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Undergraduate Fellows

Group photo of USRP students.

Stanford undergraduate students seeking opportunities to do hands-on research, learn how to carry out experiments in the laboratory, and develop the skills to read and analyze scientific literature.  Learn more about the Undergraduate Summer Research Program!

Search Undergraduate fellows view the 2019 USRP brochure

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Tomas Bencomo.
    2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Computer Science
    Mentor: Carolyn Lee, Dermatology

    “Investigating RAC1-Associated Prognostic Biomarkers for Invasive Melanoma”

    Current staging guidelines for melanoma are not sufficient to accurately identify patients at high risk of metastatic recurrence. The signaling protein Rac1 plays a vital role in melanoma metastasis, but the molecular factors that interact with Rac1 are poorly understood. Tomas’s research will use the Rac1 interactome, the whole set of molecular factors that interact with Rac1, to develop a machine learning model that predicts metastasis and identifies potential drug targets. Tomas’s work in the Lee lab will use statistical learning techniques to discover novel drug targets to treat metastatic melanoma and help clinicians better identify high-risk patients for adjuvant therapy.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Tabitha Bandy-Vizcaino.
    2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Mechanical Engineering
    Mentor: Joseph Woo, Cardiothoracic Surgery

    “Flexible Variable Annulus”

    Degenerative mitral regurgitation describes a condition in which blood leaks backwards into the left atrium during the ejection phase of the cardiac cycle. This occurs because the mitral valve does not seal properly when the left ventricle of the heart is ejecting into the aorta. If this condition is left untreated, heart failure can occur. Tabitha’s research aims to develop a device that creates a dilated mitral valve, which will be used in the Woo Lab’s left heart simulator to mimic and analyze degenerative mitral regurgitation. Data collected from the simulator can elucidate better methods of treating this deficiency.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Courtney Anderson.
    2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Biology
    Mentor: John Pringle, Genetics

    “Identifying the Pathways by which Chemicals Found in Common Sunscreens Induce Coral Bleaching and Death”

    Sunscreens contain chemicals, such as oxybenzone, whose ecotoxicology on coral reefs is understudied but has raised enough concerns for bans to be enacted. Many stressors can disrupt the essential symbiotic relationship between coral polyps and their symbiotic algae (a process called coral bleaching), but the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind chemical-induced bleaching are not well understood. Using the small anemone Aiptasia as a model system and several different assays, Courtney will investigate the toxicity of various common sunscreen ingredients (such as avobenzone and titanium dioxide) and the pathways associated with Aiptasia’s natural response mechanisms against chemical stress.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Stephanie Andersen.
    2018 and 2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Computer Science
    Mentor: Melanie Hayden Gelphart, Neurosurgery

    2018 Research Project: The Gephart lab has found CEACAM6 to be an overexpressed gene in a specific type of lung tumor. Cells with overexpressed CEACAM6 inadequately adhere to their substrate and have shown to be resistant to programmed cell death. Stephanie’s project will define cellular-based assays to study the resistance of patient-derived lung tumor-cells to programmed cell death.

    2019 Research Project: “Functional Dissection of the Meningeal Brain Tumor Niche Using Single-Cell RNA Sequencing”

    Leptomeningeal disease (LMD) is the most aggressive type of brain metastasis that patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) have a high risk of developing. LMD is rapidly fatal, and patients have limited treatment options. Stephanie’s project will use bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing data to compare the differential gene expression between healthy and LMD-affected meninges in order to better characterize how transcriptional changes can affect diffuse TNBC growth into the leptomeninges and cerebral spinal fluid, and how they may facilitate the spread of LMD.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Namitha Alexander.
    2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: undeclared
    Mentor: Frank Longo, Neurology & Neurological Sciences

    “Mechanisms of Reduced Mutant Huntingtin Aggregation by a Small Molecule P75 Neurotrophin Receptor in a Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease”

    Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes expression of a mutant huntingtin (mHtt) protein. Currently, disease-modifying therapies for HD do not exist. The Longo laboratory has developed a small molecule that binds to a specific neurotrophin receptor which was observed to reduce clusters of mHtt, or aggregates, that are prevalent in neurodegeneration in an HD mouse model. To confirm the positive results of this small molecule and investigate its mechanisms, Namitha will use another HD mouse model to observe the molecule’s effects on mHtt and on proteins related to autophagy, the process of degrading unwanted proteins. This work is significant to understanding the link between the neurotrophin receptor and autophagy in the context of neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Oluremi Akindele.
    2020 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Bioengineering
    Mentor: Monther Abu-Remaileh, Chemical Engineering

    “Defining the Molecular Basis for Common Hallmarks of Neurodegeneration in Lysosomal Storage Disorders and Age-Associated Neurodegenerative Diseases”

    Lysosomal dysfunction is known to contribute to the onset of many of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases, and many lysosomal storage disorders are indicated by neurodegeneration found in these age-associated neurodegenerative diseases. The shared pathophysiologies of the two disease types lead us to investigate whether they share any common pathways. Remi will be identifying differentially expressed genes common to lysosomal storage disorders and neurodegenerative diseases using mRNA expression datasets to gain further insights into the role of lysosomal dysfunction in these diseases.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Ethan Schonfeld.
    2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2020 Cohort Lead

    Home Department: Biology
    2019 Mentor: Gregory Scherrer, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine and Neurosurgery
    2020 Mentor: Thomas Südhof, Molecular & Cellular Physiology

    2019 Research Project: Over 200 million opioids were prescribed in 2016 in the United States alone. Ethan’s research in the Scherrer lab will investigate the hypothesis that opioids cause demyelination—damage to the protective sheaths around nerve fibers—and thus trigger or accelerate numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and dementias. Ethan’s research further seeks to identify if this opioid demyelinating effect occurs at a specific receptor on neurons or is due to other processes, such as opioid reception on other brain cells. Ethan will use a mouse knockout model in hopes of elucidating ways to avoid this effect, as well as to better understand the possible role of endogenous opioid reception in the acceleration of neurodegenerative disease.

    2020 Research Project: “Pathways to Transactivational Ability of the Amyloid-Precursor-Protein Intracellular Domain”

    Amyloid-beta precursor protein (APP) undergoes cleavage to release the extracellular Aβ product that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. This cleavage also results in the production and intracellular retention of a fragment of the APP (termed the AICD) that has been demonstrated to form complexes which have transactivational activity. As there are some reports suggesting the potential but not-yet conclusive role of AICD in the development of Alzheimer’s, Ethan’s work seeks to expand on the trafficking, localization, complex identity, and target genes of the AICD.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Ilham Osman.
    2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2020 Cohort Lead

    Home Department: Human Biology
    Mentor: Shirit Einav, Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Microbiology & Immunology

    2018 Research Project: Dengue virus is a major global health threat, yet our understanding of how hosts respond to this infection is incomplete due to heterogeneous responses from individual cells even within a single host. A newly developed sequencing approach can help overcome this hurdle by painting a complete picture at the single cell level and the genome-wide scale. Ilham will use the results of sequencing different cells with this new approach, and thus contribute to the understanding of the virus-host interplay.

    2020 Research Project: “Using Virus-Inclusive Single Cell RNA-seq to Better Understand the Pathogenesis of Severe Dengue in Children”

    Dengue virus remains a global pediatric health threat, with 5-20% of patients progressing to severe infection associated with morbidity and mortality. Ilham will learn how to analyze single cell transcriptomic datasets obtained from pediatric peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples with both uncomplicated and severe dengue. She will learn how to define cells that are infected with dengue virus in these samples and how to monitor the host response to dengue infections in multiple distinct cell subtypes in these samples.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Cynthia Hao.
    2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2020 Cohort Lead

    Home Department: Bioengineering
    Mentor: Roger Kornberg, Structural Biology

    2019 Research Project: Cynthia’s project is to develop a microscopy-based screen that will enable researchers to map complex phenotypes to their corresponding genetic perturbations based on the spatial location of each cell. Her work will expand the capabilities of researchers to characterize the effects of many different genes on mammalian cell phenotypes, such as cell shape and protein interactions, which are observable under a microscope. This could develop into a useful research tool and discovering genes responsible for previously uncharacterized phenotypes.

    2020 Research Project: “A High-Throughput Pooled Screen for Cell Shape and Motility in Mammalian Cells”

    Cynthia will be analyzing 100 gene knockdowns in a bone cancer cell line for their effects on cell shape and motility phenotypes. Cynthia will employ a high-throughput pooled CRISPR screen that uses the in situ genetic barcode amplification and sequencing methods that she developed in previous Stanford Bio-X summer research and is continuing to optimize. By combining computational imaging analysis and a beta artificial neural network, Cynthia’s research will expand our understanding of the genetic mechanisms of cell shape and motility.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Jacob Greene.
    2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2020 Cohort Lead

    Home Department: Biology
    2019 Mentor: Michelle Monje, Neurology & Neurological Sciences
    2020 Mentor: Erin Gibson, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

    2019 Research Project: Chemotherapy Photo of undergraduate student Jacob Greene sitting in lab space, with microscope behind him and a computer screen showing colorful images of cancer cells in front of him.often results in a host of neurological deficits, including cognitive disruptions. These side effects can be rescued through the depletion of microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system, following chemotherapy treatment. During the summer, Jacob hopes to investigate how microglia repopulate the brain post-depletion in an effort to optimize this microglia depletion therapy.

    2020 Research Project: “The Role of the Circadian System in Oligodendrocyte Lineage Cells in Development and Disease”

    Chemotherapy often results in a host of neurological deficits, including cognitive and mental health disruptions, colloquially referred to as “chemobrain”. Jacob will determine the role of the circadian system in the regulation of glial cells, which surround the neurons to support and insulate them, in the etiology of chemobrain. The characterization of this system could yield neuroprotective strategies aimed at minimizing the effects of chemobrain, and could have implications for other mental health disorders.

  • Photo of Stanford student and Stanford Bio-X Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant Foster Birnbaum.
    2019 and 2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2020 Cohort Lead

    Home Department: Biology and Computer Science
    Mentor: Helen Blau, Microbiology & Immunology

    2018 Research Project: The X-linked recessive disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) affects 1 in every 3,500 males, causing heart failure around age twenty-five. Foster will investigate the movement of drugs such as beta-blockers (drugs that decrease the rate of heart beat) and ACE inhibitors (drugs that dilate blood vessels) into stem cell derived heart cells from DMD patients. This proposed study will establish a baseline profile for future drug discovery and drug toxicity screens.

    2019 Research Project: Familial dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is one of the most common genetic heart diseases in the United States: genetic DCM affects one in every 1,000 people and can lead to sudden cardiac death in children and adults. While mutations in genes encoding sarcomeric proteins have been implicated in genetic DCM, little is known about how sarcomere remodeling contributes to DCM progression. Foster will develop an image-detection script to identify sarcomeres and combine it with a stem cell-derived heart cell platform to study sarcomere remodeling in DCM.

    2020 Research Project: “Investigating the Mechanism of Contractile Dysfunction in Genetic Cardiomyopathies”

    Many common genetic cardiomyopathies, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, are caused by mutations in genes involved in the function of the sarcomere, the fundamental unit of heart muscle cell contraction. Foster will leverage a human induced stem cell-derived cardiac model and state-of-the-art imaging and analysis techniques to study the mechanism by which these mutations disrupt contraction. Insights into this mechanism will aid in the development of more targeted treatments for genetic cardiomyopathies.

  • Recent photo of Ryan Badiee, courtesy of Ryan Badiee.
    2015 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Biology
    Supported by: Bio-X
    Mentor: Michael Lin, Bioengineering and Pediatrics

    Ryan is developing a tool for use by future researchers who study how multiple proteins interact in a cell's pathways. Specifically, this entails a set of two tags that regulate protein expression and are each under the control of a different drug. The purpose of creating this tool is to allow for the study of how tuning the expression levels of two different proteins changes a cell's behavior and responses, which allows researchers to create models for understanding the pathways involved in anything from protein localization to cancer.

    Poster presented at the Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium on August 26, 2015:

    Divergent Evolution in vitro: Engineering Specialized Drug Sensitivity in Proteases for Cellular Engineering Applications

    Ryan Badiee1, Conor Jacobs1, Michael Z. Lin2,3
    [Departments of Biology1, Bioengineering2, and Pediatrics3, Stanford University]


  • 2015 and 2013 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Biology
    Supported by: Nikon Research Corporation of America
    Mentor: Yanmin Yang, Neurology

    Intracellular trafficking is a complex system that needs to be well regulated or else could lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Habib is specifically studying a protein that was identified by the lab as important for intracellular trafficking. He is trying to understand the function of the protein, the interaction of the protein with microtubules, and the mechanisms of its regulation.

    Poster presented at the Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium on August 26, 2015:

    Toward Understanding the Functional Relevance of Nemitin’s Post-Translational Modifications in Neurons

    Habib Khoury1, Ivan Millan1, Yanmin Yang1
    [Department of Neurology & Neurological Sciences1, Stanford University]


    Home Department: undeclared
    Supported by: Dean of Research
    Mentor: Yanmin Yang, Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurological Sciences

    Habib is a rising sophomore hoping to pursue a major in biology with a concentration in neurobiology and a minor in history. This summer in Yanmin Yang's lab, Habib is culturing and cloning neurons to understand how STK25, a kinase included in neuronal mechanisms, regulates neuron polarity. Through a better understanding of how this kinase works, he will then focus on discovering the relationship between Nemitin, a protein newly identified by the Yang Lab, and STK25. Habib plans to pursue medical school after graduation.

    Poster presented at the Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium on August 26, 2013:

    Investigating the Relationship between Nemitin and STK25

    Habib Khoury1, Ivan Millan1, Yanmin Yang1
    [Department of Neurology1, Stanford University]

  • 2019 and 2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Biology
    Mentor: Karl Deisseroth, Bioengineering and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

    2018 Research Project: Many aspects of behavior are subject to our internal states; for instance, when making a difficult decision, our performance is better when we are alert, compared to drowsy. Susanna’s Stanford Bio-X research will be focused on determining the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie this internal state-driven enhancement of decision-making through manipulation of cell types and neurotransmitters in the larval zebrafish. This research will help establish the cell types and molecules that adapt decision-making abilities in complex and changing environments. The work will have broad relevance for various psychiatric disorders where decision-making is often disrupted and are treated with drugs that target neuromodulatory systems.

    2019 Research Project: Animals constantly face threats to internal equilibrium, such as heat or cold, that cause long-term, relatively slow physiological changes by upregulating hormone levels in the blood. Susanna’s Stanford Bio-X project seeks to explore the comparably immediate effects of homeostatic stressors in the brain that produce quick behavioral responses such as avoidance. Susanna’s research will involve genetically modifying zebrafish using CRISPR technology in order to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying these rapid responses. The results of this study could potentially extend to primates and can be used to inform further studies in other animal models.

  • 2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Psychology and Art History
    Mentor: Ian Gotlib, Psychology

    Air pollution is currently the greatest environmental threat to public health. The broad goal of Julia’s Stanford Bio-X research is to examine the ways in which exposure to fine particle air pollution affects child and adolescent development, and to identify psychological traits that will help us understand for whom exposure may be more or less consequential. In a sample of adolescent girls, Julia’s project will examine the effects of fine particle air pollution on cellular aging and stress biology, and test whether familial risk for depression compounds these effects.

  • 2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Physics
    Mentor: Shaul Druckmann, Neurobiology and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

    Understanding the structure of neural activity is key to comprehending how neural circuits represent and process information. Nic will use methods in multivariate statistics and machine learning to model how behavioral features are coordinated in different parts of the brain, providing insight into the unique style of computation achieved in neural circuits.

  • 2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Biology
    Mentor: PJ Utz, Medicine (Immunology & Rheumatology)

    Idiopathic Multicentric Castleman Disease, also known as iMCD, is the deadliest and most poorly understood subtype of Castleman Disease. Allan’s research project will use a customized analytic procedure to identify novel proteins that could be used to fight against iMCD by comparing expression of proteins in healthy and iMCD blood samples.

  • 2019 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Human Biology
    Mentor: David Yeomans, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine

    NF-kB is a transcription factor involved in facilitating pain; however, not much is understood regarding its role in developing analgesic tolerance induced by opioids, such as fentanyl.  Anika’s project utilizes a fentanyl-based rat model that mimics enhanced responsiveness to painful stimulation in order to study changes in NF-kB activity in the brain.  This will help better understand how opioid addiction can induce increased pain sensitivity. 

  • 2019 and 2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

    Home Department: Computer Science
    Mentor: Dennis Wall, Pediatrics (System Medicine) and Biomedical Data Science

    2018 Research Project: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of neurological disorders characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Maya’s research focuses on identifying genetic links with the autism phenotype, potentially paving the way for novel genetics-based diagnostic methods.

    Photo of USRP student Maya Varma in the laboratory, showing graphs on two computer screens.2019 Research Project: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. ASD is a genetically complex disorder, but the contribution of noncoding DNA regions to ASD susceptibility remains unclear. Maya is developing a machine learning approach for identifying variants in the noncoding genome that are potentially linked with the ASD phenotype, with the goal of better understanding the genetic development of ASD.

  • 2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2019 Student Mentor

    Home Department: Biology
    Mentor: Tim Stearns, Biology and Genetics

    2018 and 2019 Research Project: Primary cilia Photo of undergraduate student Anais Tsai standing at a lab bench, working with glassware and other items.are antenna-like signaling organelles present in most human cells. Cilia control cell proliferation through the Hedgehog signaling pathway. Disruption of the signaling function of cilia in brain cells is the cause of medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain cancer. Anaïs will bring together cell biology and genetic approaches to investigate how cilium-based signals control proliferation and differentiation, with the long-term goal of informing the development of therapeutics for ciliary signaling diseases such as medulloblastoma.

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