Student-Scientists Showcase Summer Research Projects

Published August 29, 2018 This content is archived.

story by dirk hoffman

Seventy-five student-scientists presented projects during the Eighth Annual Buffalo Summer Research Conference, an interdisciplinary forum marking the culmination of their summer research in Buffalo.


The undergraduate and graduate students worked with mentors from the University at Buffalo and partner institutions to explore breast cancer cells, multiple sclerosis, prostate tumors, headaches, depression, drug addiction and other areas.

Genome Expert Keynote Speaker

Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and co-director of UB’s Genome, Environment and Microbiome (GEM) Community of Excellence, was the keynote speaker. Her topic was “Maintaining Balance: Mismatch Repair, Genome Stability and Genomic Literacy.”

In her role with the GEM Community of Excellence, Surtees leads and coordinates efforts to promote genome and microbiome scientific studies at UB, promote exploration of ethical and social impacts of genome and microbiome research across the disciplines, and promote genomic literacy at UB and in Western New York, particularly in the city of Buffalo (K-12 and adult populations). 

The Surtees lab has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society for research focused on two distinct aspects of genome stability:

  1. the roles of mismatch proteins in multiple pathways for DNA repair and
  2. the manner in which regulation of dNTP pools, through the regulation of ribonucleotide reductase activity, impacts genome integrity

She received her doctoral degree in molecular and medical genetics from the University of Toronto, followed by a National Cancer Institute of Canada-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Cornell University. Surtees became a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2007.

Displaying Posters, Giving Oral Presentations

During the forum, students from various summer research programs participated in a poster exposition. One student from each program was selected to deliver an oral presentation.

The following are research projects for the summer programs involving the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at UB (SURE)

  • Kiana Bynum presented “The Effect of JHD1 and Altered dNTP Pools on Cell Viability in the Presence of Distinct DNA Damaging Agents.” Mentor: Jennifer A. Surtees, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry.
  • Jordan Howard presented “A Viral Vector Approach for Targeting Ventral Tegmental Area GABA Projection Neurons to Areas of the Basal Ganglia.” Mentor: Caroline E. Bass, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Madeleine Nagy presented “EGFP-L10a Knock-in iPSCs Enabling Specific Capture of Human Dopaminergic Neurons.” Mentor: Jian Feng, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics.
  • Cindy Ng presented “The Role of Tbet in the Conversion of Foxp3+ Tregs in the Presence of IL2, TGFB, IL33, IL6, and IFNg Cytokines.” Mentor: Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.
  • Goretti Ramirez presented “Mechanism of Ketamine Block on GluN2A NMDA Receptors.” Mentor: Gabriela K. Popescu, PhD, professor of biochemistry.
  • Erika Shultz presented “Impact of Trauma on Civilian and Police Attention and Inhibition.” Mentor: David Dietz, PhD, associate professor and chair of pharmacology and toxicology.

The SURE program is directed by Terry D. Connell, PhD, who is responsible for coordinating the Buffalo Summer Research Day. Connell is a professor of microbiology and immunology.

T35 Research Program in Infectious Diseases, Microbiology and Immunology

  • Michael Campbell presented “Chromatin Accessibility in Hematopoietic Cells; To What Extent Does Differential Accessibility Contribute to Functional Phenotype.” Mentor: James N. Jarvis, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics.
  • Rebecca Kish presented “Development of High Throughput Screening Techniques for Assessing Interference RNA Targeting of Influenza A Viral mRNA and Upregulation of Host Antiviral Responses.” Mentor: Paul R. Knight III, MD, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of anesthesiology and microbiology and immunology.
  • Joshua Owczarczak presented “Identifying Surface Proteins to Determine Macrophage Heterogeneity in Muscle with Chronic and Acute Inflammation.” Mentor: Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.
  • Stacy Sebastian presented “Evaluation of FBXW1 and FBXW3 Proteins in the Biology of Toxoplasma Gondii.” Mentor: Ira J. Blader, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology.
  • Kaity Tung presented “Melanoma-Derived Exosomes and Their Role in Inducing Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts.” Mentor: Marc S. Ernstoff, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology.
  • Jasmin Zvornicanin presented “Investigation of EMT6 and Renca Mutanome in Predicting Immunological Neo-Epitopes for Peptide-Based Tumor Vaccines.” Mentor: Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering.

The T35 program is co-directed by Timothy F. Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research and SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine; and Kelvin P. Lee, MD, research professor of medicine. 

Summer Apprentice Program, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute

  • Max Dudek presented “Building a Database of Crystallization Conditions.” Mentor: Sarah E. Bowman, PhD, research associate professor of biochemistry and associate research scientist at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI).
  • Nhan Nguyen presented “Averaging Multiple Electron Density Maps from Solution Scattering Data (SAXS).” Mentor: Thomas Grant, PhD, research assistant professor of structural biology and staff scientist at the HWI.
  • Hannah Roche presented “Expression and Purification of CYP7B1.” Mentor: William Bauer, PhD, staff scientist at the HWI.

William Bauer, PhD, coordinates the summer research program at HWI.

BioXFEL Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

  • Natalia Crespo presented “Development of a Nanolipoprotein Particle Network.” Mentor: William Bauer, PhD, staff scientist at the HWI.
  • Walter Zhao presented “Synthesis, Characterization, and Modeling of Oriented Chitosan Hydrogels.” Mentor: Prathima Nalam, PhD, assistant professor of materials design and innovation, a joint program between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

William Bauer, PhD, coordinates the BioXFEL Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences Undergraduate Program (CLIMB UP)

CLIMB UP is a summer research program that gives undergraduates hands-on laboratory experience in biomedical and health sciences. 

Five students had projects funded through the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship:

  • Nicholas Athans presented “In Vitro Study of FOLFIRINOX Chemotherapy Drugs on Mia Paca-2 and Panc-1 Pancreatic Cancer Cell Lines.” Mentor: Robert M. Straubinger, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and research professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Rose Durnell presented “Validation of ELISA to Quantitate Trastuzumab in Ocular Tissue.” Mentor: Dhavalkumar K. Shah, PhD, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Sareh Ghadersohi presented “Biophysical Characterization of Tolerogenic Nanoparticles Containing Aquaporin-4.” Mentor: Sathy V. Balu-Iyer, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Gabriella King presented “Histopathology of Model of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.” Mentor: Stewart Clark, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Erin McNell presented “A Combinatorial Viral Vector Approach for Targeting GABAergic Projection Neurons From the Ventral Tegmental Area to the Prefrontal Cortex (to Gain Insight on Substance Abuse).” Mentor: Caroline E. Bass, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

Eleven students had projects funded by the Institute for Strategic Enhancement of Educational Diversity Summer Research Experience:

  • Christopher Baker presented “Augmented Reality Gamification for Lower Extremity Rehabilitation.” Mentor: Wenyao Xu, PhD, associate professor of computer science and engineering.
  • Yadilyz Caballero presented “Developing a scFv-Protamine Against CXCR4.” Mentor: Juliane Nguyen, PhD, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences and adjunct assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
  • Tiffany Chen presented “The Effects of Virtual Reality on Gait Among Adults with Multiple Sclerosis.” Mentor: Rebecca Lorenz, PhD, RN, associate professor of nursing.
  • Astrid Gutierrez presented “Wnt Signaling and Glucose Oxidation.” Mentor: Te-Chung Lee, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry.
  • Blessing Hunsu presented “Monocarboxylate Transporter 6 (MCT6) as a Determinant of Cisplatin Ototoxicity.” Mentor: Marilyn E. Morris, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Simone John-Vanderpool presented “Does Vasopressin Act in the Anterior Hypothalamus to Regulate Ultrasonic Vocalizations in Rats?” Mentor: Matthew J. Paul, PhD, assistant professor of psychology.
  • John Lepore presented “An Investigation of Commensal Immune Interactions Altered by Oral Pathogens.” Mentor: Jason G. Kay, PhD, assistant professor of oral biology.
  • Renato Quinones presented “Associations Between Traffic Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Mentor: Lina Mu, MD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health.
  • Ashirah Simpson presented “Validation of Waist Circumference Through Visceral Adiposity.” Mentor: Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of epidemiology and environmental health and dean of UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
  • LeDaniel Sims presented “Cold Plasma Treatment for Biomedical Scaffolds.” Mentor: Praveen R. Arany, PhD, DDS, assistant professor of oral biology.
  • Daisy Zavala presented “Decentering as a Moderator of the Association of Stress With Depression.” Mentor: Kristin E. Gainey, PhD, assistant professor of psychology.

One student had a project funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute:

  • Marvellous Oke presented “Prediction Model: Shunt-Dependent Hydrocephalus After Aneurysmal Subarachnoid Hemorrhage.” Mentor: Jason M. Davies, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery.

Five students were involved with CLIMB PRO, a division of CLIMB UP for undergraduates interested in pursuing a medical degree or MD-PhD:

CLIMB UP and its associated programs are part of the CLIMB program, directed by Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion and SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

Dental Medicine, Roswell Students Participated

The Aug. 3 event included 33 students from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Summer Research Experience Program in Cancer Science and three students from UB’s School of Dental Medicine’s Student Research Program.

The event was held in the second floor atrium of the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.