Xinyi Zhang

Parkinsons disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder, which currently has no effective treatment. The development of treatments can benefit from better understandings of how the neurodegeneration propagates in the brain. The most crucial contributor to the propagation is believed to be the transmission between neurons of the pathological protein, -synuclein. To study the unresolved transmission mechanism, Xinyi proposes an RNA-Seq study on neuronal models to measure the transient responses of cells exposed to -syn over time. RNA-Sequencing is a powerful tool for unbiased investigation of the highly coordinated responses across the whole genome. The massive RNA-Seq data, however, is often confounded by high noise level and experimental artifacts. Thus, Xinyi will develop a data analysis pipeline that improves the accuracy of signal detection and the resolution in time of RNA-Seq.

Jehan Yang

Utilizing 27 degrees of freedom, the human hand is a complex manipulator capable of tasks ranging from fingerstyle guitar to precise surgery. To replicate the human hand would produce a highly versatile tool in robotics and prostheses. Robots in the future might perform surgery while arm amputees could perform as well as anyone in sports and arts. Current hand replications have limitations of high expense and weight, with trade-offs in precision. For his project, Jehan aims to create an inexpensive and light manipulator, with improvements for precise control. He will achieve this by incorporating additive manufacturing and artificial muscles, along with experimentation of control algorithms and machine learning. Through engineering analyses and iteration, Jehan hopes to contribute an important tool for robotics research and custom prosthetic design.

Christopher McCarron

Soils derived from serpentine rock host a unique flora while being distributed throughout California in scattered outcrops. Their insularity makes them ideal for examining the evolution and divergence of species restricted to them, such as the leather oak (Quercus durata var. durata). Chris McCarron’s honors thesis will use reduced genome DNA sequencing for 310 samples from 31 separate populations throughout Q. duratas range. Results will determine the levels and depths of divergence among populations, spatial patterns of differentiation, their timing of isolation, and whether there was a single evolutionary event, or multiple. Findings will have implications for oak conservation and management of populations with unique genetic structure in the face of climate change. Additionally, results will inform our understanding of Q. duratas past and how previous changes have affected it.

Zoe Hsiao

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is one of eight pathogenic herpesviruses known to infect humans. HCMV can be asymptomatic in those with sufficient immune systems, but lead to serious or fatal disease in immunodeficient persons. Because current medications to treat HCMV have a poor safety profile and risk the potential to select for drug resistance, vaccine development remains a top priority. The goal of this project is to better understand how a component of the human immune system, complement Factor H (FH), responds to HCMV. Zoe will employ a yeast-two-hybrid screen using a HCMV gene library to identify protein-protein interactions with FH. Following identification, Zoe will characterize protein-protein interactions in the context of conferring immunity against HCMV. The outcomes of this research will hopefully identify potential avenues for drug or immunotherapeutics development.

Gabriel Perko-Engel

Largely unchanged for centuries, origami in the last hundred years has exploded with innovation! Beginning with the works of Akira Yoshizawa and his introduction of the first technical system for notating folds, paperfolding has transformed from a simple craft to a highly developed field of mathematics, engineering, and artistry. Yet, even as groundbreaking work has been done to determine what objects can be folded and how, fundamental questions remain about the dynamics of even the simplest moving models such as the traditional flapping bird. Building on the existing idealized work of rigid continuous transformations and the emergent phase transitions in slightly deformed folding patterns, Gabriel is applying the tools of computer simulations and statistical mechanics to probe the ways in which real materials fold and collapse.

Metta Nicholson

Wetlands, known for their potential to sequester carbon dioxide, also contribute to a substantial proportion of global methane emissions. Currently, there is a large effort to restore wetlands in the Bay Area in order to create carbon sinks to help combat the effects of climate change. However, it is essential that wetland managers and restoration scientists understand what factors influence the release of methane from wetland soils, since the release of methane offsets the uptake of carbon dioxide in these ecosystems. To contribute to the refinement of these management practices, Metta will analyze soil methane emissions from Sherman Wetland, a restored wetland in the San Francisco Bay Area, to determine how factors such as soil moisture, temperature, and presence of vegetation impact the release of methane from wetland soils.

Candace Wang

As of April 3rd, 2020, there are over a million coronavirus cases worldwide, with more people testing positive every day. With SARS-nCoV-2 being able to transmit from person to person without showing any symptoms, there is a high potential of the virus rapidly transmitting throughout a population undetected. A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid diagnostic tests, and proper ventilation equipment for those infected have contributed to the global public health crisis we see today. Candace Wang will test and optimize isothermal DNA amplification technologies followed by fluorescence detection in order to create a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test. If successful, this will provide a test that is easily accessible and widely available thus providing public health officials a better estimate of the severity of the problem we face globally.