SPUR 2020: RUUTE-Funded Positions

The Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce that six new SPUR positions have become available. These new positions are funded by the Rural and Underserved Utah Training Experience (RUUTE). The eligibility requirements, expectations, and benefits are identical to that of SPUR projects included in the original application.

Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, SPUR 2020 is cancelled. Notifications have been sent to all applicants.

We hope you'll consider applying for SPUR 2021. The faculty mentor application is usually available around August 15. The student application is usually available around November 1.

RUUTE was established to help strengthen the pipeline of future healthcare professionals in rural Utah. Part of that mission is facilitating research and learning experiences to students from rural and underserved backgrounds to help strengthen their interest in pursuing a healthcare profession, and bolstering their resumes to be competitive for graduate school applications.

Project Information

Project Name: Expression and characterization of mouse gamma-IFN-inducible lysosomal thiol reductase (GILT) recombinant protein
Project Mentor:
 Dr. Xiao He
Project description:
 The gamma-IFN-inducible lysosomal thiol reductase (GILT) is the only thiol reductase localized in lysosome with its optimal activity at a low pH, and is expressed in all professional antigen presenting cells. GILT is critical of processing protein antigen by catalyzing disulfide bond reduction, thus facilitating unfolding of disulfide bond in protein antigens for further processing. The GILT protein contains a unique thiol reductase domain, but the mouse GILT protein has not been studied in detail due to lack of a large quantity of GILT protein. This study will attempt to generate anti-GILT monoclonal antibody for affinitive purification of mouse recombinant GILT protein for the structural-functional study of mouse GILT proteins in the future.

Project name: Developing cold viruses to fight cancer
Project mentor:
 Dr. Matthew Vanbrocklin
Project description:
 Immune checkpoint blockade strategies such as anti-PD-1 (that block negative signals that diminish T-cell function) have provided durable antitumor responses in patients with advanced melanoma and are rapidly becoming the standard of care for multiple cancer types. Oncolytic viruses preferentially target tumors leading to direct lysis of tumor cells releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor associated and viral antigens culminating in recruitment and activation of lymphocytes including CD8+ cells. While oncolytic viruses have demonstrated robust anti-tumor responses in clinical trials, rapid viral clearance remains a significant hurdle that limits their overall application and effectiveness. This study will test several generated novel viruses normally associated with causing the common cold and their anti-tumor properties in preclinical models.

Project Title: Intestinal stem cells in Drosophila
Project Mentor: 
Dr. Bruce Edgar
Project Description:
 Stem cells have a propensity to grow and divide, because of this intrinsic property they are also the source of most cancers. The intestine has the most active stem cells of any organ, and renews most of its cells weekly. This project will use genetic approaches in the fruit fly, Drosophila, to address the mechanisms of intestinal stem cell growth and proliferation. Most the work will be aimed at finding the genes that control these processes and determining how they function in gene networks. This includes looking at stem cell behaviors and gene functions during stem cell meditated regeneration, or at the development of stem cell derived tumors.

Project Title: The link between bacteriophages and irritable bowel syndrome in gulf war veterans
Project Mentor:
 Dr. Catherine Loc-Carrillo
Project Description:
 One of the main exposures during deployment to the Gulf War was infection in the form of acute gastroenteritis. Acute gastroenteritis is a risk factor for future functional bowel disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Acute gastroenteritis leads to change in gut microbiota and change in microbiota has been linked to IBS. However, most research has been done on gut bacteria, rather than the viruses in the gut. This study is aimed at understanding the role gut viruses play in the development of IBS and GWI in different patient populations. The long-term goal of this project is to study the efficacy and safety of bacteriophages as treatment in an animal model and then in GW Veterans.

Project Title: Physiology and genetics in Drosophila melanogaster
Project Mentor:
 Dr. Aylin Rodan
Project Description: 
Multicellular organisms maintain homeostasis of the internal milieu for optimal cellular functioning. This includes homeostasis of electrolyte (ion) concentrations, osmolality, and pH. The kidney plays a central role in maintaining homeostasis by regulating the vectorial movement of ions across the renal epithelium, a later of cells that separates urine and blood. Hyperkalemia, or high blood potassium concentration, is a common electrolyte disturbance, particularly in patients with kidney disease, that increases the risk of death and other complications. Using the powerful genetic model organism, Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), assays to measure hemolymph (blood) potassium concentrations have been developed. This project is focused on how a gene (WNK) that regulates blood potassium concentrations in humans is regulating this process in fruit flies.

Project Title: Disease mechanism underlying inherited retinal degeneration
Project Mentor: 
Dr. Jun Yang
Project Description: 
Mutations in the C8ORF37 gene cause various clinical conditions of retinal degeneration. However, the molecular mechanism underlying retinal degeneration caused by C8ORF37 mutations is completely unknown. In this project, students will be investigating the function of the C8ORF37 in retinal photoreceptors using a combination of molecular, cellular, biochemical, and physiological approaches. Several mouse models have been generated to represent the disease, and will be used to help reveal the mechanism of action of C8ORF37 in vivo in hopes of eventually developing treatments for the disease