Student Stories

Minibrain (also known as cerebral organoids) recapitulates many features of the human brain and have been extensively used for studying brain development and modeling brain diseases, but current protocols for generating minibrains are time consuming and labor intensive, restraining the throughput of minibrain generation. In this study, we established a novel high throughput minibrain generation platform by integrating a microfluidics system into the process of organoid generation. The microfluidic machine allowed the… read more about Studying Drug Responses using Minibrain »

Immunotherapies utilize genetic engineering and the immune system to better combat diseases such as cancer. Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats-deactivated Cas9 (CRISPR/dCas9) technology has revitalized interest in immunotherapy as its highly specific genetic targeting capabilities have expanded the realm of epigenetic modification in T cells.  This summer, I built upon my previous work in the Gersbach laboratory to demonstrate that dCas9 technology can be used to modify the epigenetic profile of T… read more about Demonstrating epigenetic control with dCas9 in T cells to improve immune resistance at cancer relevant sites »

This summer, I worked independently on a copper binding study. The purpose of the study is to better understand the sites of copper-protein binding in the E. Coli proteome. This project is part of a larger collaborative effort of the Fitzgerald and Franz Research Groups to understand the molecular dynamics of copper in biological systems. To address this question, I used Histidine H/D Exchange-Mass Spectrometry. This is an analytical chemistry method which adds a mass label to exposed histidine residues. The rate of this… read more about Copper Binding in E. Coli »

With help from the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend the summer working at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) studying ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.). I have worked at the DLC as a technician assistant and docent since 2018, but my academic interests in animal behavior and ecology motivated me to pursue research at this facility. My project focused on lemur behavior-- specifically, how we can use environmental enrichment to encourage the lemurs to use the natural behaviors they would use in the wild, while still… read more about Suspensory Postures and Feeding in Varecia Lemurs »

Download Sheyner Poster (pdf - 1.92 MB) Over the summer, I spent my time in the Matsunami Lab in the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department at Duke University School of Medicine. The lab investigates how animals perceive and differentiate the thousands of odorants that they are exposed to every day. This analysis is primarily conducted using molecular genetics, cell biology, imaging, and behavioral approaches in mouse models. My project during the summer… read more about Smelling Fats: Addressing how the olfactory system perceives fatty acids and the role of CD36 in olfactory fatty acid detection »

I spent the majority of my summer reading through books from Perkins and Bostock’s collection regarding public health and cholera in Victorian Britain. My thesis covers the public health response to the 1832 cholera epidemic in Sunderland, England. This was the first town in the United Kingdom to endure a cholera outbreak, and the lack of knowledge and experience led to large movements of resistance and denial. I chose this topic because I thought this was an interesting case of pandemic denial that would help inform… read more about Public Health and Cholera in Victorian Britain »

Type Ia supernovae serve as "standard candles," and allow us to measure distances; this opens routes to learning more about things such as the expansion rate of the universe, to simply understanding the size and distances between cosmological objects. Furthermore, we need a comprehensive survey done of all the detectable supernovae in our local universe in order to accurately define and study the large-scale motion, or bulk motion, of clusters of galaxies towards the outer edge of our local universe; our galaxy, the Milky… read more about Exploring the Shapley Supercluster »

The proposed research project for summer 2022 was to investigate the effect of cotreating cells with HDAC inhibitors and sucrose on transfection efficiency. Initially, the plan was to treat the cells with various concentrations of sucrose and HDAC inhibitors for varying incubation periods, such as 24 hours, 48, or 72 hours, to determine an optimal combination for maximizing transfection effectiveness. To investigate this effect, experiments testing the effect of entinostat, an HDAC inhibitor, and sucrose at 10 uM… read more about Investigating the Effect of Cotreating Cells with HDAC Inhibitors and Sucrose »

This project aims to gain a better understanding of neuronal networks. Prior research has identified distinct subtypes of neurons based on morphology, gene expression, and physiologic properties. Different classes of neurons hold unique roles in cortical processing. Particularly, GABAergic interneurons, such as parvalbumin-expressing (PV) and somatostatin-expressing (SST) interneurons, are thought to have unique roles in regulating the excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance of neocortex. Dysfunction of such GABAergic… read more about Better Understanding Neuronal Networks »

Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for the development of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), which affects more than 2.7 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness worldwide 1. Increased IOP is mainly caused by reduced aqueous humor drainage via the conventional outflow pathway, which consists of the trabecular meshwork (TM), Schlemm’s canal, and distal vasculature 2. Increased TM contractility is associated with decreased aqueous humor drainage and can be stimulated by the activation of… read more about Research on the Rho/ROCK Pathway »

This summer, I pursued a project on queer Muslim environmentalisms in the United States, which I hope to develop into an honors thesis with the International Comparative Studies program at Duke. My main questions for this project are as follows: (1) How do Muslim and queer environmentalisms connect? (2) How can the intersection of queer and Muslim perspectives shift Anglo-Western dominated environmental discourse? (3) How is this reflected in the lives and expressions of queer Muslims within the United States? I developed… read more about Queer Muslim Environmentalisms in the United States »

My research this summer focuses on healthcare access for African migrants in Northern and Southern Italy, to serve as the foundation for my senior thesis. This project synthesizes my interests in public health with my studies of Italian language and culture throughout my time at Duke. Additionally, I chose Italy as a site of study because of the interplay between regionalism and the public healthcare system. In Italy, there is a national health service, known as the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), that is administered… read more about Healthcare Access for African Migrants in Northern and Southern Italy »

This summer, I worked in the lab of Professor Emily Derbyshire, researching the ligand-binding profile of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) of the malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae mosquito.  AhR, a transcription factor, has been implicated in insecticide resistance in several other insect species, namely by upregulating expression of insecticide-metabolizing cytochrome p450 enzymes, and mediates the Anopheles gambiae immune response to parasites and bacteria. Given AhR’s potential role in determining mosquito survival,… read more about Identifying Endogenous Ligands of AhR ligand binding domain (AhR LBD) »

The Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship Grant was a pivotal opportunity in aiding my ability to do research for my undergraduate honors thesis. With the funds provided, I was able to extend the scope of my data and collect information. To provide context, the first research question my thesis will address is how do art historical survey texts change through editions? What are the demographics of the artists included and how, if at all, does that change through time? This past spring I examined the text, Janson’s History of… read more about Data Scraping Art History Survey Texts  »

Senescence is a stress-induced durable cell cycle arrest. Senescent cells accumulate with age in most tissues of humans, primates, and rodents, as well as at the sites of tissue injury and remodeling [1]. Previous studies have shown that the accumulation of senescent cells in certain tissues, including white adipose, pancreas and liver leads to type 2 diabetes and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) [2, 3]. Moreover, a recent report demonstrated that P16-senescent cells suppress their hepatic fatty… read more about Characterizing an in vivo Mice Model for Studying Senescence in Hepatocytes  »

Wnt oncoproteins play a major role in the development of all animals. To study the signaling pathway, experiments are conducted on the Drosophila homolog, the Wingless (Wg) signaling pathway. Wg signaling can produce distinctly shaped denticles or no denticles on the ventral side of the Drosophila embryo. Repression of Shavenbaby (Svb) through Wg results in naked cuticles, but proper functioning is also dependent upon transcriptional regulation by SoxNeuro (SoxN). We are interested in determining how Wg represses these… read more about Wingless Signaling in Drosophilia »

This summer I conducted research on the Human Betterment League of North Carolina (HBLNC). This summer project serves as the foundation for my year-long thesis in the history department on this same organization. The HBLNC was an organization founded in 1947 largely by a wealthy Winston-Salem businessman, James Hanes, and Massachusetts geneticist, Clarence Gamble. In its early years, aligning with the motivation for its founding, the League sought to educate the North Carolina public and beyond on sterilization, with hopes… read more about The Human Betterment League of North Carolina and its Wide-Reaching Impacts »

As a Program II student pursuing a degree in “The Arts of Communicating Mental Health,” I am interested in using art techniques to build a social support system focusing on self-expression, self-reflection, and stress relief. My research study examines the effect of interactive art in enhancing undergraduate and medical school student’s psychological well-being by providing a space for self-reflection and self-care.   In Spring 2021, I have initiated a pilot study to evaluate the undergraduate students’ responses to… read more about Evaluating the Effect of Interactive Art on Medical Students’ Psychological Wellbeing  »

In my DSRF-funded project, I was able to work on a study that investigates the correlations between note-taking formats, learning content, study expectations, and student learning outcomes. The debate over the “best practices” of note-taking remains inconclusive. Some have found that longhand note-taking is associated with better student learning outcomes, while others have found the opposite. In my literature-reading process, I found certain studies indicating that the relative advantages of either format may be connected… read more about Correlations between Note-Taking and Learning »

The pathology of human neurodegenerative diseases is associated with protein aggregation. This ranges from polyglutamine (polyQ) aggregation in Huntington’s Disease to beta-amyloid and tau aggregation in Alzheimer’s. Originally, the project aimed to investigate how SRCP1, a protein previously discovered by the Scaglione Lab to reduce polyQ aggregation in human cells, would affect tau protein aggregation and disease progression in a tau mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease. The mice would have been injected at age P0 with an… read more about Protein Aggregation in Human Neurodegenerative Diseases »

Sex biases are common among behavioral conditions that disrupt social and affective functioning, including mood disorders and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Female-specific Reproductive Mood Disorders occur in ~18% of women during periods of reproductive transitions (premenstrual, postpartum, and menopause transition). While studies have begun to characterize relevant sex differences in isolated brain regions, few to none have identified the larger circuits involved, including peripheral-to-brain circuits. In 2018, the… read more about Functional dissection of reproductive-to-brain circuits for social and affective states  »

We expressed channelrhodopsin (ChR2) in three VGlut2-Cret+ and two PV-Cre+ mice through injection of an adeno-associated virus (AAV5-DIO-ChR2-eYFP) throughout the superior colliculus (SC). Specifically, we tracked three regions in the VGlut2-Cre+ mice: m5 (AP -1.68mm, ML -0.1 mm, DV 1.2mm), m40 (AP -1.68mm, ML -1.2mm, DV 1.6mm), and m42 (AP -1.68mm, ML +/- 0.2mm, DV 1.4mm) and one region in the PV-Cre+ mice: m59 (AP -1.68mm, ML 0.2mm, DV 1.2mm) and m66 (AP -1.68mm, ML 0.2mm, DV 1.2mm), which was confirmed by postmortem… read more about The Superior Colliculus and Head-Turning Behavior »

In time series analysis, a central theme is to look at the characteristics of the signal in the frequency domain, which can be estimated via a suitable Fourier transform. As we typically encounter just one set of data of finite length, the estimates will not be precise, and we must find the right balance between resolution, bias, and variance of the estimates. Due to the manifestation of the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, it is not possible to construct a perfect estimator that can simultaneously achieve all the… read more about Time series analysis using multitaper method  »

In Western music, tonal structure – the relative importance of different musical pitches and chords – is a key characteristic that creates tension and resolution, thus evoking musical emotions. The implicit recognition of tonal structure requires music to be parsed and integrated over time. While there is evidence for a specialized system analyzing temporal structure in speech3, this remains less well understood for music. The overarching goal of this study is to determine the characteristics of temporal integration windows… read more about Temporal Structures in Tonal and Atonal Music »

Sudden cardiac death of children and adolescents occurs principally due to variants in genes encoding cardiac ion channels that can manifest as lethal arrhythmias. Human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) can be used to derive cardiac myocytes (hiPSC-CMs), which serve as a valuable tool for modeling cardiac diseases and their associated arrhythmias in vitro. We intend to incorporate voltage and calcium-sensitive indicators into the genome of hiPSC-CMs to characterize repolarization and depolarization phases of the… read more about Lentiviral Delivery of Calcium and Voltage Optogenetic Indicators to hiPSC-CMs »

This past summer I collected data on my thesis through a Qualtrics survey. My aim was to research whether the use of classical psychedelics including psilocybin, dimethyltryptamine, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, ayahuasca, lysergic acid diethylamide, and ketamine correlated with changes in a range of cognitive and personality variables. These included the Big Five (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism), growth mindset, empathy quotient, Machiavellian/amorality, curiosity,… read more about Impact of Classical Psychedelics on Cognitive and Personality Variables »

Inequality in Generalized Exchange explored how generalized reciprocity is impacted when people have differing resource values. Generalized reciprocity is an exchange structure in which someone has the opportunity to pay forward help they have received to someone else. First movers are those who start chains of paying-it-forward, while second movers have the opportunity to pay forward the help they may or may not have received to someone else. A primary finding was that as first movers, people who had high value resources… read more about Inequality in Generalized Exchange »

This summer, I worked with Dr. Van Cappellen to investigate the relationship between the beliefs people have about life after death and their attitudes towards people with different religious and political identities. Many people, regardless of whether they have ever been religious, hold strong beliefs about what will happen to them once they die. Although research has addressed the way that afterlife beliefs are related to internal experiences like anxiety, there is little research on how they may be related to the way… read more about Afterlife Beliefs and Prejudice »

For my International Comparative Studies honors thesis titled "A Magic Carpet Ride: Exploring the Latinx Community’s Contribution to the Carpet Capital of the World, Dalton, Georgia," I am examining the following questions about my hometown:   How has the carpet industry in Dalton, Georgia, impacted the formation of Latinx individuals’ histories and identities, and vice versa? And how do these geographically  specific experiences fit into the transnational conversation about Latinx folks in the US?   Throughout the summer… read more about A Magic Carpet Ride »