award Donor

Virginia Lynch Grady Endowment

Current Research

My research initially focused on bonding a monolayer of an organometallic catalyst onto a semiconductor interface for the photoelectrochemical generation of solar fuels.

The desired fuel hydrogen gas was produced with a faradaic efficiency of nearly 100% but was produced at a decreasing rate, due to the decomposition of the molecular catalyst. From here I studied the decomposition of the catalyst using surface sensitive techniques.

Using surface-sensitive methods such as XPS and simpler contact angle measurements, chemical changes can be monitored and observed on material interfaces with the purpose of monitoring catalyst degradation.

More recently my work has focused on developing materials for electrochemical hydrogenation reactions, namely for the application of regenerating coenzymes for cell free enzyme cascade systems.

In this study I have utilized transition metal dichalcogenides to reduce the oxidized form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide efficiently and selectively into its reduced form.

Publication & Posters

Fang, C.; Li J.; Zhang, Y.; Yang, F.; Lee, J.L.; Lee, M.; Alvarado, J.; Wang, X.; Schroeder, M.; Yang, Y.; Williams, N.; Ceja, M.; Yang, L.; Cai, M.; Gu, J.; Xu, K.; Wang, X.; Meng, Y.S. Quantifying inactive lithium in lithium metal batteries. Nature 2019 572, 511-515.

Huang, Y.; Sun, Y.; Zheng, X.; Aoki, T.; Pattengale, B.; Huang, J.; He, X.; Bian, W.; Younan, S.; Williams, N.; Hu, J.; Ge, J.; Pu, N.; Yan, X.; Pan, X.; Zhang, L.; Wei, Y.; Gu, J. Atomically engineering activation sites onto metallic 1T-MoS2 catalysts for enhanced electrochemical hydrogen evolution. Nature Communications 2019, 10 (1).

Zhou, Y.-H.; Wang, S.; Zhang, Z.; Williams, N.; Cheng, Y.; Gu, J. Hollow nickel-cobalt layered double hydroxide supported palladium catalysts with superior hydrogen evolution activity for hydrolysis of ammonia borane. ChemCatChem 2018, 10 (15), 3206–3213.

Zhou Y.-H.; Zhang, Z.; Wang, S.; Williams, N.; Cheng, Y.; Luo, S.; Gu J. rGO supported PdNi-CeO2 nanocomposite as an efficient catalyst for hydrogen evolution from the hydrolysis of NH3BH3. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 2018 43, 18745-18753.

Awards & Honors

National Renewable Energy Lab Summer research internship, July 2019; SDSU Dept. Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Masters Research Award, Fall 2017; ARCS Foundation, Inc. – San Diego Award, Fall 2017 to Present.

Benefits to Science and Society

My research produced a surface-sensitive methodology that can be used to observe the decomposition of organometallic catalysts; learning how and why catalysts fail can prove useful for the rational design of future catalysts. Secondly, my work on coenzyme recycling through electrochemical method has shown this to be selective, efficient and tunable. This work can prove fruitful in addressing a difficulty for the application of enzymatic catalysis due to the high cost of coenzymes.

2019-2020 ARCS Alumni

John Allen

John Matthew Allen

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Stem Cell Biology and Regeneration
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. Molecular Biology
Harvey Mudd College, Claremont

John Allen

About John

John’s project works towards understanding how cells make fate decisions. How DNA, or the “blueprints” of the cell, are physically packaged by histone proteins in the nucleus can regulate gene levels and directly influence cell fate. His work focuses on a complex that modifies histone proteins that wind DNA around them. The effect of this modification is to cause a localized compaction of the DNA and histones and cause genes to become silenced. His lab studies this complex during regeneration and examines how stem cells are regulated as re-form tissues.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation award has been a source of continued support throughout my graduate career. I use part of this award to relieve myself of teaching obligations that significantly hinder my ability to focus solely on conducting the research that is essential to advance my thesis work. I also appreciate the chance to interact with scientific donors and to discuss my work (and science in general) with the public.

Award Donor

Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund

Current Research

How cells make fate decisions through development and how they maintain these states is a complicated multi-faceted question that has important implications in understanding many human diseases. Especially important is understanding how an organism can deploy a common set of DNA instructions to form multiple differentiated cell types. My work seeks to understand how cells use epigenetic instructions to guide cell fate decisions through the dynamic process of regeneration. This work will help us understand how an important but understudied epigenetic complex is affecting stem cell regulation.

Publication & Posters

Ochoa, S. D.; Dores, M. R.; Allen, J. M.; Tran, T.; Osman, M.; Castellanos, N. P. V.; Trejo, J.; Zayas, R. M. A modular laboratory course using planarians to study genes involved in tissue regeneration. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 2019, 47 (5), 547–559.

Strand, N. S.; Allen, J. M.; Zayas, R. M. Post-translational regulation of planarian regeneration. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology 2019, 87, 58–68.

Strand, N. S.; Allen, J. M.; Ghulam, M.; Taylor, M. R.; Munday, R. K.; Carrillo, M.; Movsesyan, A.; Zayas, R. M. Dissecting the function of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligase complex genes in planarian regeneration. Developmental Biology 2018, 433 (2), 210–217.

Allen, J. M.; Ross, K. G.; Zayas, R. M. Regeneration in invertebrates: Model systems. eLS 2016, 1–9.

Awards & Honors

ARCS Foundation, Inc. – San Diego Scholar; University Graduate Fellowship; DePietro Scholarship Award.

Benefits to Science and Society

Winegrapes are one of the world’s most expensive and culturally important crops, currently facing climate change impacts like drought, heat waves, and increases in pest pressure. I hope that my research will benefit the grape growing communities by providing alternative varieties and sustainable solutions to some of these problems. Specifically, we are working on drought resistance grapevine varieties, which will hopefully be used in the industry one day. The current varieties we are testing in our experimental vineyard could help local growers in Temecula and Fallbrook choose alternatives that are more drought and heat tolerant.

Erik Blackwood

Erik Alexander Blackwood

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Specialization in Molecular Cardiology
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in PreProfessional Studies
University of Notre Dame

Erik Blackwood

About Erik

Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of human deaths worldwide and is mainly due to acute myocardial infarction (AMI), where coronary artery occlusion causes rapid, irreparable damage to the heart, increasing susceptibility to progressive cardiac degeneration and heart failure. Erik has identified several lead candidate small molecules that can enhance adaptive signaling and responses in the heart and confer protection against cardiac damage during an AMI. Furthermore, because of the nature of the adaptive response targeted, he is investigating its beneficial effects in disease models targeting other organ systems.

Personal Interests

Football, basketball, powerlifting, medical and scientific history, history and philosophy of science, and cooking.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation award has been pivotal in my career. I have been able to enjoy my PhD more fully without the burden of financial stress living in California, far from the support of my family. I have met amazing scientists and have been exposed to the cutting-edge research they are also involved in. I feel more connected to the San Diego community through ARCS. I am so honored to have my efforts validated by an award like ARCS, which puts positive pressure on me to continue striving for excellence.

Award Donors

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter
Karen & Bob Bowden

Current Research

For my doctoral training, my research has focused broadly on molecular cardiology focusing on the cardiac structure and function in the ischemic, hypertrophic, and failing heart, in vivo. I have led a team at the SDSU Heart Institute that is focused on developing novel proteotoxic-based therapeutics for ischemic heart disease and hypertensive stress. This work has led to recent publications whereby we defined a novel link between ischemic-stress sensing in the endoplasmic reticulum and the genetic induction of antioxidants to prevent reperfusion injury. We followed up these findings by identifying small molecule activators of this pathway and demonstrated their efficacy in small animal models of reperfusion injury not only in the heart, but also demonstrated protection in the brain, liver, and kidney.

Additionally, through transcriptome analysis we identified a novel link between the endoplasmic reticulum stress response and essential elements of mTOR-dependent myocyte growth. This led to the unique identification of non-canonical pathology-dependent gene induction by the ER stress response. Finally, our most recent work that is the culmination of my doctoral studies is delineating a novel link between the ER stress response and the paracrine and endocrine functions in atrial cardiac myocytes with an emphasis on mitigating hemodynamic stress and promoting cardiac function. The manuscript reporting these finds is in the final stages of preparation for submission.

Publication & Posters

Blackwood, E.A.; Azizi, K.M.; Thuerauf, D.J.; Paxman, R.; Plate, L.; Wiseman, L.; Kelly J.; Glembotski, C.C. Pharmacologic ATF6 activation confers global protection in widespread disease models by reprogramming cellular proteostasis. Nat Commun, 2019; 10:187.

Blackwood, E.A.; Hofmann, C.; Santo Domingo, M.; Bilal, A.S.; Sarakki, A.; Stauffer, W.; Arrieta, A.; Thuerauf, D.J.; Kolkhorst, F.; Muller, O.J.; Jakobi, T.; Dieterich, C.; Katus, H.A.; Doroudgar, S.; Glembotski, C.C. ATF6 regulates cardiac hypertrophy by transcriptional induction of the mTORC1 activator, Rheb. Circ Res. 2019; 124(1):79-93.

Jin, J-K.; Blackwood, E.A.; Azizi, K.; Thuerauf, D.J.; Fahem, A.G.; Hofmann, C.; Doroudgar, S.; Glembotski, C.C. ATF6 decreases myocardial ischemia/reperfusion damage and links ER stress and oxidative stress signaling pathways in the heart. Circ. Res. 2017; 120(5):862-875.

Awards & Honors

Best Poster Award, Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Cardiac Regulatory Mechanisms 2016, 2018; National Institutes of Health Predoctoral F31 Fellowship 2018; American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship 2017; Best Poster Award, International Society for Heart Research 2017.

Benefits to Science and Society

I have led a team at the SDSU Heart Institute that is focused on developing novel proteotoxic-based therapeutics for ischemic heart disease and hypertensive stress. We are aiming to expedite the process of high-throughput drug screening to testing of lead candidates in small and large animal models of cardiovascular, endocrine, and neurological diseases in the hopes of providing better therapeutics in the clinic for patients.

Corey Allyn Clatterbuck

Corey Allyn Clatterbuck

Ph.D. Ecology (candidate)
Marine Ecology and Conservation
Joint SDSU / UC Davis

M.S. in Biology
San José State University

B.S. in Biology and Anthropology
Transylvania University

Mariel Cardeneas

About Corey

Seabirds are a highly-threatened taxon that are also ecological sentinels of ocean conditions, including chemical pollution. Corey’s research examines contaminants found in seabird tissues to better describe the chemical environments sea life are exposed to. She uses targeted approaches to assess contaminants that are highly regulated and well-established as harmful to human health, in addition to non-targeted approaches that detect new, currently unmonitored, and unregulated contaminants of interest. The primary objective is to determine concentrations and spatial extent of contaminants and potential impacted species before the levels of these contaminants become problematic in the environment.

Personal Interests

Hiking, cycling, trivia nights at brewpubs, winning my fantasy football league, and spending time with dogs.

My ARCS Award

Recognition of my work and my potential as a scientist is empowering. As an early career scientist, the ARCS Foundation Award has helped me see myself not only as a student, but as a peer to other scientists that have made significant contributions to science & society. As such, being an ARCS Scholar is invaluable to my identity and future as an ecologist, and has helped me gain self-confidence in completing my doctoral research.

Award Donor

Virginia Lynch Grady Endowment

Current Research

Monitoring physical and biological conditions in the open ocean is an inherently difficult task, particularly when monitoring toxic and harmful compounds. A large proportion of biomonitoring research focuses on a single species, a single site, and/or a small range (i.e. 1-3) of contaminant classes. While informative, the scope of such studies can limit their applicability, which is concerning as data suggests the abundance of organic and heavy metal contaminants in the ocean is increasing. Contaminants can have sub-lethal effects that affect population viability, and new, unknown contaminants enter the environment with little knowledge of their possible effects and limited ability to monitor these emerging contaminants.

My research explores how seabirds may be used as biomonitors for a rapidly-changing ocean environment. First, I show that seabird tissues can be used to indicate the magnitude and extent of a wide range of contaminants at the regional scale. I also examine relationships between seabird distribution and mercury concentrations to investigate a link between foraging habitat and observed reproductive failure in seabird colonies. Lastly, I will use tissues of wide-ranging seabird species, albatrosses (Phoebastria spp.), to characterize the type and abundance of legacy and new toxicants present in North Pacific waters.

Publications & Posters

Clatterbuck, C.A.; Lewison, R.L. California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni) breeding survey, 2018; CDFW; San Diego, CA, 2019.

Clatterbuck, C.A.; Lewison, R.L.; Orben, R.; Suryan, R.; Torres, L.; Ackerman, J.; Shaffer, S. Contaminants as ecological tracers: Does mercury load reflect foraging habits of a generalist seabird? 46th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group, Lihue, HI, USA, Feb 27-March 3, 2019.

Shaffer, S.A.; Cockerham, S.; Warzybok, P.; Bradley, R; Clatterbuck, C.A.; Lucia, M.; Jelincic, J.; Cassell, A.; Kelsey, E.C.; Adams, J. Population-level plasticity in foraging behavior of western gulls (Larus occidentalis). Move. Ecol. 2018, 27, 1-13.

Clatterbuck, C.A.; Lewison, R.L.; Dodder, N.; Zeeman, C.; Schiff, K. Seabirds as regional biomonitors of legacy toxicants on an urbanized coastline. Sci. Total Environ. 2018, 619-620C, 460-469.

Awards & Honors

SDSU University Grant Program; CSU Program for Education & Research in Biotechnology Travel Grant; CSU-Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology Student Research Award.

Benefits to Science and Society

Many contaminants are incidentally introduced to coasts and oceans, where they persist and impact marine life for decades. However, we have little knowledge of how suites of chemicals impact marine life. This research is a first step to identifying these chemical suites, in addition to describing their spatial extent and magnitude. These investigations support innovation and advances in biomonitoring, to shift from reactionary to proactive monitoring and towards a stronger integration with animal ecotoxicology and ecology.

Liwen Deng

Liwen Deng

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Microbiology
Joint SDSU / UC San Diego

B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience
UC San Diego

Liwen Deng

About Liwen

Liwen is interested in how the typically commensal bacterium Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is able to cause severe disease in vulnerable populations such as newborns. GBS normally colonizes the vaginal tract of healthy women asymptomatically but can be transmitted to the newborn with devastating consequences. Currently, GBS is a leading cause of neonatal pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis in the United States. Since beginning her work in Dr. Doran’s lab, Liwen has identified several bacterial factors that contribute to how asymptomatic colonization can transition and cause invasive disease in newborns.

My ARCS Award

I am very grateful for the support of the ARCS Foundation award. This funding has enabled me to attend many conferences to present my research. At these meetings, I have received valuable feedback about my data and I have also been able to network and meet other scientists in the field of bacterial pathogenesis.

Award Donor

Hervey Family Non–Endowment Fund

Current Research

Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B Streptococcus [GBS]) is an opportunistic pathogen that normally colonizes healthy adults asymptomatically and is a frequent inhabitant of the vaginal tract in women. However, GBS possesses a variety of virulence factors and can cause severe disease when transmitted to newborns. Despite widespread intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis administration to colonized mothers, GBS remains a leading cause of neonatal meningitis in the US.

For my PhD work, I am investigating how this bacterium is able to persist in the vaginal tract, transition from a commensal colonizer to an invasive pathogen, disrupt host barriers, and ultimately penetrate into the brain to cause infection and inflammation. I have characterized an inflammatory GBS surface adhesin which promoted bacterial attachment to brain endothelium and discovered the host endothelial receptor for this GBS factor. I have also characterized a GBS two-component system transcriptional regulator that influences meningitis as well as GBS vaginal carriage by impacting host immune signaling.

Lastly, I have developed an in vivo mammalian model for vaginal colonization by another common opportunistic pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, so that we can begin to investigate interactions between GBS and other resident microbes within this host niche.

Publications & Posters

Deng, L.; Schilcher, K.; Burcham, L.R.; Kwiecinski, J.; Johnson, P.M.; Head, S.R.; Heinrichs, D.E.; Horswill, A.R.; Doran, K.S. Identification of key determinants of Staphylococcus aureus vaginal colonization. mBIO (2019).

Spencer, B.L.; Deng, L.; Patras, K.A.; Burcham, Z.M.; Sanches, G.F.; Nagao, P.E.; Doran, K.S. Cas9 contributes to Group B Streptococcal colonization and disease. Front Microbiol (2019).

Deng, L.; Spencer, B.L.; Holmes, J.A.; Mu, R.; Rego, S.; Weston, T.A.; Hu, Y.; Sanches, G.F.; Yoon, S.; Park, N.; Nagao, P.E.; Jenkinson, H.F.; Thornton, J.A.; Seo, K.S.; Nobbs, A.H.; Doran, K.S. The Group B Streptococcal surface antigen I/II protein, BspC, interacts with host vimentin to promote adherence to brain endothelium and inflammation during the pathogenesis of meningitis. PLoS Pathog (2019).

Deng, L.; Mu, R.; Weston, T.A.; Spencer, B.L.; Liles, R.; Doran, K.S. Characterization of a two-component system transcriptional regulator LtdR that impacts Group B Streptococcal colonization and disease. Infect Immun 2018, 86(7).

Awards & Honors

Rocky Mountain ASM 2nd place best oral presentation; SDSU Heart Institute/Rees Stealy Research Foundation graduate fellowship; ASM Student travel grant; SCASM 1st place outstanding graduate research.

Benefits to Science and Society

Despite widespread intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis treatment of mothers who are carriers for GBS, this pathogen remains the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in newborns. Additionally, there is growing concern of emerging patterns of antibiotic resistance in GBS and other microorganisms present during treatment. Liwen hopes that a better understanding of how GBS interacts with the host immune system to cause disease may lead to the development of more targeted therapeutics to combat GBS infections.

Joshua Terence Kelly

Joshua Terence Kelly

Ph.D. Geological Sciences (candidate)
Coastal Geomorphology, Remote Sensing
Joint SDSU & UC Davis

M.S. in Environmental Science
University of Massachusetts, Boston

M.S. in Oceanography
University of Rhode Island

B.S. in Geosciences
University of Rhode Island

Joshua Kelly

About Josh

Josh’s research involves understanding how climate influences shoreline change along the southeast coast of Queensland, Australia. He has used satellite imagery to construct a decades long shoreline change curve that was correlated to global climate cycles such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. He ultimately found that shoreline dynamics (erosion/growth) are controlled by variability in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. He is currently using emerging satellite technologies to rapidly assess tropical cyclone impacts on Australia’s coast.

Personal Interests

Hiking, playing soccer, traveling, exploring local breweries, and cheering on my hometown Boston sports teams.

My ARCS Award

Being selected as an ARCS Scholar has proven to be a significant morale booster over the past year and has inspired me to produce scholarly work that all of the ARCS community can be proud of. The funding from ARCS has directly assisted me in my research endeavors, as I was able to purchase state-of-the-art software programs that are not available to University faculty or students. In addition, I used the funding to acquire much-needed equipment and field apparel for my field work in Australia. The funding has also provided a much-needed safety net of sorts for day to day life in San Diego, as most are well aware that living in one of the most expensive cities in the US on a graduate student stipend is not the easiest. I have also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other ARCS recipients, particularly the SDSU cohort, at the various University-hosted events on campus and ARCS events off. I really appreciate the professional development events that ARCS has hosted, such as the financial advising seminar at Rachel Collins’ home, as they provide extremely valuable information that most of us do not receive in our day-to-day lives.

Award Donor

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

The ultimate goal of my dissertation is to find, if any, primary climate drivers of shoreline change in southeast Queensland, Australia. I have mapped over 9,000 km of historical shoreline positions using Landsat imagery and constructed a temporally and spatially robust shoreline change curve that is statistically correlated to the five major climate phenomena operating in the Australasian region. I observed a bimodal climate control of shoreline change dependent upon the phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), where by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) controls shoreline dynamics during negative IPO phases and the Subtropical Ridge becomes dominant during positive IPO. I theorize this is due to IPO’s control over the position of the South Pacific Convergence Zone and modulation of the impacts of ENSO on Australia’s eastern coast.

I am also using emerging satellite technologies such as CubeSat’s to rapidly assess tropical cyclone-induced shoreline changes along Queensland’s coast. Much of this work involves quantitatively assessing the total positional uncertainty of shoreline positions derived from CubeSat imagery as this a novel application of the new satellite data product.

Publication & Posters

Kelly, J. T.; Gontz, A. Rapid assessment of shoreline changes induced by tropical cyclone Oma using CubeSat imagery in Southeast Queensland, Australia. J. Coast. Res. 2019. (in press)

Kelly, J. T.; McSweeney, S.; Shulmeister, J.; Gontz, A. Bimodal climate control of shoreline change influenced by interdecadal Pacific oscillation variability along the Cooloola Sand Mass, Queensland, Australia. Mar. Geol. 2019. (in press)

Kelly, J. T.; Gontz, A. Using GPS-surveyed intertidal zones to determine the validity of shorelines automatically mapped by Landsat water indices. Int. J. Appl. Earth Obs. 2018, 65C, 92-104.

Kelly, J. T.; Carey, S.; Croff-Bell, K. L.; Roman, C.; Rosi, M.; Marani, M.; Pistolesi, M. Exploration of the 1891 Foerstner submarine vent site (Pantelleria, Italy): Insights into the formation of basaltic balloons. Bull. Volcanol. 2014, 76, 844-862.

Awards & Honors

USNC/INQUA Congress Fellowship; AAPG Raymond D. Woods Memorial Grant; GSA Graduate Student Research Grant (2); Robert D. Ballard Endowed Fellowship.

Benefits to Science and Society

One of the biggest concerns of climate change is understanding how it will impact shorelines on a global scale. Where 40% of the global population live within 100 kilometers of the coast, it’s becoming ever more important to understand the correlation between climate variability and shoreline dynamics. The results of Josh’s research further our understanding of the coupling between climate and shoreline change and will support the development of long-term coastal management strategies.

Clifford Dennis Pickett Jr.

Clifford Dennis Pickett Jr.

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Developmental Genetics
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Biology
Rhode Island College

Clifford Pickett

About Clifford

The development of an embryo from a single cell has always fascinated C.J. Particularly, he is interested in the study of the genetic program of embryogenesis. His research aims to understand the advent of a particular cell type in a marine chordate, a ciliated neuron that is homologous to our inner ear hair cells. He is discovering what genes are responsible for producing this cell type. Due to our evolutionary connections to this organism that he studies, the properties of how this cell type develops are transferable to fields such as human hearing-loss research.

Personal Interests

I enjoy reading, cycling, softball, gardening, cooking, and spending time with my wife.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation is truly a wonderful organization. Each and every ARCS person I have interacted with since receiving the award has been friendly, sincere, smart, motivated, and dedicated to the idea that rewarding hard working and promising students of the sciences is a worthwhile and fruitful idea. It’s a really special foundation, and I feel so honored to have been recognized by them.

Award Donor

Drs. Mara and Larry Ybarrondo
ARCS Foundation San Diego Chapter

Current Research

Our lab studies the evolution of ciliated epidermal sensory neuron (CESN) development during embryogenesis using the marine invertebrate chordate Ciona robusta. Pou4, a proneural transcription factor (TF) involved in C. robusta peripheral nervous system development is necessary and sufficient for CESN differentiation. My primary research focus aims to understand how CESNs differentiate, thus, what are the factors involved in activating Pou4? I am approaching this question in a number of ways. By having reviewed relevant literature, TF binding motif analyses, and an RNA-seq database I generated, I made informed predictions regarding genes, i.e. potential Pou4 activators and repressors, expressed in the correct pre-Pou4 location. This approach has revealed TFs that when ectopically expressed seem to increase the number of CESNs indicating activation of Pou4, and genes that decrease the number of CESNs indicating repression of Pou4. Once individual proteins are identified, I perform an overexpression screen and a CRISPR screen to establish their role as either Pou4 activators or repressors.

Publication & Posters

Pickett, C. J.; Zeller, R. Efficient genome editing using CRISPR-Cas-mediated homology directed repair in the ascidian Ciona robusta. genesis, 2018 56(11-12):e23260.

Ratcliffe, L.; Asiedu, E.; Pickett, C. J.; Warburton, M.; Izzi, S.; Meedel, T. H. The Ciona myogenic regulatory factor functions as a typical MRF but possesses a novel N-terminus that is essential for activity. Developmental Biology, 2018, 15;448(2):210-25.

Pickett, C. J.; Zeller, R. Pou4 Genes during Neurogenesis (in prep).

Awards & Honors

Elliott Family Fund Scholarship; W. Christina Carlson Award for Excellence in Biology; Mary M. Keefe Departmental Award for Excellence in Biology; Rhode Island College Alumni Scholarship.

Benefits to Science and Society

I am passionate about understanding how sensory neurons emerge from a neurogenic field of epidermis. I think that the work I am performing is an excellent route to gain critical insights into this phenomenon.

Adriana Sara Trujillo

Adriana Sara Trujillo

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Molecular Mechanisms of Heart Disease
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

M.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology
SDSU

B.S. in Cellular and Developmental Biology
Minor in Chemistry
CSU Fullerton

Adriana Trujillo

About Adriana

Adriana’s research uses the fruit fly model system to explore the disease mechanisms by which mutations can cause dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease associated with heart enlargement. This disease can be caused by mutations in myosin, the protein responsible for producing muscle contraction. She is currently implementing multidisciplinary approaches (molecular, cellular, and whole tissue) to better understand how changes within the structure of the myosin molecule lead to biochemical defects and how these abnormalities relate to the structural and physiological decline of muscles.

My ARCS Award

This award has greatly reduced my financial burden, allowing me to focus on engaging in productive research in the field. This will enhance my ability to produce high-quality publications, permitting me to make strong progress towards degree completion and in meeting my professional goals. It has also allowed me to better focus on training and mentoring undergraduates, to improve my mentoring skills and to extend a positive influence on other students. Additionally, these funds covered technology-related expenses necessary for completion of my research. I also appreciate the opportunity to network with scholars and supporters at ARCS events.

Award Donor

ARCS Foundation – San Diego Chapter

Current Research

My project explores the disease mechanisms by which mutations can cause dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a type of heart disease associated with heart enlargement. DCM can be caused by mutations in genes coding for the molecular machinery responsible for heart contractions, resulting in heart pumping defects, physiological alterations, and ultimately, heart failure.

In Dr. Bernstein’s lab, I previously generated fruit fly models to determine the exact mechanistic basis of disease. I previously isolated mutant protein from our fly models, optimized a procedure to form a protein complex containing the contractile machinery, and assessed the protein complex structure using electron microscopy (collaboration with Drs. Hanein and Volkmann, Sanford Burnham Prebys). Recently, we obtained high resolution cryo-electron microscopy data to solve the structure of the mutant protein complex, to understand the structural basis of disease. Using biochemical and muscle performance assays, I determined the biochemical defects caused by two DCM mutations, and related these defects to muscle functional impairments.

Eventually, our fly models will serve as a platform for testing therapeutic strategies for ameliorating defects associated with heart disease.

Publication & Posters

Achal, M.*; Trujillo, A. S.*; Melkani, G. C.; Farman, G. P.; Ocorr, K.; Viswanathan, M. C.; Kaushik, G.; Newhard, C. S.; Glasheen, B. M.; Melkani, A.; Suggs, J. A.; Moore, J. R.; Swank, D. M.; Bodmer, R.; Cammarato, A.; Bernstein, S. I. A restrictive cardiomyopathy mutation in an invariant proline at the myosin head/rod junction enhances head flexibility and function, yielding muscle defects in drosophila. J Mol Biol 2016, 428 (11), 2446-2461.

Trujillo, A. S.; Ramos, R.; Bodmer, R.; Bernstein, S. I.; Ocorr, K.; Melkani, G. C. Drosophila as a potential model to ameliorate mutant Huntington-mediated cardiac amyloidosis. Rare diseases 2014, 2 (1).

Awards & Honors

SDSU University Graduate Fellowship; NIH NRSA F31 Diversity Pre-doctoral Fellowship; Rees-Stealy/SDSU Heart Institute Research Fellowship; Recipient of the NIH Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research.

Benefits to Science and Society

Though dilated cardiomyopathy represents the most common form of inherited heart disease, the molecular mechanisms of disease are not well understood. Our main goal is to better understand how the disease arises due to specific mutations, which will help us design targeted drug regimens intended to restore muscle defects in our fruit fly models. We can then use our fly models as a platform for testing promising drug candidates, to evaluate potential drug therapies for human patients.

Janet Kathleen Walker

Janet Kathleen Walker

Ph.D. Ecology (candidate)
Marine and Wetland Ecology
Joint SDSU & UC Davis

B.S. in Environmental Science
University of Virginia

Janet Walker

About Janet

The development of an embryo from a single cell has always fascinated C. J. Particularly, he is interested in the study of the genetic program of embryogenesis. His research aims to understand the advent of a particular cell type in a marine chordate, a ciliated neuron that is homologous to our inner ear hair cells. He is discovering what genes are responsible for producing this cell type. Due to our evolutionary connections to this organism that he studies, the properties of how this cell type develops are transferable to fields such as human hearing-loss research.

Personal Interests

I love backpacking and trail running with my fur-friend – Kudzu. I also enjoy teaching yoga, drinking coffee, and chasing the sunset.

My ARCS Award

With the help of the ARCS Award this past year, I had the freedom to travel to all my field sites in southern and northern California in order to conclude multiple ongoing projects, while also expanding my research into other ecosystems. Travel expenses and technician assistance are some of the biggest obstacles I have to overcome in order to finish my dissertation. The flexibility of the ARCS Award funds has allowed me to optimize my travel plans and to train multiple undergraduate assistants.

Award Donor

Virginia Lynch Grady Endowment

Current Research

Restoration success of marine plant habitats is largely determined by the abundance of foundational species, like cordgrass (Spartina spp.) in salt marshes. In fact, mitigation requirements associated with marsh habitats can list a specific target number of cordgrass plants that must be supported in the restored environment. Cordgrass has been targeted due to its amplitude of services, such as sediment accretion, flood attenuation, and habitat for endangered species. However, we often lack an understanding of the factors determining plant community structure. For example, although 1) burrowing crabs can decrease environmental stress for cordgrass and 2) crab and plant compositions differ between marshes, we lack an appreciation of how the impact of crabs on cordgrass density varies in space and time. To address this research gap, I have conducted a series of field and laboratory experiments manipulating burrowing crabs along the California coast.

As I near the end of my dissertation, my work suggests that burrowing crabs need to be considered in salt marsh management because they can strongly control the density of cordgrass – a primary target for restoration outcomes.

Publication & Posters

Walker, J.K.; Grosholz, E.D.; Long, J.D. The consequences of burrowing crabs for plant community composition and restoration. Oral Presentation, Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. November 2019.

Walker, J.K.; Grosholz, E.D.; Long, J.D. Crab identity and density drive site-specific effects of burrowing crabs on plant community composition. Oral Presentation, California Estuarine Research Society. December 2018.

Walker, J.K.; Grosholz, E.D.; Long, J.D. Plant tissue, species, and population influence palatability for a salt marsh burrowing crab. Oral Presentation, Western Society of Naturalists. November 2018.

Walker, J.K.; Long, J.D. Site-specific effects of burrowing crabs on plant community composition in California salt marshes. Oral Presentation, Society of Wetland Scientists. June 2018.

Awards & Honors

Point Reyes National Seashore Association’s (PRNSA); Neubacher Marine Science Grant (2019); COAST Graduate Student Research Award Program (2019); U.S. National Park Service, Cabrillo National Monument, Graduate Fellow (2018-2019).

Benefits to Science and Society

Much focus of salt marsh management has been on restoring and preserving native cordgrass plants in our California marshes. In San Francisco Estuary, the Invasive Spartina Project has installed over 300,000 plants at 40 revegetation sites. However, there may be associated factors that determine the growth and success of these plants. Understanding the role of crabs in determining plant community composition, and thereby mediating plant stress, is important when considering management strategies of these cordgrass stands and overall ecosystem function.

Melissa Ann Ward

Melissa Ann Ward

Ph.D. Marine Ecology (candidate)
Ocean Biogeochemistry, Chemical Oceanography
Joint SDSU & UC Davis

B.S. in Biological Sciences
UC Irvine

Melissa Ward

About Melissa

Seagrass meadows improve water quality, stabilize sediments, and are home to many economically and ecologically valuable species; yet most of California’s seagrass meadows have been lost. By exploring the ability of seagrass to sequester carbon and alter water chemistry, we can quantitatively evaluate the carbon services gained through seagrass conservation and restoration. This work will help inform state and federal management efforts to restore these habitats while maximizing the carbon services they provide, which will become increasingly more important in the face of climate change.

My ARCS Award

The help the ARCS award provides not only relieves financial stress, but it encourages and inspires me to continue my research. As I move from my PhD to pursue a career as a scientist, I hope that I can continue to conduct high caliber research that explores innovative solutions in climate change management. Given that my priorities and goals fall in step with those of the ARCS Foundation, I am grateful to be a part of this unique community of scholars, where I can contribute to the growing body of research they produce. I would not be where I am today without this scholarship and community!

Award Donor

Reuben H. Fleet Foundation Fund

Current Research

My research investigates the role that seagrasses play in coastal carbon cycling. Seagrasses have been noted for their disproportionally high ability to remove CO2 from seawater through primary production and burial in sediment. Simultaneously, seagrass coverage has been declining rapidly on both global and local scales. As such, state and federal agencies have been directed to consider seagrass conservation and restoration as strategies to enhance carbon stocks and locally ameliorate impacts from ocean acidification (OA), a service that provides economic and ecological value. However, to date, there is no data on the potential of California seagrasses to lessen the impacts of OA or store carbon in their underlying sediments. The State has been hindered by lack of data on how to select optimal locations for seagrass restoration and conservation to maximize these benefits.

Publication & Posters

Ward, M.; Hill, T. M.; Ricart, A.; Gaylord, B.; O’Donnell, B C.; Capece, L.; Shukla, P., Kroeker, K.; Sanford, E.; Oechel, W. Synthesizing multiple carbon fluxes in a temperate, Pacific seagrass meadow. Global Biogeochem. Cycles (in review).

Kroeker, K.; Kindinger, T.; Hirsh, H.; Ward, M.; Koweek, D.; Hill, T.; Jellison, B.; Lummis, S.; Rivest, E.; Waldbusser, G.; Gaylord, B. Seagrass community metabolism studies reveal opportunities and challenges for local mitigation of ocean acidification. Ecological Applications​ (in review).

Ward, M. San Francisco State University, Distinguished speaker series. Title: Carbon services of California coastal habitats. San Francisco, CA 2018.

Ward, M.A.; Hill, T.M.; Ricart, A.; Gaylord, B.; O’Donnell, B.C.; Shukla, P.; Kroeker, K.; Oechel, W.C. 2018. A synthesis of seagrass carbon services: Implications for restoration and climate change management. Poster presentation. 9th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and Management.

Awards & Honors

Geological Society of America Graduate Student grant winner 2019; Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellowship Winner 2018; Rafe Sagarin Fund for Innovative Ecology, Best Talk- 2nd place, Western Society of Naturalists 2017; UC-wide Carbon Neutrality Competition: People’s Choice Award 2016.

Benefits to Science and Society

My research will fill these knowledge gaps in order to quantitatively evaluate the carbon services gained through seagrass conservation and restoration.

In Memoriam

Joi LaGrace Weeks

Joi LaGrace Weeks

Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Biology (candidate)
Developmental Genetics
Joint SDSU & UC San Diego

B.S. in Biology
Rhode Island College

Joi Weeks

About Joi

To study amplified malate dehydrogenase 1 (MDH1) in lung cancer, Joi created two cell clones that reveal increased MDH1 levels and enzymatic activity in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Metabolic studies on MDH1 knock out (KO) cells reveal a 50% reduction in TCA cycling suggesting that decreased activity of MDH1 has the potential to slow down tumor progression. Her studies will increase our understanding about the effects of changing MDH1 levels on cell behavior and how changes in MDH1 activity can eradicate cancer cells.

Personal Interests

Joi also enjoys running, reading, making jewelry, gardening and spending time at the beach with her family.

My ARCS Award

The ARCS Foundation Award means security and productivity to me. What I mean is that the ARCS Award has allowed me to investigate the activity of MDH1 in squamous NSCLC within the confines of a small research group. This opportunity would not be possible without funding as our research group is young and quickly acquiring undergraduates, so help is greatly needed to support the graduate students. Plus, I acutely felt the impact of a challenging funding climate as my previous lab was forced to eliminate a project and personnel due to a grant ending, requiring me to find a new lab. Since all of my funds are from outside sources such as ARCS, I was able to seamlessly move on to a new research group without the worry of delayed or suspended pay. Now I’m in a new lab that values my biological expertise and seeks to help me grow as a scientist, regardless of the ebb and flow of lab grants. Also, by focusing on science, progress on my new project allowed me the opportunity to present my findings and connect with other scientists at the American Association for Cancer Researchers this April.

Award Donor

Legler Benbough Foundation

Current Research

To study amplified malate dehydrogenase 1 (MDH1) in lung cancer, Joi created fourteen single cell clones as a tool in squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. Levels of MDH1 were found to be more than five times higher in two of the clones compared to the other 12 and to have increased MDH1 enzymatic activity over the control. Preliminary metabolic studies on MDH1 knock out (KO) cells reveal that KO cells have a ~50% reduction in tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycling revealing a decrease in lactate secretion and decreased lipid synthesis compared to wild type (WT) cells. A physical result of decreased TCA cycling is that the KO cells grow ~50% slower than WT cells.

Growth rescue experiments reveal that pyruvate and alpha-ketobutyric acid can partially rescue the growth of KO cells. Such experiments suggest that decreased activity of MDH1 has the potential to slow down tumor progression.

Publication & Posters

Weeks, J.; Wells, G.; Alexander, S.; Metallo, C.; Sohl, C.D. Investigating the reversible MDH1 catalytic reaction in squamous non-small cell lung cancer. Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research, Atlanta, GA March 28-April 3, 2019; Vol 60; Philadelphia, PA, 2019.

Huang, C.H.; Mendez, N.; Echeagaray, O.H.; Weeks, J.; Wang, J.; Vallez, C.; Gude, N.; Trogler, W.; Carson, D.; Hayashi, T.; Kummel, A.C. Conjugation of a small molecule TLR7 agonist to silica nanoshells enhances adjuvant activity. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2019, 11, 30, 26637-26647.

Wang, J.; Barback, C.V.; Ta, C. N.; Weeks, J.; Gude, N.; Mattrey, R.F.; Blair, S.L.; Trogler, W.C.; Lee, H.; Kummel, A.C. Extended lifetime in vivo pulse stimulated ultrasound imaging. IEEE Trans Med Imaging. 2018, 37, 1, 222-229.

Awards & Honors

The ARCS Foundation Award means security and productivity to me. What I mean is that the ARCS Award has allowed me to investigate the activity of MDH1 in squamous NSCLC within the confines of a small research group. This opportunity would not be possible without funding as our research group is young and quickly acquiring undergraduates, so help is greatly needed to support the graduate students. Plus, I acutely felt the impact of a challenging funding climate as my previous lab was forced to eliminate a project and personnel due to a grant ending, requiring me to find a new lab. Since all of my funds are from outside sources such as ARCS, I was able to seamlessly move on to a new research group without the worry of delayed or suspended pay. Now I’m in a new lab that values my biological expertise and seeks to help me grow as a scientist, regardless of the ebb and flow of lab grants. Also, by focusing on science, progress on my new project allowed me the opportunity to present my findings and connect with other scientists at the American Association for Cancer Researchers this April.

Benefits to Science and Society

Joi’s studies will increase our understanding about how microenvironmental pH can alter cellular MDH1 activity, the effects of amplifying and decreasing MDH1 levels on cell behavior, and how changes in MDH1 activity can lead to the eradication of squamous NSCLC cells. It is her hope that once she demonstrates that reduced MDH1 activity is specifically detrimental to squamous NSCLC cells, future work will be done to create MDH1 inhibitors that will have the potential to be used as anti-tumor therapies for squamous NSCLC patients.

 

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