By Bill Bruton
Published January 18, 2023
From the time she heard about the inaugural Graduate Student Research Day, Taylor Wicks was thrilled with the opportunity to showcase her work.
She didn’t have the opportunity to show her research at the Neuroscience Research Day earlier this year. She had a good reason — she was in Amsterdam presenting at ECTRIMS, a large European conference dedicated to multiple sclerosis care and research.
“When I was in Amsterdam I missed my colleagues presenting their research, and I really missed being a part of that. I wanted to join online as well, but that wasn’t an option during that research day,” said Wicks, a second-year master’s student in neuroscience. “So, when I found out that this was being made available, I decided to get as involved as I could. I gave a talk today, as well as this poster presentation.”
Her talk was titled “Determining Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Multiple Sclerosis.” Her poster presentation was titled “Neuroimaging Correlates of Patient-Reported Outcomes in Multiple Sclerosis.”
She was one of six students who gave talks before lunch, followed by four talks by professors after lunch.
“It means a lot to be able to see a lot of my co-workers and fellow students. I like seeing their work,” said Wicks, who does her research at the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center (BNAC) under the tutulege of Robert Zivadinov, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and biomedical informatics and director of the BNAC (primary mentor), and Dejan Jakimovski, MD, PhD, research assistant professor of neurology (secondary mentor).
Graduate Student Research Day is a student-run event, planned and executed by the Graduate Student Ambassador Mentor Team (with support from the Office of Biomedical Education). Doctoral students and mentor team leaders Tyler Rolland, Christy Angeliu and Molly Martin were key organizers, with support from Brittany Sandor, manager of the Graduate Student Ambassador Program and admissions coordinator for the MD-PhD program.
Corey M. Knowles, a fifth-year doctoral student in microbiology and immunology, enjoyed the opportunity to witness research from students outside of his field of knowledge.
“We know all the work that the students within our departments are doing all the time. However, our friends in other departments, we never get to see their work,” said Knowles, who studies pathogens in the lab of John C. Panepinto, PhD, senior associate dean for biomedical education and professor of microbiology and immunology. “It’s really nice to be able to have everyone within the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences come together and present their work, so we can actually see what our friends are working on.”
His poster presentation was titled “Ccr4 and Gcn2 Contribute Differentially to Stress-Specific Translational Repression in C. neoformans.”
Garrett Sheehan, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program, researches MAGI-2, a scaffolding protein found in the spinal cord, under the direction of his mentor, Arin Bhattacharjee, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
He appreciated getting different perspectives on his research.
“Whenever you get the opportunity to show what you’ve done and also get feedback from people — particularly people that are outside your direct field — it’s always a great opportunity,” Sheehan said. “It’s nice to get good feedback about your project in ways that maybe you didn’t have an opportunity to think about before.”
Sri Laxmi Veerapaneni, a second-year master’s student in neuroscience, studies Transcription factor EB in peripheral myelination.
“The main thing I love about the conferences and seminars is networking with people of different research interests and backgrounds. One of the post-doc fellows came up to me and said ‘your work and explanation are great’ and asked if I want to join their lab as a PhD student for the upcoming cycle. One of the PIs said It sounds interesting and asked about other experiments that I’m planning to do. He also suggested a few other experiments that I can implement in my project,” Veerapaneni said. “Research is like finishing a jigsaw puzzle. It takes a lot of time, patience and work to finish even the smallest project. However, once it is done the results are amazing. The conferences are not just about communication and networking, but also about learning, improving and updating scientific knowledge that is already studied.”
Presentation award winners were Michael Battaglia, a fifth-year doctoral student in biochemistry, and Nutt Punnanitinont, a third-year doctoral student in oral biology.
Battaglia’s presentation was titled “Roles of Ets 1 and II17Ra in Autoimmunity and Staphylococcal Skin Immunity.”
“It is incredible to have my work recognized by my peers at UB and feel it is a sign of the great mentorship I have had while in the lab of Dr. Garrett-Sinha,” Battaglia said.
His research focuses on the role of two different genes — Ets1 and IL17Ra — and how they affect development of autoimmune disease and clearance of skin infections by the bacteria S. aureus.
“So far, our findings indicate that both genes are required for animal models of infection to clear the bacteria,” Battaglia says. “In addition, my work has shown that Ets1 is absolutely necessary for a type of immune cell normally found in the skin of mice; without it they are missing.”
Punnanitinont’s presentation was titled “TLR7 Agonism Accelerates Disease in a Mouse Model of Primary Sjogren’s Syndrome.”
“I’m beyond excited to be able to share my work to the Jacobs School community as our lab is determined to discover novel therapeutics that can address the underlying mechanism of Sjögren’s syndrome (SS),” Punnanitinont said.
She works in the lab or Jill Kramer, DDS, associate professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine.
SS is an autoimmune disease in which a patient’s own cells can attack their organs.
“In particular, patients with SS lose the ability to produce tears and saliva and can develop other health problems,” Punnanitinont said. “There is currently no cure for SS. Thus, our lab is interested in understanding chronic inflammation in disease and the goal of our work is to identify new therapeutic strategies to help patients.”
Seidman’s poster was titled “Oscillatory Store-Operated Calcium Signaling Regulates Human Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Stem Cell Fate.”
“My research projects are geared toward identification of novel strategies and targets for treatment of multiple sclerosis by studying how intracellular signaling regulates oligodendrocyte progenitor cell development and myelin repair in both health and disease,” Seidman said. “I am very grateful to be honored for my research, but even more so to be able to share and discuss my findings in a collaborative environment to promote the thoughtful development of our collective research goals together.”
Handelmann’s poster was titled “The Impact of Nucleosome Structure on CRISPR Cas9 Fidelity.”
The event took place Dec. 7 in the Jacobs School building’s atrium.