Research Scholars Fall 2019




Shellby Tacheney, Dr. Eric Scholljegerdes Lab, Department of Animal & Range Sciences

My project is about analyzing how biochar can be affected to cattle nutrition with rangeland forage production. In my project, the forage sampling is taken every 2 month since March and the last sample will be in July. I will be analyzing. Acid detergent fiber and in-vitro dry matter digestibility with in my project. Importantly, how biochar can be a nutritional benefit to cattle while have rangeland forage production as their primary food source. 

Kevin Cisneros, Dr. Graciela Unguez Lab, Department of Biology

Several studies within the lab have shown how the electric organ is derived from the fusion of fast-twitch muscle fibers, these studies have shown that the electric organ carries the same transcript composition as that of skeletal muscle, but was unable to identify its metabolic profile as being more similar to that of slow- or fast-twitch muscle fibers. It is known that the electrocytes in this weakly electric fish are found at a constant frequency of 50-200 Hz, an activation pattern not found in any other muscle cell. This gives rise to the question for this project: Is the electric organ’s metabolic profile more oxidative phosphorylation in nature or more glycolytic? I will be using histochemical microscopic techniques in order to determine and classify the electric organ’s metabolic profile. Moving forward with his project, I will perform analysis of the morphology and spatial distribution of mitochondria in electrocytes and different muscle fiber types.

Luke Sanchez, Dr. Jennifer Curtiss Lab, Department of Biology

Throughout the previous semesters the focus of my time in the lab has been on two genes that encode for dehydrogenase enzymes, which have been implicated to be involved in the Drosophila visual cycle [2]. Similarly to previously done experiments that have subjected adult Drosophila flies to low levels of constant ambient light to induce retinal degeneration [3], light exposure experiments were done in our lab with RNAi knockdowns of the genes Aldh and CG2065 (which are the dehydrogenase enzymes mentioned above). These were done under the hypothesis that inhibition of enzymes thought to be involved in recycling the chromophore would induce worsening retinal degeneration under constant light. While the results/experiments done so far have not implicated significantly worse retinal degeneration, an interesting phenotype was observed in eye cross sections after 7-8 days constant light exposure across both mutant and control flies.This phenotype is best described as moderate to severe swelling of the PR cell bodies and close approximation of the rhabdomeres. Interestingly, a similar phenotype was observed in wild type flies reared on 5% high fat food. Previous research shows that high fat food has been known to cause an increase in ROS, and also, that constant exposure to blue-light results in increased ROS in the Drosophila eye [4]. More specifically, previous research shows that lipid peroxidation occurs rapidly after induced stress secondary to constant blue-light exposure due to the high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids present in photo sensory membranes of Drosophila eyes [4]. Due to the involvement of Drosophila Aldh gene in detoxifying reactive aldehydes produced from lipid peroxidation and its involvement in responding to mitochondrial oxidative stress [5], I hypothesize that an up regulation of the gene will result in an improvement of the PR cell body swelling after induced stress. Similarly, I hypothesize that rearing flies on food high in ROS scavenger anti-oxidants, as described in previous papers [4], will result in an improvement of the phenotype after induced stress. I also am in the process of building an optical stimulator apparatus that has been used in previous research to expose different Drosophila genotypes to constant blue light exposure to assay for adult retinal degeneration secondary to induced stress.

Concepcion Sanchez, Dr. Jessica Houston Lab, Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering

Metabolic intermediates within cells like Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD(P)H) have been shown to be endogenous fluorophores. Changes in NAD(P)H lifetimes can be attributed to changes in metabolism of the cell which can be helpful in diagnostic techniques. Fluorescence lifetime measurements can indicate if a cell is in a disease state (i.e. cancer) and give insight into metabolic alteration occurring after treatment of drugs. To create a metabolic profile of breast cancer cell lines (resistant and susceptible to Tamoxifen), a lifetime-measurable flow cytometer will be used to track NAD(P)H lifetime shifts and regular fluorescence signals of these cells after treatment with Tamoxifen.

Jackelyn Rocha, Dr. Amanda Ashley Lab, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

My project consists of treating cells UV light and inducing melanin formation. From there we can analyze the effect of different concentrations of the algal extract containing phytoene/phytofluene. Phytoene inhibits the production of melanin through unknown mechanisms as has benefits such as skin lightening, skin evenness and protection from oxidative stress. We hypothesize that higher concentrations of phytoene will lead to a decrease in melanin in future treatments. I have treated MNT1 cells with UV irradiation (doses of 0, 0.1, 1 mJ/cm2) and will be quantifying the melanin content. A higher dose of UV is expected to correlate with a higher melanin production. Rapamycin or the hormone alpha-MSH can also be used to induce melanin formation.

Chad Erickson, Dr. Jeff Arterburn Lab, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

 I have been working on the synthesis of a new series of fluorescent organic molecules known as “HPY” dyes as well as modifying phospholipids (cell membrane lipids) which I plan to attach to the synthesized dye.  My research will benefit biologists and other biological chemists seeking to explore the cell membrane.  Our collaborators in the past have used different scaffolds of HPY dye on yeast cells and HeLa cells.The goal of this project is to explore novel chemical pathways toward probe synthesis, photophysical characterization of the dye, and live cell imaging.

Rosalba Marquez-Balderrama, Dr. Donovan Bailey Lab, Department of Biology

My project involves the study of survival rates of plants in different concentrations of gypsum soils. I work with golden crownbeard as there are populations that grow in Las Cruces and populations that grow in gypsum soils of at least 80% concentration. I plan on looking at morphological differences between these two populations in different ranges of gypsum in soils. 

Jordan Gass, Dr. Kathryn Hanley Lab, Department of Biology

My project this summer focuses on the re-purposing of broad-spectrum antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, which have been shown to have antiviral activity. I will be looking at a fluoroquinolone named ciprofloxacin (cipro), which the Hanley lab has already shown suppresses replication of dengue virus. A PhD candidate in the lab, Stacey Scroggs, has already passaged dengue virus in the presence of cipro until it developed resistance. I will be looking to see if the dengue virus that is resistant to cipro differs in fitness compared to a media-passaged control and to the parent virus. To quantify virus fitness, I will create replication dynamic curves for the virus and look at the infectivity for mosquitoes in vivo; next, I will search for mutations associated with resistance by sequencing the genome of the cipro-resistant and control viruses!

Alejandra Cobos, Dr. Emily Indriolo Lab, Department of Biology

I work with several strains of a plant known as Arabidopsis thaliana that are transgenic. They have an inserted tDNA gene that affects either the alpha, beta, gamma, or epsilon subunits in the COP I complex which is responsible for vesicle formation. We check with PCR to make sure a particular line has the insert and if it does, we then use different lab techniques (such as seed set, aniline blue staining, cDNA synthesis, etc.) to determine if the inserted mutation affects pollen grain acceptance. The acceptance of pollen affects how many seeds a certain plant can produce. This research is currently applied to canola oil production which is a multi-million to a multi-billion dollar industry (seeds are crushed to produce oil) but this research could also be used for other processes where vesicle transport occurs. 

Monica Cordova, Dr. Gary Roemer Lab, Department of Fishery and Wildlife Sciences

My research aims to survey the types of endoparasites kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis) carry at White Sands National Monument through the collection of fecal samples. Blood samples are also being collected from the foxes to test for the following viruses: canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, as well as the pathogenic fungus Coccidioides immitis. The goal of the project is to analyze the data and determine if various factors affect the types of parasites and diseases the foxes carry, such as individual habitat, age, or sex.

Julia Yescas, Dr. Emily Indriolo Lab, Department of Biology

Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the Brassicaceae family, belongs to the same family as the plants that make canola oil. A. thaliana is a small flowering plant that has a COPI complex essential for retrograde transport and can aid in pollen tube penetration. Knockout genes of the COPI complex are being tested with A. thaliana and a series of steps are used to determine if the knockout gene results in a change to compatible pollen acceptance.  A. thaliana should show how mutating the COPI complex can affect the structure and production of the seeds that make canola oil.

Xavier Jimenez, Dr. Immo Hansen Lab, Department of Biology

Emerging techniques like Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), Wolbachia-based control, and RIDL (release of insects carrying a dominant lethal) requires releasing mass amounts of mosquitoes in the wild.The success of all these techniques depends on the ability of male mosquitoes to fly to and mate with wild female mosquitoes. Therefore determining the fitness and flight ability of mosquitoes that are raised in a laboratory environment is crucial for planning SIT interventions. In this study, we designed a flight mill for mosquitoes to study flight components of Aedes aegypti. We measured velocity, distance travelled, and time spent in flight for mosquitoes raised on blood and raised on Skito snack, an artificial blood replacement. We also compared flight components of irradiated male Aedes aegypti with unirradiated control males. Our results provide important information for the planning of SIT interventions.