The Minds Behind the Science

We are a team composed of 12 undergraduate students from the University of Virginia. To prepare for iGEM, all students took a synthetic biology course for the spring semester, drafting 5 different project proposals for potential iGEM work in the summer. At the end of the course, the team voted on the project we most wanted to pursue, from which AtheroSHuffle has stemmed. We come from a variety of different disciplines, allowing us to incorporate computer science, graphic design, economics, health, chemistry, and of course, biology into our project design and presentation.

Yi Zhou

Role: Team Lead

Major: Chemistry and Neuroscience

Quantum theory introduced to me the fact that everything I learned in classical mechanics is wrong - or at least partially. You cannot determine where a particle is in the future, it is completely random and unpredictable. However, you can predict where particles will be in the future when they travel as wave packets.

Miranda Khoury

Role: Wet Lab Lead

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Approximately 80% of people with autoimmune diseases are women. Researchers suspect this sex discrepancy has roots in the effects that female sex hormones have on the immune system, and in the fact that females have two X chromosomes. Female sex hormones have been observed to increase expression of many genes associated with autoimmune disorders, while incomplete deactivation of one of a female's two X chromosomes can cause increased severity of autoimmune disorders due to there being more active copies of the many genes on the X chromosome that are involved in immunity. Fascinating facts such as these are why I’m passionate about reducing demographic-based disparities in healthcare.

Ivory Tang

Role: Modeling Lead

Major: Mathematics

Maxwell's equations was the first time I saw how fundamentally math was tied to science. It was also the first time I felt like I didn't have to recall paragraphs of information. Rather, I only had to read the equations, everything about the finding was neatly contained by four of them!

Isha Patel

Role: Human Practices Lead

Major: Biomedical Engineering

One of the biggest questions in astronomy is: Are we alone in this universe? The way astronomers answer this is by classifying planets that meet a set of criteria for life. This set of criteria includes but is not limited to distance from the Sun (temperature of planet in Goldilocks zone), size of planet, and planet age (2 billion years in a sun’s habitable zone). It is mind-blowing to think that somewhere else in this universe, there could be a planet that meets the same requirements as Earth for the creation of life.

Peneeta Wojcik

Role: Wiki Lead

Major: Biomedical Engineering

A scientific effort that really interests me is “Organs-On-a-Chip” or OoC. OoCs are microfluidic systems that contain human cell tissues and simulate the physiology of certain organs. The skin, liver, and kidney have already been simulated using OoCs. I find this to be promising because if optimized it would reduce the need for animal studies and allow pharmaceutical drugs to be tested rapidly. It can also be potentially customized to a patient to see how their body would react to a particular prescribed drug!

Marisa Guajardo

Role: Graphic Design Lead

Major: Intended Neuroscience

I have recently become really interested in the rise of antibiotic resistance, and the inability of those developing pharmaceuticals to keep up with needing to develop new antibiotics. I learned about the possibility of using bacteriocins, toxins produced by bacteria, as an alternative to existing antibiotics, and hope to be able to explore this in the future. p.s. The fact that face transplants are also performed now is wildly interesting.

Justin Orchard-Hayes

Role: Historian, Wet Lab and Modeling

Major: Biochemistry

Naked mole rats and lobsters are resistant to the effects of old age. The chance that an old mole rat will die is exactly the same as the chance a young rat will die. These animals are able to preserve the integrity of their genome and proteins throughout their entire life, which also makes them nearly immune to cancer.

Jayati Maram

Role: Wet Lab, Finance, and Integrated Human Practices

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Last year, the company Synchron inserted a neural implant into an ALS patient non-invasively for the first time in an effort to restore the ability to communicate, essentially texting through thinking. Although we have seen many brain-computer interface advancements in recent decades, most procedures involved cutting up the skull and damaging tissues or required patients to remain under constant supervision. Advancements like these in BCIs where products can be commercialized and independent for the user are really exciting for me because they show an unimaginable future where we extend human capabilities and revolutionize medicine, all through human ingenuity.

Alyssa Dioguardi

Role: Human Practices and Finance

Major: Biology and Commerce

I’ve recently learned about the green mineral olivine and the possibility of using its carbon-capturing ability to curb the rising levels of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere! Olivine is one of the most common minerals on Earth since it’s a major component of the Earth’s mantle, and research has shown that the mineral can act as a natural air purifier by removing CO2 from the air and locking it away in harmless byproducts.

Godwin Oluwafemi

Role: Finance Lead and Wet Lab

Major: Biomedical Engineering and Economics

Lately I have found myself really interested in the way the brain actually functions. It actually behaves similar to that of a computer. With multiple synapses and receptor junctions, it acts as an interface with resistors to flow or push neurotransmitter signals within certain directions in order to maximize neurological function and brain activity. Just like how a computer transmits signals to increase power or processing abilities whenever an action is done.

Alex Heise

Role: Modeling and Wet Lab

Major: Biology

Recently, I've been interested in plant biology, and I find the "wood wide web" fascinating. Many trees and plants have symbiotic relationships with fungi that help them exchange nutrients not only with the soil, but with other trees. This nutrient web connects the environment and better helps them respond to changes in their surroundings.

Yasir Mahboba

Role: Wet Lab

Major: Biology and Data Science

A fun fact I learned is that triacylglycerols (fats) are highly efficient energy storage units that allow migratory birds to fly over long distances from one continent to another without having to feed!

Dr. Kozminski

Our faculty advisor, Dr. Keith Kozminski, was imperative for providing us with the synthetic biology skills we needed to be able to begin and execute our design. Though he adores iGEM and would love nothing more than to dedicate all of his minutes to our lovely team, Dr. Kozminski also has his own lab in which he is researching the molecular regulation of asymmetric or polarized cell growth. Understanding these mechanisms will help to expand the field of synthetic biology and genetic engineering. Dr. Kozminski has shared much of his wisdom with our team, both in forms of troubleshooting advice and Crossaint Questions. We are now well educated in running SDS-page gels and in Paris fun facts.