Meet the 2021-2022 ISCRM Fellows

The ISCRM Fellows program began in 2017, the year the Washington State Legislature first included funding for ISCRM in the state budget. In a critical show of support for stem cell research, the legislature appropriated $2.25 million for core staff and technologies, innovation pilot awards for faculty, and a trainee fellowship program to help the UW fulfill its mission, increase capacity for labs, and provide foundational research experiences for graduate, undergraduate, and postdoctoral students embarking on science careers. In 2019, the annual funding was increased to $2,625,000.

The FY21 ISCRM Fellows were selected from a deep pool of undergraduate students, PhD students, and postdocs making critical contributions to medical research. Please join us in congratulating the following recipients.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Swati Mishra (Young Lab)
Funds from the ISCRM fellowship will allow Swati Mishra to examine the influence of Alzheimer’s disease predisposing mutations on endo-lysosomal function of microglia and to model microglia development in 3D cerebral organoids, hopefully revealing a deeper understanding of contribution of microglia to neurodegenerative pathology.

Graduate Student Fellows

Changho Chun, Bioengineering (Mack Lab)
Changho Chun aims to study the extent of transcriptomic overlap between native human spinal neurons and iPSC-derived neurons at the single cell level. The goal is to produce for the first time a map of the cellular trajectories and transcriptional signatures for the various human ventral horn neuronal subtypes both in vitro and in vivo—a resource that will fuel future studies like the creation of an iPSC-derived neuromuscular junction.

Brizzia Munoz Robles, Bioengineering (DeForest)
Brizzia Munoz-Robles will use ISCRM fellowship funding to address a substantial void in the field’s ability to probe and direct changes in biological fate over the full range of physiologically relevant timescales. Her goal is to develop a generalizable strategy to dynamically customize the biochemical properties of cell-laden biomaterials in 4D.

Abby Nagle, Bioengineering (Davis and Regnier Labs)
Abby Nagle will undertake the use of a recently developed FRET molecular biosensor to measure dynamic tension across the focal adhesion protein vinculin in iPSC derived cardiomyocytes. The aim of the experiment is to correlate focal adhesion tension with sarcomere assembly as a response to changes in myocyte contractility. Her overall goal is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which cardiomyocytes sense changes in adhesion tension and transduce these mechanical signals to modify cellular structure.

Ashish Phal, Bioengineering (Ruohola-Baker Lab)
With ISCRM fellowship funding, Ashish Phal aims to induce robust reprogramming of cell fate in cancer stem cells by designing and using synthetic ligands that target endogenous signaling pathways. The goal of his project is to use computationally designed proteins to achieve novel signaling outcomes and cellular reprogramming changes in cancer stem cells.

Jasmine Villegas, Bioengineering (Fu and Freedman Labs)
The mechanisms linking Type 2 diabetes and pulmonary dysfunction have not been well-defined. Jasmine Villegas aims to address this knowledge gap by developing lung organoids in a diabetic state and demonstrating a proof-of-concept human pulmonary model for SARS-CoV-2 infection and Type 2 diabetes.

Thomas Vincent, Bioengineering (Freedman and Ratner Labs)
In his project, Thomas Vincent will clarify mechanisms of angiogenesis in implanted nephron progenitor cell (NPC) human grafts that influence glomerular development and improve regenerative outcomes. The broader goal is to help address a need for alternative treatments that can regenerate nephrons to halt or reverse  kidney disease progression.

Rachel Wellington, Molecular and Cellular Biology (Doulatov and Hadland Labs)
The ISCRM fellowship will allow Rachel Wellington to map hiPSC-derived hematopoiesis and identify how to promote arterial hemogenic cell fate. In her project, Wellington will use the recently developed single-cell combinatorial indexing RNA-sequencing (sci-RNA-seq) technology to generate the first full single cell transcriptomic profile spanning in vitro hematopoietic differentiation.

Undergraduate Student Fellows

Prabhat Aluri, Math (Kwon Lab)
Prabhat Aluri will investigate genetic determinants of osteoporosis-related traits in zebrafish using Crispr-Cas9 genetic editing and computational analysis based on advanced imaging techniques. The broader goal of this project is to elucidate how genetics influences bone mineral density and other osteoporosis-related traits to identify new drug targets for osteoporosis.

Abel Demoz, Bioengineering (Stevens Lab)
With funding from the ISCRM fellowship, Abel Demoz will work on in-vitro vascularization of rat portal vein in 3D-printed perfusion chip, helping to advance the current method of 3D printing of artificial liver and other important organs and guiding the future of liver bioprinting in the lab and beyond.

Hunter Furutani, Physiology (Mack Lab)
In his project, Hunter Furutani will conduct novel physical function assessments on rats with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The ultimate goal is to provide a deeper look into the physical activity limitations of the DMD mdx rat model that will in turn offer insights into optimal exercise recommendations for boys with DMD, especially post-gene therapy.

Eric Gery, Bioengineering (Murry Lab)
Eric Gery will use funding from his fellowship to study the function of stress granules in cardiomyocytes and their effect on cell death after myocardial infarction. His ultimate goal is to understand the stress pathway in cardiomyocytes and to investigate if it is safe and effective to inhibit or upregulate the stress granule pathway in cardiomyocytes experiencing various stresses.

Sofia Laden, Biology (Yadav Lab)
Sofia Laden will use her fellowship funding to test a hypothesis that defects in neural progenitor cell proliferation contribute to the differing brain sizes observed in patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder-associated gene variation. Her comparative analysis will examine cells from typically developing individuals and patients with the genetic variations

Dessirée Ortaç, UW Bothell, Biology (Davis Lab)
Fellowship funding will allow Dessirée Ortaç to investigate  the role of a protein called muscleblind-like protein 1 (MBNL1) in regulating heart development and response to injury and to study how modulating MBNL1 impacts cardiomyocyte growth and proliferation. The broader goal is to aid in finding a way to drive heart regeneration in adults who’ve suffered from a myocardial infarction.

Lina Park, Neuroscience (Young Lab)
Lina Park will use funding from the ISCRM fellowship to investigate how the  endosomal sorting receptor SORLA regulates the delivery of receptors known as AMPARs to synapses and how the loss of SORL1 affects synaptic function. Her hope is that her findings will lead to new ways to prolong the synaptic plasticity among Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Kiana Reynolds, Biology (Murry Lab)
Funding from the ISCRM fellowship program will allow Kiana Reynolds to investigate whether DNA methylation plays a role in regulating gene expression patterns of cardiac genes in stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. Her goal is to reveal novel approaches to improve heart contractility after engraftment and ultimately to develop better cell therapies to restore heart function after a heart attack.

Tiara Schwarze-Taufiq, Neuroscience (Young Lab)  
Funding from the ISCRM Fellowship program will allow Tiara Schwarze-Taufiq to use a variety of genetic sequencing methods and immunocytochemistry to probe the role of tau loss of function in Alzheimer’s disease pathology using human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons. Her hope is to reveal therapeutic targets for early treatment.

Sharlene Shirali, Biology (Chao Lab)
With funding from her ISCRM fellowship, Sharlene will use western blot, ELISA and immunostaining to examine the expression and localization of CFH/FHL-1 and other regulators of complement activation in the progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The goal is to help identify compensatory mechanisms that may contribute to pathology of early onset and age-related macular degeneration.

Chardai Thomas, UW Bothell, Biology (Freedman Lab)
With ISCRM Fellowship funding, Chardai Thomas will use CRISPR base-edited human stem cell lines to model Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). The aim is to determine if heterozygous mutants follow the two-hit hypothesis and form cysts and thereby be a better model for the disease which can improve PKD research.

Cecelia Watson, Bioengineering (Mack Lab)
Cecelia Watson will use her fellowship funds to develop and optimize methods for producing functional intrafusal fibers from human induced pluripotent stem cells, a crucial first step towards producing an in vitro muscle spindle microphysiological system applicable for studying the effects of the full range of neuromuscular diseases.

Kelly Zhang, Bioengineering (Boyle Lab)
Kelly Zhang will create a search algorithm that optimizes cardiac electrophysiology model parameters based solely on published action potential (AP) feature values. The goal is to develop better tools for understanding how inter-individual differences in pathology and gene expression profiles can impact AP morphology and propagation.