Mentors & Projects for Research Track Students

This list offers examples of research projects that may be available to RESEARCH TRACK students. 


Peter Arvan, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Protein folding and trafficking in the secretory pathway, with links to diseases (diabetes, or, hypothyroidism).

Experience required: Prior basic science lab experience would be beneficial.

Project description: We are working in cultured cells, and animal models, and in tissues isolated from animal models. Our experiments focus on protein misfolding, including the expression of new mutants linked to human disease, and studying the cell biological behavior of the mutant proteins, and their overall effect on cell health and function.



Daniel Beard, PhD

Lab focus: Cardiovascular physiology, cardiac mechanics and metabolism, etiology of heart failure, regulation of cardiovascular response to exercise.

Experience required: Prior work in a research lab is desirable. Some computing experience would also be useful but not necessary.

Project description: The project is focused on making measurements of cardiovascular response to Valsalva and posture change in human subjects (patients and healthy volunteers) to assess cardiac mechanics and autonomic reflex function.

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Jimo Borjigin, PhD

Lab focus: Establishing the electrocardiomatrix (ECM), a new technique invented in the Borjigin lab, as a new tool for clinical diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases (including ischemic stroke).

Experience required: Each student will be trained following their hiring. Dedication, responsibility, and attention to details are traits required for this project.

Project description: Analysis of biomarkers for increased stroke risk. The project will analyze ECG data from both healthy and patients with cardiovascular disorders to identify biomarkers associated with their disorders using the ECM technique. Our immediate goal is to establish the utility of ECM in a planned participation in an ongoing clinical stroke trial.

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Christian Burgess, PhD 

Lab focus: We are interested in mapping the neural circuits that underlie fundamental behaviors, like sleep and feeding, and determining how these circuits affect learning and sensory processing in cortical networks.

Experience required: Neuroscience course work, undergraduate research experience

Project description: We are interested in mapping hypothalamic circuits that drive sleep, feeding, and motivation. The project would use tools such as rabies-based trans-synaptic tracing, to establish the neuroanatomy of the circuit, and optogenetics in mice, to establish the function of different hypothalamic projections. 

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Brian Carlson, PhD

Lab focus: In my lab we have two ongoing projects: 1) Patient-specific computational modeling of the cardiovascular system in health and heart failure using traditional clinical measures 2) Electrophysiology modeling of induced-pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes as a platform for drug testing.

Experience required: Some coding in Matlab would be helpful but not necessary.

Project description: With limited coding and math experience a student could gather retrospective clinical data on a specific type of heart failure (example; Pulmonary hypertension) and utilizing our existing analysis workflow generate a deep-phenotyping profile f that type of HF. With more coding and math experience a student could tune and/or modify an existing model of an induced stem cell derived cardiomyocyte to experimental data from my collaborators in Madison or at George Washington University.

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Eugene Chen, PhD

Lab focus: Discover novel genes for cardiovascular disease and study the mechanism of action as well as develop potential therapy.

Experience required: Basic molecular biology experience.

Project description:  Atherosclerosis remains the primary cause underlying cardiovascular diseases (CVD)-related death. Epigenetic modifications are recognized as a crucial link between intrinsic genetic alteration and extrinsic risk factors linked to CVD. We have ongoing studies on how epigenetic modifications respond to environmental changes and drive vascular smooth muscle cell dysfunction in atherogenesis. Looking forward to meeting any potential students to discuss our research projects in person.

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Patrice Fort, PhD, MS

Lab focus: Our lab focuses on understanding the pathological mechanisms of neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases using multi-omics analysis. Our goal is to identify novel biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets in order to develop potential strategies to treat these diseases.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: One of our projects involves using transgenic animal models and viral vectors to test the therapeutic potential of a functionally enhanced mutant of the chaperone protein alphaA-crystallin to increase neurosurvival and reduce neuroinflammation in an acute model of neurodegeneration.

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Kurt Hankenson, DVM, PhD

Lab focus: Our laboratory studies bone formation. Our goal is to utilize basic science discoveries to inform new clinical treatments for bone regeneration. We integrate cell and molecular biological techniques with system-wide studies in animal models, particularly genetically modified mice, to understand mechanisms regulating bone formation and regen-eration. We are particularly focused on understanding how mesenchymal progenitor cells, differentiates to become either cartilage forming chondrocytes or bone forming osteoblasts.
Experience required: Basic laboratory experience with cellular and molecular biological techniques, and/or experience with mouse models, including histological analysis of tissues is desired.

Project description: Two active projects in the laboratory - funded by the NIH - are focused on Notch signaling and Wnt signaling. For the Notch signaling project we are studying the role of the Jagged-1 ligand in bone healing using mice that have a floxed allele for Jagged-1 and studying the intersection of Notch signaling with Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling. For the Wnt signaling project, we are using mice with a R-spondin-2 (a Wnt agonist) floxed allele, and are perturbing Rspo2 expression in vivo during bone regeneration.

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Todd Herron, PhD

Lab focus: My laboratory is focused on cardiovascular regeneration using patient specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Working in my laboratory students will acquire skills related to stem cell culture maintenance, cardiac directed differentiation, high throughput electrophysiology screening, biomarker analysis and bioengineering. Bioengineering approaches include 2-dimensional monolayer studies as well as 3D cardiac organoid development. We utilize these approaches to better understand cardiac developmental processes, to create human cardiac models for in vitro study, for personalized toxicity screening and for development of novel regenerative medicine therapies.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: There are two primary research projects that students may work on. One involves study of extracellular matrix and signaling in bioengineered cardiac monolayers and 3D organoids. This project utilizes human bioengineered cardiac tissues to understand mechanisms of heart disease, for toxicity screening and for study of cardiac developmental processes. The second project involves the development of acquired heart failure models in vitro using iPSC derived cardiac tissues. Genetic causes of heart failure are easily recapitulated in vitro using patient specific iPSCs, however the study of more acquired forms of heart disease-such as ischemic heart failure-is just now beginning. We are working towards recreation of acquired heart failure using in vitro bioengineered models, in this way we plan to create healthy patient specific heart muscle in a dish as well as aged, ischemic hearts in a dish.

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Megan Killian, PhD

Lab focus: We are interested in the vertebrate musculoskeletal system and the mechanisms by which the tendon and its attachment to bone grows and adapts to mechanical loading from skeletal muscle.

Experience required: None, will train.

Project description: We are interested in the role of metabolism and hypoxia in the development and growth of tendon and tendon-bone attachment. We use a range of approaches including cell culture and genetically-modified mice to evaluate functional roles for genes.

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Lisa Larkin, PhD

Lab focus: End-stage organ failure or tissue loss is one of the most devastating and costly problems in medicine. Limitations associated with tissue donation such as tissue availability, donor site morbidity, and immune rejection has led investigators to develop strategies to engineer tissue for replacement. The creation of engineered musculoskeletal tissues will not only restore the function of complex tissues such as muscle, tendon, ligament, bone and nerve following traumatic injury, but can also be used as a model for studying developmental biology and tissue level pharmacology. Dr. Larkin directs a laboratory the Skeletal Tissue Engineering Laboratory (STEL) at the University of Michigan that has developed a scaffold-less method to engineer three-dimensional (3D) muscle, nerve conduit, tendon, bone and ligament constructs from primary, bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and adipose stem cells (ASCs). The research aims of STEL are to fabricate 3D musculoskeletal tissues, interface the tissues and evaluate the structural and histological characteristics, implant the tissues in vivo to expose them to the actual mechanical and biochemical environments of a hindlimb, evaluate alterations in the structural, functional and histological characteristics of the tissues in response to strain-shielded and unshielded mechanical environments, and utilize the engineered tissues for tissue repair and replacement.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: The project will be to fabricate skeletal muscle constructs and co-culture them with nerve constructs to create a nerve-muscle co-culture system and to use this system to test perturbations in muscle physiology.

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Jun Hee Lee, PhD

Lab focus: We study the relationship between stress, aging, and metabolism, focusing on the following projects: (1) Stress-inducible Sestrins and their role in age- and obesity-associated metabolic pathologies, (2) Biochemical mechanisms underlying physiological functions of Sestrins, (3) Pathogenetic mechanisms of how autophagy is abrogated in human diseases including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and movement disorders, (4) Stress-induced protein inclusions and RNA granules, (5) Single cell-level understanding of stress-induced transcriptome changes, and (6) Technology development for single-cell and subcellular studies of spatial transcriptome and proteome.

Experience required: Experiences in molecular, genetic, biochemical, cell biological, physiological, and/or bioinformatic techniques. Strong dedication.

Project description: We have recently developed Seq-Scope, a new ultra-high-resolution spatial single-cell technology (PMID: 34115981). Our team currently focuses on furthering and expanding the technology’s applicability into addressing important biomedical problems. These include (1) improving the throughput of the technique so that maximum transcriptome information could be obtained from a tissue section, (2) expanding the functional applications into spatial proteome, signalome, genome, epigenome, metabolome, and microbiome, (3) working in a collaboratory setting to apply Seq-Scope for various spatial omics projects. In addition to Seq-Scope, we use a variety of tools, including animal models such as mouse and Drosophila, in vitro systems such as cell culture and enzymatic assays, and bioinformatic tools for analyzing transcriptome-level information.

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Scott Leiser, PhD

Lab focus: The Leiser lab studies the biology of aging, focusing specifically on how changes in stress response and metabolic pathways can be manipulated to affect the aging process. We utilize a translational approach, using large-scale assays in invertebrate nematodes to develop and test specific hypotheses in mammalian systems, and then using interesting findings in mammals to test hypotheses in worms.

Experience required: Basic molecular biology experience and basic knowledge of genetics.

Project description: One potential project is to develop a screen to identify novel genes involved with increasing resistance to toxic stress. Once identified, the gene would then be tested for a role in promoting health and longevity, and for where it fits in with known stress and longevity pathways.

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Peng Li, PhD

Lab focus: Our laboratory is interested in understanding the molecular and cellular basis of the neural control of breathing, and how this process fails in diseases, such as sleep apnea and sudden infant death syndrome.

Experience required: Prior experience with mouse handling is preferred.

Project description: We utilize a combination of cutting-edge molecular genetic and neurobiological approaches in mouse models to dissect the physiological and the emotional control of breathing, and the mechanism by which these inputs are integrated to generate certain breathing rhythm and pattern.

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Costas Lyssiotis, PhD

Lab focus: The growth of a tumor, just like the growth of a cell or an organism, requires nutrients and a means to convert nutrients into energy and the basic building blocks that support life. These metabolic processes are frequently deregulated in cancer cells to facilitate growth and enable survival. The Lyssiotis laboratory uses a multi-disciplinary approach encompassing methods in chemistry and biology to define how metabolism is rewired in cancer and then to employ this understanding in the design of targeted tumor metabolism-based therapies.

Experience required: None Indicated

Project description: “Metabolic Networks in the Tumor Microenvironment”

The main focus of the MIP Master’s Thesis project(s) will be to explore how the heterogeneous cancer, stromal and immune cell populations in a pancreatic tumor coordinate their metabolism to support the survival and growth of the tumor. This will involve techniques in biochemistry, analytical chemistry and mass spectrometry-based metabolomics using human and murine models of pancreatic cancer.

Members of the Lyssiotis laboratory work in a highly collaborative research environment with leading experts in immunology, pancreatic cancer biology and oncology. Our goal is to motivate and train fellows across disciples to address new and challenging problems in cancer and metabolism.

For more information: @LyssiotisLab (Twitter)

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Ormond MacDougald, PhD

Lab focus: We investigate how adipocytes throughout the body develop, function, and interact with other cell types near and afar.

Experience required: Lab experience and a desire to create new information.

Project description: We are interested in how variants in lamin A/C causes lipodystrophy.

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Daniel Michele, PhD

Lab focus: Muscles from muscular dystrophy patients and mouse models with mutations in the dystrophin glycoprotein complex also show marked sensitivity to contraction induced injury. This is in part thought to be due to a structural role for the complex in stabilizing the sarcolemma during mechanical stress. Muscle has developed a remarkable ability to repair the sarcolemma after injury, a process that is mediated in part by the protein dysferlin. Dysferlin is mutated in patients with LGMD 2B and Myoshi myopathy. We have developed methodologies to watch the membrane repair pathway activation in real time using live cell microscopy and transgenic mice expressing GFP reporter constructs that show the localization and orientation of dysferlin in the muscle fiber membrane. We are utilizing these mice to study the mechanisms of how the membrane repair pathway is regulating following experimental and physiological muscle injury.

Experience required: Previous cell culture or microscopy experience is a plus.

Project description: We are using live cell microscopy approaches in isolated muscle fibers from mice, and human cell derived engineered muscle tissues to study and compare how muscles repair membrane injuries in skeletal muscle and heart tissues. The project is aimed at studying how repair mechanisms are activated at the wound site, and how injury propagation through fibers or into neighboring coupled cardiac muscle cells temporarily uncouple normal excitation contraction coupling leading to muscle contractile dysfunction.

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Sue Moenter, PhD

Lab focus: We study how the central nervous system regulates fertility by examining the neural circuits underlying gonadotropin-releasing hormone secretion.

Experience required: None required as students will be trained. Students must be comfortable with animal research (mouse). Attention to detail, good communication skills, ability to work as part of a group are required. Interested in neuroscience.

Project description: Will depend on students but WILL involve animal work, including sacrificing mice so the student would have to be ok with this.

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Dinesh Pal, PhD

Lab focus: The overarching goal of our research program is to understand the neural regulation of states of arousal such as sleep, wake, anesthesia, and altered states produced by psychedelic compounds. In addition to our focus on understanding the neural circuits and processes that underlie the generation of these states, we use these natural and pharmacologically induced states as model systems to study the neural substrates of consciousness. We are also conducting studies to understand the interaction between sedation and sleep homeostasis. A mechanistic study of these varied states of arousal and the larger question of consciousness are not only important for a better understanding of fundamental neurobiological principles but also have a direct translational impact. The ability to manipulate wake-promoting circuits to enhance recovery of consciousness from unconscious states has the potential to help expedite recovery from disorders of consciousness and possibly from anesthesia. Insights into the effect of sedative-hypnotics on sleep homeostasis will allow for the characterization of a sedative regimen that may provide sleep-like benefits and facilitate patient recovery in perioperative and critical care. Our work with psychedelic compounds can inform the possibility of using psychedelics to treat sleep disorders either directly through effect on sleep-wake states or indirectly by managing depression and anxiety and can provide guidance on sleep health at the community level. These studies are also expected to provide mechanistic insights for therapeutic use of psychedelic compounds in psychiatry and neurology.

Experience required: Prior experience with lab animal research is preferred, but not required. Training will be provided for the skills needed for the study completion.

Project description: It is not clear if and how sedative-hypnotics can provide a sleep-like state associated with positive functional outcomes. To test this hypothesis, we are conducting studies to compare the molecular changes - adenosine and nitric oxide - in the sleep-wake related brain regions during natural sleep and sedation. There are multiple approaches - e.g., neurotransmitter sampling, immunohistochemical staining, protein/enzymatic analysis - that can be employed and the project offers a wide array of opportunities for training and addressing an important question with significant translational impact. A broad overview of the current research directions in the lab can be found on the lab.

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William Rainey, PhD

Lab focus: My group researches the cellular, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms that regulate adrenal steroid hormone biosynthesis and applies the findings to human adrenal diseases. Once such disease, Primary Aldosteronism (PA), is the main cause of endocrine hypertension and the most common adrenal disease. My laboratory takes a bench to bedside approach to 1) defining the molecular mechanisms that cause PA, 2) improving diagnostics to facilitate PA screening, and 3) developing the cell and mouse models that improve our understanding of PA.

Experience required: Interested applicants must have at least some research experience.

Project description: Students would take-on research projects that apply genomic and steroid metabolomic approaches to improve the understanding of primary aldosteronism or other adrenal diseases.

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Juilee Rege, PhD 

Lab focus: I am a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology. Our group's research goal is to determine the genetic causes underlying adrenal Cushing syndrome (CS), a common endocrine cause of cardiovascular morbidity. Adrenal CS is caused by autonomous cortisol production in one or both adrenal glands and affects 0.2–2 % of adults. Chronic exposure to endogenous glucocorticoid excess is associated with a cluster of complications including visceral obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and recurrent infections. Our research adopts both basic and translational approaches utilizing human adrenal tissue, serum and cell lines in order to: (i) define the genetic landscape of adrenal CS, particularly with regard to adrenal somatic mutations that cause cortisol excess; (ii) define serum steroid biomarkers using LC-MS/MS to facilitate adrenal CS subtyping; and (iii) develop cell models that improve our understanding of adrenal CS.

Experience required: Some previous wet bench experience in a basic science research laboratory is required.

Project description: Students would be involved in projects that 1) delineate the genetic causes of PA and CS using molecular biology techniques on patient tissue samples, 2) improve diagnostics to facilitate PA and CS screening using the state-of-the-art liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to quantify steroids in patient serum, and 3) develop in vitro models that improve our understanding of PA and CS using established adrenocortical cell lines and primary adrenal cells.

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Michael Roberts, PhD

Lab focus: Our lab aims to determine the cellular, synaptic, and network mechanisms used by neural circuits in the auditory midbrain and thalamus to extract and encode important features of sounds.

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Our approach combines patch clamp electrophysiology, optogenetics, genetically engineered mice, and viral transduction. Through this work, we seek to identify methods for restoring the function of auditory circuits for individuals with hearing disorders or hearing loss.

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Liangyou Rui, PhD

Lab focus: We are interested in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.

Experience required: None specified

Project description: The projects investigate signal transduction pathways, epigenetic reprogramming, and RNA modifications that are involved in disease progression.

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Linda Samuelson, PhD

Lab focus: The Samuelson laboratory studies gastrointestinal stem cells in the stomach and intestine. We are defining the signals and cells that regulate stem cell self-renewal, proliferation and differentiation. We are currently studying the Notch signaling pathway and its function in intestinal epithelial homeostasis and regeneration after injury. our studies utilize a variety of modern experimental approaches and take advantage of genetically-engineered mouse models, mouse and human organoids, and human cancer-derived cell lines to understand fundamental mechanisms of gastrointestinal stem cell function.

Experience required: Some prior research experience is desirable but not required. Experience with gene expression studies and tissue histology would be particularly helpful.

Project description: Paneth cells are the key Notch support cells in the intestine. The project focuses on defining the development of the Notch niche during postnatal mouse development associated with maturation of the intestinal stem cell. Gene expression profiling analysis of mouse models with altered Paneth Cell function will be performed to identify molecular mechanisms of niche function.

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Thomas Sanderson, PhD 

Lab focus: Research in the Sanderson lab is focused on understanding brain damage caused by ischemic insults during cardiac arrest, ischemic stroke, and neonatal hypoxia/ischemia. Ongoing mechanistic studies are focused on uncovering novel pathologic mechanisms of inner mitochondrial membrane proteins involved in mitochondrial dynamics, quality control, cristae maintenance, and cell death execution. These studies utilize novel cell and small animal models of brain ischemia in transgenic mice to evaluate mitochondrial dysfunction. A second area of focus is the development and clinical translation of neuroprotective therapies that modulate the activity of mitochondria to reduce brain injury. Pre-clinical large animal studies are ongoing to evaluate a novel therapeutic strategy that limits mitochondrial hyperactivity and prevents ROS production following brain ischemia. Ongoing studies supported by the NIH and DoD are focused on investigating the mechanisms of this therapy through continued testing in large animals, along with regulatory testing of human therapy devices that can bring this treatment to the clinic.

Experience required: none specified

Project description:

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Elise Savier, PhD

Lab focus: Our goal is to understand how vision drives behavior and reciprocally, how actions affect perception. To this end, we use a comparative approach and investigate the anatomy of the visual system, the response profile of neurons in different brain regions and how behaviors shape these responses.

Experience required: No previous experience required

Project description: Characterization of cell-types and connectivity of the K-pathway. Tracing of neuronal connections, fluorescent in situ hybridization and neuronal reconstruction.

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Yatrik Shah, PhD

Lab focus: The major goal of our research program is to determine the molecular mechanisms by which oxygen sensing transcription factors regulate gastrointestinal homeostasis, inflammation and cancer. Cellular oxygen level is an important systemic signal that modulates metabolic activities and disease in the liver and intestine. Low cellular oxygen also referred to as hypoxia is observed in several gastrointestinal diseases such as non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease and liver and colon cancers. Regulation of hypoxia-mediated genes is dependent on the nuclear transcription factor, hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). HIF signaling is critical in the adaptive response to low oxygen levels by activating genes involved in metabolism, angiogenesis, cell survival and iron metabolism. Using the latest in mouse transgenic technology we have developed novel animal models to study accurately the role of oxygen sensitive transcription factors in the liver and intestine. These studies have revealed new pathways that have not previously been associated with hypoxia.

Experience required: Will train. Must be willing to work with animals.

Project description: Exploring the role of oxygen signaling in intestinal cancer. With a focus on one of these three projects – (i) The role of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) in iron metabolism, (ii) The role of intestinal epithelial-elicited inflammation in cancer progression, or (iii) The role of HIF in regulating systemic glucose and lipid metabolism

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Susan Shore, PhD

Lab focus: My lab studies processing of auditory information in the cochlear nucleus and higher central auditory structures in normal and noise-damaged systems. Consequences of cochlear damage include neural plasticity changes that induce tinnitus, hyperacusis and auditory processing problems in noisy environments. Methodology includes extracellular recordings, tract tracing, immunocytochemistry and behavioral assessment of tinnitus, hyperacusis and signal detection in noise, and optogenetics.

Experience required: Some lab experience including quantitative analyses is desirable.

Project description: Projects are available in any of the above listed areas depending on the student's background and interest.

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Xin Tong, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Transcriptional and post-translational regulation of metabolism during the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Experience required: Animal handling, DNA/RNA/Protein extraction and analysis, maintaining cell lines.

Project description: Establish mouse models with acute deletion of target genes in the liver using liver-specific Cre-controlled gRNA AAV viruses.

Lab website: Not available.


Matthias Truttmann, PhD

Lab focus: The overall goal of our laboratory is to determine the impact of post-translational protein modifications (PTM) and chaperone regulation on proteostasis in the context of aging and aging-associated diseases. We are particularly interested in a novel PTM, termed AMPylation, that negatively regulates the activity of heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family proteins. We employ numerous genetic, biochemical as well as behavioral approaches in conjunction with several model systems (Caenorhabditis elegans, mice, primary human tissue) to elucidate how PTMs control chaperone activity and regulate proteostasis. We further seek to generate heavy-chain only antibody fragments (VHHs, nanobodies) to characterize and manipulate specific components of the proteostasis machinery both in vitro and in vivo.

Experience required: Each student will be trained following their hiring. Dedication, responsibility, and attention to details are traits required for this project.

Project description: MSc students would work together with an experienced grad student or postdoc on a topic of interest to the lab. This could include aging & neurodegeneration-related projects using the worm C. elegans or human cells. Alternatively, students could work on the development and characterization of novel nanobodies.

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Michael Wang, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Molecular basis of inherited cerebral small vessel disease.

Experience required: A strong desire to learn and flexibility of thinking are the major requirements.

Project description: Use molecular tools to determine effects of mutations and binding proteins on the key proteins linked to small vessel diseases.

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Brendon Watson, MD, PhD

Lab focus: Neocortical network dynamics; Basic function in normal brain and role in psychiatric disease

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Exploring neocortical structure-function; cortical networks during sleep and wake cycles; or antidepressant action in mammalian systems.

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Jun Wu, PhD

Lab focus: Obesity is essentially a disorder of energy balance, in which intake exceeds expenditure. The profound health consequences associated with obesity emphasize the importance of developing effective therapeutic interventions. My work focuses on a recently identified form of fat cells, so-called “beige cells.” Genetic manipulations that create more of these fat cells in mice have strong anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects.

Experience required: Some prior lab experience is preferred.

Project description: Further understanding of beige fat biology is required to determine the role of human beige fat in energy expenditure and its value as a potential target for intervention. The isolation of beige adipocyte opened up a brand new field, we aim to elucidate 1) the molecular regulation of beige fat function, 2) the therapeutic potential of human beige fat and 3) the developmental origin of beige precursors. These ambitious aims will bring together leading laboratories to investigate the function and regulation of this new type of fat cells

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Shawn Xu, PhD

Lab focus: We investigate how animals detect and process sensory cues — such as temperature, touch, light and chemicals — and the influence these sensory stimuli have on behavior, and on genetic programs affecting health and longevity.

Experience required: none specified

Project description: Our lab studies sensory biology, including mechanosensation, thermosensation, chemosensation, photosensation and nociception. We focus on: • Sensory transduction: Identifying novel sensory receptors and channels that sense temperature, touch, chemicals and light, and investigating how they regulate sensory signaling and behavior • Sensory processing: Identifying neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms underlying sensory behavior and drug dependence • Sensory regulation of aging and longevity

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Lei Yin, PhD

Lab focus: Fibrosis is a common and important pathology associated with progressive chronic liver diseases and underlies the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Our lab is interested in the roles of hepatocyte-derived pro-fibrogenic factors in modulating activation of hepatic stellate cells and liver fibrosis. One of the molecular pathways that impact liver fibrosis is via epigenetic regulation by lysine-specific methylation. We are interested in how specific lysine-specific methyl-transferase and demethylase contribute to HSCs activation and liver fibrosis using both genetic and pharmacological tools.

Experience required: Molecular biology (PCR, DNA extraction, RNA extraction), Biochemistry (protein extraction and SDS-PAGE)

Project description: Lysine methylation is one of the most prominent histone posttranslational modifications that regulate chromatin structure. KDM4A protein is a demethylase that targets histone H3 on lysines 9 and 36. Currently, the role of KDM4A in liver fibrosis has not been examined although its expression is found to higher in liver cancer. The project will examine whether KDM4A regulates hepatocyte profibrogenic gene expression and subsequently impacts activation of HSCs. Both gain and loss-of-function approaches will be applied to test the hypothesis.

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