MARC @ UHM Scholars

2022 – 2024 Cohort



Name: Princess Jena Santiago
Major: B.S. Biochemistry
School/College: School of Natural Sciences


Mentor: Lucia Seale, Ph.D.

The characterization of mice lacking the gene for selenocysteine lyase in brown adipocytes

Selenium is an essential micronutrient that is necessary for energy metabolism and expenditure. Selenocysteine Lyase, Scly, is an enzyme that assists in recycling selenium in the body. Brown adipocytes or brown fat are responsible for producing heat and maintaining body temperature, expending energy. By using a brown fat Scly-specific knockout mouse model, this project will focus on the consequences of the removal of Scly in this tissue and for heat production. The goal will be achieved by feeding customized diets containing known amounts of selenium and exposing animals to the cold to initiate adaptive thermogenesis. Thermo probes will be surgically implanted in the mice to record internal body temperature, glucose levels will be measured, and molecular techniques will be conducted for measuring levels of brown fat markers when Scly is not present.


(Deadline Extension! The new deadline is December 1st, 2022)


Name: YOUR Name
Major: YOUR Major
School/College: YOUR School/College

YOUR project title

YOUR 100 word project description.

Apply here today! 

2021 – 2023 Cohort




Name: Alena Albertson
Major: B.S. Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology
College: College of Tropical Agricultural and Human Resources



Mentor: Daniel Owens, Ph.D.

Poinsettia Anthocyanin Analysis

My project focuses on HPLC analysis of different Poinsettia cultivars and studying them at different life stages. We are working to determine how different light intensities and temperatures affect anthocyanin content and to understand the pigment profiles of different colors of Poinsettias. This information will give insight into anthocyanin biosynthesis in poinsettias. Understanding how to manipulate temperature to optimize the quality of the color in poinsettia bracts can result in more successful poinsettia yields for breeders and growers.




Name: Lisa Lowe
Major: B.S. Biological Engineering
College: College of Tropical Agricultural and Human Resources



Mentor: Samir Khanal, Ph.D.

CO2 Nanobubbles in Microalgal Culture

Nanobubbles (NB), bubbles with diameters of 50 to 200 nm, can be generated with gases like CO2. Their small size increases the interfacial area to the surrounding aqueous environment,
which can improve mass transfer rates of CO2 . Microalgae are single-celled, photosynthetic
organisms that can produce high-value products such as supplements and bioenergy. However,
they require large amounts of dissolved CO2 to grow, which can be a limiting factor in their
growth. In this study, we are exploring the potential of NB to enhance mass transfer of CO2 ,
which can then enhance the growth rate and biomass production of microalgae.


Name: Caleb-Matthew Olaso
Major: B.S Marine Biology, B.A. Chemistry
School: School of Natural Sciences

The role of a peptidoglycan-recognition protein, EsPGRP4, in the establishment of the squid-vibrio symbiosis

The binary association between Euprymna scolopes, the Hawaiian bobtail squid, and its symbiont, Vibrio fischeri provides an opportunity to investigate bacterial recruitment in horizontally acquired mutualisms. Previous studies have shown that peptidoglycan from bacterioplankton induces mucus secretion from the symbiotic light organ of the squid. As a result, the symbiont is captured in a mucus matrix, promoting host colonization. I am investigating a peptidoglycan recognition protein, EsPGRP4, that is hypothesized to mediate the mucus secretion response. These findings are hoped to uncover the mechanisms of bacterial recruitment in Euprymna and motivate studies of how other hosts initiate symbiotic relationships.

Published Manuscript:

Olaso CM, Viliunas J, McFall-Ngai M. A peptidoglycan-recognition protein orchestrates the first steps of symbiont recruitment in the squid-vibrio symbiosis. Symbiosis. 2022 May;87(1):31-43. doi: 10.1007/s13199-022-00855-y. Epub 2022 Aug 6. PMID: 36177150; PMCID: PMC9518823.


Name: Caleb-Matthew Olaso
Major: B.S Marine Biology, B.A. Chemistry
School: School of Natural Sciences

The microbiome of Aedes albopictus modulates host lipid storage and starvation resistance

The microbiome is a known modulator of host biology. In mosquitoes, the composition of the microbiome has been implicated in metabolic pathways related to lipid storage. Using the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, as a model, my research compares the microbiome that recruits among host individuals raised in natural environments to those in a laboratory setting. I am investigating how these divergent microbiomes affect patterns of lipid storage as a determinant of starvation resistance. These findings hold the promise of informing contemporary strategies of mosquito control and the use of lab-reared mosquitoes as models for natural populations.




Name: Jobert Teppang
Major: B.S Biology
School: School of Natural Sciences



Mentor: Haining Yang, Ph.D.

Understanding the biological mechanisms of BAP1 in regulating glycolytic metabolism

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is commonly associated with prolonged asbestos exposure leading to mesothelial cell transformation in the pleura and peritoneum. Additionally, germline mutations in the BRCA1 associated protein 1 (BAP1) gene can predispose individuals to developing mesothelioma and other cancers. Cancer cells often favor a metabolic switch known as the Warburg effect characterized by the increased rate of glucose uptake and over production of lactate, which favors malignant transformation. Individuals with BAP1 mutations display a distinct metabolic signature of the Warburg phenomenon. Our objective is to study the biological mechanisms of BAP1 in regulating glycolytic metabolism.




Name: Jobert Teppang
Major: B.S Biology
School: School of Natural Sciences



Mentor: Saguna Verma, Ph.D.

Understand the effects of SARS-CoV-2 proteins independent of active replication in lung microvascular endothelial cells

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus responsible for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Making up the virus particles are 4 crucial structure proteins: spike (S), envelope (E), membrane (M), and nucleoprotein (N). SARS-CoV-2 virus infection of lung airway epithelial cells leads to severe cytopathicity in not only epithelial cells but also causes activation of lung microvascular endothelial cells. Whether viruses can infect these endothelial cells is still not very clear. Recent studies have shown that the S1, E, and N proteins alone can cause cytotoxic effects in cells independent of the virus. However, it is not known if these proteins affect lung endothelial cells independent of active replication. Our goal is to understand this mechanism by exposing lung cells to these proteins and measuring cell death and injury at different time points.




Name: Keanu Rochette-Yu Tsuen
Major: B.S Global Environmental Science
School: School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology



Mentor: Rosie Alegado, Ph.D.

Tracking Leptospira bacteria in the He‘eia watershed

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease caused by bacteria in the Leptospira genus and is transmitted from mammal carriers via urine to human hosts through contact of contaminated soil and water with damaged skin or mucous membranes. The objective of this project is to determine whether the abundance of Leptospira in aquatic ecosystems positively correlates with feral pig populations in the He‘eia watershed, where historical agricultural irrigation networks may facilitate the transmission of the disease to humans. The results of this research may provide necessary epidemiological information that can guide prevention of outbreaks and epidemics of the disease in fluvial and estuarine communities.

2023 – 2025 Cohort (Applications open Summer 2023)