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Postbac Seminar Series: November 14, 2019

Series: Science Skills; Speaking

Nov 14, 2019

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:

Name: Yang Chen


Research Title: Epidemiological monitoring of protozoan parasites and their definitive hosts in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Research Summary: Infectious disease transmission between carnivores and cattle remains one of the most common wildlife-livestock interfaces for pathogen spread. Coyotes are considered a definitive host of Neospora caninum, a protozoan pathogen recognized as a leading cause of infectious abortions in cattle worldwide. Other similar protozoan abortifacients in cattle include Toxoplasma gondii, Sarcocystis cruzi, and Sarcocystis caninum. Abortion results in significant economic loss in cattle industries globally. Historically, coyotes have been limited in range to central North America but now have spread throughout most of Canada. As the cattle industries are predominant in British Columbia, these protozoan pathogens are an economic and ecosystem health threat. Current goals include active surveillance of cattle to understand herd horizontal and vertical infection prevalence as it relates to abortion. Additionally, we seek to improve the understanding of Neospora caninum, Sarcocystis cruzi, and Sarcocystis caninum in definitive hosts and how the parasite cycles between canids and dairy cattle.

Bio: Yang graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in May 2019 with a B.S. in Biology and minor in Global Health. Her thesis work with Dr. John Mansfield characterized virulence genes in human-infectious African trypanosome parasites. Her interest in infectious diseases and commitment to the One Health perspective has led her to her present research project. Currently, she works within the Molecular Parasitology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.


Name: Jessica Bezek


Research Title: Linking real world social experiences and brain response: a multimodal approach to studying social anxiety in adolescence

Research Summary: Adolescence is uniquely defined by an emphasis on peer interactions coupled with increased anxiety surrounding social interactions. However, recreating ecologically-valid, anxiety-provoking experiences in the laboratory is a significant challenge. The current work takes a multimodal approach to assessing the neurobiological underpinnings of adolescents’ peer interactions. We are utilizing smartphone-based Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) to quantify emotions surrounding peer interactions in real time and a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm to measure brain activity under peer observation. Preliminary data reveals increased brain response to errors in task performance in regions associated with salience processing, error monitoring and cognitive control, which we are comparing to EMA ratings of participants’ daily peer experiences. This research reflects how ecologically-valid tasks and assessments collected in vivo may be used to enhance our understanding of the neurobiological activity associated with pediatric anxiety.

Bio: Jessica graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a B.A. in Neuroscience. At Vassar, she worked in Dr. Hadley Bergstrom’s learning and memory lab to investigate alcohol’s impact on cued fear extinction memories. Jessica currently works with Dr. Daniel Pine in the Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience to explore pediatric anxiety phenotypes and treatments.


Name: Max Xu


Research Title: Elucidating the role of cyclin D3 in T cell development

Research Summary: Cyclin D3 is a member of the cyclin D family, a group of proteins known to regulate cell cycle progression. In mice and humans, there are three known homologous cyclin D proteins (cyclins D1, D2, D3). Although they share similar amino acid sequences and function, the cyclin D proteins are differentially expressed among different cell types. Cyclin D3 is expressed heavily during T cell development and is known to be critical for the process. Cyclin D3 KO mice have reduced thymic size and a significant decrease in the number of double positive thymocytes, a subset of developing T cells. Therefore, we were interested in determining the cause of this deficiency in DP cells, which potentially explains the block in proper development. Specifically, we sought to investigate whether cyclin D3 can regulate T cell development through apoptosis, a cell cycle independent pathway.

Bio: Max graduated from Duke University in 2019 with a B.S. in Biology. He has completed two summer internships in Dr. Carol Thiele’s lab at the NCI Pediatric Oncology Branch and worked in Dr. Katherine Franz’s lab at the Duke Department of Chemistry for two years. Max joined Dr. Richard Hodes’ lab at the NCI Experimental Immunology Branch and is working with Dr. Jeffrey Chiang and Karen Hathcock in investigating T cell development and malignancies.