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Faculty Mentor: Anandh Babu Pon Velayutham
Title: Associate Professor
College: Health
School / Department: Nutrition & Integrative Physiology

Project description

**This project is a part of the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR), which provides undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. SPUR 2022 begins on May 25 and ends on August 4. If you are interested in this project, please review all program information on the SPUR site. If you wish to apply to this project, you must apply using the SPUR 2022 application.**

The research in Velayutham laboratory is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms by which blueberry/strawberry-derived microbial metabolites improve endothelial dysfunction during metabolic syndrome (MetS). Human studies support the vascular beneficial effects of berry anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are extensively metabolized by the gut microbiota in humans, suggesting their vascular benefits might be mediated by their microbial metabolites. Velayutham lab showed that: blueberry/strawberry supplementation improves vascular inflammation and dysfunction, and increases the beneficial gut bacteria in diabetic mice; key blueberry metabolites attenuate palmitate-induced endothelial inflammation and vascular dysfunction (Mol Nutr Food Res 2018, Int J Cardiol 2018 & 2019, J Nutr Biochem 2019). Current research in Velayutham lab is focused on (1) determining the mechanisms by which anthocyanins-derived metabolites improve endothelial dysfunction in MetS, (2) determining the role of gut microbiota in mediating the vascular effects of blueberry/strawberry, and (3) determining the impact of circulating metabolites on endothelial dysfunction and identifying the most active metabolite(s). Physiologically relevant models and state of the art techniques will be used to evaluate the mechanistic roles of microbial metabolites of blueberries/strawberries at the cellular level, tissue level and organism level. This study will provide strong scientific rationale for recommending dietary intake of berries to improve vascular health in the US population and worldwide.

Student Role: The major emphasis on the student’s training will have three aspects: Developing competence in conducting research: The student will be involved in a study that is focused on identifying the role of blueberries/strawberries and their metabolites on vascular complications in metabolic syndrome. Specifically, they will be involved in the following: (i) Animal study - Measuring blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure; assessing vascular inflammation; and measuring inflammatory markers. (ii) Cell culture study - Culturing human aortic endothelial cells, treating the endothelial cells with berry metabolites, assessing protein and mRNA expressions of biomarkers.
Analyzing Data: The student will assist in analyzing data and quantifying results using SPSS software (specifically t- test and ANOVA).
Developing additional skills in writing scientific abstracts/manuscripts, and presenting the research data at the lab meeting, seminars in other departments and at national scientific meetings such as Experimental Biology.
Student Benefits: Plant nutrients is an exciting and active field of study. Because many students are interested in nutrition and how scientists develop and study questions around nutrition, our lab is a great place to explore questions of broad interest. This carefully designed research training plan will enhance the student’s skills as an emerging scientist. During this training, the student will develop skills in research techniques, writing scientific manuscripts, and presenting research data in conferences. This will serve as a foundation for his/her career.
Project Duration: 35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities, begins May 25, 2022, and ends August 4, 2022
Opportunity Type: This is a paid research position
Is this a paid opportunity: Yes
Minimum Requirements: Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be a matriculated, degree-seeking undergraduate student in the Fall 2022 semester (beginning or continuing college career in Fall 2022 and not graduating before December 2022; concurrent enrollment while in high school does not meet this eligibility requirement). Applicants do not need to be a University of Utah student. 2) eligible to work in the United States: If you are a University of Utah Dreamer (with or without DACA), you are eligible to participate. U Dreamers with DACA will be hired and paid through U payroll. U Dreamers without DACA who graduated from a Utah high school will be compensated via a different mechanism. If you are a Dreamer from a different institution: If you have DACA, you are eligible to participate and will be hired and paid though U payroll. If you do not have DACA, you are able to participate and gain research experience, but we do not currently have a mechanism that allows us to compensate you. For more information, please contact Megan Shannahan at or 801-581-2478. If you are an international student or scholar, you must either a) be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at the University of Utah, OR b) possess documentation that establishes your eligibility to work in the United States (if you hold US citizenship, it is likely you have these documents). 3) able to commit to approximately 35-40 hours per week of employment at the University of Utah for the entire duration of the program (May 25-August 4, 2022). 4) at least 18 years old by May 23, 2022 (required if you wish to use on-campus housing; preferred if you will not be using on-campus housing).