Summer Research Projects Presented at Annual Event

Published September 17, 2019

story by dirk hoffman

Eighty-four student-scientists presented projects during the Ninth 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 mood disorders, PTSD, breast cancer cells, kidney disease, sleep studies and other topics.

Expert on Protein Function Keynote Speaker

D. Fernando Estrada, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry, was the keynote speaker. The title of his presentation was “What’s In a Handshake? Protein-Protein Interactions in Vitamin-D Metabolism.”

Estrada came to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2016. The focus of his lab is to understand regulation in vitamin D and vitamin A metabolizing cytochrome P450 enzymes.

He obtained his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry at Kansas State University. After serving in the U.S. Army for seven years, he returned to science and completed his doctoral degree in biochemistry at the University of Kansas, where he worked to characterize zinc-binding proteins in Hantaviruses.

He then trained as a postdoctoral associate at the University of Kansas, where he undertook structural characterization of the steroid producing cytochrome P450 enzyme.

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.

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at UB (SURE)

The SURE program is directed by John C. Panepinto, PhD, who is responsible for coordinating the Buffalo Summer Research Day. Panepinto is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology.

T35 Training the Next Generation of Physician-Scientists

  • Oscar Barnes-Valldejuly presented “The Effect of Inhibition of PBP 7/8 Plus/Minus Treatment With a Capsule Specific Monoclonal Antibody on Antimicrobial Susceptibility in XDR A. Baumannii.” Mentor: Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases.
  • Jenna Betz presented “Inhibition of IL13Ra1 Signaling to Prevent the Development of the Human Autoimmune Disease Pemphigus Vulgaris in Genetically Susceptible Individuals.” Mentors: Kristina Seiffert, MD, research assistant professor of dermatology; and Animesh A. Sinha, MD, PhD, Rita M. and Ralph T. Behling Professor of dermatology.
  • Madison Carlson presented “The Effect of HmuP Mutants on HmuP-Heme Binding in Bradyrhizobium Japonicum.” Mentor: Mark R. O’Brian, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry.
  • Tara Daly presented “MCL-1 Inhibition in Burkitt Lymphoma Cell Lines.” Mentor: Matthew J. Barth, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Hematology/Oncology.
  • Devea De presented “Evaluating Virulence of Carbepenem-Resistant Pseudomonas Aeruginosa in the Galleria Mellonella Model Under Aztreonam and Ceftazidime-Avibactam Exposure.” Mentor: Brian T. Tsuji, PharmD, professor and director of clinical research of pharmacy practice.
  • Jordan Gaston presented “Polymicrobial Biofilm Formation in Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections.” Mentor: Chelsie E. Armbruster, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.
  • Devon Hughes presented “The Effect of Human Protease Activity on Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) in COPD.” Mentor: Sanjay Sethi, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.
  • Bridget Wilcox presented “Investigation of Role of Regulatory T Cells in Macrophage Transition from Inflammatory to Restorative Functions.” Mentor: Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology.

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

  • Molly Denman presented “Purification and Crystallization Screening of Renilla Luciferase.” Mentor: Diana Monteiro, PhD, staff scientist at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI).
  • Korinne Mills presented “Expression and Purification of RbsA: An ATP Binding Protein.” Mentor: Aviv Paz, PhD, associate research scientist at the HWI.
  • Alyssa Rohan presented “Expression and Purification of Radiation Damage Response Proteins: Keap1 and Nrf2.” Mentor: Edward H. Snell, PhD, chief executive officer and principal research scientist at the HWI.

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

BioXFEL Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

  • Alani Aldarondo Torres presented “Expression Optimization of Cyp7B1 Membrane-Bound and Soluble Isoforms.” Mentor: William Bauer, PhD, staff scientist at the HWI.
  • Natalia Crespo-Rosado presented “Engineering and Crystallization of Nanolipoparticles (NLP) MSP1D1.” Mentor: William Bauer, PhD, staff scientist at the HWI.
  • Kailey Ferger presented “Data Mining of Multi-Hit Crystallization Conditions.” Mentor: Sarah E. Bowman, PhD, research associate professor of biochemistry and associate research scientist at the HWI.
  • Alexa Reardon presented “Preparation & Biophysical Characterization of BlaC for XFEL Studies.” Mentor: Thomas Szyperski, PhD, UB Distinguished Professor of chemistry.

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:

  • Abigail Buckley presented “The Development of Anti-LRP1 Antibody and Peptide Drug Conjugates for Glioblastoma Treatment.” Mentor: Dhavalkumar K. Shah, PhD, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Herika Fernandez presented “Neuropeptide S Receptor Mediated Responses in the Paraventricular Nucleus.” Mentor: Arin Bhattacharjee, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Elizabeth Price presented “Protein Expression of a Novel, Orphan Transporter: Monocarboxylate Transporter 6 (MCT6).” Mentor: Marilyn E. Morris, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Lauren Todoro presented “Characterizing Protein Interaction Using Fluorescence.” Mentor: D. Fernando Estrada, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry.
  • Alaina Wojiciechowski presented “Behavioral Effects of Two Neuropeptide S Receptor Agonists in Rats.” Mentor: Stewart Clark, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology.

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

  • Malaike Addo presented “Evaluating Individuals on Usability — Usability Study Associated with Devices Used in Homes.” Mentor: James A. Lenker, associate professor of rehabilitation sciences.
  • Destinee Bledsoe presented “The Role of p38γ on Oligodendrocyte Pregenitors Cells (OPC) Differentiation and Remyelination in Multiple Sclerosis.” Mentor: M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.
  • Jalen Bonitto presented “Mapping the Effects of Photobiomodulation Therapy on Oral Keratinocyte Cells.” Mentor: Praveen R. Arany, PhD, DDS, assistant professor of oral biology and biomedical engineering.
  • Hannah Dougherty presented “Using Electrospinning to Model Intracranial Flow Diversion Designs.” Mentor: Ciprian N. Ionita, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
  • Amanda Gamwo presented “Discovering Sleep in Military Families: Do Male Soldiers’ Characteristics Significantly Impact Female Civilian Partners’ Sleep?” Mentor: Gregory G. Homish, PhD, professor and interim chair of community health and health behavior and research associate professor of family medicine.
  • Beatrice Gonzalez presented “Identification of the Ganglioside Receptors on Breast Cancer Cells Required by the Bacterial Toxin LT-IIc to Promote Cytotoxicity.” Mentor: Terry D. Connell, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology.
  • Lauren Heinzinger presented “IL-12 Delivered by Multilamellar Liposomes Mitigates Upregulation of Checkpoint Molecules on Human Tumor Specific T Cells in the Tumor Microenvironment.” Mentor: Sathy V. Balu-Iyer, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Nashali Massa presented “Effects of Post-Weaning Social Isolation on Social Circuits.” Mentor: Matthew J. Paul, PhD, assistant professor of psychology.
  • Jasmine McClain presented “Treating PTSD Using Narrative Exposure Therapy.” Mentor: Jennifer Read, PhD, professor of psychology.
  • Mebrhit Meheretab presented “Behavioral Characteristics of Wild Type & APP/PS1 Mice.” Mentor: Ying Xu, MD, PhD, research associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
  • Genesis Pagán Cabrera presented “Examine the Role of SAP-Mediated Virulence of Candida Albicans in a Beta-Amyloid Expressing Model of Caenorhabditis Elegans.” Mentor: Mira Edgerton, PhD, DDS, research professor of oral biology.
  • Amanda Pollard presented “The Comparison of Subjective and Objective Sleep Measures in Lung Cancer Patient Survivors With Insomnia.” Mentor: Grace E. Dean, PhD, associate professor of nursing biobehavioral health & clinical sciences.
  • Makayla Roma presented “Early Predictors of Functional Decline.” Mentor: Sabrina N. Casucci, PhD, teaching assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering.
  • Yuribel Rosario presented “Protein Purification and Extraction of Gis2 and Zfn9 from Cryptococcus Neoformans.” Mentor: Tilman Baumstark, PhD, research associate professor of microbiology and immunology.

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

Twelve students conducted research through the CLIMB Undergraduate Biomedical Informatics and Data Science program:

  • Leydi Hernandez Fernandez presented “Ectopic Expression of Human Aryl Sulfotransferase (SULT4A1) in Probiotic Species.” Mentor: Richard J. Quigg, MD, Arthur M. Morris Professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Nephrology.
  • Cassondra Lyman presented “DeepGRAI: The Clinical Translation of MRI Techniques.” Mentor: Michael G. Dwyer III, PhD, assistant professor of neurology and biomedical informatics.
  • Kathryn Maraszek presented “The Presence and Location of Podocytes in Glomeruli as Affected by Diabetes.” Mentor: Pinaki Sarder, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences.
  • Marvellous Oke presented “A Machine Learning Approach to Predicting the Possibility of Seizures after an Intracerebral Hemorrhage (ICH).” Mentor: Jason M. Davies, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery.
  • Michael Piskozub presented “Optimizing Overlap Graph Assembly for Ultra-Long DNA Reads.” Mentor: Jaroslaw Zola, PhD, assistant professor of computer science and engineering and biomedical informatics.
  • Dominic Romero presented “Quantifying the Adherence of Domain Ontologies to Basic Formal Ontology (BFO): A Case Study With the Cancer Cell Ontology.” Mentor: Werner Ceusters, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics.
  • Marc Schulte presented “Anti-Obesity Therapeutics Discovery Using Candock to Target MAF1 Inhibitors.” Mentor: Ram Samudrala, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics and chief of the Division of Bioinformatics.
  • Anisha Singh presented “Concurrent Prescription Opioids​ and Stimulant Use and Their Adverse Events.” Mentor: Peter L. Elkin, MD, professor and chair of biomedical informatics.
  • Mackenzie Smith presented “Ontological Analysis of MS-PRO Data.” Mentor: Alexander D. Diehl, PhD, associate professor of biomedical informatics.
  • Jennifer Sosa presented “MT2 Receptor Ligands Modulate Re-Entrainment of Circadian Activity Following Abrupt Phase Advance.” Mentor: Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion and SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
  • Alexander Yunke presented “Generating An Intracranial Aneurysm Rupture Resemblance Score Using Morphometric and Clinical Risk Factor Data.” Mentor: Jason M. Davies, MD, PhD, assistant professor of neurosurgery.
  • Hannah Zimmerman presented “Adverse Events from Concurrent Prescription Opioid and Muscle Relaxant Use.” Mentor: Peter L. Elkin, MD, professor and chair of biomedical informatics.

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 Take Part

The Aug. 2 event included 23 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 Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building.