Marziah Hashimi

Marziah Hashimi

Ph.D. candidate in microbiology, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Marziah studies the way dendritic cells respond to infections of the stomach lining by cancer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Dendritic cells are part of the body's initial immune response. They take in and process foreign material to pass off to T cells, which attack specific pathogens as part of the adaptive immune system. The dendritic cell response bridges the two immune systems, an important aspect of developing immunity against an infection. For her doctoral project, Hashimi is analyzing the gene expression patterns of dendritic cells using RNA sequencing. Characterizing the dendritic cells that are specific to the stomach will give insight into how these cells fight H. pylori infection and thus develop immunity.

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Brian Pettygrove

Brian Pettygrove

Ph.D. candidate in microbiology, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Brian uses confocal microscopy to directly observe and quantify interactions between human neutrophils — key white blood cell involved in the early defense against bacterial infections — and surface-attached Staphylococcus aureus, a biofilm forming bacteria commonly implicated in implant infections. By genetically modifying S. aureus, Pettygrove is probing what strategies it utilizes to survive host defenses, such as the production of toxins and formation of biofilm aggregates. In addition to his investigation of S. aureus-neutrophil interactions, Brian is developing a novel mouse model to study the recruitment of neutrophils to an implanted surface. He aims to better describe how long it takes for white blood cells to reach a biomaterial surface and discover contaminating bacteria. Brian said this two-pronged approach, studying both host and pathogen behaviors, will lead to a better understanding of the events following device implantation and inform how these infections develop.

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Catherine Potts

Catherine Potts

 Ph.D. candidate in mathematics, Department of Mathematical Sciences

Catherine's studies the development of machine learning and data science techniques for biomedical image analysis applications. As the focus of her ongoing dissertation work, she has been working on adapting a machine learning analysis method, archetypal analysis, to neuronal calcium imaging.This project is in collaboration with the Kunze Neuroengineering Researching Laboratory, headed by Anja Kunze, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering, and is partially supported by a MT PEAKS fellowship and Kunze’s National Science Foundation CAREER award. Potts’ ongoing dissertation work also focuses on improving the mathematical and computational aspects of archetypal analysis, enabling the tool to efficiently deal with larger data sets. The ultimate impact of her work will be to make archetypal analysis accessible for a broad spectrum of biomedical applications. 

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