Summer Research Fellowships for First Year Medical Students

Through a new initiative co-sponsored by the Office of Medical Education and the Department of Cell Biology/Skirball Institute, a limited number of summer research fellowships will be available for First Year medical students to work in Cell Biology/Skirball Institute laboratories. Students will choose from faculty who have openings for the summer. Stipends will be $3,000 for 8 weeks of work. Those students interested should contact Dan Rifkin (Daniel.Rifin@NYUMC.Org).

Examples of available projects include:

Gira Bhabha & Damian Ekiert Labs: The outer membrane in double-membraned bacteria provides protection to bacterial cells, also making them resistant to many antibiotics. The project will combine structural biology, biochemistry and bacterial genetics to understand how the MCE (Mammalian Cell Entry) family of proteins contributes to outer membrane integrity in double-membraned bacteria.;

Steven Burden Lab:  We are studying the mechanisms responsible for maintaining attachment of motor nerve terminals to skeletal muscle. We have evidence that strengthening this attachment can maintain nerve terminal attachment in disease settings, such as ALS, when motor nerve terminals detach and withdraw form muscle, leading to wide spread muscle paralysis, ultimately leading to respiratory failure. Motor nerve terminals express receptors for a signal, Lrp4, which is provided by muscle and promotes nerve terminal attachment. The student would join a project to study Lrp4 receptors that are expressed in motor neurons and may play a key role in the ability of motor nerve terminals to recognize and respond to Lrp4, leading to attachment of nerve terminals to muscle.

Robert Froemke Lab: 
Project Title: Oxytocin signaling from brain to body.
Project Description: Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone synthesized and released from the hypothalamus and posterior pituitary. There is a single genomic oxytocin receptor, and our lab made the first specific antibody to mouse oxytocin receptors. We are characterizing the physiological action of hormone signaling throughout the body, asking if there are coordinated changes occurring in multiple organ systems after conception to prepare for reproduction. Specifically, here we aim to determine what effects oxytocin (including optogenetic release of endogenous oxytocin) has on peripheral tissues including blood vessels, pancreas, heart and kidney. This includes maternal-fetal signaling and action of oxytocin on embryonic development.

Jane Hubbard Lab: Pools of cells, be they stem cells or tumors, respond to the sensory and nutritive environment of the organism they inhabit. To identify and understand the cellular and molecular basis for cues that change stem cell behavior, we use germline stem cells in the worm C. elegans as a model. The summer project is a high-throughput screen to identify specific triggers in bacteria (a food source for C. elegans) that modulate the growth and differentiation of the stem cell pool. Using a C. elegans strain that is defective in Notch receptor signaling and therefore highly sensitive to perturbations in germline stem cells, we will screen a library of mutant bacteria to identify those strains that alter germline stem cells in animals that eat the mutant bacteria.

Dan Rifkin Lab: The goal of our research is to understand how mechanical forces are transmitted by the extracellular matrix and are sensed by smooth muscle cells in the generation of aneurysms. We use mouse models of a human syndrome, Marfan syndrome, produced by mutations in the matrix protein fibrillin and in which animals develop dissecting aneurysms of the thoracic aorta. We are specifically interested in how additional matrix proteins functionally complement the fibrillin and how immune cells contribute to the aneurysm outcome.

Jeremy Nance Lab:
 - Project: Formation of small epithelial tubes.
Relevance:  Tubular epithelia are used to transport liquids, solids and gasses throughout our body.  Small tubes, such as capillaries, form when cells hollow out their center.  Little is known about how such small tubes form.  We have identified several proteins important for small tube formation in C. elegans. These proteins are highly conserved, and mutations in the genes that encode them are associated with several devastating human diseases.
 - Project:  Study the mechanisms of small tube formation using a powerful genetic model system – the C. elegans excretory cell.
Description:  The excretory cell hollows its center to form a single-celled tube that functions as the C. elegans kidney (regulating ion exchange).  Tube extension results from the targeting of exocytic vesicles to an invaginating lumen that invades the cell.  A protein complex called the exocyst, which is involved in vesicle tethering, is essential for tube formation.  This project tests the hypothesis that PAR polarity proteins recruit the exocyst to the invaginating luminal surface, targeting vesicles to this site to extend the tube.
 - Methods used:  Live fluorescence imaging, genetic analysis, CRISPR genome editing.

Agnel Sfeir lab:
 - Project Title: The effect of telomeres on metabolism
Project Description: Recent work from our lab uncovered an extra-telomeric function for the highly conserved telomere binding protein, RAP1, that acts as a transcriptional co-regulator for a number of metabolic genes. Our goal is to investigate whether RAP1 mediates a cross-talk between telomere biology and metabolic homeostasis.
 - Project Title: Studying mitochondrial DNA replication and repair
Project Description: Acquired genomic aberrations in mtDNA lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, a chief cause of neurological and aging diseases. mtDNA mutations range from single-base substitutions to highly deleterious large-scale deletions. We will implement innovative methods to study mtDNA replication and repair and uncover how their mis-regulation leads to mtDNA sequence loss and subsequent cellular dysfunction.

Tung-Tien Sun lab:
 - Project Title: Identification and characterization of urothelial stem cells
Project Description: To use a wide range of approaches that we previously used to identify corneal epithelial and hair follicular epithelial stem cells, to identify and localize urothelial stem cells in the lower urinary tract.
 - Project Title: Regulated trafficking of urothelial membrane proteins
Project Description: Uroplakins are major urothelial differentiation products that form 2D crystals covering the apical surface of bladder epithelium, and they play key roles in forming urothelial barrier. Studies will be done to better understand how uroplakins are synthesized, assembled, and targetted to the apical surface of bladder urothelium. 

Jesús Torres-Vazquez lab: The vasculature plays a central role in health and disease. We are interested in understanding the organogenesis and biology of blood and lymphatic vessels using the zebrafish as a model system and employing genetic, and imaging approaches. Specifically, we are investigating the following topics.  (1) How do vascular cords become hollow to enable circulation? (2) What are the cellular and molecular mechanisms that pattern the vascular tree with anatomical reproducibility? (3) How does the brain vasculature and the blood-brain barrier form and repair after injury?