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2018 Cohort

Aiden Aceves 

Advisor: Steve Mayo

Option: Bioengineering

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aiden-aceves/ 

Lab website: http://www.mayo.caltech.edu/ 

Current Research: Aiden is a first-year graduate student and has just completed laboratory rotations. He is currently completing an internship at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF). He studies the application of machine learning to structural biology and protein design.  

Why Aiden chose Caltech: "I chose Caltech because of its singular focus on science.  When I visited campus for the first time to interview it was clear that the lore was true; Caltech is a monastery of research. The campus is quiet and the community is small but focused, united by the common interest of basic research.  There is a wonderful congruency among the population, brought on by the focused scope of programs, and owing to the university’s small size there are many opportunities to interact with from colleagues from other disciplines. Furthermore, among other programs which I considered, Caltech stood out as being focused on substance instead of status.  I am both humbled and inspired by how gifted my peers are, and find them to be a great source of knowledge and camaraderie."

In Aiden's words: "Biotechnology requires one to think about fundamental science, translational engineering, and entrepreneurship all at the same time. This creates interesting career opportunities, and forces us to eschew complacency and push ourselves to constantly learn and develop new skills.  Furthermore, the opportunity of biotech to impact human health in leaps and bounds makes it deeply fulfilling, and serves as a wellspring of inspiration – a must for the long term enjoyment of any endeavor."

Jacob Barlow

Advisor: Rustem Ismagilov

Option: Bioengineering

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacob-barlow-41103164/

Lab website: http://ismagilovlab.caltech.edu/

Current ResearchThe human gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of up to trillions of microbes and thousands of species that exist within our GI tract. Diseases in areas ranging from the gut to the brain have drawn connections and correlations with shifts in the human microbiome. Yet, taking the step from correlative to causative studies in the microbiome has been a challenge. By utilizing the Ismagilov lab’s expertise in quantification through digital, sequencing, and imaging modalities Jacob hopes to develop and apply new quantitative tools to the gut microbiome. Jacob believes accurate and specific enumeration of microbes in the GI tract will help advance academic findings towards clinical applications.

Why Jacob chose Caltech: "My undergraduate career at Northeastern University provided me with the opportunity to work at several biotech companies.  The biggest thing I learned was how powerful interdisciplinary teams could be in research and development.  Caltech’s small size has led to an emphasis on interdisciplinary research that was evident as soon as I visited campus.  The flexibility of Caltech’s programs and openness of researchers to collaborations is something that I know will help me grow as an individual and a researcher." 

In Jacob's words: "To me the most exciting part about biotechnology is that it can mean so many different things.  This overlap of fields results in projects that seem unfathomable to a single field.  The diversity of ideas and research backgrounds results in exciting new developments every day that not only advance our knowledge but help individuals across the globe."

Miggy Chuapoco

Advisor: Viviana Gradinaru

Option: Bioengineering

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mrchuapoco/

Lab website: http://www.glab.caltech.edu/

Current Research: Gene delivery has been used extensively in research as a tool to modulate biological systems at the level of gene expression. Additionally, gene delivery has also begun to have clinical implications as gene therapies are being developed to reverse life-threatening diseases at their genetic source. Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) are used extensively as a delivery vehicle of this genetic material both in the lab and the clinic, but most AAVs lack the ability to effectively cross restrictive barriers (e.g. the blood-brain-barrier and the placenta) and it known that the human population has pre-existing immunity to some naturally occurring AAVs, limiting their experimental and therapeutic potential. Our lab uses directed evolution to mutate AAV capsid proteins and in vivoselection methods to select for engineered variants that target specific tissues and cell-types while evading the host immune system, expanding the AAV toolbox available to researchers and providing new delivery vehicles that can be used in the clinic. 

Selected Publications and Presentations:

  • Chuapoco MR, Duffy BA, Lee HJ, Choy MK, Lee JH. “Carbon fiber electrodes for single-unit recording combined with artifact-free MRI.” Program No. 717.07. 2017 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2017.
  • Chuapoco MR,Duffy BA, Lee HJ, Choy MK, Lee JH. “Carbon fiber electrodes for single-unit recording combined with artifact-free MRI.” Program No. 2408. Proceedings of the 25th Annual ISMRM Meeting, Honolulu.
  • “Engineering transplacental AAVs for genetic modulation of embryonic gene expression and delivery of gene therapies.” Nick Goeden, Miguel Chuapoco, Nick Flytzanis, Ben Deverman, Viviana Gradinaru. Bioengineering Option Graduate Recruitment. (2018) *Presented poster as second author

Miggy anticipates: "For decades, small molecules have dominated the pharmaceutical market. However, with the advent of recombinant DNA technology, biologics are now beginning to enter the picture, not only creating interest in the development of new protein therapeutics, but also creating interest in developing experimental therapeutic strategies. However, before these new therapies can reach patients, basic science research is required to develop a fundamental understanding of how these new technologies work and how best to create a path to the clinic. Furthermore, creating this path requires input from clinicians and industry professionals alike to inform academic scientists how to best direct research goals.  As a part of the BLP, I will be at the forefront of these conversations, meeting professionals who understand the needs of both patients and the biotech industry to tailor my research goals to have translational implications. Through the BLP’s networking events, site-visits, and an internship, I will learn first-hand how to translate scientific discoveries from bench to bedside."

Miggy chose Caltech because: "...the Institute empowers graduate students to initiate the scientific discovery and innovation in research by facilitating an academic environment that allows me to explore a diverse set of ideas within my project while pursuing unique opportunities (such as the BLP) away from my bench. As an example, collaborative research really thrives at Caltech, as little to no barriers exist that restrict me from engaging students and faculty outside of my department. Combined with the world-class research being done here, Caltech is the perfect place for me to grow as a scientist and as a leader."

Anders Knight

Advisor: Frances Arnold

Option: Bioengineering

LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andersknight/

Arnold Lab website: http://fhalab.caltech.edu/

Current ResearchThe same basic amino-acid building blocks come together to form proteins which, together with a handful of small-molecule cofactors, catalyze almost all the chemical transformations found in nature. These protein-catalyzed reactions can be used to generate products under environmentally friendly conditions, but this requires having a protein which catalyzes the desired reaction. To overcome this problem, techniques which mimic Darwinian evolution have been developed by Prof. Frances Arnold and others to engineer proteins to act upon new substrates, enabling their use in producing new compounds, such as advanced pharmaceutical intermediates. Recently there have been advances in engineering proteins to perform reactions which follow catalytic mechanisms not found in nature. One such new-to-nature reaction developed in the Arnold lab is cyclopropanation via carbene transfer; these cyclopropane products are often found in agrochemical and pharmaceutical compounds. Anders’ research in the Arnold lab has focused on expanding the scope of these reactions to utilize less activated starting materials and access a greater diversity of cyclopropanes. He has engineered heme proteins to selectively catalyze these reactions under mild, environmentally friendly conditions and excited to continue unlocking the potential of new-to-nature biocatalytic reactions. Anders received his undergraduate degree in chemical and biological engineering with a second major in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he researched fundamentals of protein folding using biophysical techniques. After graduating, he spent one year as a DAAD research fellow in Greifswald, Germany where he researched PLP-dependent enzyme discovery and engineering. Anders has received numerous scholarships to support his undergraduate and graduate education and research, including the University of Wisconsin – Madison Hilldale fellowship and the NSF graduate research fellowship.

Selected Publications and Presentations:

  • GRS Biocatalysis, University of New England – Biddeford (July 2018, oral presentation)
  • GRC Biocatalysis, University of New England – Biddeford (July 2018, poster presentation)
  • Brandenberg, O.F.; Prier, C.K.; Chen, K.; Knight, A.M.; Wu, Z.; Arnold, F.H. Stereoselective enzymatic synthesis of heteroatom-substituted cyclopropanes. ACS Catal. 2018, 8, 2629–2634.
  • Knight, A.M.; Kan, S.B.J.; Lewis, R.D.; Brandenberg, O.F.; Chen, K.; Arnold, F.H. Diverse engineered heme proteins enable stereodivergent cyclopropanation of unactivated alkenes. ACS Cent. Sci. 2018, 4, 372–377. 
  • Enzyme Engineering XXIV, Toulouse, France (September 2017, poster presentation)
  • Hammer, S.C.*, Knight, A.M.* Arnold, F.H. Design and evolution of enzymes for non-natural chemistry. Curr. Opin. Green Sustain. Chem. 2017,7,23–30.

Anders anticipates: "The opportunity to pursue an industrial internship as part of my graduate studies is one of the components that excited me most about the BLP. During my undergraduate studies I focused on academic research rather than industry co-ops or internships, and that gap in my experience makes it more difficult to make an informed career decision. As I am looking at the next steps in my career, I would like to have a broader perspective on the differences between research in an academic versus industrial setting."

You might be surprised to know: "When I began my undergraduate degree at University of Wisconsin – Madison, I was not interested in biology as a subject and expected to complete my studies in traditional chemical engineering. The protein folding problem piqued my interest in my first year, and that interest has evolved into a passion for using proteins to solve real-world problems. Had I not discovered this biological question I would have followed a very different trajectory in my studies."

Yu-Li Ni

Advisor: Markus Meister

Option: Neurobiology

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yu-li-ni-3526a082/

Lab website: https://meisterlab.caltech.edu/

Current Research: Yu-Li's research aims at understanding the mechanisms of anesthetics. Classic approaches using ligand-receptor analyses of ion channels have achieved remarkable success in understanding the mechanisms of local anesthetics and sedatives, yet it fails to explain how general anesthetics work at the molecular level. In light of this, we used simplified brain circuits as an experimental and computational model to read out the anesthetic effect from top-down. We have already discovered several novel effects that could not be foreseen by the classic pharmacology approaches, and narrowed down the hypothesis space for the true mechanism. 

Yu-Li chose Caltech because: "I wanted to become a physicist in high school, but had to take the medical school tract to fulfill the traditional asian value. Caltech is like a holy temple for me since childhood. Now I am here, as a medical doctor, doing very novel work that requires interdisciplinary collaboration and strong quantitative training - what I really enjoy."

Yu-Li's inspiration: "I look forward to exchanging innovative research results and getting feedback from the mentors and cohorts. Also, I look forward to learning how to translate the research results to actual products that will impact the world."

Andrey Vyatskikh

Advisor: Julia Greer

Option: Medical Engineering

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/andrey-vyatskikh-71449853/ 

Lab website:  http://jrgreer.caltech.edu/

Current Research: Additive manufacturing (AM) represents a set of powerful processes that enable fabrication of complex 3D structures out of polymers, metals, and ceramics. Resolution of most existing methods for AM of metals and ceramics is inherently limited to tens of microns, which makes them untenable for fabricating complex structures with sub-micron features. Andrey’s research focuses on synthesizing and utilizing hybrid organic-inorganic materials to 3D print metals and ceramics with 100 nm resolution. Developing materials and processes for nanoscale AM of metals and ceramics has a potential to enable previously unattainable cellular-scale complex mechanisms and devices, 3D electrodes, and tools for minimally-invasive procedures. After initial training as a Medical Devices Engineer at Bauman Moscow State Technical University in Moscow, Russia, Andrey received his MS degree from a joint program in Manufacturing between Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Medical Engineering at Caltech. Andrey is a recipient of the Resnick Sustainability Institute Fellowship.

Selected Publications and Presentations:

  • A. Vyatskikh, S. Delalande, A. Kudo, X. Zhang, C.M. Portela, J.R. Greer, Additive manufacturing of 3D nano-architected metals, Nat. Commun.9 (2018) 593
  • A. Vyatskikh, A. Kudo, S. Delalande, J.R. Greer, Additive manufacturing of polymer-derived titania for one-step solar water purification, Mater. Today Commun.15 (2018) 288–293
  • A. Vyatskikh, S. Delalande, A. Kudo, X. Zhang, C.M. Portela, J.R. Greer,Additive manufacturing of 3D nano-architected metals, TMS 2018 Annual Meeting and Exhibition, Phoenix, AZ, February 2018. Oral Presentation
  • A. Vyatskikh, S. Delalande, J.R. Greer,Additive Manufacturing of Metal-Containing Architectured Materials using Resin Laser Exposure, U.S. Patent No. 62/401,039, Assignee: Caltech

Andrey's inspiration: “As an undergraduate, I used to volunteer as an instructor at the Night School of Physics and Mathematics at Bauman Moscow State University. I was teaching thermodynamics to two dozen high school students. These kids are still a major source of inspiration for me – they were willing to spend at least six hours every week solving physics problems in my class. I try to remember their perseverance and eagerness to learn whenever I am facing a particularly challenging research problem.”

Get to know Andrey: At Caltech, Andrey has discovered a new passion on the intersection of art and science. He is looking for unusual and inspiring shapes and structures using microscopy techniques. In 2018, three of his works were chosen to be exhibited at Caltech’s Chandler Café as a part of Institute’s Art of Science competition.