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Senior Showcase 2024
Celebrating Excellence

Sur Doctor

Purdue University; Boston University, Kilachand Honors College

Martin Kushnerov

As a researcher at ASDRP, I joined the Kushnerov Genetics/Bioinformatics Cluster during its first quarter. The aim of the first research project I joined was to understand, contextualize, and analyze the role of miRNA in model organism C. Elegans, a nematode/worm, when exposed to various pathogens. I later became the project leader for that group and joined a collaboration designing an mRNA vaccine. Had fun!

Aksithi Eswaran

Saint Louis University

Clinton Cunha

During my time in the Cunha lab at ASDRP, I focused on determining potential drug candidates for colorectal cancer. I was mainly involved in computational analyses of targets like DNA methyltransferase, histone deacetylase, and serum response factor. Through tools like molecular docking, pharmacokinetic property analysis, and clustering, we were able to determine a few potential drug candidates that computationally bind well to the above targets and have a lower toxicity level than already established drugs. I presented this work with a group member at SCCUR 2022 and 2023.

Rosie Chen

Johns Hopkins University

Edward Njoo

My main project was centered on the use of benchtop nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to elucidate the mechanism of a trifluorinated keto ester in the Biginelli cyclocondensation multicomponent reaction in order to achieve the synthesis of novel trifluorinated tetrahydropyrimidinone compounds.

Samuel Huang

Johns Hopkins University

Tracy Zhang

I joined Dr. Zhang's group in 2022, working in the KRAS MedChem collaboration with the Njoo Group. In this project I tested novel KRAS inhibitors on various cancer cell lines, utilizing several viability assays such as MTT. In 2023, I started the Immuno-Oncology subgroup, aiming to test immunomodulation of NK cells via novel andrographolide analogs. I'm currently involved in testing immunomodulation through fluorescence microscopy and tumor co-culture methods.

Adhvaith Ravi

University of California, Davis

Sahar Jahanikia

My main projects focused around the utilization of large language models to solve ambiguity in texting by creating accurate personality-based responses for users, as well as conducting research into the effects of ADHD in both adults and children. As part of the first group, I mainly worked on fine-tuning the large language models to create customized responses. As part of the latter, I mainly compiled literature on the effects of ADHD for children, mainly focused around sleep. I am eager to see the upcoming literature and conference presentations that will be based on the current research!

Sneha Gadekarla

UCLA - University of California Los Angeles

Sahar Jahanikia

I am a part of the CovidEat team at the Jahanikia NeuroLab. Our research focuses on studying the impact of COVID-19 on the dietary lifestyles of people in the United States. To do so, our team has created a questionnaire and used various data analysis techniques. We presented our findings at the SCCUR 2023 conference, the ASPEN 2024 conference, and multiple ASDRP expos.

Oliver Cai

UCLA - University of California Los Angeles - Computer Science

Joseph Laurienzo

During my time in ASDRP working with Mr. Laurienzo, I developed a self organizing map to reduce the dimensionality of data for visualization and data analysis purposes in Python. I then utilized this algorithm to automatically generate a hypothetical railway system within any country, and combined it with a novel pruning algorithm that optimizes for a specified parameter (such as minimizing average travel distance along the rails).

Shravani Vedagiri

CMU - Carnegie Mellon University

Sahar Jahanikia

For the past two years, I have been part of the Jahanikia Neurolab under the BCI-EEG team. I have worked on decoding inner speech with brain-computer interfaces, which is a study in EEG analysis and machine learning.

Samuel Lao

UPenn - University of Pennsylvania

Sahar Jahanikia

At the Jahanikia NeuroLab, I've been researching methods to revise the current n-back task, a heavily studied cognitive exercise that strengthens working memory but suffers from being critically boring. In our work, we've hypothesized that the n-back task may be improved by engaging the brain's dopaminergic system, which directly correlates with motivation and executive functions (notably, working memory). To that extent, we've developed a novel, multidimensional n-back game with traditionally engaging elements, the effect of which we're currently analyzing in an ongoing study. Additionally, I've led a team in evaluating the creativity of large language models (LLMs) compared to humans. In our investigation, we've utilized multiple established creativity measures, including the Alternate Uses Test, Remote Associates Test, and Torrance Tests of Creativity Thinking. We've observed that AI tends to outperform humans across all measures of creativity, and we're currently conducting a study on the matter. With these projects, I've had the privilege to present at multiple conferences, including the IBRO World Congress of Neuroscience, the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity, and the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research.

Christopher Lau

RIT - Rochester Institute of Technology

Robert Downing

Under the mentorship of Robert Downing, I worked alongside the exoplanet group to decode the habitability of exoplanets. We first determined the criteria for an exoplanet to be "habitable" in our eyes--its ability to theoretically house liquid water--and then analyzed the necessary properties of an exoplanet for this to be true. We then applied our research to the online NASA Exoplanet Archive, a publicly available database of exoplanets, and developed an algorithm through Python that optimized and filtered through the database. Over two years, our algorithm evolved, and our research culminated in the emergence of three promising exoplanets: Kepler-1649-c, Kepler-174-d, and Kepler-62f. During my time at ASDRP, I had the honor of presenting our findings at the 2022 SCCUR research conference and working with my group to write a research paper pending publication at JEI. I can't wait to watch with pride as the exoplanet group continues to soar to new frontiers.

Seoyeon (Reina) Hong

University of Washington

Edward Njoo

Beginning my work by joining a natural product study on C19 analogs of andrographolide, I led a continued project of oxidations of dexamethasone and related fluorinated corticosteroids. Simultaneously, I focused on the use of Benchtop 19F NMR to observe the relationship in the optimal synthesis of NSAIDS Celecoxib and Mavacoxib, and studied a little about cyclopropanes. After a few months of natural product and NMR studies, I began a total synthesis-focused project, which I had been my ultimate goal ever since I joined ASDRP. I started working on the synthesis of a natural product Withaferin A, and in the last month of my time at ASDRP, I worked on the synthesis of Proscillaridin A analogs to test in HERVK transduced cancer cells.

Kimberly Khow

University of California Irvine

Edward Njoo

Kimberly joined ASDRP during the summer of 2020 and was first involved in investigating the inhibitory effects of natural preservatives against spoilage fungi growth under Nardeen Mikhail, yielding a publication in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. She transitioned to the Kaur lab to work on isolating mycorrhizal fungi from urban garden soil before deciding to learn more about analytical chemistry via running stability studies on two HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors with optimized HPLC methods in the Chen lab. Since the fall of 2023, Kimberly has had the pleasure of working on a variety of projects with her fellow researchers in the Njoo group. Her efforts initially revolved around the exploration of antibody-drug conjugates as cancer therapeutics, but have since branched out to other areas of interest including bio-inspired ionizable lipids for mRNA delivery, localization of fluorescent lipids within cells, and the synthesis and biological evaluation of a library of C-4 podophyllotoxin analogs. The highlights of Kimberly's time at ASDRP include enjoying conferences like ACS, SCCUR, and WCBSURC by engaging in posters sessions, delivering oral presentations alongside her teammates, and spending time with friends to explore around the area.

Alexander Lau

UIUC - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Robert Downing

During my time at ASDRP, I conducted research for the Exoplanet and Voynich groups, both supervised by Professor Robert Downing. As a part of the exoplanet group, I searched the open-source NASA Exoplanet Archive to find habitable exoplanets, analyzing different variables (e.g. metallicity, orbital eccentricity) to create a ruleset that would accurately determine habitability. I specifically focused on creating and executing Python code to create a list of exoplanets for further analysis. The Voynich group's research centered around decoding the mysterious language contained within the Voynich Manuscript, a 15th-century codex of plant drawings, pharmaceutical herbs, astrological diagrams, and more. I primarily focused on matching plants within the manuscript to real-life examples, in addition to developing Python code that used natural language processing and word frequencies to solve the manuscript. Both were exciting projects, but there's still quite a lot to discover!

Krrish Ganesh

UIUC - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for Computer Science and Linguistics

Sahar Jahanikia

I worked on the spEEGch-BCI project in the Jahanikia Neurolab, developing a model that can accurately interpret inner speech, or cognitive self-talk, through data analysis and machine learning techniques. Using the BCILAB software and MNE-Python for signal processing, I decoded electroencephalography (EEG) data from a previous study collected from participants that measured the electrophysiological responses in the brain produced by synced neurons for three conditions (inner speech, pronounced speech, and visualized speech). Using a combination of machine learning/deep learning algorithms, such as K-Nearest Neighbors, Support Vector Machine, Random Forest, Convolutional Neural Networks, and Deep Neural Networks, I detected brain patterns present in the data that could be used to enable the conversion of neural signals into commands by brain-computer interfaces (BCI). The research I have done at ASDRP has been incredibly rewarding since brain-computer interfaces can aid those with neuromuscular disorders by restoring lost speech function. The application of the EEG neuroimaging technique to BCIs is leading to more reliable and promising detection of signals to be converted into commands. I also presented this project at the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) conference in Granada, Spain, in September 2023. I am currently working with my group to write and submit a manuscript for publication, which is an exciting milestone for this project I am looking forward to.

Adelina Chau

UC Berkeley - University of California Berkeley; California Institute of Technology; University of Pennsylvania; Georgia Institute of Technology

Larry McMahan

Joining ASDRP in the fall of her sophomore year, Adelina is a 3 year member of Dr. McMahan's Quantum Computing 1 (QC1) group. When she first joined the group, she proposed the idea of working at the intersection of quantum computing and chemistry, which ultimately culminated in the group's most recent research project of developing a quantum generative adversarial network for molecular generation. Working on this project during the entirety of her time at ASDRP, Adelina has played several roles in the project’s research and development and represented her group in presenting the project at several conferences, ASDRP colloquiums, and ASDRP symposiums. She started as the lead for the Chemistry side of the project, researching, implementing, and testing the encoding of different molecular representations (SMILES, SELFIES, .XYZ files, adjacency matrices, etc.) of our QM9 dataset of small organic molecules with quantum bits. After implementing the .XYZ molecular representation method for our quantum generative adversarial network’s (QGAN) first iteration, she helped develop the quantum generator network architecture, implementing code for the model's Quantum Analog-Digital Converter to encode the classical molecular data into quantum states by applying different rotation gates to represent atoms and bond lengths. With the model's promising proof-of-concept results, Adelina co-authored a Journal of Emerging Investigator's paper on the group's first QGAN model ( In the summer prior to her junior year, Adelina became the QC1 group's lead, where she led the group in developing more accurate quantum generative adversarial networks (QNetGAN, QNetGAN V2, and QNetGAN V3), developed clear documentation for accessing and using the ASDRP server to help transition new group members into the team, and established a collaboration between the Quantum Computing (QC1) and Quantum Chemistry (QChem) groups (QC1 would generate potentially feasible molecules, and QChem would perform molecular calculations on our molecules). The collaboration research was presented as poster presentations at both the West Coast Biological Science Undergraduate Research Conference and the IEEE International Quantum Week 2023 conference in Bellevue, Washington with a corresponding extended abstract published to IEEE Xplore ( Most recently,to improve the accuracy of the generated molecules from the QGANs which had a tendency to disobey fundamental chemistry principles like Octet Rule and to have non-ideal bond angles and bond lengths, Adelina spearheaded the development of a series of Molecular Geometry Post-Processing Algorithms to correct the generated molecule's geometry after generation. The series currently consists of 5 sub-algorithms: octet rule satisfaction checker, hydrogen addition algorithm, formal charge calculation and optimization, cycle detection, and adjacency matrix to .XYZ coordinates calculation. The latest results are expected to be published within the next year. Ultimately, Adelina hopes to see the project continue to grow and flourish over the next several years.

Harriet Chen

UCLA - University of California Los Angeles

Edward Njoo

During my time at ASDRP, I joined Dr. Edward Njoo's Group and researched the natural product podophyllotoxin, a tubulin inhibitor isolated from the Podophyllum family. My group and I synthesized six ester substituents onto the C-4 position of podophyllotoxin to create a library of podophyllotoxin ester analogs. We then tested the biological activity of these ester compounds via MTT assays, flow cytometry, computer modeling, and an absorbance-based tubulin polymerization assay. This research was done to evaluate the structure-activity relationship between bulky substituents on the C-4 position of podophyllotoxin and its biological activity. Our work was later published as a preprint on ChemRxiv titled "C-4 analogs of podophyllotoxin as tubulin inhibitors: Synthesis, biological evaluation, and structure-activity relationship" and has also been presented at numerous conferences including WCBSURC 2023 at LMU, ACS 2023 in San Francisco, and SCCUR 2023 at CSUF. Through our findings, my group and I expanded our library of C-4 analogs in order to further investigate podophyllotoxin's SAR.

Lexi Xu

Rice University; Cornell University; University of California Berkeley

Edward Njoo

For the last 2 years in the Njoo Group, I have worked on the synthesis and biological evaluation of C-4 analogs of Podophyllotoxin, an anticancer natural product, and derivatives of Carmofur, a modified form of the FDA-approved anticancer agent 5-fluorouracil. This process has been a valuable learning experience that has taught me skills in synthesis, spectroscopy, cell assays, and computational docking.

Urvi Avadhani

"UCSC - University of California Santa Cruz"

Sahar Jahanikia

I initially started ASDRP in Sahar Jahanikia’s lab where I was part of EEGYoga and researched how meditation affects brain activity by using neuroimaging tools such as MATLAB and EEGLAB. In Fall 2023, we went to SfN where we presented our research. This year, I joined CreativityGPT where we are currently going through data collection of participants to determine if ChatGPT is more creative than a human or not.

Archish Prakhya

University of Maryland-College Park, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Huifang Qin

As an ASDRP researcher since the summer of 2023, I have spent my first two semesters enrolled with Dr. Viktoria Liu. In her research group, I have been in the role of a lead project manager, helping to develop a molecular viewer application utilizing augmented reality to allow students to visualize and manipulate complex molecular structures and behaviors in 3D, communicate research findings and data in real-time, and understand the behavior of molecules to help design new drugs and materials. Our application is also programmed with a unique speech recognition function to accommodate users with disabilities ranging from visual impairments to learning disabilities. I have also been involved in leveraging and developing explainable AI (XAI) techniques to advance the interoperability of Conventional Neural Networks (CNNs) for the analysis of lung images, facilitating a more transparent and insightful examination of respiratory conditions. Given that this is my final semester, I’m conducting groundbreaking financial research by employing the skills that are associated with my chosen major of data science, including predictive modeling, statistical analysis, and optimization. Through countless hours of collaboration with my mentor, Dr. Huifang Qin (UC Berkeley EECS), and fellow student researchers, I have helped construct functional algorithmic trading models that can help investors outperform the stock market and investigated how present-day events such as violent conflicts and national elections influence the behavior of shareholders and the value of commodities. Our joint ventures have led to the publication of key deliverables such as economics insights reports, market prediction models, and financial investment strategies that can empower individuals and businesses in our local communities to make informed decisions and mitigate risks.

Aditi Joshi

Case Western Reserve University, Biomedical Engineering

Tracy Zhang

The main project I worked on was researching the effectiveness of nine silyl ether and trityl andrographolide analogs across 2 colon cancer cell lines (HCT-116 and HT-29) and 2 breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7) in inhibiting cancer cell proliferation. The purpose of this research aims to investigate whether hydrophobic substitutions at C-19 can alter the biological mechanism of andrographolide by modulating the WNT/Beta-Catenin signaling pathway. Additionally, I was involved in researching potential combination therapy of cisplatin and podophollytoxin analogs to mitigate cisplatin resistance in colon and breast cancer cell lines.

Prital Jariwala

USC - University of Southern California

Michael Amadi

During her time at ASDRP, Prital worked on the first stages of creating a liver cancer biosensor, using in vitro methods to grow cultures of three proteins in the RNA Induced Silencing Complex (RISC) in liver cells to bind to MicroRNA 122, a micro RNA that can be used to indicate Hepatocellular Carcinoma based on its levels. Her group conducted protein growth, purifications, and gels to determine if they were growing the correct protein to be used in the synthetic RISC complex.

Polina Bortok

UC Berkeley

Edward Njoo

During her time in the Njoo group at ASDRP, Polina worked on a project designing and synthesizing novel isoxazol-based inhibitors of G12C mutant KRAS. Although there were already pre-existing inhibitors, their lengthy and expensive synthesis pushed the creation of this project with the goal of designing small-molecule inhibitors with more efficient synthetic routes. Apart from medicinal chemistry, the project also expanded into an optimization study of the amid coupling step in the synthesis. A methods paper on this study is soon to be published.

Ritwik Jayaraman

Purdue University (Major: BS, Computer Science)

Sahar Jahanikia

Hello! My name is Ritwik, and I am a graduating senior based in Phoenix, Arizona. Since joining the Jahanikia Neurolab in the Fall of 2022, I have been working with machine learning/deep learning models and electroencephalography (EEG) data to see if it is possible to computationally decode inner speech/thoughts from brain waves (which are captured by the EEG data). This research has been impactful for me not only because of the potential ramifications my research could have on people with neuromuscular disorders but also because of how it has opened my eyes to the interdisciplinary nature of computer science. I hope to pursue similar opportunities during my undergraduate studies. While at ASDRP, our research team was accepted to and attended the International Brain Research Organization’s World Congress of Neuroscience in Granada, Spain. It was a great experience for us since we were able to discuss our research with experts from around the world. The conference also gave us ideas about how to proceed with our project. Additionally, since February 2023, I have been the Research Associate for the Jahanikia Neurolab. In this position, I created and led short sessions about how to use PubMed, a database for biomedical literature. These sessions were helpful for new lab admits to get acclimated to the research “environment.” As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I’m grateful to ASDRP and Sahar for the experiences and knowledge that I have gained. I appreciate that my time at ASDRP will set me up wonderfully for future undergraduate research.

Rajesh Veera

UCSB- University of California Santa Barbara for Chemical Engineering

Michael Amadi

At my time in ASDRP, I have been part of the Amadi-003 group working on developing an mRNA vaccine library for the Nipah Virus. In the lab, I synthesized mRNA of the viral glycoproteins F and G through plasmid development and expression, in vitro transcription, and purification. Computationally , I aided in developing a codon optimization tool which utilizes gene shuffling to create high fitness variants of the viral glycoproteins to add to the vaccine library. Our group has had the opportunity to present our research at WCBURC, SCCUR, and ACS.

Gayathri Nair

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Michael Amadi

I worked on developing a non-invasive method for detecting liver cancer. We aimed to utilize components of the RNA interference pathway to detect levels of circulating miR-122 to identify Hepatocellular Carcinoma in its early stages. I started this project in the Amadi lab during my sophomore year and have since gained a lot of meaningful experiences and knowledge while working with the group!
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