Taylor Wicks.

Taylor Wicks enjoyed showing her research work during the inaugural Graduate Student Research Day.

Student-Run Research Day Features Grad Students’ Work

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.

Didn’t Want to Miss This Opportunity

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.
Sri Laxmi Veerapaneni
Second-year master’s student in neuroscience

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.

Get to See ‘What Our Friends Are Working On’

Doctoral student Corey M. Knowles.

Doctoral student Corey M. Knowles enjoyed being able to see research projects from friends outside his field of study.

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.”

Doctoral candidate Garrett Sheehan.

Doctoral candidate Garrett Sheehan studies MAGI-2, a scaffolding protein found in the spinal cord.

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.”

Master’s student Sri Laxmi Veerapaneni.

Master’s student Sri Laxmi Veerapaneni studies Transcription factor EB.in peripheral myelination.

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.”

She works in the lab of M. Laura Feltri, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and neurology and director of the Institute for Myelin and Glia Exploration.

Honored That Work is Recognized by Peers

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.”

Battaglia does his research in the laboratory of Lee Ann Garrett-Sinha, PhD, professor of biochemistry.

“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.”

Collaborative Environment Appreciated

Poster award winners were Richard Seidman, a fourth-year doctoral student in neuroscience, and Chris Handelmann, a doctoral student in biochemistry

Seidman’s poster was titled “Oscillatory Store-Operated Calcium Signaling Regulates Human Oligodendrocyte Progenitor Stem Cell Fate.”

Seidman does his research in the lab of Fraser J. Sim, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of the neuroscience program.

“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.