ESAM Students Awarded NSF Graduate Fellowships

Rebecca Menssen and Cody Reeves have been named NSF graduate student fellows.

Menssen’s project focuses on understanding the dynamics of chromatin, which is the complex molecule that contains DNA. Using experimental data on gene positions and activity from the fruit fly, I seek to characterize how chromatin moves and packages (condenses) throughout development. This characterization will be in the form of a mode of transportation and any relevant parameters to that mode, which can be found through a Bayesian selection model. From there, I will connect this movement to protein activity and the nuclear forces a nucleus is exposed to throughout development, eventually trying to build a model for how chromatin packages. In this, we hope to gain insight into gene regulation, and potentially shed some light on how cells differentiate.

Reeves’ project involves developing a mathematical model for the process of biomineralization in biofilms. Biofilms consist of microorganisms embedded in an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) and typically grow along surfaces. Biofilms are of particular interest since the cells in them are shown to be less susceptible to antimicrobials. The emphasis is to create a numerical simulation for the development of calcite deposits. This will then give insight how to combine biomineralization and antimicrobial treatments to treat harmful infections involving biofilms.