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Seven named 2020 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows

Seven Beckman Graduate Fellows

The Beckman Institute has announced that seven University of Illinois graduate students have been named 2020 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows.

The 2020 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows:

Amanda East is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry. East will merge the chemical expertise of the Jefferson Chan group with the imaging proficiency of the Zhi-Pei Liang group to develop novel imaging agents and technologies to illuminate cancer properties using fluorine magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging. 19F-MRSI is similar to traditional MRI machines, however 19F-MRSI allows for tracking of fluorine rather than hydrogen atoms.

Through her project, “Development of a 19F-MRSI pH sensor for interrogating the tumor microenvironment,” East aims to develop an ultrafast imaging system that will present a new way to study tumor pH in living systems, which can offer new insights into cancer metastasis and disease progression. Cancer cells have an altered metabolism, which creates an acidic tumor microenvironment. Acidification of the tumor microenvironment has been correlated to increased tumor immunity, metastasis, and lower patient survival outcome. As such, tumor acidification can be used as a metastatic marker and prognostic tool, and a practical platform to study tumor acidosis in vivo imaging.

Eman Hamed is a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. Her research goal is to gain new insights on the brain’s metabolic waste clearance system — the glymphatic system — and its role in restorative sleep. Through her proposed study, “Advanced MRI imaging to investigate modulation of glymphatic fluid transport in a circadian disruption model of non-restorative sleep,” Hamed will explore the mechanisms of glymphatic waste clearance in the brain with respect to physiology, circadian disruption pathology, and drug modulation. Elderly patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s patients, exhibit altered circadian physiology and disrupted sleep that might affect their glymphatics. Eman will study the circadian changes in glymphatic transport using the 9.4 Tesla MRI scanner.

Eman will work with Martha Gillette, neuroscience; Brad Sutton, bioengineering, and Hyunjoon Kong, chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Yongdeok Kim is a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering. The goal of his research project, "Integration of electronics within vitro 3D-engineered neuromuscular tissue,” is to develop an electronics integrated system for in vitro 3D-engineered neuromuscular junction. This could be useful for medical countermeasures of chemical warfare agents such as sarin and soman or NMJ disease research, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and muscular dystrophy or soft robotics applications.

The Gabriel Popescu group at the Beckman Institute will provide label-free bioimaging techniques. Furthermore, to address 3D electronics integration, Kim will use graphene electrode or buckled electronics to integrate with 3D tissue while collaborating with the John Rogers group at Northwestern University, and the Mattia Gazzola group at Illinois.

Sara Moshage is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. Her research will evaluate markers of bone quality on multiple scales and develop a model to predict how exercise affects these markers. Physical activity for young people has lifelong benefits for bone strength, however, it is difficult to know when the adaptation occurred and how much exercise is necessary. Understanding bone regulation during growth will allow identification of critical components of structure or composition that indicate bone quality.

In her study, “Predicting the effects of age and exercise on bone strength,” she will use a combination of imaging techniques, mechanical tests, and finite element models to build this model using horses. A computational model of this type could be used to predict the effect of various interventions on bone properties in an effort to better inform proposed interventions.

She will work with Mariana Kersh, mechanical science and engineering; Dr. Annette McCoy, equine surgery in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine; and Rohit Bhargava, bioengineering.

Parham Mostame is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology in the cognitive neuroscience area. His research aims to investigate the role of alpha rhythms during cognitive tasks with higher demands for attention and alertness.

Neural activity in the human brain is most prominently marked by modulation of oscillations in the 10Hz range, known as alpha rhythms. Despite that these rhythms are crucial for cognition, their exact role in attention and alertness is still unclear. In the first phase of the project, "The role of alpha-band brain oscillations in attention and alertness," he will use electroencephalography surface recordings of healthy subjects. In the second phase of his research, he will collaborate with Carle Foundation Hospital to acquire intracranial EEG recordings directly from the surface of the brain of epileptic patients. With this data, he aims to find out the role of alpha rhythms during high demands of attention, alertness, and attention and alertness, in a fine-grained manner.

Mostame will work with Sepideh Sadaghiani, psychology, and Dr. Graham Huesmann, molecular and integrative physiology and an epileptologist at Carle.

Justine Paul is a Ph.D. student in materials science and engineering. She will seek to use a new manufacturing platform technology to induce complex architectures and emergent surface patterns in engineering materials. The formation of these complex structures has not yet been explored for polymers and has significant potential to impact materials manufacturing.

Her proposed project, “Harnessing instabilities during frontal polymerization for morphogenic patterning,” is aimed at establishing the experiments and theories of a thermal reaction-diffusion system to facilitate the formation of such complex structures.

If successful, her research will highlight that reaction-diffusion processes are versatile, yet underexplored methods for materials manufacturing.

Paul will work with Nancy Sottos, materials science and engineering, and Philippe Geubelle, aerospace engineering.

Olawale Salaudeen is a Ph.D. student in computer science. His research proposal, “Investigating 3 Tesla versus 7 Tesla brain signals: A causal approach,” aims to develop techniques for better-comparing brain connectivity at different resolutions in the presence of latent confounders, such as unobserved signal-generating processes. The impact of unobserved processes can become crippling when comparing the results of 3 Tesla and 7 Tesla fMRI, where the sources of differences are often ambiguous. The dilemma of new confounding effects versus new observed functional relationships makes it challenging to reconcile new knowledge with previous findings at lower magnetic field strengths.

He will work with Aron Barbey, psychology, Brad Sutton, bioengineering, and Sanmi Koyejo, computer science.

Story reposted from the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology (May 8, 2020).