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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2018 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Metabolic Control of the Hedgehog Signaling Pathway
Disciplines:  Multidisciplinary, Chemistry, Biology
Mentor:  Alison Ondrus, Professor, (CCE),, Phone: 6263952466
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  My laboratory seeks to define mechanisms by which endogenous molecules control biological signaling. Our particular focus is on the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway, a signal transduction process that serves essential roles in human health. During embryogenesis, Hh function is required for formation of the brain, spinal cord, and limbs. Accordingly, dysregulated Hh signaling results in severe developmental disorders or spontaneous abortion. By contrast, the Hh pathway is dormant in most adult cell types, and reemergence of signaling activity is the leading cause of skin cancer and a predominant driver of lethal brain tumors. Despite the immense importance of the Hh pathway in normal physiology and disease, critical details of pathway operation remain obscure. The dominant question in Hh biology is how cholesterol and its metabolites coordinate signaling activity. To address this question, our research program employs precise chemical tools in combination with techniques in molecular biology, biochemistry and animal physiology to define novel mechanisms of Hh pathway regulation by cholesterol metabolites.
Description:  We employ a multidisciplinary approach to interrogate the biochemical, genetic, and morphogenetic connections between cholesterol metabolites and Hedgehog signaling. We seek scholars with a passionate interest in the following projects (1) metabolomics profiling of endogenous sterols in Hh pathway-responsive cells, (2) synthesis of chemical tools to define protein interactions of active sterols, (3) execution of pooled CRISPR/Cas screens to identify genetic regulators of Hh pathway activity.
References:  YouTube reference: "Simple explanation of Sonic Hedgehog Signaling Pathway"
YouTube reference: "The Role of Hedgehog Signaling in Mutation-Driven Cancer"
Review: "Hedgehog Signaling: From Basic Biology to Cancer Therapy" DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2017.02.010
Student Requirements:  Introductory biochemistry, in addition to advanced courses in organic chemistry, molecular biology, and/or protein biochemistry.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       Amgen Scholars    Non-Caltech students only  
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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