Fiscal Year 2002 Awards

Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

Fellow’s Name Host Institution       Research Area/Training Plan           NSF Award #

Title of Research & Training Plan


Paul D. Adams       Cornell University         Biophysics            0208064


Structural studies on Cdc42Hs mutant proteins that  may initiate cellular transformation


NMR spectroscopy is being used to characterize mutant forms of Cdc42Hs, an intracellular signal transduction protein cloned in E. coli. This protein binds GTP or GDP and acts as a molecular timing switch based on the nature of the bound ligand. The research will determine the structure and dynamics of two Cdc42Hs mutants to understand the role of Cdc42Hs in processes that lead to cell  transformation.

Youhna M. Ayala                     ICGEB                         Biophysics                    0208077


Understanding how the TAR binding protein (TDP43) regulates alternative splicing of messenger RNA


Alternative splicing during mRNA processing greatly contributes to generate the protein diversity necessary for development and function of complex organisms. TDP43 regulates exon inclusion of the CFTR gene presumably through inteaction with nuclear proteins and specific sequences of nucleic acid. This research investigates the molecular determinants and importance of TDP43 protein complex formation and nucleic acid binding.

Lesley Blancas    University of California-Irvine             Population Biology            0208503


Natural hybridization and its consequences on the organization of genetic variation and population genetics of a crop and its wild relative


Hybridization between 2 genetically distinct natural populations can result in new genetic combinations through the reassortment of genes and multilocus genotypes. This study examines the evolutionary consequences of hybridization in co-occurring populations of maize (corn) and its wild relative teosinte by comparing genetic markers across the genome and among hybridizing and non-hybridizing populations.

Maria R. Dino           Yale University                  Neurobiology                0207991


Role of Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans in Synapse Formation


The project examines the role of two chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) in synaptogenesis: one unnamed CSPG, recognized by monoclonal antibody Cat-315, which delineates synaptic sites, and aggrecan, the main CSPG of cartilage. The unnamed CSPG is being identified using immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry. Once identified, its function will be blocked to determine if it is essential to synapse formation. To determine if aggrecan is involved in synaptogenesis, the expression of synpatic markers is being studied in cultured cortices from embryonic CMD mice, a naturally occurring aggrecan knockout mouse.

Suzanne R. Estes         Oregon StateUniversity          Animal Behavior          0208328



Influence of mating system on patterns of parentage and fitness correlates in a garter snake model, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis


This research explores the role of kin recognition in the mating system by asking whether parental relatedness influences paternal contribution and, in turn, maternal fitness in natural populations of the red-sided garter snake. This constitutes the first test for the presence of kin recognition and first rigorous study of inbreeding depression in any snake species.

Kenneth M. Fedorka      University of California-Riverside     Animal Behavior         0208420


Role of Antagonistic Coevolution in the Rate of Male Accessory Gland Protein Divergence


Within a mating system, males and females often have divergent reproductive strategies, creating an antagonistic coevolutionary relationship between the sexes. The objective of this research is to investigate the covariance between sexual conflict intensity and the expression of sexually selected traits, life history traits and the rate of protein divergence in closely related Drosophila species.

Rhea R. Kimpo           Stanford University          Animal Behavior                        0208400


The role of the cerebellum in learning the proper timing and amplitude of skilled motor movements


The specific role of the cerebellum in learning motor movements is unclear. This research examines motor learning in the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR), or VOR adaptation, of normal mice and PKCg mutant mice, which have abnormal input to cerebellar Purkinje cells. It compares VOR adaptation, patterns of Purkinje cell activity during learning, and those sufficient for learning, in these mice.

Marta L. Oliva            Binghamton University               Sensor Physiology                  0208238


Control of a feeding neural circuit in an inscet by taste sensory input and hunger status


Manduca sexta larvae become host-specific when they feed on solanaceous plants due to changes in taste receptor responses to a host-specific recognition cue. Host-specific larvae often starve to death if given food lacking this cue. Electrophysiological studies are being conducted to examine the integration of taste receptor physiology and hunger on the feeding circuitry of host-specific and non-specific larvae.

Maria Elena Pereyra       University of California-Davis      Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology        0208056


Influence of Nutritional Cues on Reproduction in Nomadic Songbirds


The objectives of this project are to investigate the influence of nutritional cues on the neuroendocrine regulation of reproductive development in two closely related nomadic songbirds (pine siskin and lesser goldfinch) that depend heavily upon foods that vary widely in availability between years and across broad geographic ranges.

Christopher L. Reyes      The Scripps Research Institution        Biophysics        0208326


Electron microscopy study of the structure of ATP Binding Cassette transporter protein MsbA


ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) transporter proteins couple ATP hydrolysis with translocation of various substrate molecules across biological membranes. This study is investigating the model that posits that large conformational changes in the transporter protein allows the substrate to move across the membrane. Electron microscopy and helical image analysis are being used to determine the structure and mechanism of the MsbA transporter.

Daphne Soares           University of Maryland                 Neurobiology                0208257


Transformation of neural signals across single neurons


This project addresses the physiological and biophysical mechanisms of individual neurons that underlie phase-coding in barn owls, specifically how they encode time. First, it will focus on verifying the presence of a subthreshold presynaptic code in postsynaptic cells. Second, morphological and physiological characteristics of the synapse will be determined.

Christoper E. Tripler            University of Louisville       Ecology                0208392


Comparing urban and rural forests: using city environments to model long-term changes in forests under predicted changes in global climates


Forests are predicted to change their distributions in response to global changes in atmospheric nitrogen deposition, carbon dioxide, and temperature. Urban forests have experienced these conditions for decades and represent unique systems to look for novel changes in the dynamics of forests under predicted global change scenarios.