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News Release

Students Showcase Eureka Moments at Undergraduate Research Expo

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Victoria Fu, second-place winner at the EUReKA undergraduate research event, explains her poster about a new acne-fighting treatment to a judge.

San Diego, Calif., June 7 -- A new acne medicine; a better way to simulate the collapse of supernovae; and a better way to visualize chromosomes: these were just some of the research posters on display at EUReKA, an undergraduate research expo that took place Friday at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The event showcases undergraduates’ research chops. Students present posters describing research they’ve conducted with guidance from a faculty advisor. They also answer questions from faculty judges, who pick the three top posters for the event.

This year, first place went to Pawel Kozlowski, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, for "Study of Core-Collapse Supernovae in a Laboratory using Foil Z-Pinches." Victoria Fu, a chemical engineering major, took second place for "Antimicrobial and Skin Toxicity Study of Lauric Acid Liposomes for Acne vulgaris." Finally, third place went to Jennifer Fang, a computer science major, for "3D Chromosome Structure Visualization from Hi-C Data."

We caught up with Fu, who also was recently featured on the cover of the Jacobs School’s PULSE alumni magazine for the work she and teammates did in the Global TIES program. For her EUReKA poster, Fu and fellow student researchers worked under the guidance of nanoengineering professor Liangfang Zhang. Their goal was to test a new nanoplatform equipped with nanobombs loaded with Lauric acid to see whether it would be an effective and viable acne remedy.

The students first tested their formulation in vitro, in microplates, by treating acne-causing bacteria, called Propionbacterium.  The nanobombs, known as liposomes, fused with the acne-causing bacterial membrane, eradicating it completely.  

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Pavel Kozlowski, first-place winner at EUReKA, with Associate Dean Charles Tu.

Students then went a step further. Under Zhang’s guidance, they induced acne on the ears of laboratory mice and tested their product on the affected areas, applying it both topically and by injection. They found that the product worked with the same effectiveness as in vitro—and caused no inflammation. So it is not only as effective as the leading acne over-the-counter drugs, but it is also a safer alternative, Fu said.

There is however more work to be done. The nanobombs have a tendency to fuse together before they reach their target area. Students will try to attach nanoparticles to the platform’s surface to alleviate that. This will be a project that Fu will continue to tackle as a graduate student in Zhang’s lab, where she will begin her graduate studies in nanoengineering this fall.

We didn’t get a chance to interview Kozlowski, but here is an abstract for his poster:

"The problem of the stalled accretion shock in core-collapse supernovae has marred astrophysics for decades. Even two-dimensional simulations of shock perturbations, which omit nuclear processes, yield inconsistent results from group to group. The aim of this project is to use the shocked plasma precursor column in a z-pinch experiment to study the behavior of a two-dimensional, cylindrical shock under momentum perturbations. Information on shock expansion and formation of vortices under the shock, or the lack thereof, in response to perturbation should prove invaluable for calibrating future simulations of core-collapse supernovae."

And here is an abstract for Fang’s poster:

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Associate Dean Charles Tu talks to one of the students at EUReKA. 

“Most genome browsers display annotations using linear representations; however, this becomes inadequate for visualizing chromosomal interactions and inferred secondary chromosomal structures—both critical aspects of nuclear regulation. Using coordinates generated from Hi-C data, we used Jmol to create 3D interactive models of entire chromosomes and specific domains. Our chromosomal models can incorporate genomic features and display the distribution of these data in three dimensions. Colored gradients can also be created given heat map values, such as transcription levels. Furthermore, we employed Jmol's applet capabilities to embed 3D chromosome models online for easy sharing and simplified use built for non-computational biologists.”

Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering