2012 Class

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Liz Azar

Hi! I am studying Biology here at Temple University. I am interested in community ecology and ecological responses to global change. When I'm not in school or the lab, other interests of mine include hiking, cooking, drawing, and learning languages.

During my first year in the MARC program, I worked at the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology in the laboratory of Dr. Dan Liebermann and Dr. Barbara Hoffman. There, I worked with Dr. Dominic Salerno in assessing the function of the GADD45 family of proteins on macrophage and neutrophil function.

In the summer of 2011, I conducted field and laboratory research in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I worked with Dr. Curtis Daehler to shed light on the competitive relationship between two highly invasive tree species, Citharexylum caduatum and Psidium cattleianum, under situations of water and crowding stress.

Currently, I am working in the lab of Dr. Brenda Casper at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rochelle Cassells

Rochelle Cassells is a Jamaican national who, when asked, would always much rather be on an island…. or in Paris, depending on the day. After migrating to the United States as a child, she settled in Barnegat, New Jersey and attended Barnegat High School. She graduated magna cum laude from Temple University with a distinction in psychology and minors in French and political science and following the completion of her B.A., she entered the department of Human Development at Cornell University as a PhD student.

For her M.S. thesis, to be completed this year, Cassells is conducting secondary data-analysis using data from the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study. Her project explores the impact of international migration on family structure, specifically as it concerns migration-induced parental absence. Her chief research question concerns the psycho-social outcomes for children who have endured parental absence due to migration. Particularly, do children-left-behind due to parent international migration exhibit more negative emotionality than child who migrate with their families? If any emotional costs are incurred, does academic achievement suffer subsequently? With an incredible sample, including immigrants from over 70 countries worldwide, her work seeks not only to highlight the potential disruptions to child development but also extends itself into the sphere of state development. Specifically, she seeks to challenge the dominant, economic conceptualization of migration as a development strategy by proposing a developmental psychology framework which suggests that the emotional costs to children of parent migrants may circumvent the anticipated human capital investments afforded by remittances. This work builds the foundation for her dissertation work in which she plans to investigate similar questions in a strictly Caribbean sample.

Under the stewardship of Drs. Marianella Casasola and Gary Evans in the Cornell Infant Studies Lab, Cassells explores the origins of the academic achievement gap in the United States. Together they investigate the reciprocal relationship between cognitive development and socio-emotional development in infancy and how this relationship expresses itself across income groups. Particularly, her project examines executive function and emotional reactivity in 12- and- 24-month olds across low and middle income groups.

Under the direction of Dr. Lorraine Maxwell, she interviews adolescent children (ages 12 to 14-years-old) in order to determine whether they are able to recognize and articulate their interactions with the physical environment. For example, research questions include: what fosters restoration for a 13-year-old? Do certain environments hinder or enable task completion (such as the completion of homework)? How do neighborhoods affect children’s perception of safety? Their sample includes both rural and urban students

Her dream job, since childhood, has been to work for the United Nations Development Programme. She would love to spend Her life working on development projects in the Caribbean. When not pursuing her intellectual passions, Rochelle serves as a leader of the homework room at Ithaca Church of Christ. She alternates between homework helper, therapist, and friend to middle and high school students. Her “love languages” are acts of service and quality time; her soul feels most satisfied under these conditions. Eating chocolate and singing decrease her stress levels. A good book and a good film bring her unquantifiable joy.

Her publications include:

Her awards are as follows:

Jasmine Hines-Ebott

In June 2011, Jasmine Hines-Ebott joined Dr. Dianne Soprano's Biochemistry Laboratory at Temple University School of Medicine. In her laboratory, she investigated Retinoic Acids (RA) role in the regulation of Retinoic Acid Receptor (RAR) in ovarian cancer. Ovarian caner is one of the deadliest gynecological diseases. Elucidating the mechanism in which RA acts on RAR will begin to reveal how these molecules inhibit the growth of ovarian carcinoma.

Jasmine is currently involved in full time research in a genetics lab at Virginia Commonwealth University, working on 2 projects. One involves looking at the Wolfram gene and where it is expressed in C. elegans, while the other involves overexpression of the gene PNPT1, which is known to be involved with cellular senescence and terminal differentiation. She is hoping to see that overexpression of this gene will have this effect on a mutant tumor model of our C. elegans. Just in one short year, she has learned so much and really enjoys her projects. Jasmine was also accepted into VCU School of Medicine, but was not offered the MD/PhD position. She plans on reapplying after her first year of medical school at VCU, with hopes of being accepted into the joint program.

Karl Lewis

Karl Lewis is a 4th year PhD in the biomedical engineering department at CUNY - City College. He is currently studying the osteocyte mechanotransduction events in response to whole bone mechanical loading in vivo using a transgenic animal model. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, Karl was always most interested in math and science and decided he would be a researcher. It wasn't until he began pursuing a Mechanical Engineering degree at Temple University that he realized Biomedical Engineering research was his calling. He now enjoys the unique opportunity of using engineering principles and design to answer biological questions, and is one of the lucky few that does his hobby as a job.

His Fellowships are as follows:

Randolph Lyde

Randolph Lyde's first research experience started in Dr. Bassel Sawaya’s lab at the Temple University School of Medicine in the Department of Neurology. Dr. Sawaya’s lab focuses on HIV-1 and how the disease can affect primary neurons. While HIV does not infect primary neurons, the disease does have the ability to infect peripheral neuronal cells such as astrocytes and glia. When HIV infects peripheral neuronal cells, viral proteins such as TAT and Vpr are released. His project focused specifically on microRNA-7, a regulator of tumor suppressor genes. His goal was to determine how HIV-1 proteins impact the expression of microRNA-7 in neuronal cells, and how this in turn affects gene regulation. After a year in Dr. Sawaya’s lab, he was accepted to Dr. Teresa Reyes’ laboratory in the Pharmacology Department at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Dr. Reyes studies the epigenetic effects of maternal diet on offspring in a mouse model. A high-fat maternal diet has the ability to change the brain of a developing offspring, overeat, and become obese. His project focused on trying to reverse this methylation status and the adverse effects of this maternal high-fat diet by giving pregnant mice methyl donors, such as folic acid.

Randolph is currently enrolled in the Pharmacology PhD. Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He finished his final rotation in Dr. Morty Poncz’s lab this past spring. The lab focuses on platelet derived therapeutics, Hemophilia A, and Heparin induced thrombocytopenia. His project utilizes induced pluripotent stem cells to correct the factor 8 deficiency in Hemophilia A. Blood is taken from patients with Hemophilia and is reprogrammed using lenti-virus to introduce particular transcription factors that cause the cells to become pluripotent. These cells are then corrected for their deficiency and then given particular cytokines to drive them towards megakaryocytes and then ultimately platelets. His previous rotations focused on the metal ion transporter DMT-1 in melanosomes under Dr. Mickey Marks and development of the Tryosinase vaccine for melanoma treatment under Dr. David Weiner.

Jacqueline Mejia

Jacqueline Mejia-Pena is pursuing a PhD in Environmental Chemistry and Technology, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Along with Matthew Ginder-Vogel, she is working on a project in the Water Science and Engineering Laboratory. The project is focused on the identification of active microbial communities involved in biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and iron. She utilizes lab-scale experiments combined with state-of-the art microbial characterization techniques (e.g., high-throughput16S rRNA sequencing, Q-PCR, and community DNA/RNA metagenomic sequencing) combined with geochemical observations to determine the metabolically active microbial communities responsible for redox reactions controlling carbon mineralization, nutrient processing, and transition metal cycling in riparian zones. The input of oxidants compared to microbially utilizable organic carbon controls the predominant terminal electron accepting process(es) [TEAP(s)] in a given soil or sediment horizon. Where the flux of oxidants and organic carbon are relatively constant, sequential organotrophic consumption of electron acceptors (primary redox reactions) leads to the formation of stable redox gradients. However, in hydrologically active subsurface environments, periodic reintroduction of oxidants into reduced sediments can lead to major alteration in the speciation of redox-active components. The regeneration of oxidized species during redox oscillations (e.g. Fe and Mn oxides, sulfate) will, in turn, alter the microbially driven, carbon flow pathways during subsequent periods of lower oxidant input. Developing an improved multi-scale, process-based model of subsurface biogeochemistry in riparian zones will require a detailed and validated representation of the role of microbial communities in the interplay between energy, soil water, and biogeochemical processes.

Her awards and presentations are as follows:

GERS Annual Poster Session 2012. Mineralogical Changes of Goethite under Fluctuating Redox Conditions

Miguel Vaca

Miguel Vaca is in his senior year as a Biology major at Temple University. I spent the last year and a half working in Dr. Amy Freestone’s Marine Ecology Lab where I worked with Katherine Papacostas, the graduate student in the lab, on her thesis publication on the impact of the invasive European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) on intertidal communities and diet specialization of grapsid crabs across a latitudinal gradient. I was also given the opportunity to design an experiment where I observed behavioral characteristics of both invasive species the European Green Crab and Japanese Shore Crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) competing for a similar food resource, the native blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). The relevance was to determine who the better competitor was based on previous research which described the negative interactions that occur within Connecticut between the two invasive species as opposed to facilitation. During the summer of 2011 the MARC program provided funding to conduct summer research at the University of Hawaii. I joined Dr. Rob Toonen’s Molecular Marine Invertebrate lab which gave me the opportunity to utilize molecular tools to investigate crustaceans and invasion ecology. I collected crab samples and used PCR, to amplify the sequences of the CO1, 16S and 12S regions which revealed the presences of Metopograpsus oceanicus and Metopograpsus thukuhar. My research morphologically and genetically distinguished M. oceanicus, a newly invasive species and M. thukuhar, the Hawaiian native species.