Week Two of Virtual PEAK Experience Lunches!

The PEAK Experiences Awards provide students with the opportunity to conduct independent undergraduate research and creative activities under the supervision of a faculty mentor in any discipline. Student recipients of funding through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships at Northeastern University are required to participate in the (S)PEAK Experiences Lunch Series. This week is Week Two of bringing these lunches online! If you’d like to check out the presentations for Week One, please click here!

Below you’ll find the latest from this week’s presenters on the status of the spring projects. We hope you enjoy! Share your thoughts with our awardees through this feedback form and we’ll be sure to get it to them.

Illuminating the 3D Structure of Sensory Networks in Adipose Tissues
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
Jessica Cheng COE’20
MENTOR: Professor Anand Asthagiri, Bioengineering
For a given dataset, a generative machine learning model can be used to generate plausible examples of fake data that are similar to the real data. Typically, this involves computing a compressed data representation that captures important characteristics and ignores unimportant or noisy features. These models can also be used to repair corrupted data samples, by searching over the compressed representations to find the generator output that most closely matches the known, uncorrupted parts of a sample. This project investigates how generative models can be combined with untrained, data-independent models to improve their performance in data reconstruction tasks.

*The video for the following project is not publicly available due to the confidential nature of the data*
Manipulation of the Hypoxia-Adenosinergic Signaling to Improve Adoptive T Cell Therapy
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
Nuria Romero COS’20
MENTOR: Professor Michail Sitkovsky and Stephen Hatfield, Biology
Adoptive T cell therapy (ACT) has been positioned as a promising strategy in the fight against cancer. However, challenges like the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment prevent the approach from achieving its full therapeutic potential. This project proposes the manipulation of hypoxia-adenosinergic signaling during T cell activation and expansion to promote the generation of T cells for ACT with increased tumor-regression capacity and reduced susceptibility to immunosuppression. The project will result in the development of an optimized activation-expansion protocol for the use of ACT as cancer immunotherapy that will ultimately be published

The Origin of an Evolutionary Exception
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
Alicia Stoebenau COS’21
MENTOR: Professor William Detrich, Marine & Environment Sciences
Icefish, in order to survive in Antarctic oceans, do not make red blood cells (RBCs), likely due to low levels or absent erythrocyte cytoskeleton proteins (ECPs). This study will determine the origin of the fish’s abnormal ECPs. q-PCR, gene sequencing, gel electrophoresis, and gel staining techniques will be used to determine the origin of the protein mutation. The results will reveal at what stage(s) and what kind of mutation(s) leads to icefish’s ECPs. Furthermore, using Geneious, an evolutionary explanation for the mutation will be theorized. Findings will likely be published in a journal and presented at conferences like RISE.

Characterizing C. elegans Response to Various Bacteria in the Presence of Oxidative Stress
PEAK Experiences Summit Award
 Stephanie Stumbur Bouvé’21
MENTOR: Professor Javier Apfeld, Biology
Oxidative stress is a major contributor to many age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It has been shown that many sensory neurons in the nematode C. elegans can regulate oxidative stress resistance. These sensory neurons can also respond to food sources for the worm. This study found that worms are able to discriminate between food sources that can protect them from hydrogen peroxide, a source of oxidative stress. It was found that worms will leave a food source they detect is harmful in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. This unique leaving behavior is characterized and various biological drivers are proposed.

Importing Combustion Mechanism Model into RMG Software
PEAK Experiences Base Camp Award
Samuel Vayner COE’24
MENTOR: Professor Richard West, Chemical Engineering
The RMG software works to validate and compare previously published models of fuel combustion mechanisms. I will be working to import additional models into this system by identifying individual chemical species and transcribing them into a software readable format.

Think Like a Scientist!
PEAK Experiences Bridge-Builder Award
Claire Williams COS’20, Whitney Kuwamoto COS’20, Alexandra Spak COE’21
The benefits of teaching STEM as early as possible are well-known, and many STEM education programs exist. However, the long-term STEM retention rate is still low. As students in these fields, we aim to encourage young students to pursue a STEM education through workshops with NU’s chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society. These workshops will culminate in a well-researched and comprehensive STEM curriculum designed to instill confidence in students’ scientific abilities, represent diversity in STEM professions, and challenge students to question their current assumptions about STEM. Our goal is to help students think like a scientist!