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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 2019 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:  Next generation maps of the Hedgehog pathway metabolome
Disciplines:  Multidisciplinary, Chemical Biology
Mentor:  Alison Ondrus, Assistant Professor, (CCE),, Phone: 4155164747
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is a conserved developmental pathway that controls critical aspects of embryogenesis in humans. Aberrant activation of the pathway is also the number one cause of human cancer, and the leading cause of lethal brain tumors in children. Despite the incredible importance of this pathway, essential aspects of its operation remain obscure. This deficit in knowledge stems from the unique nature of Hh signal transduction: key steps are controlled by the actions of specific cholesterol metabolites, whose structures and activities remain unknown. We're addressing this gap in knowledge with a combination of next-generation chemical, proteomic, and genetic tools that deconstruct the atomic interactions in the cascade of Hh signaling events. In doing so, our work will reveal fundamentally new paradigms that link metabolic status to embryogenesis and oncogenesis in human health.
Description:  Chemistry: We are employing synthetic organic chemistry to create functionalized cholesterol molecules as reporters of Hedgehog (Hh) protein structure and function in living cells and organisms.
Structural biology/molecular dynamics: We are expressing uncharacterized and mutagenized versions of Hh pathway proteins to characterize the atomic basis of Hh signaling. This is closely knit with computational modeling of binding modes and mechanistic analysis of dynamic signaling processes.
Metabolomics: We are designing novel mass spectrometric workflows to profile active metabolites in live, Hh-signaling cells.
Proteomics: We are using our chemical probes as small molecule "antibodies" that can crosslink undiscovered proteins and map the interactomes of Hh pathway-active metabolites using mass spectrometry.
CRISPR/Cas9 screens: We are developing a pooled, CRISPR/Cas9-based, high-throughput knockout screens to define the metabolic infrastructure required for proper Hh signal response.
References:  Reviews:
1. "Hedgehog Signaling Pathway." Haskett DR (2015)
2. "Hedgehog Signaling: From Basic Biology to Cancer Therapy." Wu F, Zhang Y, Sun B, McMahon AP, Wang Y (2017). Cell Chem Biol. 24, 252.
3. YouTube video!
Student Requirements:  Must be highly motivated, independent, and willing to tackle new ideas in innovative ways! We are a new lab, and this is an opportunity to step up and make your mark on the burgeoning field of chemical biology in human health.
Must have taken advanced courses applicable to the relevant to your choice of the Project Descriptions above.
Must have substantial previous lab experience.
Seniors are preferred, but other levels will be considered.
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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