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Biology | Graduate Student Profiles & Projects

Anne Ballard

Name: Anne Ballard
Advisor: Dr. Carlini
Research Project: Codon bias is the unequal usage of synonymous codons. Codon bias may arise from selection at the translational level, where use of preferred codons that match the most abundant isoacceptor tRNA allows the process of protein translation to proceed more rapidly and accurately. For my MS thesis I am introducing synonymous mutations into an E. coli antibiotic resistance gene and, using an experimental evolution approach, I aim to quantify fitness differences among E. coli strains harboring different types and numbers of synonymous mutations. In this way I hope to determine the fitness impact of synonymous mutations, as well as to determine whether these mutations affect the translation of other transcripts as well.

Name: Gervaise Henry
Undergraduate Institution: Eckerd College, BS Molecular Biology
Degree: MS Biology
Advisor: Dr. Decicco
Research Project: Multiple Myeloma and The Bone Microenvirnment.  I am looking at the molecular signaling between the cancer multiple myeloma and the stromal cells found in the bone marrow; including mesenchymal stem cells, adipocytes, and osteoblasts.  I am using mammalian cell cultures, western blots, QPCR, and immunohistochemistry techniques to look for any effects of leptin on the different cell types.  Understanding these signals and their effects can help to better understand the progression of multiple myeloma.


Bio grad student Sarah Jung

Name: Sarah Jung
Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland, BS Biology
Degree: MS Biology
Advisor: Dr. Decicco
Research Project: In the photo I am loading a protein gel in preparation for a Western Blot. I use this technique to study the inflammatory proteins that may be involved in signaling pathways associated with skin cancer. We use the knock-out mice, TPL2, as a model because they develop a high incidence of skin cancer.


Name: Mara Laslo
Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Advisor: Dr. Carlini
Research Project: I study sexual differentiation of the milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus. Genes that regulate sexual dimorphism are well-conserved across species (humans have orthologs of some of the same genes!) Milkweed bugs are members of Heteroptera, and early branching lineage of insects, and so can offer an interesting evolutionary comparison. Because they are 'true bugs', milkweed bugs develop directly, without a larval stage. Sex determination has only been studied in insects with a larval stage and complete metamorphosis. Knowledge of sexual differentiation in the milkweed bug can help us infer an ancestral state of insect sex determination.


Name: Kevin Mlynek
Advisor: Dr. Kaplan
Research Project: I work on a project investigating the effects of low-dose antibiotics on methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Low-levels of antibiotics can cause the bacterial cells to form aggregates by releasing DNA, providing an opportunity for gene exchange. This past summer our lab identified 26 mutant strains of MRSA that are deficient in cell aggregation. Currently, I am further characterizing these 26 strains in order to develop a model of cell aggregation of MRSA in the presence of low-dose antibiotics.

Name:  Mandy Ng
Undergraduate Institution: University of Maryland Baltimore County, BS Biology
Degree: MS Biology
Advisor: Dr. Kaplan
Research Project:  We are looking at how bacteria produce biofilms.  Biofilms are substances bacteria secrete to help them survive in their microenvironments.  Right now I am testing antibiotic-like compounds to study their effects on bio film induction by  Staphlococcus aureus.


Name: Ryan O'Donnell
Advisor: Dr. Connaughton
Research Project: Zebrafish are increasingly being used for in vivo molecular screenings, as they have several advantages over traditional rodent-based studies, specifically, high-throughput capability and easily-observed morphological changes. I am investigating whether a family of beta-lactam compounds showing neuroprotective abilities in individual cells will also have neuroprotective ability in Zebrafish embryos. These compounds and their respective pathways can have significant clinical significance.

Name: Masha Reider
Undergraduate Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Advisor: Dr. Connaughton
Research Project: In the Zebrafish lab, my master's thesis looked at the effects of thyroid deprivation and rearing temperature on the development of retinal layers and general morphology. My dissertation research will assess the interaction of multiple endocrine systems during zebrafish development, including thyroid, corticotropin, and prolactin hormones. The purpose of this work is to examine whether thyroid-inhibited fish recruit compensatory actions by other endocrine systems in various stages of development.