PEAK Experiences Peer Lunches Go Online! Week 1

Last week, we brought all of our PEAK Experiences Peer Lunches online as normal university operations were disrupted by COVID-19. The response from our awardees was nothing short of amazing. Below you’ll find the latest from this week’s presenters on the status of the spring projects. If you’d like to check out the presentations for Week 2, please click here!

We hope you enjoy. Share your thoughts with our awardees through this feedback form and we’ll be sure to get it to them.

Mechanisms of Acetyl-CoA Mediated Cell Death in Bacillus subtilis
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
STUDENT(S): Brian Best COS’21
MENTOR: Professor Yunrong Chai, Biology
Hospital-acquired infections are commonly associated with bacterial biofilms, multicellular bacterial communities encased in a self-produced matrix which provides resistance to antibiotics and immune defenses. This project will explore cell death pathways in the model biofilm-forming bacterium Bacillus subtilis by sequencing suppressors of an acetyl-CoA toxicity mutant and investigating metabolic processes, cell morphology, and protein acetylation. Understanding acetyl-CoA mediated cell death will elucidate bacterial survival mechanisms and may provide new targets for antimicrobial strategies. Results will be presented at RISE and the ASBMB conference and submitted for publication in a professional journal.

A Study of the Impacts of KRas4A Mutations on its Conformational Shift to State 2
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
Kathleen Merritt COS’21
MENTOR: Professor Carla Mattos, Chemistry & Chemical Biology
This project aims to discover which KRas4A-specific residues cause a shift in the protein to favor the state 2 conformation that enables Ras to interact with downstream signaling proteins. KRas4A/4B hybrids will be purified to evaluate the conformational preference of switch I in solution by 1H-NMR, and this protein will be used for crystallization trials in order to investigate this phenomenon. Understanding the dynamics of individual Ras isoforms and their oncogenic variants at the molecular level will allow for the development of new approaches for targeting Ras-related cancers. The findings will be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Project Launch
PEAK Experiences Base Camp Award
STUDENT(S): Alice Yun Bouvé’22
MENTOR: Professor Beth Molnar, Health Sciences
This project seeks to give mental health resources and support to children aged 0-8 years. I will assist this project by collating the data generated from this project to understand the reach of Project LAUNCH and improve public knowledge of early childhood mental health.

Metagenomic Profiling of In Vitro Gut Models
PEAK Experiences Base Camp Award
STUDENT(S): Jennings Zhang Khoury’22
MENTOR: Professor Rebecca Carrier, Chemical Engineering
I use bioinformatics tools to perform data analysis of microbial populations from an artificial model of the human gut. From sequencing the genetic material, we can predict the metabolites produced by species of commensal bacteria which typically live inside the body.

Supply Chain Resiliency and Vulnerability 
PEAK Experiences Base Camp Award
STUDENT(S): Yuxi “Cecelia” Zhao DMSB’22
MENTOR: Professor Shawn Bhimani, Supply Chain Management
The project involves coding historical business events to understand how supply chains fail over time. The method involves qualitative coding at first, followed by detailed quantitative analysis. The anticipated outcome is a better understanding of supply chain resiliency and vulnerability. This can be shared at a poster session in the Spring 2020 semester, as well as an academic conference in the U.S. in 2020.