a publication of the Washington University Biology Department for Undergraduate Majors

BIOrhythms April 2024

This issue features:

Faculty Spotlight: Assistant Professor Jennifer Wang

Course Spotlight: NEW Bio 3494 Microbes and the Environment

Engage Democracy 2024

Bio 200/500 Research Spotlights

Kristen Reikersdorfer on Hengen Lab

I have spent the last four years as a member of the Hengen Lab, where I have taken a deep dive into neuroscience and neural engineering. Our group focuses on understanding the self-organization of complex brain activity in freely behaving animals. Paramount to this investigation are robust, long-term electrophysiological recordings, which allow us to study the same subset of neurons over many months.

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Michelle Pollowitz on the Penczykowski Lab

Many labs and research opportunities closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just as my research in plant disease ecology was beginning. In January 2020, I began research in the Penczykowski lab to study effects of temperature on fungal infection of common weedy plants in the genus Plantago. I spent the first weeks of the semester learning skills and techniques that I would need in the lab-based data collection that would begin after spring break. Things went a little differently than planned.

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Ellie Sapiro on the Herzog Lab

I have had the privilege of working in the Herzog Lab since the spring of my sophomore year. The Herzog Lab studies biological clocks and different cells, circuits, and molecules that affect circadian rhythms. Biological clocks are intrinsic oscillators that coordinate approximately 24 hour physiological and behavioral rhythms in almost all organisms.

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Eka Jose and Ethan Lowder on the Kranz Lab

For both of us, COVID has changed things but we believe that the Kranz lab has adapted well to these challenges. I believe that our openness in communication, adaptation to challenges of zoom, and recognition that COVID has made our personal lives more flexible has greatly added to this success. The support from WashU through technology and study spaces, the Kranz lab, and the WashU research community as a whole has made this change much easier for us. We hope that we can continue to stay safe doing this work and look forward to making the adjustment back to normal in the future!

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Shayna Rosenbloom on the Gordon Lab

My name is Shayna Rosenbloom and I am a senior majoring in Environmental Biology. For the last year and a half, I have been lucky to work with Dr. Swanne Gordon as part of her eco/evo lab with Dr. Andrés López-Sepulcre. Dr. Gordon studies evolution and maintenance of color polymorphisms and sexual selection in the Wood Tiger Moth and the rapidly evolving Trinidadian Guppy.

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Ethan Weiner on Haswell Lab

Hello! My name is Ethan Weiner and I am currently a senior about to graduate with a Biology major with a Biochemistry concentration. Since spring semester of my sophomore year, I have had the privilege of working in Dr. Haswell’s lab. Her lab studies the ways in which plants respond to mechanical stimuli. I have utilized algae and moss as model organisms in order to better understand a specific family of protein channels (Piezos) that are likely involved in not just plants’, but many eukaryotes’ responses to certain mechanical stresses.

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Irene Hamlin on the Budge Lab

In the Budge Lab we focus on the eradication of lymphatic filariasis (LF) which is a neglected tropical disease caused by the Wuchereria bancrofti worm endemic in Western and Central Africa. This disease damages the lymphatic system, often causing lymphoedema and elephantiasis of the limbs. I’ve spent the last year and a half as an undergraduate research assistant working towards improving the rapid diagnostic test for LF. The World Health Organization’s Global Program for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis depends on efficient and accurate diagnoses to inhibit transmission. Currently, cross reactive antigens from the co-endemic Loa loa worm produce false positive test results and impede the successful treatment of those with Lymphatic Filariasis. Misdiagnosis bears significant risks, as treating false positives may lead to encephalopathy and death.

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Maya Dutta on the Olsen Lab

Adaptation to local environments is critically important for a plant’s ability to survive in a variety of ecological settings and persist in the face of climate change. The genetic and physiological mechanisms that regulate these processes, however, are not well known. In the Olsen Lab, we aim to understand the genetic basis of evolution in plants.

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Kevin Yin on the Rentschler Lab

In the Rentschler lab, we aim to address heart disease by looking at how developmental pathways and gene regulation networks are associated with various heart diseases. We are specifically interested in how alterations of genes during development or in the adult can lead to arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

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Samuel Kim on the Kummer Lab

In the Kummer lab, we are focused on creating the tools needed to help localize the foci of neural circuit dysfunction. Although the historical attention has been on axonal injury, with synapses below the resolution of classical techniques, new technology enables us to overcome this barrier.

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Mitchell Grinwald on the Chheda Lab

My work in the Chheda lab as a Bio500 independent research student has given me a fantastic opportunity to explore my interests at the intersection of epigenetics and cancer biology. Additionally, the ability to conduct independent research with the exceptional support which my PI (Dr. Chheda) and bench mentor (Dr. Galdieri) provide has enabled me to learn new techniques and think critically about experimental design and analysis.

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Do You Have...

An announcement you’d like to make? An interesting story or fun fact you’d like to share? A professor or course you’d like to suggest for a spotlight? We want your input!

Send Us Your Ideas and Information

Jennifer Wang, Assistant Professor

It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to not know what you are doing. Be open to new opportunities. Throw yourself 100% into the things that excite you. These are things that Assistant Professor Jennifer Wang wants to share with undergrads. She learned them because her journey hasn’t always been smooth. Dr. Wang joined the WashU Biology department in July 2022. Born in China, she came to the United States when she was 7 years old, and spent most of her childhood on Long Island, NY. Being in a new country, moving around frequently, and not speaking English initially, made going to school and fitting in difficult.

“I resonate with people who are put into situations that are new to them, whether it's a new country, culture, language, or even if you come from a background where you're not sure what university is like. I understand how hard it can be to feel like you belong, and also how important it is to have a support system, especially in a new environment,” Dr. Wang said.

Read More about Jennifer Wang

BIOrhythms archive

  • February 2024

    Bio 4935 Research Perspectives with postdocs Tyler Larsen and Margaret Steele, Spring 2024 Undergraduate Research Symposium, Engage Democracy

  • November 2023

    Faculty Spotlight: George Hoganson, Assistant Prof of Pediatrics, Course Spotlights: Bio 2652 & 2658: PEMRAP I & II; Bio 3057 vs. 3058: changes to Physiological Control Systems, New Student Group: WashU Genomics & Precision Medicine Society

  • October 2023

    Faculty spotlight: Xuehua Zhong; Course spotlight: Bio 4344 Epigenetics

  • April 2023

    Features Mark Manteuffel, Instructor; Stella Rusel, new Student Coordinator, Bio 380 and Bio 4193.

  • February 2023

    This issue features Lecturer Corey Westfall, new courses for fall 2023 and more

  • November 2022

    This issue features a Faculty Spotlight on Liz Mallott, Course Spotlight on Bio 349 Microbiology, WashU Votes: midterm election party on November 8th, new student group KDSAP offering clinical experience, and more.

  • September 2022

    Featuring Assistant Professor B. Duygu Özpolat, WashU Votes, Vagelos Fellowship, and best places to study in Biology

  • April 2022

    Featuring Barbara Schaal and Bio 3900: Science for Agriculture and Environmental Policy

  • February 2022

    This issue features new faculty member and undergraduate research coordinator Janet Goins, Bio 131: Biology in the News, and more

  • November 2021

    This issue features interviews with undergrads who won awards and summer opportunities

  • October 2021

    This issue features Assistant Dean and Academic Coordinator Anthony Smith, three undergrad biology courses about cancer, Bear Studios, A World of Women in STEM and WashU Clinical Connect.

  • April 2021

    This issue features Jason Weber, Bio 4715 and 4716, Bio 500 spotlight: Michelle Pollowitz on the Penczykowski Lab and undergrad awards

  • February 2021

    This issue features Eleanor Pardini, new Environmental Studies minors, Bio 500 research stories

  • November 2020

    This issue features Andrés López-Sepulcre, Bio 4193 Experimental Ecology Laboratory, Fall OUR Symposium

  • More BIOrhythms Archive

    All issues of BIOrhythms dating back to September 2008

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