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Announcements of Opportunity

SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program.

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. Click here for more tips on finding a mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

New for 2021: Students applying for JPL projects should complete a SURF@JPL application instead of a "regular" SURF application.

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

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Project:  Relating Collective Tissue Phenomena to the Underlying Calcium Dynamics in Single Cells in a Plant Stem Cell Niche
Disciplines:  Biology, Multidisciplinary
Mentor:  Elliot Meyerowitz, Professor, (BBE), meyerow@caltech.edu
Mentor URL:  http://plantlab.caltech.edu/  (opens in new window)
AO Contact:  Ting Li and Eldad Afik, tingli99@caltech.edu ; eafik@caltech.edu
Background:  Living Cells can exhibit measurable variation of ionic content at various timescales, from seconds to hours and days. These variations are often associated with cell-to-cell signalling and response, which are at the basis of communication and computation at the tissue level. Calcium ions (Ca2+) are frequently studied as a messenger, and are also known to play a role in the mechanical properties of cells, which in turn play a role in morphogenesis --- the generation of form.

The Shoot Apical Meristem (SAM) is the stem cell niche in land plants, from which all above-ground organs originate, namely leaves, flowers and the extension of the stem itself. Using microscopy time-lapse fluorescent imaging, and a fluorescent reporter for Ca2+ concentrations, our research group has identified and characterized three main types of Ca2+ signal patterns in the SAM:
(1) single cell spikes, or twinkling
(2) spontaneous global tissue oscillations, and
(3) an inducible global wave-like propagation of Ca2+ cellular concentration.
Studying the temporal variation of Ca2+ at single cell level throughout the tissue would allow us to further understand these modes of Ca2+ signals, and the role they play in tissue and organismal dynamics.
Description:  The proposed project is of computational nature, primarily image and data analysis. A successful reduction of the time-lapse imaging data to temporal traces of cellular Ca2+ level would allow quantitative:

* comparison of single cell temporal pattern when twinkling, oscillation, and the stimulated wave, as well as exploring the effects of one mode over the statistics of the other; and

* study cell-cell correlations, potentially identifying spatio-temporal patterns related to cellular and regional states; this may also open the path to causal structure inference.
References:  * Li, Ting, An Yan, Neha Bhatia, et al. “Calcium Signals Are Necessary to Establish Auxin Transporter Polarity in a Plant Stem Cell Niche.” Nature Communications 10, no. 1 (February 13, 2019): 726. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08575-6.

Student Requirements:  Much of the proposed project relies on programming skills, primarily Image and Data Analysis. This project would benefit from a Physics and/or Electrical Engineering inclined student, enthusiastic about Life Science.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    Caltech students only 

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

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