Catalyst Symposium Showcases Semester of Research Work

Congratulations to the Fall 2022 Catalyst participants, who presented recaps of their semester-long research work at the Catalyst Symposium. Aidan Flynn '23, Edith Tomasek '23 and Scott Vergilii '23 worked alongside researchers in CWRU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, and the Department of Pathology and shared the results of their work. Below are recaps of each of their projects:

Investigating the effects of partial gravities on fire behavior
Aidan Flynn '23
Despite extensive research on fire dynamics and combustion processes on earth, there is still a lack of knowledge on how fire behaves in occurrences where gravity is lower than on Earth. This is important for future space missions, as a lack of knowledge about fire behavior in these conditions could lead to potential spacecraft fires. Aidan worked with Dr. Liao’s team in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at CWRU to study flame behavior in different partial gravity conditions.
Utilizing proximity labeling to identify protein partners in nonsense-mediated mRNA decay
Edith Tomasek '23 
Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a quality control mechanism that eliminates premature termination codon containing mRNAs in eukaryotic cells. This helps prevent the synthesis of truncated proteins that might harm cells. The NMD process involves three core proteins, UPF1, UPF2, and UPF3, which detect and degrade aberrant mRNAs. Edith, working with Dr. Baker and her team in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences at CWRU, used an emerging technique to label cellular proteins that might be interacting with UPF2 in the NMD pathway.
Understanding the role of SARS-CoV-2 ORF 3a protein in blocking autophagy
Scott Vergilii '23
Understanding the mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic) regulates host cellular responses and evades host cell defenses is crucial in the ongoing fight against this virus. Studies show that this virus uses ORF3a, an accessory protein to evade host cell defenses by blocking cellular recycling through autophagy. The specific mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 modulates autophagy remains elusive. Scott worked in the Department of Pathology with Dr. Xiao’s team at CWRU to investigate how ORF3a interacts with VPS39, a human protein to block the autophagy process.

The mentors, faculty members, parents and students in attendance were impressed with the scope of their work and the professionalism with which they presented it. 

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