2013 Summer Equity Interns

Each year, OHSU offers internship opportunities for college students who are interested in furthering their studies in research, medicine, or dentistry. The OHSU Equity Summer Research, Dental and Medicine Internship Program matches students with faculty mentors in a research or clinical setting. Interns learn new skill and gain hands-on experience. Weekly seminars and meetings with fellow students and faculty to discuss ongoing research.

We received over 200 applications for 15 paid research internships at OHSU. The competitive pool of aspiring researchers yielded this impressive group of 2013 Summer Equity interns:

Dirir AbdullahiDirir Abdullahi

Institution: University of Washington

Major: Neurobiology

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Career Interest: M.D./Ph.D.

Research Faculty Mentor: Xiangshu Xiao, Ph.D.Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute

What are you working on? The overall goal for the project is to identify a membrane receptor for Estradiol (E2). Estradiol has two known pathways of entering the cell: 1. Interacting with the unknown protein receptor on the plasma membrane 2. Since it is hydrophobic it is predominantly non-polar henceforth can go through the plasma membrane without any facilitators.Upon entering E2 binds to estrogen receptors (ER) as a ligand, then E2 is able to enter the nucleus and continue transcription

Previous research has used yeast-3-hybrid as a module. Through the understanding that regulation of gene expression involves and Activating Domain, and a DNA binding Domain, one can attempt to sequence the membranes protein DNA. In the yeast cell we have: [Gal4-DBD]-[GR-LBD] acting as the DNA binding domain and, [protein receptor X]-[activating domain] acting as the activating domain. In order to successfully bind the AD with DBD a synthetic molecule was created which has binding abilities with both AD and DBD. Once molecule binds successful binding of AD-DBD is accomplished and with a reporter intact and activated, gene expression was a success. With this understanding we are now able to identify the unknown receptor protein.

The Equity program has allowed me to grow as a student, researcher and future doctor. It has enabled me to use my current skills as a student with little to no previous experience in research and hone them as well as strengthen my skills and develop new ones! My mentor is very inspiring, and motivating, he treats me as an actual researcher and challenges me in every aspect! This is the best program so far that I have been part of and I am very excited to see my project end goals met.

Lenin AquinoLenin Aquino

Institution: Pacific University

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Molalla, Oregon

Career Interest: Dentist D.M.D.

Research faculty mentor: Dr. Wael Sabbah, BDS, DDPH, Msc, PhD, Department of Community Dentistry

What are you working on? The focus of my research has to do with Early Childhood Caries (ECC) primarily in young children between the ages of 5 – 6 years old in developing countries.What we want to see is how children's primary (deciduous) or milk teeth when they develop ECC what impactthis has on their growth and well-being especially in regards of height and weight?How is it that there quality of life is affected between children who develop ECC and does who do not?

The Equity Research Program has been a great opportunity for me so far. Not only have I been able to meet and greet all sort of diverse faculty, employees, and students from OHSU, but undertaking a research project with the guidance of a faculty mentor will give me a better perspective into the educational path I have chosen.

Erica Lee BarriosErica Lee Barrios

Institution: Portland Community College, Rock Creek campus

Hometown: Beaverton, Oregon

Career Interest: Medicine/Research

Research Faculty Mentor: Kari Buck, Ph.D & Laura Kozell, Ph.D., Department of Behavioral Neuroscience

What are you working on? My assigned project involves looking at anxiety as an alcohol-related behavior in different types of mice in a zero-shaped maze by detecting their exploratory behaviors with a special software and then seeking a correlation between their anxiety levels and the MPDZ gene found in their DNA. The MPDZ gene we're looking at has been found to be connected to alcohol withdrawal in the mice; more specifically the mice that had the MPDZ gene suffered much less severe withdrawals than the mice who did not have the gene. Because of this, and previous supporting evidence that there is genetics involved in this complex clinical disorder, this gene is of major interest when looking at the genetics behind alcoholism.

So far, the Equity program has been tremendous to me, one of the best opportunities I have ever received. I appreciate all the hands-on knowledge I've been getting and being able to see what science and medicine is like in reality. I love the campus exposure I have been able to get as a result of my time here, and the best part is my amazing mentors and peers with similar interests.

Marlene CervantesMarlene Cervantes

Institution: Oregon State University

Major: Apparel Design

Hometown: Hood River, Oregon

Career Interest: MD

Research faculty mentor: Katharine Zuckerman, M.D. M.P.H.

What are you working on? The focus of this project is to find the barriers to autism care for Latino children. We are carrying out qualitative research in which we conduct interviews on parents of typical developing children and parents of children with autism to obtain our results.

The Equity Program has been absolutely amazing! It is incredible how much I have learned so far, and cannot imagine how much I will be learning by the end of the program. I love the relationships and connections that I have just begun to make not only with my Mentor, but also with other folks.

Jose GarciaJose Garcia

Institution: Portland State University

Major: Health Sciences

Hometown: Guanajuato Mexico / Portland

Career Interest: M.D./M.P.H.E.

Research Faculty Mentor: Hiroyuki Nakai, M.D., Ph.D., Department: Molecular & Medical Genetics

Clinical mentor: Charles Thomas, M.D., Department: Radiation Medicine

What are you working on? The focus of the project is to treat Alzheimer's disease. By genetically enginner tau protein to create a series of tauopathy-resistant "therapeutically-engineered" tau (te-tau) proteins, deliver them as therapeutic genes to the brain of a mouse model of tauopath using adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors and investigate their potential therapeutic effects.

Having the opportunity to participate in the Equity Research Program has been an incredible experience. I have met people that have and share similar ideas in sciences, that made each individual unique.Overall, I look forward to learn a lot from the project that I'm working in the lab and be able to use the resources that are provide to us in each seminar as a guideline for the next step.

Tsegazeab GesseseTsegazeab Gessese

Institution: University of Oregon

Major: Biochemistry

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Career Interest: Dentistry

Research Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kirsten Lampi, Integrative Biosciences, School of Dentistry

What are you working on? S. Mutans are biofilm forming bateria which causes caries (cavities). My research involves testing the viability of bacteria within the biofilm on a dental composite that contains bioactive glass (BAG). Bioactive glass is a newly designed biomaterial containing silica and other elements that is suspected to reduce the viability of the caries causing bacteria.

The Equity internship is a fabulous program that allows diverse students a chance to get their feet wet in different areas of research that is applicable to their careers. So far, I have enjoyed my time learning various lab techniques and gaining new knowledge through my research.

Robel HaileRobel Haile

Institution: University of Oregon

Major: Biochemistry

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Career Interest: I am interested in healthcare, medicine and career in a research lab. (M.D./Ph.D.)

Research faculty mentor: Professor Chris Cunningham

What are you working on? Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a major health problem with serious outcomes for individuals, their families, and even the society they live in. Our research focuses on the involvement of a specific part of the mid-brain with alcohol withdrawal.

Preliminary studies have shown that bilateral electrolytic lesions of the caudolateral substatia nigra (clSNr) reduced handling-induced convulsion scoring (HICS) in mouse genotypes previously shown to drink excess amount of ethanol (DBA/2J or D2) after high concentration of ethanol infusion (Chen et al., 2008, 2011), suggesting that substatia nigra is highly involved in alcohol withdrawal.

Although no animal model duplicates the clinical definition of alcoholism, animal models are useful for specific factors, including the potential to understand alcohol withdrawal (Fidler et al., 2011). Therefore, our project is designed to examine if bilateral electrolytic lesions of the clSNr will hinder the expected enhancement of alcohol consumption via surgically implanted intragastric (IG) catheters in D2 mice. The project is also designed to examine if clSNr lesions will alter alcohol intoxication/withdrawal during passive exposure.

I am delighted to be a part of Equity Summer Research Program. I see myself as one of the luckiest college students to have the opportunity to work in one of the nation's best institutions. I am really excited to spend the summer of 2013 working with Dr. Chris Cunningham and his staff members in a prestigious lab. As his research assistant, I am gaining a hands-on experience and learning a new skills about scientific research. Not only to work in the lab for the summer, but I am also looking forward to have a great connection with Dr. Cunningham as my personal mentor in the future.

Tony DeMarco Hansberry II

Tony DeMarco Hansberry II

Institution: Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU)

Major: Chemistry

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

Career Interest: Trauma Surgeon

Research Faculty Mentors: David Hampton, M.D., Surgery Department and

Martin Schreiber, M.D., Surgery Department

What are you working on? Medical professionals currently defines a patient who receives a massive transfusion (MT) as one who is given ten units or more of red blood cells during a 24-hour period as a result of a traumatic injury. However, many doctors believe a more distinct and minimal amount of blood should be administered through a smaller increment of time. This project will focus on distinguishing the difference between survival rates of patients who received a MT (<10U/24hr.) versus those who received four units of blood per hour (<4U/hr.).

The OHSU Equity Summer Program has allowed me to gain valuable knowledge about medical research and its importance in the medical field. I have been able to observe and participate in a range of different trauma surgeries including a sleeve gastrectomy and hernia repairs. I wish to continue to learn more about trauma surgery, while taking full advantage of Portland and all it has to offer.

Eugene Henderson

Eugene Henderson

Institution: CUNY Queens College

Major: Nutrition & Exercise Science B.S.

Hometown: New York, NY

Career Interest: Medicine

Research Faculty Mentor: Terry Morgan M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynecology

Clinical Mentor: Donn Spight, M.D., FACS Assistant Professor of Surgery

What are you working on? We are studying chorangiosis which is when the placenta produces too many blood vessels. We are looking to see if there is a correlation between chorangiosis and cerebral palsy.

This has been a tremendous experience.Everyone at Oregon Health and Science University has been extremely encouraging and approachable. I am humbled to have the opportunity to work alongside so many brilliant and compassionate individuals. My research mentor has devoted his research to women's health and my clinical mentor has shown me some of the amazing new advances in surgery. I look forward to discovering more about how science and medicine blend and support each other.

Vanessa Lianoz

Vanessa Lianoz

Institution: Clackamas Community College Nursing Program Class of 2014

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Career Interest: Nursing

Research Faculty Mentor: Kerri Winters-Stone, Ph.D., associate Professor/Scientist, School of Nursing at OHSU

What are you working on? Parents Feasibility (partnered exercise program). The purpose of this study is to assess parent attitudes and preferences regarding participating in a partnered exercise intervention concurrent with or following their child's cancer treatment.

Coming into the research field with no previous research experience was daunting at first. However, the mentors and staff I was teamed up with have been absolutely fabulous. They have been so welcoming, and have already in this short amount of time showed me so much about what really goes into research. The impression I had of what research is has definitely changed ever since I began this internship, and has definitely allowed me to realize how much preparation goes into a single project.

This internship opportunity with the Equity program has definitely shaped the way I will view healthcare research, and I definitely think this will help give me a unique perspective, and a different way of seeing things when I work in the clinical setting as nurse.

Alexandra Lee Nowierski

Alexandra Lee Nowierski

Institution: Portland State University

Major: Pre-Med

Hometown: Portland

Career Interest: Medicine-Neurology

Research Faculty Mentor: Amala Soumynath Ph.D. and Phillippe Thuillier, Ph.D.

Clinical Mentor: Abigail Lenhart, M.D.

What are you working on? In Amala's lab, I am currently researching a botanical extract from the plant centella asiatica that is believed to be involved in neural regeneration and is being explored as a treatment for Alzheimer's. Phillippe has me on a project that has just started involving the application of piperine as a source of pigmentation correction in a skin disorder called vitilago. I am looking at the effects of piperine coupled with UV radiation to see if the hypothesis that it reduces the chances of melanoma development is supported or not.

The Equity program is a life-changing experience that not only inspires me to move forward in my career but gives me hands on experience in the fields I have been interested in for years that I otherwise would've never been exposed too. I look forward to every day that I get to come into lab or shadow.

Andrea Nuñez Morales

Andrea Nuñez Morales

Institution: Willamette University

Major: Chemistry (Biochemistry track)

Hometown: Independence, Oregon

Career Interest: Medicine

Research Faculty Mentor: Damien Fair, PA-C, Ph.D., Fair Neuroimaging Lab, Behavioral Neuroscience

Clinical Mentor: Somnath Saha, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine and Public Health & Preventive Medicine Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University

What are you working on? Human amygdala functional connectivity in ADHD and control populations

I've already met so many incredible people with such diverse backgrounds and stories, many of which have further inspired me to become a physician someday! The Equity program has done an excellent job of providing us with an opportunity to network and interact with people who provide advice for the future.


Ariadna Covarrubias Ornelas

Institution: Transferring to PSU as a Junior from Portland Community College

Major: Biochemistry

Hometown: Currently live in Cornelius

Career Interest: Research

Research Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrey Ryabinin, M.D., Ph.D. Department of Behavioral Neuroscience

What are you working on? A baseline drinking was established using a 2-bottle choice drink in the dark procedure for two hours, one bottle water and the other ethanol, for female and male C57 mice, then they were exposed to ethanol vapors or to air, and then again to the 2-bottle choice drink in the dark procedure. This is as part of a multiple withdrawal model in order to see if the urocortin system is involved in alcohol consumption. For this purpose, wild-type and urocortin 1 knock out (KO) female and male mice are being used. It is expected to see an increase in drinking in the wild-type mice after being exposed to the ethanol vapors. Not sure what to expect from the urocortin KO mice.

I have been enjoying the Equity program thus far. As I have been working in the laboratory I have been able to use knowledge and techniques I learned in my laboratory classes. I am looking forward to seeing how the experiment progresses and to better understand the process of how data is interpreted.

Dain RegisDain Regis

Institution: New College of Florida

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Hometown: Cap' Haitiene, Haiti

Career Interest: Cardiothoracic Surgeon, M.D/Ph.D

Research Faculty Mentor: Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D. Casey Eye Institute

Clinical Mentor: Dennis Crawford, M.D., PhD. Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation

What are you working on? Our lab is working to stop and prevent retinal degeneration by working with mice models of retinitis pigmentosa and finding which serotonin receptor modulators (agonists or antagonists) help protect the retina from genetically inherited degeneration. We received mice with pigmented background, but needed to breed mice with knockout gene (no serotonin receptors) in an albino background for the experiment; albino mice are selected because they lack pigmentation in the retina and thus are more susceptible to light damage. By genotyping the progeny of the crosses and using PCR to amplify the gene to see if it is present or not, we were able to determine which mice carried the knockout trait. We then set up breeding pairs using the mice that carried the trait to further the albino background in the mice to a 99% genotype. This allows us to better understand the mechanism for how the drugs are protecting the retina.

My work in the research involves genotyping mice from each generation to ensure that they have the knockout gene we are looking for which helps us to select the appropriate breeding pairs. This involves isolating their genomic DNA and then using specific primers that will bind to the gene we want and then performing a PCR reaction and running it on a gel to see if we have heterozygotes or homozygotes. Heterozygotes (double bands) prove that the mice have the gene and through generations of breeding we get the strain of mice we want (albino) with the knockout gene we need. I also perform ERGs (electro retina grams) on the mice to measure the electrical impulses of the rods and cones in their retina. In addition to measuring the function of the retinas, we can analyze the structure of the retina using OCTs (Optical Coherence Tomography). With OCTs we can measure the thicknesses of different retinal layers, which tells us whether or not the retina has degenerated and if so how much. The plan of this animal model is to test 5HT (serotonin) receptors and see what drugs can be used to activate or inhibit those receptors to provide neuroprotection against retinal degeneration.

The Equity program is amazing! There are cutting-edge research and procedures being done all throughout OHSU and I am eternally grateful that I get to be a part of it. The doctors and researchers are all extremely helpful and nice and I feel this program is doing a great job preparing me to achieve my goals of becoming an M.D./Ph.D.

Kimberly Rojas

Kimberly Rojas

Institution: Oregon State University -Cascades

Major: Biology

Hometown: Bend, Oregon

Career Interest: Pediatrics & Neurology

Research Faculty Mentor: Cheryl Maslen, Ph.D., Human Genetics Initiative

Clinical Mentor: Mohamud Daya, M.D., M.S., Department: Emergency Medicine

What are you working on? The research project I will be working focuses on identifying genetic variations in the exome sequences of African American children with Down Syndrome (DS) with a heart defect known as Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD) and those without.

I will be looking through their exome sequences to identifying variations, categorizing the variance as missense or deleterious, and use statistical methods to demonstrate if the variances identified are of significance. The significance of the variants is related to whether or not they can potentially contribute to the development of AVSD in children with DS.