High school research internships keep skills fresh

For most teenagers, finding a summer job is almost a rite of passage into adulthood. It’s a chance to learn responsibility and time management and practice how to get along with coworkers. It also helps earn money for college or fun. A group of specially selected teens, however, were able to take the concept of the summer job a step further as summer research scholars in Johns Hopkins University laboratories.

High schooler Christopher Miller with his graduate student mentor Hoku West-Foyle. (Photo by Mary Spiro)

High schooler Christopher Miller with his graduate student mentor Hoku West-Foyle. (Photo by Mary Spiro)

The Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) program, an opportunity funded in part by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology and the School of Medicine, trains students from “disadvantaged” homes throughout the state. Some students may have a parent in prison or struggling with addiction. Others may face extreme financial hardship or even have been homeless.

SARE scholars have a chance to overcome obstacles to academic success by working in academia under the guidance of a mentor. They improve their writing and mathematics skills through tutoring. And they learn how to keep good laboratory records, how to follow safety protocols, and how to make a professional presentation.

“This is way better than flipping burgers,” exclaimed Stephanie Keyaka, as she prepared an image of a Western Blot performed on Drosophila eye genes. Keyaka, a tenth grader from The SEED School of Maryland, the state’s only public boarding school. She studied rhodopsin in the eyes of flies in the lab of professor Craig Montell during the summer of 2012.

SARE, launched in 2009 through a collaboration between INBT and School of Medicine cell biology associate professor Doug Robinson, recruits students from the private nonprofit Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, from The SEED School, and now also from The Crossroads School, operated by the nonprofit Living Classrooms Foundation. While the partnership with Boys Hope Girls Hope has been in place from the beginning, working with The SEED School and The Crossroads School has expanded the potential pool of qualified and interested applicants. “Expanding the applicant pool makes the program more competitive, which is a worthwhile experience—to have to compete for something,” Robinson said.

During their time at Hopkins, each SARE scholar focuses on a mini research project that advances the larger goals of the lab where they are placed. No prior laboratory work is expected, and the learning curve is steep. But with mentoring from graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, the scholars find their way. At the end of the summer, the scholars present their findings in a poster session for their peers, faculty and staff.

“At the beginning of the summer, I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about, but now I get it!” laughed Christopher Miller, a tenth grader from The SEED School. Miller studied the motor protein myosin in the Robinson lab.

Miller’s mentor, cell biology doctoral student Hoku West-Foyle, said working with students during the summer helps to re-energize the lab. “At first, it is a bit of extra work, but it gives you teaching experience, and when you are explaining your project to other people, it helps to reinforce why the larger research question matters. It fires you up to work harder,” West-Foyle said.

Shaolin Holloman, an eleventh grader at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Girls Hope scholar, worked in the cell biology lab of professor Carolyn Machamer. Her project sought to understand why the SARS coronavirus localizes to the Golgi apparatus of the cell.

“I liked the work experience because we actually got to do hands-on experiments,” said Hollomon, who hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon. “The biggest challenge for me was to keep up with my weekly essays, my summer reading and the work in the lab.”

Robinson hopes the program can become self-sustaining and even scalable to accept more students. “We are at a juncture where we are seeking additional funding, so we are systematically assessing our impact,” Robinson said. One would judge that the SARE program’s impact is significant, since all five alumni who have graduated from high school, or who will do so this spring, have gone on to university, Robinson reported. Two students have declared biology as their major and the other three still in high school are interested in science, technology, mathematics or health-related disciplines. Five new scholars will join SARE this summer.

Khalek Kirkland, The SEED School headmaster said summer internships of this kind are important to help keep students motivated and on track academically. “We do believe in the ‘summer brain drain,’ in that students do lose something over the summer,” Kirkland explained. “Doug and I are in talks about writing a grant together to expand the program not only to SEED School students, but to additional students as well.”

Anyone with interest in supporting the efforts of the SARE program can contact Douglas Robinson via email a drobin15@jhmi.edu.

Story by Mary Spiro

More on the SARE program:

Lab coats are summer gear for high school researchers 

Mesenchymal stem cell-based therapies offer hope

Editor’s Note: The following is a summary of one of the talks from the 2013 Nano-bio Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology held May 17. This summary was written by Randall Meyer, a doctoral candidate in the biomedical engineering and a member of the Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center. Look for other symposium summaries on the INBT blog.

Among many of the therapies developed over the past several years, stem cells remain one of the most promising for purposes of regeneration, autoimmune disease, and cancer treatment.

Gabriele Todd of Osiris Therapeutics.

Gabriele Todd of Osiris Therapeutics.

Gabrielle Todd, a senior scientist at Osiris Therapeutics, explained some the new mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) based therapies that the company has been developing over the past several years during her talk at the annual Nano-Bio Symposium, hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

The key features that make MSCs such an attractive option is their ability to be isolated from a patient, expanded ex vivo, and re-infused into the same or possibly a different patient. Once inside the body they will home to the site of trouble and release anti-inflammatory and regenerative signals to the damaged tissue. In addition, these cells are what is known as “immune privileged,” in that they lack the necessary signals to trigger an immune response, customary in other transfusions.

Todd summarized some applications on which the company is currently working. One is an MSC-based therapy that utilizes the unique properties of these cells to treat a wide variety of immune related diseases such as graft vs. host disease, Crohn’s disease, and tissue damage from cardiac arrest to juvenile diabetes.

A second application is a product that utilizes MSCs immobilized in a membrane and applied to the site of an external wound. This cells then mediate regeneration of the external tissues, allowing for more efficient healing.

Todd reports that some of these therapies could be available on the market in the coming years.

Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. 

Nano-bio film students in crunch mode for film fest

Every summer I teach Communication for Scientists and Engineers (EN 670.609) to the students in the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology graduate training programs. The course is a crash course in how to present science to non-technical audiences in an engaging way, that is, as film. We have just a few class sessions and then several weeks of out of class for filming and editing.

Each time I teach the course I change it a little. The first year, it was all writing. The next year I switched to video, and the students made videos about their own research. We did that for a couple more years. This year, however, I changed it again, and two teams are working on videos with slightly broader scope. One film will explain what nanotechnology is and the other will discuss regenerative medicine.

Team 1 working on "what is nanobiotechnology.

Team 1 working on “what is nanobiotechnology?”.

Today, the teams are in crunch mode to get their films done. They will probably be a little longer than the ones classes have made in the past, but hopefully they will be packed with interesting content. I invite you to come see what they have created at the INBT Film Festival on Wednesday, July 24 at 10:45 a.m. in 101 Remsen Hall on the Homewood campus. No RSVP is required. This event is open to the entire Hopkins community, including visitors.

During the premiere, the students will discuss some of the challenges they had in constructing their film and share what they learned during the process. I don’t expect the students to come out as filmmakers, although some have had the opportunity to make research-related videos later on in their graduate student careers. What I do hope, is that they understand how challenging it can be to explain a complex topic to people who don’t know much about science or engineering.

After the premiere, the videos will be uploaded to the INBT YouTube page, which you can find here.

This year’s students included:

Team 2 working on "what is regenerative medicine."

Team 2 working on “what is regenerative medicine?”.

Team 1 – John-michael Williford, Gregory Wiedman, Gregg Duncan and Nuala Del Piccolo

Team 2 – Herdeline Ardoña, Jason Lee, Jennifer Poitras and Charles Hu.

Amoebas get social when they hit hard times

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rezina Siddique, a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins with an M.S. in Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and first appeared in the 2013 issue of Nano-Bio Magazine. 

How single-celled social amoebae respond to chemical signals is shedding light on the processes and behavior of more complex organisms, including mammals. A recent paper suggests that there is a mechanism by which amoeba amplify a desirable chemical stimulus in order to self-organize and collectively migrate.

Amoeba are single-celled organisms with the capability to aggregate to form a multi-cellular organism, and later to a fruiting body. Andre Levchenko, professor of biomedical engineering and affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, used the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum, because as a multicellular organism it contains cells with different genotypes. Levchenko’s team sought to clarify how external signals were amplified by the organism to facilitate aggregation.

Dictyostelium discoideum slugs (bottom) and stalks with spore masses on top. Photo credit: Owen Gilbert

Dictyostelium discoideum slugs (bottom) and stalks with spore masses on top. Photo credit: Owen Gilbert

“The way [these organisms] detect signals and move are similar to how neutrophils, a natural part of our immune system, detect and move to the site of infection…They share the ability to migrate in a very directed way to get where they are needed,” said Levchenko. When resources are plentiful, Levchenko’s team found that Dicty are content in remain alone. But when food supplies run low, they gather into a multicellular slug.

As a slug, he said, “they can move together to find a more favorable location,” said Levchenko. The cell-cell communication that takes place during the transition relies on chemotaxis, which is the movement towards or away from a chemical stimulus along a concentration gradient. This behavior is similar in mammalian cells, relevant in both healthy and pathological conditions. Their results, are published in volume 5, issue 213 of Science Signaling.

Levchenko’s team developed a microfluidic pattern generating device that allows the user to control the environment and stimulus duration in a highly tunable way, while still being able to visualize cells under a microscope. Historically, Levchenko explained, these types of experiments were done with pipettes, but with the device his group was able to perform their experiments with the dynamic signaling responses consistent with the known behavior of the amoeba.

Previously, a mathematical model was developed to explain the mechanism of signal amplification that occurred in the amoeba, but there was no way to test it. However, using their microfluidic pattern generator, Levchenko’s group was able to validate the model experimentally. “Understanding the dynamics of chemotaxis within this system can shed insight into how other multicellular organisms, as well as how mammalian cells interact,” Levchenko said.

During aggregation, cyclic AMP (cAMP), a molecule that stimulates hunger, serves as chemoattractant. A starving social amoeba secretes cAMP to attract other amoebae to it, which all travel towards the central amoeba. These other cells also start releasing cAMP in a periodic fashion in order to amplify the signal and attract additional amoebae, creating a pulsating and wave-like signal. An individual cell ends up seeing waves of activity. This is similar to pacemaker cells in the heart, where periodic activity regulates cell behavior.

In a population of cells, some cells are more sensitive while others are less sensitive. This discrepancy is not visible when averaging the response over the entire population or when examining a single representative cell. By applying the hunger stimulus to cells within their device, Levchenko’s group found that there is a large difference across cells in a given population. Some cells did not respond at all, while others responded very strongly to the same stimulus. They also found that at higher doses, the majority of cells responded, while at lower doses, smaller numbers of cells responded. This indicates that the cells that respond strongly must have some ability to amplify the signal.

Differential sensitivity in the cells helps them to organize. Adaptation allows them to transiently suppress their sensitivity long enough to be able to form a multi-cellular organism. The adaptive and amplification properties of the amoeba resemble what occurs in bacterial chemotaxis. The results have implications for the study of cell decision making versus commitment to behavior within cells of a given tissue, or different types of cells that work together.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Rezina Siddique, a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins with an M.S. in Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and first appeared in the 2013 issue of Nano-Bio Magazine. 

 

Pluripotent stem cells hold key to blood vessel formation

Pluripotent stem cells, those cells capable of transforming into any type of tissue in the human body, hold the key to one of science’s biggest challenges: the formation of new blood vessels.

Researchers in the laboratory of Sharon Gerecht, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, have demonstrated a method that causes these powerful cells to form a fresh network of blood vessels when transplanted in mice. Shawna Williams, writer at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reports here on this new research, which was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can find the article here.

Shown are lab-grown human blood vessel networks (red) incorporating into and around mouse networks (green). (Gerecht Lab/PNAS)

Shown are lab-grown human blood vessel networks (red) incorporating into and around mouse networks (green). (Gerecht Lab/PNAS)

Here’s a comment from Gerecht, who is affiliated with both Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences–Oncology Center and Institute for NanoBioTechnology:

“In demonstrating the ability to rebuild a microvascular bed in a clinically relevant manner, we have made an important step toward the construction of blood vessels for therapeutic use … Our findings could yield more effective treatments for patients afflicted with burns, diabetic complications and other conditions in which vasculature function is compromised.”

The Gerecht lab, in collaboration with researchers at the School of Medicine, has been working on this puzzle for some time. One important stride in this current work is that the vessels are forming and persisting in a living animal and not just in a culture in a flask.

Says lead author and doctoral student in biomedical engineering, Sravanti Kusuma:

“That these vessels survive and function inside a living animal is a crucial step in getting them to medical application.”

You can read about some of the Gerecht lab’s previous findings in this particular pursuit in the articles listed below:

Engineers Coax Stem Cells to Diversify 

Research Seeks to Turn Stem Cells into Blood Vessels

 

Mentors model academic pathway

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Johns Hopkins Nano-Bio Magazine and was written by Colin Paul, a third-year graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in the Konstantopoulos lab. He invites anyone with questions about or interest in the Incentive Mentoring Program to contact him at colin.paul@incentivementoringprogram.org.

When I was in high school, I had an inspiring chemistry teacher. He was funny, he rewarded hard work, and he let us light salt fires in paths around the soapstone lab benches in his classroom. He stayed after school to help my twin brother and me build a “ChemE Car” that used a chemical reaction to stop after a given distance, and we placed second in a competition for local high schools held by the University of Tulsa. He made the subject interesting, and his passion for it was contagious.

Charli

Charli Dawidczyk mentors Baltimore high school students. Photo by Mary Spiro

Before taking his class, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study in college. But as the year progressed, his mentorship helped me decide to pursue chemical engineering, and I’m still doing that as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.

As a scientist, I hope I can inspire others to consider a career in science. Mentorship is particularly important to underrepresented groups in the sciences, such as minorities or women. It’s so important that the National Institutes of Health supports science education and outreach through its Office of Science  Education, and the National Science Foundation has made it a goal “to expand efforts to increase participation from underrepresented groups and diverse institutions throughout the United States in all NSF activities and programs.”

Johns Hopkins University is also increasingly leading efforts to improve Baltimore communities. In an editorial published in the magazine of the School of Advanced International Studies, Hopkins president Ron Daniels stated the need for Hopkins to help revitalize Baltimore and outlined some of the initiatives to do so.

Faculty, staff, and trainees at Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) are challenged to become more involved in mentoring pre-college students. Recently, INBT partnered with the Incentive Mentoring Program (IMP) to hold a “Science Day” for students at the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE), a Baltimore high school near the Hopkins Homewood campus. IMP, founded in 2004 by Hopkins biomedical engineering graduate Sarah Hemminger, pairs mentors with underperforming Baltimore city high school students who were at risk of not graduating. The program has grown to incorporate several hundred volunteers from the East Baltimore and Homewood Hopkins campuses.

Colin Paul, center, looks on as high schoolers us liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Colin Paul, center, looks on as high schoolers us liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. Photo by Mary Spiro.

IMP provides comprehensive mentoring and tutoring to enrolled students, offering educational, legal, and career support to the students and their families. IMP is not merely a tutoring program in which volunteers help students with homework. Instead, it provides students with the social support they may otherwise lack. Teams of five to six mentors are assigned to each student, and these mentors coalesce into an extended family around the student, many of whom come from environments where even graduating from high school is an obstacle. So far, all of the students enrolled in IMP have earned their high school diplomas or equivalent degree.

As IMP grew, students from the laboratories of INBT-affiliated faculty members Peter Searson, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Hai-Quan Mao, Justin Hanes, and Andre Levchenko started to get involved. INBT sought to unite the groups for an event to encourage science education among the IMP students. The idea to hold a joint event came from Andrew Wong of the Searson lab, an INBT trainee who has been instrumental in IMP’s community service activities. I led the event, held on February 27, with Charli Dawidczyk, a doctoral student from the Searson lab.

Our first activity was to build a simple speaker using foam plates, magnets, and wire. Students learned how electromagnetic forces, whose strength and frequency vary depending on the song, deflect the foam plate to create sound waves when the plate is glued to a magnet with a coil of wire around it. The speakers weren’t loud, but everyone participated, even though they might have been more interested in the strong neodymium magnets.

Next, we moved from physics to chemistry and made liquid nitrogen ice cream. We discussed how liquid nitrogen boils at -321°F, much colder than water, and how it would very quickly freeze our liquid ice cream mix. The students made excellent chefs and were excited to see water vapor roil over the lip of the bowl as liquid nitrogen was stirred in to freeze the cream. The recipe got several thumbs up, and the demonstration really held their attention.

I hope the students saw how science comes up in everyday life, even in things we don’t always think about, like music and cooking. By having fun and doing experiments with their mentors and friends, they may realize that a career in science is an option for them. In many ways, IMP is an experiment on how to provide extended families for at-risk students. Problems are tackled on a trial-and error basis by volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Often, an initial solution does not work; but, just like in the lab, we think about what went wrong and try to improve our approach.

The PIs at INBT have encouraged us to make a difference in the community. I’m grateful that my education at Hopkins has included IMP and the wonderful students and volunteers comprising the organization.

Overcoming drug delivery barriers

Editor’s Note: The following is a summary of one of the talks from the 2013 Nano-bio Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology held May 17. This summary was written by Randall Meyer, a doctoral candidate in the biomedical engineering and a member of the Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center. Look for other symposium summaries on the INBT blog.

Nanotechnology bears a multitude of possibilities to systematically and specifically treat many well-characterized and currently untreatable diseases.  Despite this, there exist multiple barriers to its development including challenges related to delivery in the human body.

justin_hanes

Justin Hanes, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, highlighted some of the exciting advances that his laboratory has developed to overcoming these challenges.  According to Hanes, one of the primary functions of nanobiotechnology is to enable a therapy to be delivered to a specific location and only remain there for as long as it is needed.  He likened this idea to applying weed poison to a rose garden.  You only want to apply a little bit of poison to a targeted area, not flood the whole garden.  Unfortunately conventional cancer chemotherapy is like flooding the garden, but only 1 percent of the drug reaches the tumor.  Hanes stated the goal of his work is to flip that so that all but 1 percent of the drug makes it to the site of delivery.

With that in mind, Hanes summarized two stories from his lab of ideas that are successfully being translated from bench to bedside.  One therapy involves the use of custom designed nanoparticles that are capable of penetrating the mucus layers of various human tissues to enable a controlled release of drug into the body.  The second therapy involves the use of injectable particles to the eye that inhibit blood vessel formation,  which is related to diseases such as macular degeneration.

These therapies are being developed by biotech companies launched by Hanes, GrayBug and Kala Pharmaceuticals.

Burn healing gel could soon be commercialized for veterinary use

Hope for severe burns could lie in the healing action encouraged by a colorless, odorless “hydrogel” developed by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBiotechnology affiliated researchers. The Johns Hopkins Engineering Magazine summer edition featured a story here on this work, occurring in the laboratory of chemical and biomolecular engineering associate professor, Sharon Gerecht.

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 2.20.27 PMNews of the original research was posted here on the INBT blog in December 2011. However, the pain and suffering experienced by third-degree burn sufferers is long-lasting and this work rightly deserves to be re-visited. The original study, done in conjunction with faculty in the Department of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Burn Center at Bayview Medical Center, demonstrated for the first time a treatment that could not only aid in healing but practically restore the skin in the tested animals to a healthy state. Use of the hydrogel was tested on mice, and after just a few weeks, skin had regrown to a nearly scar-free state that could even regrow hair. The team is now looking a testing the gel with pigs.

The funny thing is, is that Gerecht and company are not even sure why the hydrogel works the way it does.

The Whiting School of Engineering magazine article highlights the potential commercialization timeline for the hydrogel, that is, when will a product based on this new technology be available for humans? That is a question that folks here at INBT and those affiliated with this work have been receiving nearly once a week since this research was first published. Now, maybe we will have an answer for all those who could potentially benefit from this important and yet mysterious discovery.

Making therapeutic proteins last longer

Happy TRAILs to you: PEGylation of proteins through complementary interactions between a His-tag and a Ni2+ complex of nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA, see picture), a well-established practice in protein research, was used to improve the half-life of therapeutic proteins in the blood following systemic administration in vivo. Animal models show that this site-specific modification improves the efficacy of modified TRAIL proteins.

Happy TRAILs to you: PEGylation of proteins through complementary interactions between a His-tag and a Ni2+ complex of nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA, see picture), a well-established practice in protein research, was used to improve the half-life of therapeutic proteins in the blood following systemic administration in vivo. Animal models show that this site-specific modification improves the efficacy of modified TRAIL proteins.

Proteins are responsible for pretty much everything in the human body. When there is a problem with the proteins, it usually leads to disease.

Protein therapy shows enormous potential for treating disease. But sometimes the proteins in a therapeutic treatment break down or are metabolized before they ever reach their target destination.

In a recent paper published in Angewandte Chemie, researchers from the laboratories of Martin Pomper (radiology oncology) and Seulki Lee (radiology, Center for Nanomedicine) at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and developed a simple method to validate protein drugs in animal models, said Lee. An illustration related to the paper appeared on the cover of the journal.

“We show that we can extend the half-life, that is, the amount of time the drug stays in the blood, while maintaining the activity of the model protein drug, TRAIL,” said one of the lead authors Maggie Swierczewska. “This has great implications for drug screening and validation methods, especially for the growing protein drug market.”

According to the paper, by attaching a molecule of  polyethylene glycol (PEG) to certain sites on the TRAIL protein drugs through an already well known method, the half-life of the drug could be extended without affecting its beneficial activity.

Authors on this paper include Tae Hyung Kim, Magdalena Swierczewska, Yumin Oh, AeRyon Kim, Dong Gyu Jo, Jae Hyung Park,  Youngro Byun, Scheherazade Sadegh-Nasseri, Martin G. Pomper, Kang Choon Lee, Seulki Lee. Author affiliations include the departments of Radiology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, Center for Nanomedicine and collaborators at Sungkyunkwan University and Seoul National University, both in Korea.

Reference: Kim, T. H., Swierczewska, M., Oh, Y., Kim, A., Jo, D. G., Park, J. H., Byun, Y., Sadegh-Nasseri, S., Pomper, M. G., Lee, K. C. and Lee, S. (2013), Mix to Validate: A Facile, Reversible PEGylation for Fast Screening of Potential Therapeutic Proteins In Vivo. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. Vol. 52, Issue 27, pages 6880-6884, doi: 10.1002/anie.201302181

Lindau: where the Nobel Laureates gather

If you want to rub elbows with Nobel Laureates, the place to be this week is Lindau, Germany. Three of the four Johns Hopkins University graduate students attending the 63rd Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting, which is dedicated to chemistry thie year, work in Institute for NanoBioTechnology affiliated laboratories. The meeting runs from June 30 to July 5 and will host more than 550 young researchers from 78 countries.

Allison Chambliss, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the laboratory of Denis Wirtz; Sravanti Kusuman, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering from the laboratory of Sharon Gerecht; and Allix Sanders, a graduate student in chemistry from the laboratory of J.D. Tovar,  were chosen to attend along with 71 other top U.S. graduate student researchers. This year’s group is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Mars, Incorporated, the National Science Foundation, and the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

Before she left, Allison said she was excited about the opportunity to interact with successful and well known researchers, which is harder to do at big conferences. Essentially, she and the others will be chatting with the “rockstars” of science. Allison was able to attend despite also having a summer internship with Novozyme in Raleigh, NC, where she is working in their R&D department on biofuels.

“I liked hearing about how it was so interactive and that there will be people from all over the world. And then the fact that there will be Nobel Laureates, you don’t get the chance to meet someone like that every day, “ Allison said. She also sees this as an opportunity to network in case she wants to do a postdoctoral fellowship in another country. “I will be meeting people from labs all over the place and also people in both academia and industry.”

Allison’s current research in the Wirtz lab involves using high-throughput cell phenotyping to look at the physical characteristic of cells on a single cell basis and how physical attributes can impact a cell genetically. Allison did her undergraduate work at Virginia Tech.

Sravanti’s did her undergraduate work at MIT. Her research in the Gerecht lab involves using pluripotent stem cells and a specially engineered synthetic matrix to grow a micro-vasculature (tiny blood vessels).

“These are the seminal leaders in their field, and in many cases, they are the ones that created their fields, so I just think it will be great to learn the science from their standpoint,” Sravanti said. “You know, like what obstacles did they have to overcome to prove their point, since all their findings would be really novel.”

She is also interested in learning what inspires and keeps these leading figures going. “This is also a more intimate setting,” Sravanti added. “There are lectures in the morning but in the afternoon there are smaller roundtable discussions where you can get more intimate with whichever Nobel Laureate you choose to talk to.

Allix Sanders is working on a project in the Tovar lab that incorporates large, unique chromophores comprised of extended pi-conjugated networks into peptide chains. Following self-assembly, the photophysical characterizations of the supramolecular polymers will be investigated with the future goal of creating useful electronic materials. Allix did her undergraduate studies at Lebanon Valley College.

The fourth Johns Hopkins University student is Joseph Schonhoft, a doctoral student in the biophysics department, which is part of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. He works in the laboratory of James Stivers at the School of Medicine. His research involves facillitated diffusion mechanisms of DNA repair enzymes.

According to information from ORAU, Nobel Laureates have annually convened in Lindau since 1951 to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers from around the world. Laureates and students exchange ideas, discuss projects and build international networks throughout the week. All attendees must pass through a competitive application and selection process managed by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Throughout the week, the 35 participating Laureates will lecture in the mornings on the topic of their choice related to chemistry and participate in smaller question and answer sessions in the afternoons. Students will also interact with the Laureates and other international students during the week for more informal discussions. This year, with the addition of science master classes, a select few researchers will have the opportunity to present their research to a Nobel Laureate and a small group of their peers.

For more information regarding the 63rd Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students, visit the ORAU–Lindau website. The ORAU-Lindau website and all logistical arrangements for the participants are being administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, a DOE institute managed by ORAU.