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© 2017 Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association

Marcia McNutt

Marcia McNutt is a geophysicist who is the nineteenth editor-in-chief of Science. Prior to joining Science, she served as the fifteenth director of the US Geological Survey from 2009 to 2013 as one of a group of accomplished scientists who populated top government posts as part of President Obama’s “dream team.” During her tenure, the USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Japan, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

McNutt has also served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), in Moss Landing, CA. During her time at MBARI, the institution became a leader in developing biological and chemical sensors for remote ocean deployment, installed the first deep-sea cabled observatory in US waters, and advanced the integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous underwater vehicles for complex undersea missions. McNutt began her faculty career at MIT where she became the Griswold Professor of Geophysics and served as Director of the Joint Program in Oceanography & Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, offered by MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Her own research area is the dynamics of the upper mantle and lithosphere on geologic time scales, work that has taken her to distant continents and oceans for field observations. She is a veteran of more than a dozen deep-sea expeditions, more than half of which she has served as chief scientist or co-chief scientist.

McNutt’s honors and awards include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also holds honorary doctoral degrees from Colorado College, University of Minnesota, Monmouth University, and Colorado School of Mines. She was awarded the Macelwane Medal by the American Geophysical Union in 1988 for research accomplishments by a young scientist and the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her significant contributions to deep-sea exploration. The US Coast Guard awarded her their Meritorious Service Medal, the noncombat equivalent to the Bronze Star, for her work on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She earned a BA in Physics from Colorado College and a PhD in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

Robert Langer

Robert S. Langer is the David H. Koch Institute Professor (there are 11 Institute Professors at MIT; being an Institute Professor is the highest honor that can be awarded to a faculty member). Dr. Langer has written over 1,280 articles. He also has nearly 1,050 patents worldwide. Dr. Langer’s patents have been licensed or sublicensed to over 250 pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology and medical device companies. He is the most cited engineer in history.

He served as a member of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s SCIENCE Board, the FDA’s highest advisory board, from 1995 -- 2002 and as its Chairman from 1999-2002.

Dr. Langer has received over 220 major awards. He is one of 7 individuals to have received both the United States National Medal of Science (2006) and the United States National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2011). He also received the 2002 Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers, the 2008 Millennium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize, the 2012 Priestley Medal, the highest award of the American Chemical Society, the 2013 Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and the 2014 Kyoto Prize. In 1989 Dr. Langer was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and in 1992 he was elected to both the National Academy of Engineering and to the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Inventors. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Cornell University in 1970 and his Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, both in Chemical Engineering.

Jack Szostak

Dr. Szostak is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and the Alex Rich Distinguished Investigator in the Dept. of Molecular Biology and the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Szostak’s early research was on the genetics and biochemistry of DNA recombination and telomeres. His current research interests are in the laboratory synthesis of self-replicating systems, the origin of life, and applied evolutionary chemistry. He and his colleagues developed in vitro selection as a tool for the isolation of rare functional RNA, DNA and protein molecules from large pools of random sequences. His laboratory has used in vitro selection and directed evolution to isolate and characterize numerous nucleic acid sequences with specific ligand binding and catalytic properties. For this work, Dr. Szostak was awarded, along with Dr. Gerald Joyce, the 1994 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology and the 1997 Sigrist Prize from the University of Bern. Dr. Szostak is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2000, Dr. Szostak was awarded the Medal of the Genetics Society of America, and in 2006 Dr. Szostak shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider. Dr. Szostak is the 2008 recipient of the H.P. Heineken Prize in Biophysics and Biochemistry. In 2009 Dr. Szostak shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider for their work on telomeres and telomerase.

Matthew Meselson

Born May 24, 1930 in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Meselson received the Ph.B. degree from the University of Chicago in 1951 and the Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1957. He was Assistant Professor of Physical Chemistry at CalTech until he joined the Harvard faculty in 1960. Dr. Meselson has conducted research mainly in molecular genetics. He invented an important ultracentrifugal method for analyzing the densities of giant molecules. He and his colleagues then used it to show that DNA molecules replicate semi-conservatively in dividing cells, that genetic recombination results from the splicing of DNA molecules, and to demonstrate the existence of messenger RNA. He and his students demonstrated the enzymatic basis of hostcontrolled restriction of DNA and discovered methyl-directed repair of mismatched DNA. His current research is aimed at learning what drives the process of aging in animals.

Dr. Meselson is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the Académie des Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society. He has received the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology, the Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology, the Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal of the Genetics Society of America, , the Mendel Medal of the U.K. Genetics Society and the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science and has been awarded honorary degrees from Yale, Princeton, Northwestern and the University of Chicago. Since 1963, Dr. Meselson has had an interest in biological and chemical weapons defense and arms control and has served as a consultant on this subject to numerous government agencies. He is co-director of the Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms Limitation and co-editor of its quarterly journal, The CBW Conventions Bulletin. Dr. Meselson has served on the Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the Council of the Smithsonian Institution, the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Advisory Board to the Secretary of State.

Temple Grandin

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Temple Grandin’s achievements are remarkable because she was an autistic child. Many hours of speech therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech. Mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt on her ranch in Arizona motivated Temple to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Dr. Temple Grandin has developed animal welfare guidelines for the meat industry, consulting for McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, and other companies on animal welfare. Half the cattle in the U.S. and Canada are handled in equipment she has designed for meat plants. Her book, Animals in Translation was a New York Times best seller and her book Livestock Handling an Transport, now has a fourth edition published in 2014.

Dr. Grandin has been awarded the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Livestock Conservation Institute, named a Distinguished Alumni at Franklin Pierce College and received an honorary doctorate from McGill University, University of Illinois, and Duke University. She has also won prestigious industry awards including the Richard L. Knowlton Award from Meat Marketing and Technology Magazine and the Industry Advancement Award from the American Meat Institute and the Beef Top 40 industry leaders and the Lifetime Achievement Award from The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. HBO recently premiered a movie about Temple’s early life and career with the livestock industry that received seven Emmy awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award.

Dr. Grandin is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America. Articles and interviews have appeared in the New York Times, People, Time, National Public Radio, 20/20, The View, and the BBC. She was also honored in Time Magazines 2010 “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” In 2012, Temple was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Donald Pfister

Donald H. Pfister is Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University. His research is in the area of fungal biology in which he studies taxonomy, life histories, and systematics. He considers himself above all to study natural history. He also has done research on topics related to documentation of collections and collectors of natural history specimens. A long time faculty member in the department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, he has taught a variety of courses most recently the Biology of Fungi, Trees, forests and climate change, and Plants and human affairs. At Harvard he has served as a House Master, Dean of Harvard Summer School and most recently Interim Dean of Harvard College. His undergraduate work was at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and his Ph.D. is from Cornell University.

Session I

Bliss Chang, Biochemistry, University of Alabama, Class of 2015 Structural Basis for Fas-mediated Apoptosis

The extrinsic apoptotic pathway is initiated by cell surface death receptors such as Fas. Engagement of Fas by Fas Ligand triggers a conformational change that allows Fas to interact with adaptor protein Fas-associated death domain (FADD) via the cytoplasmic Death Domain, which recruits downstream signaling proteins to form the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC). Previous studies have shown that calmodulin (CaM) is recruited into the DISC in cholangiocarcinoma cells, suggesting a novel role of CaM in Fas-mediated signaling. CaM antagonists induce apoptosis through a Fas-related mechanism in cholangiocarcinoma and other cancer cell lines possibly by inhibiting Fas-CaM interactions. The structural determinants of Fas-CaM interaction and the underlying molecular mechanisms of inhibition, however, are unknown. We employ NMR, biochemical, and biophysical techniques to elucidate these mechanisms. We have shown that CaM binds to the death domain of Fas (FasDD) with a novel 2:1 CaM:FasDD stoichiometry. The interactions between FasDD and CaM are endothermic and entropically driven, suggesting that hydrophobic contacts are critical for binding. Proteolytic digestion and NMR experiments facilitated the identification of the two minimal binding domains of Fas involved in CaM binding. Characterization of both peptides revealed the CaM-FasDD binding interface, including binding affinity, mode of binding, and thermodynamic properties. We provide the first structural evidence for Fas-CaM interactions and provide new insight into the molecular basis for a novel role of CaM in regulating Fas-mediated apoptosis. We believe these discoveries will facilitate the discovery of effective yet minimally toxic therapies for debilitating diseases such as cholangiocarcinoma.

Timothy Loh, Social Anthropology, Georgetown University, Class of 2015 The Deaf Leading the Deaf (and the Deaf-Blind): An Ethnographic Account of Deaf Education at the Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deaf-Blind Children, Jordan

This research paper explores the cultural construction of deafness and of deaf education at the Holy Land Institute for Deaf and Deaf-Blind Children (HLID) in Salt, Jordan, widely considered the leading institution in the Middle East and North Africa for deaf education and sign language research. Deafness is a topic rarely touched upon in both academia and the public sphere, particularly in the Arab region where there is a dearth of research on disability. Furthermore, what little research has been done sheds light on the host of problems faced by the disabled, especially with regard to education and employment. This ethnography aims to rectify that information gap and is based on fieldwork undertaken at the Institute during the summer of 2014, made possible by a generous grant from the Lisa J. Raines Fellowship, with data collected through participant observation, formal and informal interviews and analysis of cultural artifacts such as school newsletters and information pamphlets. My research revealed that the HLID conceives of its students as capable of being educated, employed and given leadership responsibilities, made manifest primarily in a self-regulatory system where older students are responsible for younger students. This system, while robust and generally effective, was not without criticism. Two other themes that emerged over the course of my research were the centrality of Jordanian Sign Language, which gave students a sense of agency, identity and pride, and the nuanced interreligious relations between Christians and Muslims resulting from the HLID being a Christian school in a Muslim country.

Sarafina Nance, Astrophysics, University of Texas, Class of 2016 Determining the Mass and Stellar Evolution Stage of Betelgeuse

We seek to constrain the mass and evolutionary state of Betelgeuse, a supergiant in the constellation Orion, to determine when it will explode as a supernova. We compile a suite of stellar evolution models (both rotating and non-rotating) of masses ranging from 15M to 25M to extract characteristic frequencies associated with convective regions. Detection of these frequencies could allow us to peer into the star. Extracted frequencies imply that if the rotational velocity equals the observed 5 km/sec, then we would expect to see “noise” at a timescale of several days slightly above the damping frequency. If, on the other hand, the star is in carbon burning, we expect low frequencies at a few days and high frequencies at several hours. We also constrain models with observed values of temperature, radius, luminosity, and rotational velocity. We find it is difficult to match all of the constraints with theoretical models. In particular, matching the observed rotational velocity of 5 km/sec seems to require that Betelgeuse is at the base, rather than the tip, of the red giant branch. This would imply that Betelgeuse is far from explosion, perhaps 100,000 years, but in a very special, brief phase of its evolution. Detection of predicted convective frequencies would help to confirm the evolutionary state.

Session II

Sean Kim, Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Class of 2016 Increasing Engineered Cardiac Muscle Tissue Alignment in 2D

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in most developed countries, yet currently there are no therapies to fully restore cardiac function after a large injury without transplantation. One potential mode of treatment lies in engineering cardiac tissue that can be patched into the site of injury. The contractile part of the heart – myocardium – consists of 2-dimensional laminar sheets of cardiac muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) wrapped around the heart. One of the key factors in developing such engineered cardiac tissue in vitro lies within creating a confluent layer of aligned cardiac muscle cells capable of synchronous contraction, for maximum contractile force. Previous studies in the field have shown that surfaces with extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins micropatterned on them can stimulate cells to form aligned confluent cardiac sheets. However, the degree of cell alignment and the force produced by such engineered tissue can both be significantly increased. Two new patterns were developed; a pattern of 10µm wide lines of fibronectin with 4µm spacing, and a software-generated fiber-like pattern that mimics ECM structure in native chick myocardium. Statistical analysis showed that 10µm x 4µm pattern produced greater cell alignment compared to the 20µm x 20µm (control pattern), while the synthetic biomimetic pattern showed a statistically insignificant difference. The findings of this study show that the alignment of cardiac muscle cells in 2D can be improved by controlling the structure of the ECM protein.

Kiana Murphy, Literature, University of Wisconsin, Class of 2015 Black Women Writing Bildungsroman Stories: Understanding Blackness, Womanhood, and Sex(uality) Through Fantasy, Magic, and Spirituality

To include intersectional identities, the ethnic Bildungsroman genre was developed to acknowledge the reality that little black and brown boys and girls are often barred from "successful" growth or integration into society. Although critics re-constructed the original genre to incorporate marginalized identities, they continued to ignore and invalidate marginalized writers’ roles as writers, creators, and storytellers. This project challenges and works to correct this practice using a mixed methodology that includes historiographical analysis, Black feminist criticism, and literary analysis. By critically analyzing a well-known text, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and a work with little formal criticism, Bone Black by bell hooks, this project explores the how of Black women's storytelling. With Angelou’s text more focused on specific themes, scholars have consistently given her novel critical attention. However, since hooks uses a more unconventional approach for the narration of her coming of age story, I argue that this has influenced the lack of critical attention given by scholars for her novel. Although these two texts seem to be vastly different in their approaches to understanding the experiences of Black women growing up, I argue that unconventionality is seen in both and is crucial for their stories of girlhood. By focusing on the metaphysical, occurrences when both novels allude to dreams, fantasies, magic, or the spiritual, this paper proposes an extension of the ethnic Bildungsroman that recognizes unconventional stories like Bone Black, which deserves the critical acclaim as a captivating Bildungsroman of a young Black girl.

Jeffrey Wang, Biophysics, Harvard University, Class of 2015 Modeling Force Generation in Cancerous Mammary Acini: Why Breast Cancer Might be as Much of an Exercise in Physics as in Biology

The rules and mechanical forces governing cell motility and interactions with the extracellular matrix of a tissue is often critical for understanding the mechanisms by which breast cancer is able to spread through the breast tissue and eventually metastasize. Ex vivo experimentation has demonstrated the the formation of long collagen fibers through collagen gels between the cancerous mammary acini responsible for milk production, providing a fiber scaffolding along which cancer cells can disorganize. We present a minimal mechanical model that serves as a potential explanation for the formation of these collagen fibers and the resultant motion. Our working hypothesis is that cancerous cells induce this fiber formation by pulling on the gel and taking advantage of the specific mechanical propreties of collagen. To model this system, we employ a new Eulerian, fixed grid simulation method to model the collagen as a nonlinear viscoelastic material subject to various forces coupled with a multi-agent model to describe individual cancer cells. We find that these phenomena can be explained by a series of relatively simple rules: cells pull collagen radially inwards and move towards the tension gradient of the collagen gel, while being exposed to standard adhesive and collision forces. Despite the overall simplicity of each individual agent, the emergent behavior of many cancerous cells taken as an ensemble can be complex, and we hope that our modeling can lead to future work on the biomechanics behind cancer and other biological functions.

Session III

Giuliana Carozza, Economics, University of Notre Dame, Class of 2016 Reading For Life and Adolescent Re-Arrest: Evaluating a Unique Juvenile Diversion Program

Over the past 50 years, diversion programs have proliferated throughout the U.S. as an alternative to traditional system processing for offenders under the age of eighteen. Historically, programs have consisted of a justice component and a service component; however, beyond this, few national standards have been established. Diversion programs have taken the form of boot camps, community service projects, individual, group, and family counseling, case management services, and structured in-home interventions. Despite decades of experience, there is uncertainty in the research, criminal justice, and public safety communities about the most effective practices. We present the results of a rigorous evaluation of Reading for Life (RFL), an innovative diversion program for low-status juvenile offenders in a medium-sized Midwestern county. RFL allows juveniles to study works of literature in small reading groups led by trained volunteer mentors in an attempt to foster social awareness and character development through personal relationships and discussion. Participants (N=450) were randomly assigned to RFL treatment or a comparison program of community service. Using both ordinary least squares and Poisson regression models, we show that RFL generated large and statistically significant drops in future arrests. The program was particularly successful at reducing the chance of future serious offenses (prosecuted offenses fell 62%; prosecuted felonies 84% by OLS estimates) and reducing recidivism for groups with the highest propensity for future offenses. Our research offers insight into effective methods for diversion and a convincing argument for the scaling up of the program, an initiative already begun in surrounding counties.

Heather desJardins-Park, Chemistry, Harvard University, Class of 2015 Designing an iron-based catalyst for enantioselective C-H bond functionalization

Hydrocarbons comprise the bulk of crude oil, and serve as the primary “feedstocks” of the chemical industry. However, due to the strength of carbon-hydrogen (C—H) bonds, hydrocarbons are relatively inert. The ability to chemically functionalize C—H bonds catalytically and on an industrial scale could allow the direct conversion of hydrocarbons into more reactive molecules of increased functionality and value. Previous work has led to the synthesis of an iron-based organometallic complex that can catalyze such reactions. However, this catalyst cannot influence the reactions’ stereochemical outcomes. Being able to exert selectivity over product chirality could have important implications for applications of the catalyst, particularly for biologically relevant uses (e.g., drug synthesis), where stereochemistry is critical. This project aims to design and synthesize an iron-based organometallic catalyst capable of controlling the stereochemistry of the C—H functionalization reaction. We have synthesized a chiral ligand, in an attempt to partially occlude the catalyst’s reactive site and thus influence the substrate’s orientation upon binding to the catalyst. We hope to show that the chiral cleft created by the ligand will influence the stereochemistry of the products formed. By introducing chiral moieties at different locations on the catalyst, we have been able to probe how the catalyst may influence the reaction, and we hope to use this knowledge to tune the catalyst’s enantioselectivity. Ultimately, we hope that this catalyst will see applications in the chemical industry, presenting a novel method to introduce both chirality and reactivity into the simplest chemical “feedstocks.”

Gabrielle Zuniga, Biology, University of Texas, Class of 2015 The Sigma-2 Receptor is a Potential Therapeutic Target of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, yet the molecular mechanism remains unknown. Many neurodegenerative diseases, including AD, share a common underlying dysfunction in endoplasmic reticular and mitochondrial protein regulation that leads to patterned neurodegeneration and death. Specific to AD, β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide accumulates in senile plaques within the brain due to abnormal processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Here we explored whether a new target, the sigma-2 receptor (Sig2R), can provide a neuroprotective influence in the face of APP dysregulation. In cancer cells, Sig2R has a well-known role in regulating apoptosis but its role in AD remains unstudied. We developed a C. elegans model system with pan-neuronal expression of an extra copy of human APP that displays progressive, age-dependent degeneration of specific cholinergic neurons. We showed that two loss-of-function Sig2R alleles reduce neurodegeneration in AD animals to non-AD control levels. Additionally, GFP-labeled ventral cord neurons accumulated mcherry-tagged human APP in the AD model with wild-type Sig2R. However, a loss-of-function Sig2R allele reduced mcherry signal relative to GFP expression. Next we tested whether pharmacological manipulation of Sig2R could reduce AD-related neurodegeneration. A modular biology oriented synthetic approach was used to synthesize novel sigma receptor ligands to a range of novel, druglike scaffolds. A preliminary screen found one Sig1R/Sig2R ligand that reduced neurodegeneration in a Sig2R-dependent manner. Together, these data demonstrate that Sig2R-targeted ligands can reduce age-dependent neurodegeneration in this model system and suggesting that Sig2R is a viable therapeutic target for AD.

Session IV

Rashmi Borah, Bioethics, Ohio State University, Class of 2015 Prophylactic Organ Removal as a Means of Cancer Prevention: A Programmatic Analysis of Ethical Considerations

Prophylactic organ removal refers to the surgical removal of a healthy organ, devoid of any indication of tumor growth at the time of removal, in hopes of preventing the potential onset of tumor growth. Prophylactic organ removal has been used as a treatment option for patients presenting with mutations in the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene. Current literature focused on evaluating the efficacy of the practice has focused almost exclusively on the physiological arguments for or against the practice, with a limited focus on impact of the practice from a non-physiological, patient-centered perspective. This project presents a programmatic analysis of non-physiological ethical considerations relevant to this procedure, in the hopes that these considerations prepare the foundation for a more inclusive risk-benefit analysis. The research methodology focuses on the explication and critical discussion of three particular topics: 1) therapeutic applications of prophylactic organ removal, particularly at the psychological level, 2) a feminist perspective which acknowledges that, with women being the majority of patients undergoing this practice in this context, the impact of this practice on a woman’s conception of herself and society’s conception of femininity is crucial, and 3) whether the traditional arguments describing, supporting, or challenging the working definition of autonomy apply for this procedure, and whether alternate considerations about the execution of autonomy are relevant to this particular procedure. A systematic explication of these three topics and their application to prophylactic organ removal is necessary in determining the ethical status of the procedure on a case-by-case basis.

David Mackanic, Chemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Class of 2015 Analysis of Selective ssDNA Release from Photothermally Active Hollow Gold Nanospheres using Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering

Gene therapy is a rapidly developing DNA-based therapy that promises to provide treatment for oncological and inflammatory diseases. The creation of an effective DNA delivery vector is necessary for effective implementation of gene therapy. The photothermal release of single stranded DNA (ssDNA) from the surface of gold nanoparticles of different shapes and sizes is a promising mode of delivering DNA for gene-therapy applications. Here, we demonstrate the first targeted photothermal release of ssDNA from hollow gold nanospheres (HGNs). The HGNs used demonstrate a tunable localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) while maintaining size consistency. It was shown that HGN 760 and HGN 670 release significant amounts of ssDNA when excited via 785 nm and 640 nm lasers respectively. When excited with a wavelength far from the LSPR of the particles, the ssDNA release is negligible. This study also presents the first use of surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) to analyze the amount of ssDNA released from the surface of gold nanoparticles. As opposed to traditional fluorescence measurements, this SERS based approach provides quantitatively robust data for analysis of ssDNA release and lays a strong foundation for future studies exploiting plasmonically induced ssDNA release. Furthermore, the HGN-based ssDNA system has potential to enable multi-step gene therapy treatments by utilizing different LSPR frequencies that deliver different ssDNA payloads. The DNA system demonstrated here can be applied to in-vitro studies and is expected to successfully release therapeutic DNA for treatment of disease.

Layla Quran, Social Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Class of 2015 Palestinian artists of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement

Inspired from the anti-apartheid boycott movement in South Africa, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was launched and endorsed in 2005 by a majority of Palestinian civil society unions, organizations and political parties. The BDS movement has three demands: equal treatment for Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation of Gaza, the West bank, and East Jerusalem, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees. The movement is divided into an academic, economic, and cultural boycott campaign, though my research focuses on the call for the cultural boycott and the reactions of Palestinian artists living in Israel. Just as South African artists participated in the anti-apartheid boycott movement in the 1980s, I am interested in how Palestinian citizens of Israel are responding to the call for the cultural boycott of Israel today. My research question is ‘How do Palestinian artists in Israel respond to the call for a cultural boycott through their art and actions? Palestinians living in Israel, as tax-paying citizens, have the option of receiving funds from the Israeli state or Israeli cultural institutions. They also may collaborate with Israeli artists, and attend concerts by international artists in Israel. The BDS movement has specific guidelines for Palestinian citizens of Israel to follow, and through several interviews, I conclude that although most artists support the goals of the boycott movement, many artists adhere to the cultural boycott guidelines only on a case-by-case basis. Most do not accept funding from the Israeli government if it is conditional, and may work with Israeli artists, but only if the individual they collaborate with speaks for Palestinian rights. There is also still no consensus among Palestinian artists on if international artists, ranging from the Rolling Stones to Madonna, should be allowed to perform in Israel. This research can be used to understand the support and critique of the BDS movement as the main non-violent resistance movement for Palestinians, the interactions Palestinian citizens of Israel have with the Israeli state and other artists, and, the role of the artist in daily politics.

Workshops: 11 AM


Research and Government Policy

Scientists today are a valuable resource not only in academia and research, but also in shaping public policy to influence the world at large. Learn more about this growing intersection between science research and policy design.

Entrepreneurship in Science

Startups are everywhere, and discoveries that begin in the laboratory often have wide-ranging applications to improve people's quality of life. Learn about the journey of an idea from the lab to a business.

Research Publishing

As any graduate student knows, publishing papers is an important component of one's career in the sciences. Learn more about this essential, but often confusing, process.

Panels: 11 AM


Med School

A panel representing diverse perspectives, from administrative to student roles, will discuss medical school and its application process.

Marguerite Thorp Basilico is a third-year student at Harvard Medical School and a 2011 graduate of Harvard College. She concentrated in Social Studies at Harvard and wrote her senior thesis on social and economic rights in Malawi, where she had previously worked with Partners In Health and the Clinton Foundation. After graduation, she served as the national organizer of the Student Global AIDS Campaign and as a research assistant to Dr. Paul Farmer. She was a 2010 Truman Scholar from Colorado and is a Gerald S. Foster Scholar at HMS.

Kevin Liu is a first-year medical student in the New Pathway program at Harvard Medical School and serves as a Pre-Med Resident Tutor in Adams House. He graduated from Harvard College with an A.B. in Neurobiology in 2011 and from the University of Oxford with a D.Phil. in Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics in 2014. For his undergraduate thesis, Kevin researched molecular mechanisms underlying development of corticospinal motor neurons, and for his doctoral dissertation, he investigated functions of a novel antioxidant in neurodegenerative diseases. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys listening to international pop, watching films, traveling, and writing short stories.

David Neumeyer was raised in Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in Microbiology. Prior to starting medical school, he spent 2 years researching HIV/AIDS in a lab affiliated with Harvard Medical School at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Neumeyer graduated from New York Medical College in 1989 and then completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the New England Deaconess Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center). After working for one year in Internal Medicine, he continued his training in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the combined Harvard Medical School fellowship program. Finally, Dr. Neumeyer completed a 1 year fellowship in Sleep Disorders at Brown University. After completing his training, Dr. Neumeyer began working at the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA. His role there was predominantly clinical but, in addition, he was very involved in education (teaching medical students, residents and fellows) along with clinical research pertaining to sleep disorders. Dr. Neumeyer was the director of Lahey’s Sleep Fellowship for 10 years.
His involvement with medical school admissions began within a few years after working at Lahey when he was elected to the admissions committee at Tufts University School of Medicine. In 2006, Dr. Neumeyer was appointed as Dean of Admissions at Tufts, and continues to hold this position. Despite this, he is still able to continue practicing Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine and is involved many activities in the world of admissions, medical education and advocacy. In addition to his work, Dean Neumeyer is married with 3 children. His extracurricular interests are vast but mostly involve skiing, biking, travel and Crossfit.

Industry vs. Academia

Panelists with experience as professors, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs will discuss the merits and details of each path.

Victor P. Seidel is an associate of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where he has served as an Innovation Fellow of the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), and he is on the faculty of the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. He received his Ph.D. in management science and engineering from Stanford. His research interests include organizational practices supporting innovation, the role of online communities in innovation, and the use of design methods. Prior to his academic career he held technical and managerial roles with IBM Microelectronics in the USA and Switzerland.

Environmental Research

Climate and environmental change are some of the most important challenges we face in the coming decades, and panelists will discuss their varied approaches to addressing these concerns.

Joe Paradiso is an Associate Professor at the MIT Media Laboratory, where he directs the Responsive Environments group, which explores how sensor networks augment and mediate human experience, interaction and perception. He received his PhD in Physics from MIT in 1981 and a BSEE from Tufts University in 1977. After two years developing precision drift chambers at the Lab for High Energy Physics at ETH in Zurich, he joined the Draper Laboratory in 1984, where his research encompassed spacecraft control systems, image processing algorithms, underwater sonar, and precision alignment sensors for large high-energy physics detectors. He joined the Media Lab in 1994, where his current research interests include embedded sensing systems and sensor networks, wearable and body sensor networks, energy harvesting and power management for embedded sensors, ubiquitous and pervasive computing, localization systems, passive sensor architectures, human-computer interfaces, & interactive media.

Dr. Koutrakis has conducted a number of comprehensive air pollution studies in the United States, Canada, Spain, Chile, Kuwait, Cyprus and Greece that investigate the extent of human exposures to gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Other research interests include the assessment of particulate matter exposures and their effects on the cardiac and pulmonary health. Dr. Koutrakis is the Director of the EPA/Harvard University Clean Air Research Center.

Erik Olsen is a managing partner at Transsolar KlimaEngineering, an international climate engineering firm determined to create exceptional, highly comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces with a positive environmental impact. He leads the New York office in working collaboratively with architects worldwide to develop and validate low-energy, architecturally integrated climate and energy concepts. The result is celebrated projects such as the Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore that simultaneously enhance human experience and minimize resource use.

Erik has been lecturer and guest critic at universities including Harvard University, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. In addition to his specialist work at Transsolar, he has worked as a consulting mechanical engineer on a wide variety of building types and launched and directed the City of Chicago’s Green Permit Program. Erik is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University.

Workshops: 1 PM

Innovative Technology

Technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, changing the status quo in almost every industry. Learn about how innovation happens and discover some of the newest and most promising technologies being developed today.

Abby Fitchner (@HackerChick) helps people build amazing technology and push the edge on what’s possible. Hacker in Residence for Harvard Innovation Lab, Creator of Hack Boston and launcher of Boston’s Big Data Hacker Space, Abby has been named an Innovation Amplifier by the Boston Globe and one of the Top Women in Boston Tech.

A software developer by trade, Abby’s prior background is a mixture of developing bleeding-edge technology for startups and coaching teams on how to develop software better. These days, she spends her time helping hackers and entrepreneurs create new technologies that can be successful in the market. Abby is extremely passionate about building communities where innovation thrives because she believes that each and every one of us is capable of changing the world.


Brevia is the official publication of the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association, a forum for science, culture and other big ideas. It is committed to bringing all disciplines of research out of the ivory tower and into the discourse of the interested public. In this workshop, learn more about the publication and how to start a magazine publication at your own school.

Jessica Glueck is a sophomore at Harvard College studying English and Classics. She is the managing editor of Brevia. Outside of her activities with HCURA, Jessi tutors at the Harvard College Writing Center and enjoys occasional workouts and perennial good conversations.

Jessica Herrmann is a sophomore at Harvard College studying biomedical engineering. She has been involved with HCURA for two years, and is the current publisher and design editor of Brevia. Outside of HCURA, Jessica enjoys playing the flute in the Bach Society Orchestra and the Harvard Pops Orchestra.

Panels: 1 PM


Grad School/Fellowships

A panel representing diverse perspectives, from administrative to student roles, will discuss graduate school, fellowships, and their application processes.

Kenneth Skinner is a 4th year PhD candidate in the Chemical Biology program at Harvard. He has received the NSF, GEM, and Ford Foundation Predoctoral fellowships. He earned his B.S. from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. At Morehouse, Kenneth participated in research opportunities such as MBRS-RISE, MARC U*STAR, and Leadership Alliance. Kenneth currently resides in Dunster House as a resident tutor.

Cynthia Verba has long devoted her scholarship to the rich musical debates of the French Enlightenment, with many of the issues revolving around the composer-theorist Jean-Philippe Rameau, as both subject and participant in the debates. While her earlier book, Music and the French Enlightenment: Reconstruction of a Dialogue, 1750-1765 (Oxford Clarendon Press, 1993), closely examines the nature of the arguments in the Rameau-centered debates, her current work shifts the emphasis to Rameau’s musical practice, focusing on his concept of musical expression and how it is manifested in his own tragedies. Additional publications include a chapter in The Enlightenment World (Routledge Press, 2004), as well as articles and reviews in the Cambridge Opera Journal, Journal of the American Musicological Association, The Journal of Musicology, and the Journal of Modern History. She has been a Fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College and a recipient of a National Foundation for the Humanities Summer Grant.


Verba’s scholarly activities have their counterpart in her administrative activities at Harvard University, where she has served as Director of Fellowships in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the past two and a half decades. During most of that time she also held a position as music lecturer in Harvard Extension, teaching courses in music history to a more general student body. She received her Ph.D. in music history from the University of Chicago and her B.A. from Vassar College.

Joint Degree Programs

Panelists who have pursued joint degrees: MD, PhD, MPH, and MBA will discuss their experiences and joint degree programs.

Research in the Humanities and Social Science

Learn from distinguished researchers in the humanities about pursuing an academic career in these subjects.

Kathleen Coleman was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and has degrees from the Universities of Cape Town, Zimbabwe, and Oxford. Before coming to Harvard in 1998, where she is James Loeb Professor of the Classics, she was on the faculty at the University of Cape Town and Trinity College Dublin. She specializes in Latin literature of the early Roman Empire, and in Roman social history, especially spectacle and punishment.

Bernhard Nickel is professor of philosophy in the philosophy department at Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. at MIT in 2005 after graduating with a B.A. from Cornell University in 1999. He originally hails from Germany. His research centers on the philosophy of language, where he is currently at work investigating the role of truth in meaning. He’s focusing on everyday generalizations about the world, some of which are harmless—ravens are black, tigers have stripes, things roll downhill—some of which are used to express some of our most controversial views about the ways our society works: stereotypes.

Tom Conley, Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Visual and Environmental Studies, studies literature, cinema and cartography from standpoints of history and theory. Recent books include Cartographic Cinema (2007), An Errant Eye: Poetry and Topography in Early Modern France (2011), and À fleur de page: Voir et lire le texte de la Renaissance (forthcoming 2015). He is co-editor of the Wylie-Blackwell Companion to Jean-Luc Godard ˆ(2014) and translator of works by Michel de Certeau, Gilles Deleuze and others. In 2014 twenty-three students, peers and colleagues honored him with the publication of a Festschrift titled Illustrations inconscientes, écritures de la Renaissance (Paris, Éditions Classiques Garnier).

The innovation challenge was first created as a part of NCRC 2014 so that undergraduates across the country could utilize their diverse backgrounds to think of solutions to the pressing problems of our generation. At NCRC 2015, we will be tackling the issue of:

Technological Discovery: Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Progress

Though these issues are complex, we believe that the creativity of the nation’s brightest undergraduate researchers guided by the mentoring of experts in the field can spark new avenues of problem-solving which can have an incredibly lasting impact. So, prepare to dream big, hear new perspectives, and add your own! This year, we will be exploring the following issues:


The field of scientific engineering has arisen rapidly in recent decades, and its practitioners often seek to apply their work to a wide range of disciplines. What is the most fascinating material or process that you can imagine and how could it be used to fulfill an unmet need?


Consider how the decisions and priorities of government have been affected by the development of technologies that have introduced new possibilities and expanding potential. What policies or programs have become feasible with the help of modern technology and can be implemented to help alleviate socioeconomic inequality in the United States?


Climate change promises to be one of the defining issues of the 21st century, yet it seems to attract much less research attention and public support than medical initiatives. Describe a novel approach to climate change research, or a creative way to raise public engagement in addressing its challenges.


Even as we pass new frontiers in scientific discovery and economic prosperity, these advantages are not experienced by the millions of people around the world who are subject to unequal treatment and barred from educational opportunities. How can we use our knowledge and skills to advance and champion the global right to education, especially for women and girls?


The Innovation Challenge 2015 is made possible by the generous support of NatureJobs and Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Joe Davis

Joe Davis, is a research affiliate in the Department of Biology at MIT. He “is an artist who has done extensive research in molecular biology and bioinformatics for the production of genetic databases and new biological art forms. He has also constructed sculptural installation pieces, working with laser fabrication in plastics, steel, and stone; laser teleoperator systems; and structural welding in mild steel. His teaching experience in the MIT graduate architecture program (Master of Science in Visual Studies) and in undergraduate painting and mixed media at the Rhode Island School of Design has informed his artistic practice. He has exhibited in the United States, Canada, and Europe at Ars Electronica.” Some of Joe’s recent works include:

• An audio microscope (a microscope that translates light information into sound allowing you to “hear” living cells, each with its own “acoustic signature.”

• Experiments with how E. coli respond to jazz, and other sounds, with Andrew Zaretsky - “If the sound waves prove stressful to the bacteria, the stress might result in increased production of antibiotics, according to Zaretsky.”

• Putting a map of the Milky Way into the ear of a transgenic mouse - “He has taken the map of the Milky Way and reduced that information to sequence of 3,867 DNA base pairs. He has an agreement with Millenium Pharmaceuticals to synthesize the DNA sequence in 100 base pair chunks.”

• Primordial clocks, his own test of theory that life spontaneously self-assembled. To Davis, if life could assemble from simple molecules, so could clocks, a much simpler system.”

• He recorded the vaginal contractions of ballerinas with the Boston Ballet and other women, then translated this impetus of human conception into text, music, phonetic speech and ultimately into radio signals, which were beamed from MIT’s Millstone radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti, and two other nearby star systems.

Rosalind Picard

Professor Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D. is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, the largest industrial sponsorship organization at the lab. She has co-founded two businesses, Empatica, Inc. creating wearable sensors and analytics to improve health, and Affectiva, Inc. delivering technology to help measure and communicate emotion.

Picard holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and master's and doctorate degrees, both in electrical engineering and computer science, from MIT. She started her career as a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories designing VLSI chips for digital signal processing and developing new algorithms for image compression. In 1991 she joined the MIT Media Lab faculty. She became internationally known for constructing mathematical texture models for content-based retrieval of images and for pioneering methods of automated search and annotation in digital video including the Photobook system. The year before she was up for tenure she took a risk and published the book Affective Computing, which became instrumental in starting a new field by that name. Today that field has its own journal, international conference, and professional society. Picard was also a founding member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Wearable Information Systems in 1998, helping launch the field of wearable computing.

Picard has authored or co-authored over two hundred scientific articles and chapters spanning computer vision, pattern recognition, machine learning, human-computer interaction, wearable sensors and affective computing. She is a recipient of several best paper prizes, including work on machine learning with multiple models (with Minka, 1998), a best theory paper prize for affect in human learning (with Kort and Reilly, 2001) a best Face and Gesture paper prize for work with facial expressions (with McDuff, Kaliouby and Demirdjian, 2013) and a best UBICOMP paper for an automated conversation coach (with Hoque et al, 2013). Her paper (with Healey, 2005) measuring Boston driver stress won best paper of the decade 2000-2009 for IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Picard is an active inventor with multiple patents, including wearable and non-contact sensors, algorithms, and systems for sensing, recognizing, and responding respectfully to human affective information. Her inventions have applications in autism, epilepsy, sleep, stress, autonomic nervous system disorders, human and machine learning, health behavior change, market research, customer service, and human-computer interaction. In 2005 she was named a Fellow of the IEEE for contributions to image and video analysis and affective computing. Picard has been honored with dozens of distinguished and named lectureships and other international awards. She is a popular speaker and has given over 100 keynote talks.

Picard has served on numerous international and national science and engineering program committees, editorial boards, and review panels, including the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) division of Computers in Science and Engineering (CISE), the Advisory Board for the Georgia Tech College of Computing, and the Editorial Board of User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction: The Journal of Personalization Research.

Picard interacts regularly with industry and has consulted for many companies including Apple, AT&T, BT, HP, i.Robot, Merck, Motorola, and Samsung. Her group's achievements have been featured in forums for the general public such as The New York Times, The London Independent, National Public Radio, Scientific American Frontiers, ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight, Time, Vogue, Wired, Voice of America Radio, New Scientist, and BBC programs such as "Hard Talk" and BBC Horizon with Michael Mosley. Picard lives in Newton, Massachusetts with her amazing husband and three energetic sons.

Sales Protocol International

Sales Protocol International is a business consultancy firm based in Durham, New Hampshire. The career fair presentation will be given by Ms. Catherine Blake, the CEO and Founder, who has over twenty years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies. She has also provided career advice, counseling, and guidance at the University of New Hampshire for the past 6 years and has served as a guest speaker for Harvard’s Office of Career Services.

Global Health Corps

The mission of Global Health Corps is to mobilize a global community of emerging leaders to build the movement for global health equity. Global Health Corps does this by providing opportunities for young professionals from diverse backgrounds to work on the front lines of the fight for this cause.


Osmosis is a medical education technology company aimed at revolutionizing the way clinicians learn and retain information. Osmosis creates a personalized and social learning experience based on medical school class schedules. Osmosis takes the extra effort out of organizing course content and seeking out resources so students can focus on learning.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is as an international leader of teaching and research in engineering, applied sciences, and technology. Graduate degrees are offered in Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, and the Engineering Sciences.

Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is home to many of Harvard’s leading graduate programs in a broad range of fields, ranging from the humanities to the sciences, and much more. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers the following degrees: the master of arts (AM), master of science (SM), master of engineering (ME), master of forest science (MFS) and the doctor of philosophy (PhD) in 55 divisions, departments, and committees, from African American studies to statistics, including 16 interfaculty programs

Harvard School of Public Health

Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has a mission of advancing public health through learning, discovery, and communication. The School of Public Health grants both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in a variety of public health related fields.

QuantLab Financial

Quantlab Financial is a dynamic, technology-driven firm supporting a large-scale quantitative trading operation across a wide range of global financial markets. Founded in 1998, Quantlab is an established presence and one of the pioneers in quantitative investment management with a track record of consistent profitability under varying market conditions