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Johnson Cancer Research Center

2013-14 Student Awardees

Fall 2013


($102,000 for students and research expenses)

College of Arts & Sciences

Susan Whitaker—mentor: John Tomich—Tuning of a peptide capsule based system for timed drug delivery

Macy Garcia—mentor: John Tomich—Alternative transfection protocol for anti-cancer vaccine vector against HPV-16

Jonathan Bernard—mentor: John Tomich—Directed mutagenesis of Brevibacterium linens for the increased production of fermentation derived B-Cryptoxanthin

Michael Mohan—mentor: Jianhan Chen—Effects of T-ALL mutations on mechanical activation of human NOTCH1 protein

Jamilah Watkins—mentor: Mike Kanost—Biochemical characterization of a serine protease inhibitor from the Kunitz family

Thuy Cao—mentor: Mike Kanost—Structure and function of a metalloprotease with a potential role in degrading an extracellular matrix

James Rogers—mentor: Katsura Asano—Translational control of transcription factor Atf1 by int-6 tumor suppressor

Leiming Tang—mentor: Katsura Asano—Control of translation initiation stringency by elF5-mimic protein (5MP) during tumorigenesis

Jordan Parker—mentor: Alexander Beeser—Structure-function analyses of the C-terminal domain of the Dusp12 phosphatase, a gene frequently amplified in human liposarcomas

Benton McGivern—mentor: Sue Brown—Focus on the role ATF-4 in development: The encoded transcription factor regulates gene expression, a process that contributes to genetic analysis and personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment

Cody Simmons—mentor: Rollie Clem—Characterizing expression of a growth factor gene and evaluating its potential role in virus infection

Jeremy Goering—mentor: Sherry Fleming—The role of TLR2 in melanoma

Rob Breeden—mentor: Mike Herman—Mapping of a C. elegans mutation that affects susceptibility to the emerging nosocomical pathogen S. maltophilia that infects immuno-compromised chemotherapy patients

Ashton Allen—mentor: Stella Lee—Study the role of cln6 and cln8 proteins in autophagy and mTOR signaling-two important cellular processes in cancer cell homeostasis

Jaden Anderson—mentor: Brad Olson—The initial steps of cellular self-self recognition and their role in cancer

Sarah Cossey—mentor: Brad Olson—Genetic dissection of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor pathway in multicellular model system Gonium pectorale

German Cuevas—mentor: Lorena Passarelli—Characterization of a putative viral homing endonuclease

Elizabeth Studer—mentor: JP Perchellet—Mechanisms by which novel synthetic indole compounds disrupt tumor cell mitosis and block cytokinesis

Eric Geanes—mentor: Jeroen Roelofs—Using yeast as a model to identifying mechanisms that sensitize cells with aberrant proteasome expression, a condition frequently observed in cancers

Brianne Pierce—mentor: Jeroen Roelofs—Inhibition of the proteasome, a drug target for multiple myelomas and several other cancers, by the associated protein Ecm29

Alex Ondracek—mentor: Jeroen Roelofs—Studies into structural changes in the proteasome induced by the cancer drug Bortezomib

Adam Schieferecke—mentor: Stefan Rothenburg—Generation of improved Oncolytic Poxviruses

Katherine Sensenich—mentor: Stefan Rothenburg—Characterization of natural variants of PKR inhibitors from the Oncolytic Myxoma virus

Wren Michaels—mentor: Stefan Rothenburg—Generation of enhanced antiviral sensors for increased resistance to viral infections

Amanda Bradley—mentor: Kathrin Schrick—Glucosylceramide synthase, an enzyme target that is highly expressed in cancer stem cells

Erika Peters—mentor: Kathrin Schrick—Co-regulators of the START lipid-binding domain linking cell division control to metabolism

James Arpin—mentor: Kathrin Schrick—Plant-derived molecules with a role in cancer prevention: Steryl Glucosides

Benjamin Lagaly—mentor: Govind Vediyappan—Chemical intervention of C. albicans adherence to human oral cell cultures: model of oropharyngeal candidiasis

Brett McMillin—mentor: Govind Vediyappan—Understanding the role of Candida albicans-oral bacteria interactions in cancer disease

Maia Carlson—mentor: Michael Veeman—Linking cell shape and asymmetric cell division in development and disease

Hollie Wickham—mentor: Ruth Welti—Elucidating metabolic activities of patatin-like lipases, members of a family of enzymes potentially associated with cancer

Dedan McEllhiney—mentor: Ruth Welti—Determining chemical formulas and structures of mouse lipids present in inflammation leading to colon cancer

Emil Ewert—mentor: Weiqun Wang—Exercise-induced activation of tumor-related proteins leads to cancer prevention

Erika Krueger—mentor: Chris Aakeroy—Developing new solid forms of Imatinib; a versatile anti-cancer drug

Melanie Sowards—mentor: Chris Aakeroy—Enhancing bioavailability of small-molecule mimics of Erlotinib: a commercial anti-cancer drug

Christine Spartz—mentor: Chris Aakeroy—Altering aqueous solubility of 5-fluorouracil; a versatile anti-cancer drug

Kelsie Cole—mentor: Stefan Bossmann—Early detection of pancreatic cancer

Jenny Barriga—mentor: Stefan Bossmann—Using non-pathogenic bacteria to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs to tumors

Madison Caywood—mentor: Stefan Bossmann—Measuring fluorescence levels of protease activity with different serum samples to find cancer progression markers in hopes of developing a new detection method for breast cancer

August Fitch—mentor: Ping Li—PHA as a cancer drug carrier: Synthesis of HBOCoA for PhaC crystallization

Eric Strand—mentor: Ping Li—Purification of CoA enzymes for study of PhaC that can produce PHA polymers as cancer drug carriers

College of Veterinary Medicine

Anatomy & Physiology
Job Shiach—mentor: Peying Fong—Role of TMEM16A, a calcium-activated chloride channel in human cancer progression

Katie Turner—mentor: Masa Tamura—Development of cancer cell spheroid-based drug screening system for effective chemotherapeutics discovery

Zachary Goldsmith—mentor: Masa Tamura—Parachlorella polysaccharides (PCEPS) inhibit cancer cell growth

Megan Murray—mentor: Deryl Troyer—Analysis of tumor specificity of peptide BR2

Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology
Nallely Barron-Garcia—mentor: Annelise Nguyen—Effects of tamoxifen on cell cycle arrest and Neu/HER2 expression in canine mammary cells

College of Engineering

Chemical Engineering
Christopher Mehrer—mentor: John Schlup—Synthesis of Boron-containing compounds for applications in directed Cytotherapy for Boron neutron capture therapy

Electrical & Computer Engineering
Dillon Fairchild—mentor: Punit Prakash—Characterization of radiation patterns for interstitial microwave hyperthermia antenna arrays; experiments in tissue-mimicking phantoms

Ankush Gakhar—mentor: Punit Prakash—Characterization of dual-purpose RF coils for MR imaging and non-invasive hyperthermia of pancreatic cancer in a small animal model

Emily Schnell—mentor: Punit Prakash—Design and characterization of a minimally invasive directional microwave antenna for microwave ablation of liver tumors

College of Agriculture

Plant Pathology
Brandon Pfannenstiel—mentor: Richard Todd—A protein kinase deletion screen for regulators of a GATA transcription factor with counterparts involved in carcinogenesis

College of Human Ecology

Human Nutrition
Emily Ewert—mentor: Weiqun Wang—Exercise-induced activation of tumor-related proteins leads to cancer prevention


(Total Awarded: $4,420 — Total Requested: $4,519)

Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Pinakin Sukthankar — mentor: John Tomich ($820)
Meeting: Biophysical Society 58th Annual Meeting, San Francisco
Presentation: Peptide Nano-capsules with Lipid Vesicle like Characteristics

Weihong Zhang — mentor: Jianhan Chen ($600)
Meeting: Biophysical Society 58th Annual Meeting, San Francisco
Presentation: Accelerate Sampling in Atomistic Energy Landscapes Using Topology-based Coarse-grained models

Binny Bhandary — mentor: Rollie Clem ($1,000)
Meeting: American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Washington DC
Presentation: Differential inhibition of effector caspases CASPS7 and CASPS8 by Inhibitor of Apoptosis (IAP1) in Aedes aegypti

Prashant Wani — mentor: Jeroen Roelofs ($1,000)
Meeting: The Ubiquitin System: From Basic Science to Drug Discovery – Keystone Meeting, Big Sky, Montana
Presentation: The proteasome core particle chaperones Pba1 and Pba2 prevent the association of the regulatory particle to immature proteasomes

Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology
Kristina Bigelow — mentor: Annelise Nguyen ($1,000)
Meeting: AACR Annual Meeting, San Diego

Spring 2014


Awarded: $99,079 - Requested: $101,100

Plant Pathology
Damien Downes – mentor: Richard Todd ($6,012)
Regulation of the GATA transcription factor AreA in response to nitrogen sufficiency

Anatomy & Physiology
Lakshmi Deepthi Uppalapati – mentor: Masaaki Tamura ($5,339)
Study of the therapeutic application of umbilical cord matix stem cells on breast cancer bone metastasis

Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Qasim Al Souhail – mentor: Michael Kanost ($4,575)
Characterization of novel antifungal peptides from Manduca sexta

Linda Alyahya – mentor: Anna Zolkiewska ($4,575)
Cross-talk between transforming growth factor beta and ADAM12 signaling breast cancer

Luz Adriana Avila Flores – mentor: John Tomich ($4,575)
Branched amphiphilic peptides, an alternate non-viral gene delivery system

Meera Kumari – mentor: Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan ($4.575)
Identification of the molecular target and analysis of the mode of action of the chitin inhibitor insecticide, diflubenzuron

Tam Tran – mentor: Timothy Durrett ($4,575)
Exploring sequence space to understand the substrate specificity of membrane bound O-acyltransferases (MBOATs)

Randi Wise – mentor: Michal Zolkiewski ($4,575)
Endoplasmic-reticulum chaperones in breast cancer stem cells

Clint Gregory – mentor: Michael Veeman ($4,575)
TGF-ß signaling in Ciona notochord morphoenesis

Aashima Khosla – mentor: Kathrin Schrick ($4,575)
Regulatory role of the START lipid/sterol binding domain in plant homeodomain transcription factors

Chen Peng – mentor: Stefan Rothenburg ($4,575)
Importance of poxvirus PKR inhibitors for virus host range, virulence and oncolytic potential

Prashant Wani – mentor: Jeroen Roelofs ($4,575)
Role of the C-terminus of the proteasome subunit alpha-7 in proteasome inhibition

Weerakonda Arachchige Bhagya De Silva – mentor: Stella Lee ($4,575)
Alterations of autophagy pathways in neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis

Corin White – mentor: Michael Herman ($4,575)
Molecular mechanisms of innate immunity and adaptation, the interaction between Caenorhabditis elegans and the opportunistic pathogen Stenotrophomonas maltophilia

Stefan Andree – mentor: Christer Aakeroy ($4,638)
Mapping out molecular recognition events for improved drug formulations

Ruikai Cao – mentor: Ping Li ($4,638)
Study of PHA polymer productin for cancer drug delivery

Damith Randika Ediriweera Weerarathna Patabad – mentor: Christopher Culbertson ($4,638)
Measurement of kinase activity in single cells using microfluidic devices

Luxi Zhang Swisher – mentor: Jun Li ($4,638)
Development of nanoscale biosensors for detecting cancer-related proteases and blood-borne pathogens based on electrochemical and optical methods

Sahani Weerasekara – mentor: Duy Hua, Chemistry ($4,638)
Design, synthesis, and bioevaluation of anti-pancreatic cancer agents

Asanka Sajini Yapa – mentor: Stefan Bossmann ($4,638)
Activatable Nanocarriers for the cell-based treatment of solid tumors

Nicoleta Ploscariu – mentor: Robert Szoszkiewicz ($5,000)
Methods for obtaining nanomechanical properties of biological objects


(Awarded: $5,763 - Requested: $8,392)

Hiroyuki Hiraishi – mentor: Katsura Asano ($900)
Meeting: Translational Control, New York

Tara Marriage – mentor: Bradley Olson ($900)
Meeting: , North Carolina
Presentation: Transcriptomics and the Evolution of Multicellularity in the Volvocine Algae

Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
Aashima Khosla – mentor: Kathrin Schrick ($900)
Meeting: 25th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research, Vancouver, Canada
Presentation: Functional Redundancy of HD-Zip Transcription Factors GL2 & HDG11 Reveals a MYB23-mediated Positive Feedback Loop in Trichomes

Tam Tran – mentor: Timothy Durrett ($900)
Meeting: 21st International Symposium on Plant Lipids, Guelph, Canada
Presentation: Using Natural and Directed Protein Evolution to Understand the Substrate Specificity of Membrane Bound O-acyltransferases (MBOAT’s)

Dhanushi Welideniya – mentor: Christer Aakeroy ($593)
Meeting: Gordon Research Conference “Crystal Engineering”, New Hampshire
Presentation: Mapping out the Binding Ability of Pyridyl and N-oxide Functionalized Cavitands Towards a set of Active Ingredients

Grain Science & Industry
Oscar Ramos – mentor: Ronald Madl ($900)
Meeting: American Association of Cereal Chemists International Meeting, Rhode Island
Presentation: Induction of Antioxidant (AOX) Production in Wheat Plants Using Artificial Elicitors

Human Nutrition
Alexander Opoku-Acheampong – mentor: Brian Lindshield ($670)
Meeting: John A. Milne Nutrition and Cancer Prevention Research Practicum at the National Cancer Institute, Maryland

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