The 2017 Emmanuel Summer Research Fellows program features 19 separate projects covering nine different disciplines. Once focused exclusively on the sciences like biology, chemistry and physics, the program has expanded to include faculty-student collaborations in mathematics, psychology, sociology, history and art.
According to Professor of Biology and Dean for Strategic Program Development and Partnerships Josef M. Kurtz, Ph.D., the program has been "evolving for a number of years." The program, which brings faculty and students together to work on research and artistic projects over the summer months, started around the time Emmanuel began its partnership with Merck in 2004, Kurtz explained. Over the years, with the help of federal grant money and strong support from the College, the program has grown to include more faculty and students and more projects covering a variety of fields, including more disciplines outside of the natural sciences.
Kurtz said, the Summer Research Fellows Program is "a phenomenal opportunity for the students to focus on research in the absence of having their regular courseload." Additionally for those participating faculty members, the program "is the time that we can commit 100% of our efforts on these student-driven projects and move the work ahead dramatically." Some projects, Kurtz explained, are continuations of multi-year studies, while others begin and end during the summer months.
Kendyll Martin '18 sees the program as a stepping stone to post-graduate studies. "These research opportunities help students when applying for graduate school and other higher education programs," she explained. Martin, who is working on neuroimmunology research, said that the program is providing her with "the experience that I need to get into neurobiology graduate programs and give me the experience I need to better understand the research that I want to do in the future."
With the new expanded list of academic disciplines, Kurtz is excited about the future of the program. "I'm hoping this is a first step, the start of a new way of approaching the summer research program," he said. "For all the students, no matter what field their studying, it's a way to actually see how these various disciplines 'execute' outside of the classroom."
Experiencing academic life outside of the classroom has been a plus for students like Kellie Roche '18. She said that the Summer Research Fellows Program has given her "the chance to work more closely with my professor and learn things I wouldn't learn during the regular school year." This summer, the chemistry major is assisting R. Bryan Sears, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, on research into light-activated therapies for treating cancer. "I'm learning what it's really like to work in a lab," Roche said. "Plus, I get to spend more time with my chemistry classmates—and that's been fun."
Here's a look at the 2017 Summer Research Fellows Program:
"Protein-DNA interactions at the single molecule level"
Supervising Faculty: Allen Price, Ph.D., associate professor of Physics
Student Researchers: Raquel Ferreira, Sadie Piatt, Stephen Parziale
This project measures the dependence of the NdeI restriction endonuclease on salt concentration, a behavior that has never been measured and can be used to test models of enzyme activity. This is a continuation of the work done by a previous student which was published in Analytical Biochemistry last year. A complete characterization of the salt dependence will be publishable.
"How Lte1 functions to regulate mitotic exit"
Supervising Faculty: Anupama Seshan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology
Student Researchers: Victoria Mingione, Michael Vannini
Errors in chromosome segregation lie at the heart of cancer development in multicellular organisms. The goal of these projects is to understand what goes wrong during cell division using the budding yeast S. cerevisiae as a model system. Several components of the mitotic exit network such as the putative GEF Lte1, the GAP component Bfa1, and the scaffold protein Nud1 are currently being investigated.
Project 1: "Microfluidic analysis of DNA templates"
Project 2: "Analysis of DNA aptamer structure and mechanism of action in calcium phosphate mineralization"
Project 3: "Electrochemical rapid diagnostic tests for malaria"
Supervising Faculty: Aren Gerdon, Ph.D., chair, Department of Chemistry and Physics; associate professor of Chemistry
Student Researchers: Jacob Shlaferman, Robert Tzepos, Jason Miech, Krista Meserve
Project 1: The current work involves the optimization and use of the device to study the effect of recently selected DNA aptamer templates on calcium phosphate mineralization.
Project 2: Further analysis of conserved G-quadruplex structures to better understand the mechanism of action and to confirm the necessity of structure.
Project 3: The project focuses on the development of electrochemical methods for the detection of protein biomarkers for malaria in whole blood.
"Continuation of study of pursuit-evasion games on graph networks"
Supervising Faculty: Brendan Sullivan, D.A., lecturer of Mathematics
Student Researchers: Sarai Dancy, Robert McCormack
The project continues an ongoing study of pursuit-evasion games on graph networks, especially the variant Lazy Cops & Robbers. This summer, the focus is on planar graphs, as well as writing Python code to analyze cop numbers of graphs.
"Research into population dynamics of migratory species"
Supervising Faculty: Christine Sample, Ph.D., assistant professor of Mathematics, Ben Allen, Ph.D., assistant professor of Mathematics, Yulia Dementieva, Ph.D., chair, Department of Mathematics; professor of Mathematics; chair of the Biostatistics program
Student Researchers: Alyssa Carson, Shirley Qiu
The project implements a mathematical model of migratory populations, and develops metrics to quantify the importance of different habitats as priorities for conservation. Students will apply our model to populations including the monarch butterfly (insect), northern pintail (bird), Yellowstone elk (mammal), and a plant species.
"Friendships in adulthood project"
Supervising Faculty: Clare Mehta, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology
Student Researcher: Victoria Arradillos
This project will continue active research on sex segregation in adult's friendships, and associated factors. Researchers plan to conduct qualitative interviews with adults aged 30-90 and to collect survey data from adults aged 30-90 using Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online data collection tool.
"Identification of the copper-binding site in lysyl oxidase using molecular modeling and various spectroscopic techniques"
Supervising Faculty: Faina Ryvkin, Ph.D., professor of Chemistry
Student Researchers: Fatima Khawaja, Louis Booysen, Cameron Messier
The proposed project will continue an investigation into the role of the copper metal in lysyl oxidase enzyme responsible for the formation and maturation of collagen and elastin. The research continues to debate if the copper is imperative for this enzyme functionality. Researchers will attempt to answer this question by using chelation and reinsertion of copper into the purified enzyme while monitoring lysyl oxidase activity. The modern computer simulation methods will be also used to determine the copper-binding site which will provide insight into the importance of the role of copper.
Supervising Faculty: Janese Free, Ph.D., associate professor of Sociology
Student Researcher: Elizabeth Carse
This project is an expansion of prior research on U.S. Migrant Education Programs (MEPs). Researchers will conduct in-depth interviews with the state directors of MEPs across the U.S. with the goal of better understanding the challenges and successes of educating this unique and "at-risk" population- the children of agricultural migrant workers.
"NeuroImmunology Research Project (NIRP)"
Supervising Faculty: Josef Kurtz, Ph.D., dean for strategic program development and partnerships; professor of Biology
Student Researchers: Alexandra Mulligan, Jared Nasser
This research is the continuation of an 11+ year collaboration between Drs. Kurtz and Williams for the interdisciplinary study of neuroimmunology through the NeuroImmunology Research Project (NIRP). Experiments will investigate the contribution and function of bone marrow-derived progenitor cells to the CNS population of microglia, the resident immune cells.
"Eating Disorders and Muscle Dysmorphia"
Supervising Faculty: Linda Lin, Ph.D., chair, Department of Psychology; associate professor of Psychology
Student Researcher: Ashley Roberge
These studies examine the role of peer, family, and social media influences on eating disorders in women and muscle dysmorphia in men. The goal of this project is to better understand how sociocultural factors lead to the development of body-related psychological disorders in men and women.
"Curricula in public elementary schools"
Supervising Faculty: Lisa Schneier, Ed.D., assistant professor of Education
Student Researcher: Erin Koletar
This research continues study on pre-service teachers' developing thinking about elementary curricula.
"Production of ceramic for the 'REINVENTED' exhibition"
Supervising Faculty: Megumi Naitoh, M.F.A., associate professor of Art
Student Researcher: Keith Becker
This project will continue the use of current digital technology (3D scanning, printing, and file sharing) to collaboratively produce sculptural works remotely via the internet. Works will be part of the "REINVENTED" exhibition in September 2017.
"Examining the development trajectory and ontogeny of bipolar disorder and autism in mouse models"
Supervising Faculty: Melanie Leussis, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychology
Student Researchers: Vinh Ton, Jeffery Malavasi
The proposed studies will examine the developmental trajectory and ontogeny of bipolar disorder and autism in two different mouse models, thus improving our understanding of the underlying biology contributing to these disorders.
"Effects of vision loss on gene expression in neuroglia"
Supervising Faculty: Michael Jarvinen, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology
Student Researchers: Madeline Borsuch, Marissa Rocha, David Trainor
This project aims to advance our understanding of how neuroglia respond to loss of visual inputs. Experiments will evaluate the timeline of neurotrophin gene expression and investigate alterations in astrocyte, oligodendrocyte, and neuron morphology.
"Prokaryotic Protein/Protein Interactions"
Supervising Faculty: Padraig Deighan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biology
Student Researcher: Cinthia Garcia
This project will test 20 previously identified candidate RNA polymerase-associated proteins for their interactions with 30+ distinct RNA polymerase domains using a bacterial two-hybrid assay. Using this systematic approach, researchers will begin to assemble a landscape interaction map for all RNA polymerase-associated proteins, information that will facilitate a greater understanding of how bacteria adapt to changing environmental conditions.
"Microbial Research Groups at Emmanuel"
Supervising Faculty: Paul March, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry, department of Biology
Student Researcher: Talia Roth Research will dramatically expand the application of method to create functional fusion proteins developed by the MRGE.
"Light Activated Therapies for the Treatment of Cancer"
Supervising Faculty: R. Bryan Sears, Ph.D., assistant professor of Chemistry
Student Researchers: Francis Delano, Kellie Roche, Daniel LaChance
This project continues work to discover new photodynamic therapies to aid in the treatment of cancer. The work aims to discovery new photochemistry and explore the cellular uptake for these potential therapeutics, which show promise to improve treatment outcomes, minimize toxicity and prevent metastasis.
"Chinese and Italian immigrants in the 19th and 20th century Boston - a glocal approach"
Supervising Faculty: Violetta Ravagnoli, Ph.D., assistant professor of History
Student Researchers: John Sisinni, Amanda Farinha
This project investigates the emplacement of Chinese and Italian immigrants in Boston between the 1880s and 1930s and analyzes their formation of identities in the respective Bostonian neighborhoods; the North End and Chinatown. The project utilizes a glocal approach to illustrate the broad spectrum of localized rituals, traditions, and foodways immigrants brought with them on transnational journeys.
"NeuroImmunology Research Project (NIRP)"
Supervising Faculty: Todd Williams, Ph.D., chair, Department of Biology; associate professor of Biology
Student Researchers: Kendyll Martin, Jeremy Morrissette, Tyler Costa
This research is a continuation of an 11+ year collaboration between Drs. Kurtz and Williams for the interdisciplinary study of neuroimmunology through the NeuroImmunology Research Project (NIRP). Experiments will investigate the contribution and function of bone marrow-derived progenitor cells to the CNS population of microglia, the resident immune cells.