Meet the FY21 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

Silvia Marchiano PhD, Pathology (Murry Lab)
With an ISCRM fellowship, Silvia Marchiano PhD will use pluripotent stem cell technology to test the central hypothesis that direct infection of cardiomyocytes by SARS-CoV-2 contributes to COVID-19-related cardiac diseases. Funds will enable Marchiano to define the factors affecting the susceptibility of cardiomyocytes to SARS-CoV-2 infection and characterize functional changes of cardiomyocytes during SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Graduate Fellows

Logan Bailey, Molecular and Cellular Biology (Davis Lab)
Past research on gene regulatory mechanisms has paid little attention to mechanisms surrounding RNA fate, which ultimately controls and diversifies the proteome. Funding from the ISCRM Fellowship Program will allow PhD student Logan Bailey to study how post-transcriptional regulation contributes to muscle biology, including skeletal muscle differentiation and post injury wound healing. Particular emphasis will be on the protein MBNL1, an emerging nodal point in disease networks.

 

Jonathan Chu, Bioengineering (Kueh Lab)
PhD student Jonathan Chu will use funding from the ISCRM Fellowship Program to generate new insights into the means by which non-coding genetic material known as enhancers regulate stem cell differentiation into specific cell types. If successful, this work will establish a mechanistic, predictive framework for enhancer regulation in mammalian cells for rational control of cell differentiation and reprogramming.

Justin Lee, MolES/Bioengineering (Berndt Lab)
With funding from the ISCRM Fellowship, PhD student Justin Lee will develop genetically encoded fluorescent protein tools for real-time monitoring of intracellular hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) levels in human induced pluripotent stem cell-based (hiPSC) disease models, specifically Alzheimer’s disease and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This investigation is an unprecedented opportunity to understand the role of oxidative stress in the onset of diseases from tissue to the cellular level

Ashish Phal, Bioengineering (Ruohola-Baker Lab)
With funding from the ISCRM Fellowship Program, PhD student Abhayakumar Phal will use CRISPR gene-editing technology to study the genes that contribute to several types of brain cancers that primarily impact children with the hope of revealing novel approaches to control the proliferation of cancer cells.

Yu Jung Shin, Bioengineering (Zheng Lab)
Proper vascularization remains a critical barrier in the development of organoids and other tissue engineering technologies for research and therapeutic purposes. With an ISCRM fellowship, PhD student Yu Jung Shun will generate perfusable stem cell-derived vascular organoids, including models of the kidney and brain, that better emulates structural and functional phenotypes of mature vessels in vivo.

 

Sonette Steczina, Bioengineering (Regnier Lab)
With funding from the ISCRM Fellowship Program, PhD student Sonette Steczina will collaborate with Dr. Corrado Poggesi’s lab at the University of Florence to study a mutation in cardiac binding protein-C that causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The primary aims of the project are to define the impairment in contractile properties and determine the pathophysiological mechanism(s) underlying dysfunction using patient specific induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) models.

Fred Yeboah, Molecular and Cellular Biology (Young Lab)
In hopes of yielding new information that could point researchers toward new therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease, PhD student Fred Yeboah will use human induced pluripotent stem cells to explore how the epigenetic factor HDAC2 may regulate a mitochondria protein Endo-B1/C in human neurons.

Undergraduate Fellows

Saisriram Gurajala, Medicine/Medical Genetics (Hawkins Lab)
With an ISCRM fellowship, undergraduate student Saisriram Gurajala (Medicine/Medical Genetics) will use a novel epigenetic sequencing method to study the regulatory function of a DNA modification that has been implicated in embryonic stem cell differentiation, neuronal development, and formation of tumors. One goal of the investigation is to  yield insights into gene regulatory mechanisms controlling cell fate transition.

Akshita Khanna, Pathology (Murry Lab)
With an ISCRM fellowship, undergraduate student Akshita Khanna (Pathology) will investigate the role of the Notch signaling pathway in cardiomyocyte cell cycle activity, in order to identify novel mechanisms for cardiomyocyte renewal and tissue regeneration using human induced pluripotent stem cells. The results of the study could shed light on the feasibility of controlling cardiomyocyte proliferation by exploiting pathways that naturally regulate cell cycle progression.

Amanda Nguyen, Bioengineering (Berndt Lab)
Challenges in characterizing distinct, heart chamber-specific phenotypes of functionally immature cardiomyocytes derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC-CMs) hinders their wide implementation as a platform for the predictive modeling of cardiac functions and disease. In this project, undergraduate researcher Amanda Nguyen (Bioengineering) hopes to develop a novel, prototype sensor that can be applied to precisely characterize the biophysical characteristics of hiPSC-CM functional phenotypes, potentially providing insight that will increase the utility of hiPSC-CMs as a model of cardiovascular disease.

Chaoyang Tang, Bioengineering (Scatena Lab)
An ISCRM fellowship will enable undergraduate student Chaoyang Tang to use engineered macrophages to determine the effect of increased M1 phenotype expression on foreign body reaction in vivo in a mouse model. One hope in the investigation is that an increased vascularization within and around biomaterials in relevant treatment groups could improve tissue healing around implanted biomaterials.

Yennhi Vohoang, Medicine/Cardiology (Yang Lab)
An ISCRM fellowship will enable undergraduate student Yennhi Vohoang to study how a premature truncation mutation in desmoplakin, a protein critical for healthy heart muscle structure, leads to heart disease. Vohoang will use a gene-edited human induced pluripotent stem cell line from the Allen Institute and heart tissues (EHTs) from iPSC-CMs derived from both wildtype and pathogenic DSP patient lines.