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Postbac Seminar Series: November 16, 2017

Series: Science Skills; Speaking

Nov 16, 2017

This event is recommended for: Postbacs.

Science isn't complete until the results have been shared with others, and talking about your results is one of the important ways of making them public. The Postbac Seminar Series provides a unique opportunity for two Postbacs each month to present their research to a diverse audience of their peers.  The atmosphere is relatively informal and non-threatening.  The series allows Postbacs who attend to learn about the different types of biomedical research being conducted at the NIH while meeting other postbacs.  Read more about the seminar series.

This month's presenters are:

Veronica Ramirez, NIAAA

Title: Conscious and Unconscious Brain Responses to Food, Cocaine, and Neutral Cues: Morning vs. Evening

Summary: Visual presentation of rewarding stimuli (i.e., food, drugs, alcohol) during fMRI procedures in addicted individuals evoke brain activation in areas such as the frontal cortex, striatum, and insula. In addition, brain responses at unconscious (<50m) vs. conscious (1 to 4 sec) levels to drug cues remain relatively unexplored, and whether time of the day affects cue reactivity. We characterized brain activation of cocaine and food at 33ms, 750ms, and 3000ms in healthy individuals. Compared to food, exposure to cocaine pictures yielded the strongest activations at unconscious and conscious levels. However, time of the day did not influence brain BOLD responses.

Bio: Veronica received her B.A. in Psychology from The University of San Diego. As a NIH UGSP Scholar, she joined the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at NIAAA. Her research interests include the behavioral and neuromechanisms underlying addiction and value based decision-making. She assists in fMRI and PET studies, clinical interviews, neuropsychological testing, and data analyses/management. She currently works on combining actinography with neuropsychological measures to study correlations of physical activity, psychological traits, and brain function. In addition, she studies the associations of personality traits between the different types of addictions.


Rita McCall, NIAID

Title: Virulence gene regulation in Bacillus anthracis by anthrax toxin activator

Summary: Gram-positive, spore-forming Bacillus anthracis is the etiological agent of anthrax, a zoonotic disease that primarily affects herbivores. Upon entering the body of a human or animal, B. anthracis spores germinate and cause a potentially lethal illness via the anthrax toxins. The anthrax toxins are comprised of three components; protective antigen (PA), edema factor (EF), and lethal factor (LF) and produce lethal toxin or edema toxin when PA is combined with LF or EF respectively. Transcription of the three anthrax toxin genes in addition to other virulence factors is regulated by master virulence regulator anthrax toxin activator (AtxA) and the presence of CO2. Although AtxA was discovered twenty-five years ago, the mechanism by which it regulates its target's gene expression is still not well understood. My talk will provide an overview of AtxA and our lab's work to elucidate the mechanism of its function.

Bio: Rita McCall graduated in 2016 with a BA in Biology from Grinnell College. She joined the Microbial Pathogenesis Section of NIAID's Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases in June 2016. Working with her PI, Dr. Stephen Leppla, and her research mentor, Dr. Andrei Pomerantsev, she uses an array of molecular biology methods to study virulence gene regulation in Bacillus anthracis.


Anitra Persaud, NHGRI

Title: A CRISPR Focus Into the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs of Sickle Cell Disease Patients, Parents, and Physicians Towards Gene-Editing

Summary: The advent of genome-editing technologies, specifically CRISPR/Cas9, implicates both tremendous therapeutic promise and potential risk. Because sickle cell disease (SCD) is a well-studied molecular genetic disorder impacting the blood system, it is thought to be an ideal candidate for gene-editing therapies. However, there is limited research on patient, parent, and physician perspectives, within this community, towards clinical research related to the use of CRISPR/Cas9 and other gene-editing techniques. We explore the knowledge, values, belief systems, and decision-making process of these three populations within the context of participation in prospective clinical trials. This is a mixed-methods study of individuals from the Southern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. It involves survey measures, as well as fifteen moderated, audio-taped focus groups.

Bio: Anitra Persaud works under the guidance of Vence Bonham, J.D. within the Health Disparities Unit of SBRB at NHGRI. She graduated from Cornell University in May 2016 with a B.A., majoring in Biology and minoring in English. In her lab, she mainly works on two projects: (1) elucidating the role microbes play in sickle cell leg ulcer severity via 16S sequencing and (2) quantitatively and qualitatively understanding the perspectives of key decision-makers towards the integration of CRISPR gene-editing within clinical care. She is an aspiring physician-researcher.