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Mon 4/18, 2022, 7:30pm
Town Hall Seattle and UW Engage Science present
Victoria Rachleff, Kate Van Ness, and Olivia Kern
Alzheimer’s Disease, Marine Renewable Energy, and the Secrets of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

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.


Victoria Rachleff: Alzheimer’s disease

Bio: Victoria Rachleff (she/her) is a Molecular & Cellular Biology Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Victoria uses postmortem human brains to study Alzheimer’s disease (AD). 

Description: AD is a devastating disease that affects 50 million people worldwide. It is the only leading cause of death that cannot be cured, prevented, or even slowed. This lack of progress is partially due to a heavy reliance on animal models that don’t capture the complexity of the human disease (fun fact: mice don’t get AD!). The goal of my thesis project is to study AD through a human-specific lens — using human postmortem brain tissue to understand the disease and then using human tissue models to test potential therapeutics — cutting the middleman (or should I say mouse) out of the equation!


Kate Van Ness: Marine renewable energy

Bio: Kate Van Ness is a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Washington where they research technology that harnesses energy from ocean currents and strategies for making this technology more reliable. Their motivation for advancing ocean energy technology is in bringing greater access to electricity around the world.

Description: Harnessing energy from ocean currents has the potential to decrease reliance on fossil fuels and increase access to electricity for remote coastal communities and for far offshore scientific studies. One major challenge in developing ocean energy technology is in building a device that can withstand the harsh conditions of the ocean for long periods of time. For this reason, researchers are actively exploring effective strategies for protecting these ocean energy devices in especially strong water currents so that ocean energy technology can serve as a reliable, practical option for our coastal and ocean science communities.


Olivia Kern: How variants of SARS-CoV-2 have evolved different ways of avoiding detection by the innate immune system

Bio: Olivia Kern (she/her) is a second year Ph.D. student studying how emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 outsmart the body’s early defenses. She is particularly interested in connecting the tactics that the virus uses when it infects our lung cells to disease severity, in order to develop drugs and vaccines that combat all coronaviruses.

Description: The virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, recently started to infect humans, and it is rapidly evolving in front of our eyes. As it jumps from person to person, the virus collects many random changes. Some of these changes help the virus to spread faster or to be better at hiding from the immune system. In her graduate work, Olivia is studying the changes within SARS-CoV-2 variants that help the virus remain undetected in the body. With this knowledge, we will be better informed to develop therapies that can target these viruses early on before they make us very sick.


Presented by Town Hall Seattle and UW Engage Science.

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