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UW Engage Science trains today’s graduate students in cutting-edge communication skills in order to reconnect the public with science and bring about a more informed tomorrow. Join us for a look at the forefront of research in our region and meet the students who are leading the latest wave of scientific discovery.
April Lo: Lung Cancer Messengers
Bio: April Lo (she/her) is a genome sciences graduate student at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In her research, she studies what happens in lung cancer cells when there are errors or imbalances in genes. By connecting changes in genes to changes in the cell’s messaging system, she hopes to better understand and help treat this deadly cancer.
Description: Lung cancer often develops because of errors in our genes, but knowing which genetic error is causing a cancer doesn’t always mean we can cure it. Sometimes we can correct the gene itself, but often we have better luck if we instead stop the harmful effects of the gene’s error. One major effect is the incorrect editing of mRNA, which are the messages from genes that tell the cell what to make and do. If we know the problematic edits that are being made because of specific genetic errors, we can design treatments which re-edit these messages so that they tell the cell to behave normally instead of going out of control, and we can deliver these treatments only to cancers with the relevant genetic error. With this strategy, we could cure more cancers and have customized cures so that patients no longer have to go through exhausting treatments which may not even work for them.
Doris Dai: Frozen in Time — Perceiving Native Americans as People of Past Has Negative Implications for Racial Equality
Bio: Doris Dai (she/her) is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in social psychology at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on how historical representations of Native Americans shape non-Native individuals’ (mis)perceptions of Native Americans, and how such (mis)perceptions have downstream negative consequences on Native Americans’ well-being and lived experiences.
Description: Mainstream U.S. culture is infused with historical representations of Native Americans, which depict them as outdated figures in the 18th/19th-century context (such as the Disney movie Pocahontas), and meanwhile lacks modern representations of Native Americans. This representation landscape does not reflect the reality, in which over 9 million Native Americans live in the U.S. and the population continues to grow yearly at a rapid rate. Yet, for non-Native individuals who grow up with predominantly historical Native representations, it is inevitable for them to misperceive Native Americans as people who only existed in the past and have completely vanished from today’s world. This misperception hinders the efforts to advance social equality. Although Native Americans face a disproportionate amount of injustices compared to any other racial/ethnic groups, when perceiving Native Americans as people of the past, non-Native individuals tend to minimize or deny the racism against Native Americans. In turn, they fail to engage in any sort of actions that would address such racism against Native Americans.To ensure the well-being and dignity of over 9 million native Americans and generations to come, non-Native individuals and the whole society have the responsibility to replace historical Native depictions with modern ones.
Lance De Koninck: Improving cancer treatments with ultrasound therapy
Bio: Lance De Koninck (he/him) is a second-year bioengineering Ph.D. student studying how to better deliver drugs using ultrasound. His research explorers how ultrasound can increase the temperature inside of cells, weakening them and assisting drugs to better penetrate these cells.
Description: Every year in the U.S. there are 1.4 million people who start chemotherapy, a drug which attacks fast-growing cells, like cancer, in their bodies. Unfortunately, hair, skin, and immune cells are also fast-growing and get damaged or destroyed by chemotherapy during the average 5-month treatment time. Recently, techniques have been developed with ultrasound to create a heat-based therapy that weakens cancer cells in a tumor, but the treatment area is too small to enhance chemotherapy. By combining this ultrasound technique with an ultrasound agent know as microbubbles, we can expand the treatment area to cover an entire tumor, weakening the tumor and allowing easy access for the chemotherapy treatment. With improved efficiency, chemotherapy can destroy cancer faster, collateral damage is minimized, and patient recovery times are reduced.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle and UW Engage Science.