Internship Cohort 2023

Alessandra Armenta-Lope

Willamette University  

MENTORS Jaime Peterson, M.D., M.P.H.  

Disparities in school readiness among rural families 

The MATH Study is centered around 3 and 4-year-old’s living and attending clinics in rural areas and who are highly unlikely to be ready for kindergarten. Baseline math and literacy examinations will be made to all participants, then they will have a 50% chance of receiving a Tips By Texts. Tips By Texts is the study’s randomized tool that will send text messages to selected families. Each math and literacy message will include a fact, a tip, and a growth, which will promote learning engagement, and allow for the 3 or 4-year-old to be better prepared for kindergarten. After 8 months of the first baseline exams, the participants will take the exams once again, comparison between participants that did and did not receive Tips By Texts will be analyzed. This study will promote school readiness in clinics among pediatricians, their patients and their families.  


Portland State University

MENTORS Henry Lin, M.D., M.B.A.

Assessment of current strategies for recognizing FALD symptom development for Fontan pediatric patients

The goal of this project is to assess and evaluate current strategies employed by physicians of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for monitoring and diagnosing FALD (Fontan Associated Liver Disease). A retrospective chart review is conducted to pinpoint significant trends in cardiac catheterizations along with assessment of the liver through biopsies or metabolic labs. This research will help enhance the knowledge of recognizing FALD development and encourage establishment of potential consensus guidelines for diagnosing FALD

Daniel Barrera

Corban University  

MENTORS Hui Wu, Ph.D.  

Investigating Functions of Diadenylate Cyclase in S. mutans  

S.mutans is the bacteria responsible for dental caries. It causes the oral environment to become more acidic, resulting in rapid tooth decay. Cyclic Diadenosine monophosphate (c-di-AMP) is a signaling pathway directly involved in the cell growth and survival of S. mutans. C-di-AMP is regulated by the enzyme, diadenylate cyclase. Throughout the process of this research two experiments took place to monitor two aspects of s.mutans, acid production and protein interactions. Deleting the gene that codes for the enzyme can affect the signaling pathway and therefore affect the overall function of the microbe. Through acid analysis, the difference in pH between the deleted gene s.mutans and the wild type s.mutans can be tracked. The goal of this experiment is to monitor the role of diadenelate cyclase in the acidification of s.mutans. The c-di-AMP signaling pathway binds to a large number of proteins and its interactions can be tracked using the enzyme luciferase, causing a visible luminescence. The goal of this experiment is to be able develop a better understanding of s.mutans through the process tracing its Protein interactions. 

Ariana Borda

University of Pennsylvania  

MENTORS Carolyn Schutt Ibsen, Ph.D.  

Developing bioinks for 3D-printed breast cancer models to study endothelial-breast epithelial interactions  

The tumor microenvironment plays an important role in breast cancer behavior and progression, including factors such as tissue stiffness and composition of the extracellular matrix. In our project, we utilized biopolymers including gelatin, alginate, gelatin methacryloyl, and collagen, to create printable bioink formulations with the goal of recapitulating breast tissue mechanical properties and maintaining the viability of endothelial and breast epithelial cells. This work will contribute to the development of a 3D bioprinted breast tissue model that will allow for the study of crosstalk between endothelial and triple-negative breast cancer cells.  

Cecilia Coca-Aitken.jpg

Pacific Lutheran 

MENTORS Maria Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H.  

Understanding the Barriers to Menopausal Care in Latina Communities  

Reproductive healthcare is often overlooked during the transition into midlife. Hormone changes due to menopause often affect quality of life and have a disproportionate effect on people of color. The goal of this study is to compare Latinas’ and non-Latinas’ menopausal experiences to identify the specific barriers both groups face in receiving appropriate midlife care. Knowledge of these barriers may help to improve midlife reproductive care in Oregon; especially, for under-researched Latina communities. 

Alessandra Cuevas

University of Guam  

MENTORS Ben Sanders, MD, MSPH, MS  

Barriers and facilitators to Early Intervention referral completion from the perspective of referral coordinators  

Early intervention (EI) is a federal and state program that offers therapy tailored to the developmental requirements of children up to the age of 3, although this is not always available to those who require care due to barriers. The study focuses on analyzing the viewpoints of referral coordinators to determine the barriers and facilitators to completing EI program referrals. Understanding the perspective of referral coordinators will provide knowledge that may aid in improving the success rate of Early Intervention program referrals. 

Anna Dang

University of Portland  

MENTORS Xiangshu Xiao, Ph.D., Bingbing Li M.D./Ph.D.  

Combination Therapies for Clear Cell Sarcoma  

Clear cell sarcoma of soft tissue (CCSST) is an exceedingly rare and relentless type of sarcoma that commonly affects adolescents and young adults. While CCSST currently has no standard therapies, we have found an ATF1 inhibitor that is effective against the proliferation of CCSST cells in vitro (666-15). In this project, we have tested 179 different FDA-approved drugs to explore the possibility of a synergist that can increase the effectiveness of 666-15, thus introducing a highly efficacious way to treat this aggressive, overlooked disease. 

Jessica Garibay Ochoa.jpg

Western Oregon University  

MENTORS Andrew McHill, Ph.D.  

Changes in sleep timing, duration, and quality across the transition to shiftwork  

The circadian timing system is an internal biological clock that keeps our body coordinated with the 24-hour light/dark cycle. A misalignment of our clock with the 24-hour light/dark cycle can affect an individual’s health and behavior. The Sleep, Chronobiology, and Health Laboratory has conducted many previous studies to investigate how different factors of an individual’s life can affect their circadian clock and health. This project examined sleep, as measure via actigraphy methods, from individuals who were transitioning into shiftwork schedule to understand how this schedule changes the timing, duration, and quality of sleep. 

Allison Himiob

University of Georgia  

MENTORS Monica Hinds, Ph.D., Hillary Le  

Effects of THC on Endothelial Cell Barrier Function  

Cannabis is a commonly used drug and usage will become more frequent as legalization increases. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a ligand that binds to cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and causes the psychoactive effects from consuming cannabis. We are assessing how THC activation of CB1 affects endothelial barrier function by measuring cell viability, adhesion molecule expression, and permeability. This research will allow us to further investigate the contributions THC has on endothelial cell inflammation. 

Brady Jin Smith

Tulane University  

MENTORS Summer Gibbs, Ph.D., Missy Wong Ph.D.  

Analyses of tumor hybrid cell distribution in colorectal cancer (CRC) patient samples across tumor stages  

My project is to conduct preliminary staining experiments on a cohort of 60+ colorectal cancer (CRC) patient samples. Working in the Gibbs Lab, I conjugated and validated the probes we used (CD45, Epcam, E-cad, panCK) and in the Wong Lab, I stained, and created a pipeline in QI Tissue software to count the number of tumor hybrid cells (heterogenous for epithelial markers), normalize the population to epithelial tissue, and collect foundational data on their localization in the primary tumor. With the broad goal of uncovering information on tumor hybrid cells’ roles in the metastatic cascade, I also took the same tissue samples through H&E staining and compared their phenotypic and population data with existing data on hybrids in the peripheral blood of CRC patients. 

Briana Johnson.jpg

Middlebury College 

MENTORS Joe Grieco, Ph.D./Jessica Riesterer, Ph.D.  

Unraveling Estrogen’s Effects on DNA Damage Response Pathways in ER-Null DCIS Breast Cancer models: An Imaging Study Correlating Scanning Electron Microscopy to Immunofluorescent Imaging 

This research project aims to explore the impact of estrogen on DNA damage response pathways in ER- breast cancer cells using multiple imaging techniques including scanning electron and fluorescent microscopy. By visualizing DNA damage foci, repair proteins, and ultrastructural adaptations within the cells following acute genotoxic stress, the study seeks to uncover how estrogen contributes to temporal changes in DNA repair functions while maintaining viability and dysregulated proliferation. This study will provide valuable insights for early detection and potential therapeutic implications for ER-null breast cancer models. 

Ronny Junkins.jpg

Stanford University  

MENTORS Dan Zuckerman, Ph.D.  

An analysis on the relative importance of cell features in determining the of morphological trajectory embeddings  

While time-lapse imaging of cells provides a certain degree of insight into cell behavioral states, new methods are needed in order to more accurately and quantitatively understand how cell morphologies evolve over time. The Zuckerman Lab has been approaching this problem by studying cell morphological trajectories in order to build a predictive model of cellular behavior. This research clarifies the role different cell features play in determining the quality of this model, and by extension which features provide critical information for predicting future cellular behavior. 

Megan Ly.jpg

University of California Berkeley  

MENTORS Isabella Rauch, Ph.D.  

Consequences of cytosolic LPS recognition in human intestinal epithelial cells  

Inflammasomes are a part of the innate immune system that elicit host inflammatory responses to prevent pathogen dissemination. We will be investigating the effects of transfecting bacterial lipopolysaccharide and activating the inflammasome in human intestinal epithelial cells. 

Diana Mallanao.jpg

University of Guam  

MENTORS Sara Drummond, EdD  

Oregon Rural Hospital Staffing with Pas & APRNs  

This research project delves into rural Oregon’s Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and the healthcare services & providers available in each hospital. The main goal of this project is to get a better understanding of the shortages and needs that exist within these CAHs through public data analysis. 

Taila Marks.jpg

Washington State University-Vancouver  

MENTORS Suzanne Mitchell, Ph.D. 

Delay Discounting: Which choice gives more on average in the long-term?  

The current focus of the Translational Neuroeconomics lab is assessing delay discounting in selectively-bred rats. We employ operant chambers loaded with sucrose solution as the reward in order to collect data of our rat’s choices. The main goal of our lab is to determine whether impulsivity (specifically the choice to choose smaller-sooner rewards over larger-later) is inheritable through selective breeding/genetics through behavioral study (this portion of the experiment is not yet complete). My project branches off the main experiment to evaluate which choice (on average) yields higher rewards.

Ava Minu-Sepehr

University of Oregon  

MENTORS Marci Messerle-Forbes, RN, M.S.N., ND, FNP  

Understandings of Oregon Reproductive Health Policies: Differences between English and non-English Primary Speakers  

Though Oregon is an innovator in progressive reproductive health policy, no policies passed have included funding for outreach or advertisement. This research is a sub-study of a larger Contraceptive Agency Study by Dr. Maria Rodriguez, and examines the extent of people’s understanding of Oregon laws and policies surrounding reproductive and sexual health. It investigates whether different demographics have gaps in knowledge, and illuminates the need for effective health policy outreach, especially among people on the margins of care. 

Shelby Nicholas1.jpg

University of Portland  

MENTORS Stuart Ibsen, Ph.D.  

Collection of bacterial membrane vesicles using dielectrophoresis as a novel biomarker detection technique  

Bacterial membrane vesicles (BMVs) are nanoparticles naturally released by bacteria into surrounding fluid within the body. The presence of BMVs from certain strains of bacteria can indicate disease status, thus, BMVs have the potential to serve as valuable biomarkers in various disease detection applications. We have shown that the electrokinetic process of dielectrophoresis has the ability to separate BMVs from the rest of a sample, allowing for signal amplification and detection of lower levels of particular biomarkers. This is the first example of the label-free collection of BMVs using dielectrophoresis. This novel research demonstrates the ability of dielectrophoresis and BMVs to create a more sensitive biomarker-based diagnostic tool. 

Angelina Patterson

Portland State University  

MENTORS Srivathsan Ranganathan, Ph.D., Nick Groves, Ph.D. 

Optimizing conjugation and DNA ligation in complex environment to enable single molecule protein sequencing  

This project focuses on optimizing conditions for DNA-peptide conjugation and DNA ligation reactions to enable single molecule protein sequencing. We perform 3D modeling of the DNA constructs and perform conjugations in the wet lab at different buffer solution conditions. We use gel electrophoresis to quantify the reaction efficiencies and report the best conditions to perform the reactions. 

Gemma Pleas.jpg

Washington University in St.Louis  

MENTORS Suzanne Mitchell, Ph.D.  

Developing an Emotion Based Viewing Task to Investigate the Role of Emotional Effort in Emotional Avoidance  

Emotional avoidance is known as a tendency to avoid emotions and the contexts which may evoke them. Avoiding distressing and unpleasant situations or  forgoing high-energy social events, for example, would be instances of emotional avoidant behaviors. Emotional avoidance has been studied extensively throughout the literature, however, our understanding of the underlying cognitive and behavioral mechanisms remain unclear. This summer, I investigated one potential factor that may affect emotional avoidance: one’s willingness to engage in tasks requiring high emotional effort, or emotional effort discounting. Through piloting an Emotion Based Viewing Task, I was able to examine the emotional processes associated with emotional effort discounting/exertion. I worked on developing a more ecologically valid emotional processing task with video stimuli in order to create a new assessment tool and examine its overall reliability and validity. I internally piloted this task, collecting and analyzing participants’ self-report data regarding the videos’ emotional arousal, emotional effort, and familiarity levels. I also collected and inspected participant heart rate, galvanic skin conductance, and pupilometry data in order to further assess participant arousal. The Emotion Based Viewing Task is a preliminary step in our research examining the role of emotional effort in emotional avoidance. 

Bella Root

Lewis and Clark  

MENTORS Suzie Fei, Ph.D.  

Of Mice and Meth: Gene expression in mice selectively bred for the Taar1 allelic  variant  

We investigated differentially expressed genes in 3 brain regions of mice that have been selectively bred for the Tarr1 genotype. This genotype is shown to have immense impacts on the adverse effects of consuming methamphetamine and the readiness of mice to voluntarily ingest Methamphetamine. 

Caroline Schrenker.jpg

Oregon State University  

MENTORS Terry Morgan, M.D., Ph.D.  

Prevalence of oral squamous cell carcinomas within cohabitants of patients with hrHPV-mediated cervical dysplasia  

High-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) is an oncogenic, sexually transmitted infection and a main contributing factor for pathological cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. Our retrospective and clinicopathologic study aims to identify an increased prevalence of hrHPV-mediated oral squamous cell carcinomas in cohabitants of patients with diagnosed cervical dysplasia. Establishing a positive correlation between these diagnoses can help determine the efficacy of HPV vaccination as a potential primary prevention strategy of oral squamous cell carcinomas and lead to future research into the influence of hrHPV infection in other cancers. 

Yoona Shim.jpg

Lewis and Clark College  

MENTORS Brandon Maughan, M.D.  

Gender bias in diagnostic evaluation and treatment for acute pulmonary embolism  

This project is a retrospective study that will attempt to investigate whether there is gender bias in the diagnosis and treatment of women with pulmonary embolism (PE) in the emergency department (ED), as well as the use of ultrasonography for patients with diagnosed with PE in the ED. Identification of gender bias would help to develop strategies to address gender disparities and improve PE care in the ED. Our chart review examines temporal characteristics including arrival to the ED, testing for PE, issuance of a radiology report, and initiation of anticoagulation therapy. 

Hao Tran.jpg

Swarthmore College  

MENTORS Katharine Zuckerman, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, Luis Rivas Vazquez  

Constructing culturally appropriate survey measures to understand how limited English proficiency affects families’ access to autism care for their children  

The Zuckerman lab’s LEAP project is centered around understanding how families with limited English proficiency get access to autism diagnosis and care for their children. In order to do so, we are constructing an English survey to send out to families. The survey will also be translated into 4 distinct languages including Spanish, Chinese-Mandarin, Kreyòl, and Vietnamese. We are hoping to gain meaningful information by having native speakers of these languages dedicate their time to this project to ensure that all the questions are easy to understand and are culturally appropriate for these families! 

Sara Tummuru.jpg

Portland State University  

MENTORS Amira Al-Uzri, M.D., M.C.R., Sheryl Williams B.S.B., Kyle Patubo B.S., Jessica Stockton M.P.H., M.S.  

Level of Health Literacy Among Pediatric Pre-Kidney Transplant Recipients and its Effect on Education Provided During Evaluation  

The project focuses on improving the education provided to patients and their families being evaluated for kidney transplants by measuring health literacy. Using data from a validated BRIEF survey given in July 2023 to families with children ranging from 1-19 years old. The purpose of this survey is to assess the level of familiarity pediatric patients and their families have on understanding medical information. The data will assist the care team in equitably educating patients and their families to improve patient outcomes. 

Colleen Uzoekwe.jpg

University of Oregon  

MENTORS Joshua Lupton, M.D.  

This study investigates the trends in the chain of survival and EMS interventions before, during, and after the pandemic (2018-2022)  

Utilizing data from the Portland Cardiac Arrest Epidemiologic Registry, the research aims to assess the impact of the pandemic on EMS interventions’ timing, such as drug administration and vascular access, and explore whether any changes observed during COVID-19 have been resolved in the post-pandemic years (2021-2022). Understanding these trends could lead to improved strategies for enhancing OHCA patient survival rates. 

Isabel Villegas-Glang.jpg

San Diego State University  

MENTORS Chara Rydzak, M.D.  

Lung Cancer and Lung Cancer Screening in Oregon: Health Education and Awareness for High School Students  

The goal of this project was to determine why lung cancer screening rates are low on a national level and in the state of Oregon through systematic review. Once it was established that a plethora of variables contribute to low lung cancer screening rates, we began a teaching module curated for high school students to learn about lung cancer screening and become advocates for maintaining lung health. The module was intended to utilize health communication concepts and educate students through interactive and innovative means. 

Michelle Wambui.jpg

Oregon State University  

MENTORS Jonathan Pruneda, Ph.D.  

Investigating the Binding Affinity of the Deubiquitylase of O. tsutsugamushi to Ubiquitin  

Ubiquitin is a highly conserved protein that plays a vital role in regulating various crucial cellular processes such as protein degradation, regulation of protein interactions and protein activity. Because of the complexity of the ubiquitin system as well as its structure, targeting protein ubiquitination has proved to be challenging. The goal of my research is to find a cheaper and more efficient alternative to using antibodies, since they are expensive and not always reliable, for the detection and visualization of ubiquitin. Our research is particularly interested in the pathogen Orientia tsutsugamushi, because the deubiquitylase (DUB) of O. tsutsugamushi (OtDUB) contains a ubiquitin binding domain (UDB) with an exceptionally high binding affinity for ubiquitin which allows for efficient detection of ubiquitin. 

Ruthanne Zareyna.jpg

Linfield University 

MENTORS Ting Zheng, Ph.D.  

Development of an Immunostaining Functional Assay to detect Pancreatic Cancer  

This project was intended to develop an immunostaining functional assay to analyze the expression of Rad51, γH2AX and Geminin in pancreatic cancer. Several pancreatic cancer cell lines and clinical tissue samples were analyzed. The developed assay will eventually be used to profile a large number of clinical samples and potentially become a clinical assay for prognostic and treatment selection purposes for pancreatic cancer. 

Eseniya Zinkina.jpg

Portland State University 

MENTORS Toby Futch, M.Ed., Erika Simeon, M.P.H., Ann Martinez Acevedo,  M.P.H., Julia Heinlein, M.P.H. 

Enhancing Oregon’s Response to Substance Abuse: Analyzing Policy Synergies and  Contradictions with the Substance Use Disorder 1115 Demonstration Waiver  

With the approved 1115 waiver from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Oregon can implement new strategies to address Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) and Opioid Use Disorders (OUDs). The project’s goal is to analyze external policies and their interactions with the waiver, using a policy matrix and qualitative analysis. This will identify potential synergies and contradictions. The findings will provide context for the upcoming waiver evaluation by the Center for Health Systems Effectiveness, ultimately aiming to improve Oregon’s public health landscape and enhance the well-being of its residents.