URN Research Spotlights

This Research Spotlight Series showcases UVA students’ and professors’ research.
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Dr. Ali Güler

Biological processes ranging from gene transcription to behavior oscillate and are synchronized to the 24-hour day/night cycle. Mammalian circadian rhythms allow appropriately timed physiological and behavioral responses to daily recurring external cues. The resulting synchrony of physiology to the astronomical day maximizes metabolic efficiency. However, many of the stresses of modern society weaken and desynchronize circadian rhythms. This in turn increases the prevalence of many pathologies. The aim of my laboratory is to determine how circadian rhythms are synchronized to external cues and how desynchronization impacts health. Under this umbrella, we are currently studying the neuronal circuits that regulate meal timing and the metabolic consequence of time-restricted eating diets as well as effects of circadian biology on Alzheirmer’s disease.

Mary Isaac Cargill- The Effect of Person-First Versus Identity-First Language on Perceptions of Autism in the Jaswal Lab

My research focuses on autism, specifically how non-autistic people perceive and potentially stigmatize autism and autistic people.  My current project is focused on whether person-first and identity-first autism labels (whether we refer to someone as a “person with autism” or “autistic person”) affect our perceptions of disability and disabled people as assessed by both implicit and explicit measures.  The goal of this research is to establish norms regarding the language we use to describe autism and disability more broadly so as to minimize harm to the communities we describe in psychological research.

Hejin Jeong- IP-10 as a Marker to Screen for Pathogenic T-Cells in Acute Rejection in Lung Transplant Patients in Dr. Woodfolk’s lab

Acute cell-mediated lung transplant rejection is the destruction of the transplanted lungs by the recipient’s own immune cells, including a type of immune cell known as T-cell. Despite the high rates of incidence of acute cell-mediated lung transplant rejection, with approximately one-third of patients experiencing rejection within the first year of transplant, little is known about its mechanism. It has been proposed that rejection is mediated by Th1-cell, a subtype of T-cell. Binding of IP-10, an inflammatory protein, which can be released upon viral infection, to its receptor (CXCR3) expressed on Th1-cells may initiate inflammatory cascade to ultimately destroy the transplanted lungs. In this study, we hypothesized that increased IP-10 level can serve as a marker for acute transplant rejection and the presence of pathogenic Th1-cells in the lower airways of transplant recipients.

Rohan Parikh- TRForest: A Novel Random Forest-Based Algorithm for TRNa-Derived Fragment Target Prediction in the Dutta lab

I am a member of a research team investigating how the information contained in genetic material is translated into proteins, the building blocks of body tissue. My role is to analyze large sets of data looking for clues that will help the team understand how the process of gene expression is regulated by the body, which could lead to new treatments for a disease like cancer that occurs when that process goes awry. I brought my pre-existing knowledge of an artificial intelligence approach to the Dutta lab and used it with the help of an M.D./Ph.D. student, Briana Wilson, and an assistant professor of data sciences, Dr. Fenix Huang, to identify gene targets of a family of short RNAs the lab has discovered, called tRFs.

Emiko Gardiner- Searching for X-shaped Radio Galaxies Hosting Binary Supermassive Black Holeswith Ilsang Yoon and Bjorn Emonts from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)

 I research X-shaped radio galaxies (XRGs), which are galaxies with an active galactic nucleus (AGN) that produces not only a set of primary radio jets, the lobes, but also a secondary set of dimmer radio jets, the wings, forming an X-shape. One possible explanation for these wings is that they are relic emissions from a previous jet orientation, requiring a change in jet direction. Through a study of radio morphology and optical emissions I identify XRG’s that are likely to host binary supermassive black holes at their center, which could produce that jet reorientation. 

Gilberto Hernandez- Informing How to Improve Drug Delivery to the Brain using Polymeric Nanoparticles with the Lambe lab

Since last year, I’ve been working with my graduate mentor, Zhiqi Zhang, on a drug delivery system using nanoparticles as a treatment for ischemic stroke. A majority of my work consisted of synthesizing polymeric nanoparticles loaded with Bpin-disulfide prodrug (BDP), and analyzing the size, zeta potential, and drug loading efficiency (which ideally would be ~100nm, ~45mV to -10mV, and <50% drug loading). Moreover, I conducted release studies to determine the release profile of our nanoparticles (how much of the drug is released over time).

Heidi Freking- Impact of Volume Resuscitation for Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock on Development of ARDS and Hospital Mortality

I worked under Dr. Alexandra Kadl, a professor in the Department of Medicine. Aggressive volume fluid resuscitation is a standard treatment for severe sepsis and septic shock, but it is debated whether a conservative or liberal fluid management strategy is best for improving the outcome of patients. In a retrospective study, we sought to determine whether ventilator free days and hospital mortality correlated with the amount of volume administered at 24 and 72 hours after onset of severe sepsis or septic shock in patients transferred from the medical floor.

Samantha Brindley- Modeling Social Attention with Functional Connectivity in the Human Brain

My research uses functional MRI data and machine learning methods to build models that identify variability in neural systems predictive of differences in social cognition and behavior. My current project is focused on social attention, which is the ability to attend to relevant social information, such as human faces. The goal of this research is to reliably predict individual differences in social attention abilities from functional brain connectivity.