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Mon 4/26, 2021, 7:30pm
Town Hall Seattle and UW Engage Science present
UW Engage Science: Nerve Viruses, Essential Jellyfish, and Protein Movies (livestream)
Victoria Rachleff, Bri Gabel, and Gabrielle Reggiano
Monday, April 26, 2021, 7:30PM

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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.

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.

Popular belief may lead you to think that jellyfish are passive blobs of goo floating in the water, who may pack a nasty sting if you get too close. In reality, jellyfish are highly accomplished predators who have a complex lifecycle and a substantial impact on the waters they inhabit. The Puget Sound is changing, and so is the number of jellyfish. The presence or absence of jellyfish can inform scientists of potential ecological changes that could ripple throughout the food web. This talk covers what we have learned so far about what and how much jellyfish are eating and what that might mean in the bigger ecological picture.

An experienced aquaculturist, Bri Gabel managed a community science team for nearly a decade, focusing on rearing jellyfish for aquarium display and scientific research. For the last two years, her jellyfish have been used to help scientists understand what jellyfish are eating and how that might influence the entire Puget Sound food web.

Proteins–machines so tiny that we can’t even see them with a microscope–are responsible for everything our body does. They transform our food into energy, send signals from our brain to our toes, contract our muscles. Knowing what a protein looks like and how it does its job can save lives: it helped create the COVID19 vaccine! Most scientists figure out what a protein looks like by taking a single snapshot. But proteins don’t sit still; just like machines, proteins need to move to do their jobs. What if, instead of a single snapshot, we could create a stop motion movie of a protein in action?

Gabrielle Reggiano works in a computational structural biology lab, a fancy way of saying she spends her time at a computer, writing a bunch of code and looking at a lot of protein models. Unlike most scientists, her goal isn’t to answer a fundamental question about the universe, but to develop a method that will make it easier for scientists to understand how proteins move, so they can answer whatever questions spark their curiosity (as long as they’re about proteins).

Presented by Town Hall Seattle and UW Engage Science.

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