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Town Hall and UW Engage Science present local graduate students discussing their cutting-edge research. Tune in for a look at the forefront of research in our region, and meet the students who are leading the latest wave of scientific discovery.
Rice is one of the most important global food crops and is critical to meet the dietary needs of billions of people. The central role which rice plays around the world means that any changes to the nutritional quality of rice have far reaching human health implications. Changes to the environment where rice plants are grown, such as elevated temperature or altered flooding patterns, can impact the way metals move from soils into plants. Some of these metals can be healthy and even necessary in our diet (nutrients), while others can be harmful (toxins). Yasmine Farhat’s work aims to understand how these environmental changes impact nutrients and toxins movement in rice paddies and any subsequent changes in rice nutritional quality.
Yasmine Farhat is a 5th year PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Farhat studies how environmental changes impact the movement of metals (both helpful and toxic) in rice paddies, and change the nutritional quality of rice.
Every brain has tau protein, but only some brains have unique tau shapes. Unfortunately for the owners of those brains, these shapes are related to Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia instead of the shapeshifting seen with healthy tau. Before successful treatments for dementia can be created, the mechanism that causes tau to settle into one shape versus another must be determined. Ellie James works to understand what drives tau down paths to arrive at these specific shapes. She describes the challenges of studying a protein that is in motion unless disease holds it still and shares how her work could influence dementia treatments.
Ellie James is a graduate student in Molecular Engineering who researches tau, a protein that takes on many shapes in healthy individuals, one shape in Alzheimer’s disease, and a unique shape in each other tau-related dementia. Her research will determine what causes tau into specific shapes in disease, which will improve our understanding of how to make medications for dementias.
Viruses getting on your nerves? While that may be the case – in the literal sense, we most certainly hope not! Unfortunately, certain viruses out there can directly attack your nerve cells. Nerve cells, or neurons, are those special electrical cells in your body that allow you to sense things–sight, touch, smell, taste–and that enable you to do more complex things like think, remember, love, and learn. Needless to say, we don’t want these viral invaders getting on (or into) our nerves! So, which viruses can attack nerve cells? Can SARS-CoV-2–the virus that causes COVID-19–do this? What are the consequences? And most importantly…how do we stop them?
Victoria Rachleff is a Molecular & Cellular Biology Ph.D. student at the University of Washington. Melding her background in neuroscience and interest in virology, Rachleff uses clinical data and animal models to study viruses that infect the nervous system.