14 Scholars that presented at symposium
Two scholars at Madison Scholars Symposium in discussion
Drs. Asthana and Anderson at Madison Scholars Symposium

2019 Madison Scholars Symposium

The Madison Scholars Symposium showcases scholar’s research from several training programs on the UW – Madison campus. The goal of this symposium is to enhance the oral presentation skills in preparation for speaker and poster presentation engagements at national meetings and to promote scholar’s networking ability. Scholars prepared one of two format oral presentations and presented their work to an open invitation audience of students, staff, and faculty. Please find the below information regarding the presenters and their presentation.

Madison Scholars Symposium Program 2019

Joshua Roth selfie in laboraty

Joshua Roth, PhD

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab with Dr. Thelen
“Algorithm for Intraoperative Detection of Component Malalignment during Total Knee Arthroplasty”

I’m completing a postdoc with Dr. Thelen in the Neuromuscular Biomechanics Lab, which is housed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. I will be starting as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation and Mechanical Engineering this summer. I will direct the Orthopedic Biomechanics Lab (https://j-d-roth.github.io/JDRothPhD/).

The aim of my research is to investigate how both biomechanical and biological factors affect the outcome of different treatment options for older adults suffering from musculoskeletal diseases and disorders such as osteoarthritis. A better understanding of these factors should enable us to identify the optimal treatment for an individual patient that best restores normal function. Restoring near-normal function helps to keeps these patients active, which is critical to reduce the risk of other age-related neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal diseases/disorders.


Laura Swanson Selfie in laboratoryLaura Swanson

Department: Genetics
David Wassarman Laboratory
UW Medical Scientist Training Program
“Metabolic Dysregulation following Traumatic Brain Injury in Drosophila melanogaster”

I am a 6th year student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, completing my 3rd year of my PhD in the Cellular and Molecular Biology program. My work in Dr. David Wassarman’s lab uses our Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) model of traumatic brain injury (TBI) to uncover previously unidentified mechanisms through which cells propagate secondary cellular injuries. I am specifically focused on the role of metabolic genes that are also linked with aging, as many of the physiologic changes seen as a result of TBI appear to indicate an accelerated aging process in the brain. Using the easily accessible genetic tools available in fruit flies, I am characterizing the impact of tissue-specific knockdown and overexpression of critical metabolic genes on acute and chronic TBI outcomes.


Mitchell Lavarias in LaboratoryMitchell Lavarias

Department of Nutrition Science
Lab: Chi-Liang Eric Yen
Molecular and Applied Nutrition Training Program
“Intestine-specific Loss of Cpt2, Required for Long-chain Fatty Acid Oxidation, Alters Systemic Energy Metabolism and Glucose Homeostasis”

Our lab is interested in how intestinal lipid metabolism affects systemic energy balance. As the intestine is a large energy consumer (estimated to use ~25% of total body energy expenditure after a meal), my project focuses on understanding the impact of intestinal fatty acid oxidation on systemic nutrient availability using genetic knockout mice as a model.


Virginia Pszczolkowski next to cowVirginia Pszczolkowski

Department of Dairy Science
Arriola Apelo Lab
Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Graduate Training Program
“Nutritional and endocrine regulation of mammary mTORC1 and its role in milk protein synthesis”

I transferred in to the Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Graduate Training Program for a PhD after having done one year of work towards a master’s in Dairy Science, when I realized I was very interested in humans as well as cows. I’ve stayed in the Arriola Apelo Lab through that transition, in the Department of Dairy Science. Our lab studies mammary gland and liver metabolism in the dairy cow, using cell culture, mice, and cows themselves as models. My research project focuses on how amino acids and insulin regulate milk protein synthesis at the level of cellular metabolism.


Nicole Cummings ScholarNicole Cummings

Department of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Lamming Lab
Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program
“Decreased consumption of branched-chain amino acids promotes lifespan and healthspan in wild-type and progeroid mice”

My work in the Lamming lab focuses on the metabolism of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs; leucine, isoleucine, and valine). The lab found previously that restriction of dietary BCAAs reduces adiposity and improves glycemic control. We are now working to determine if restricting BCAAs can promote healthy aging and possibly extend the lifespan of several mouse models of accelerated aging. In addition, we are working on determining the mechanism by which BCAA restriction supports a healthy metabolism.


Dylan Souder scholarDylan Souder

Department of Medicine
Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology
Anderson Lab
“The Amyloid Plaque Microenvironment”

My work is characterizing the mechanisms of neuroprotection by caloric restriction (CR), a model of delayed aging.  Recently, our lab has established that CR induces a distinct state of energy metabolism in the hippocampus that is associated with reduced levels of GSK-3β, a nutrient-sensitive kinase that is known to participate in neurodegeneration.  Additionally, we have demonstrated that GSK-3β negatively regulates the activity and stability of PGC-1a, a critical regulator of energy metabolism.  We are now working to directly determine the role of GSK-3β in neuronal energy metabolism both at the cellular level, and in specific regions of the brain that are sensitive to neurodegeneration.  This will allow us to better understand the principle factors that underlie age-related cognitive impairment.


Spencer Haws in laboratorySpencer Haws

Department: Biomolecular Chemistry
Laboratory of John Denu
Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences
“Metabolic Regulation of the Epigenome: Chromatin Adaptation to Methyl-Metabolite Depletion”

My research investigates the mechanisms by which metabolic perturbations are capable of regulating the epigenome. Recent efforts have focused on characterizing epigenetic adaptations to S-adenosylmethionine depletion that support heterochromatin stability and enable epigenetic recovery from this metabolic stress.


Tiaira Porter ScholarTiaira Porter

Department: Neuroscience
Moore Lab
Physiology Graduate Training Program
“Characterization of nesprin-3 in mammalian neural stem cells”

I am in the Physiology Graduate Training Program, working in the lab of Dr. Darcie Moore in the Department of Neuroscience. Our lab is interested in the asymmetric segregation of protein cargoes during neural stem cell division. Specifically, my thesis project focuses on characterizing nesprin-3, an outer nuclear envelope protein, and the role it may play in regulating neural stem cell maintenance with age.


Wallace Liu in laboratoryWallace Liu

Department: Biomolecular Chemistry
Laboratory of John Denu
Molecular and Applied Nutrition Training Program
“Functional and Structural Insights into Sirtuin-dependent Chromatin Deacetylation”

I am a postdoctoral trainee in the Molecular and Applied Nutrition Training Program (MANTP) program at UW Madison, where I investigate mechanisms of chromatin-modifying enzymes in John Denu’s laboratory. Because these enzymes regulate metabolic homeostasis and tumor suppression, efforts to modulate activity by small molecules is an emerging strategy to treat metabolic defects and cancer. Toward this end, I study the molecular mechanisms that accompany activation or inhibition of target enzymes, which will tease out the conformations available to the enzymes and achievable by pharmacology.


Josef Clark in laboratoryJosef Clark, PhD

Department of Medicine
Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology
Anderson Lab
“Caloric restriction induces unique transcriptional responses between adipose depots in rhesus monkeys”

My research is focused on how energy metabolism can influence gene expression in different tissues during aging, and in response to aging interventions such as caloric restriction (CR). Specifically, I’m interested in how the transcriptional co-activator PGC1α is regulating alternative splicing and gene expression at the co-transcriptional level in response to shifts in energy metabolism. I’m also interested in the potential role that circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) may play in consequently contributing to a metabolic CR phenotype in animals. Through these lines of investigation, I seek to better understand the molecular mechanisms of aging in the hopes we may be able create nutritional/pharmaceutical therapeutics to mimic a CR phenotype and slow the aging process.


Mark Farrugia in laboratoryMark Farrugia, PhD

Department of Medicine
Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology
Laboratory of Luigi Puglielli
“The Endoplasmic Reticulum Acetyl-transferases: Novel Targets for Neurodegenerative Disorders”

Our lab researches the molecular mechanisms of neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration, focusing on the endoplasmic reticulum protein acetylation machinery. We are currently developing therapeutics that target this machinery and determining their impact on neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and a subtype of Charcot Marie Tooth (1E).


Rachel (Lane) Dahn

Department of OB/GYN
Dr. Ian Birds Laboratory
Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology Program
“Src and ERK are not the only Mediators of Endothelial Dysfunction; p38MAPK also Regulates Pregnancy- Derived Uterine Artery Endothelial Monolayers”


Inca Dietrich in labortoryInca Dieterich

Department of Medicine
Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology
Puglielli Lab
Neuroscience Training Program
“AT-1: A central regulator of proteostasis and autophagy”

My work in Dr. Luigi Puglielli’s lab addresses questions of the aging brain at a biochemical and molecular level. Specifically: how do intracellular organelles communicate between each other to maintain cell homeostasis?  The secretory pathway is a quality control system in the cell and is responsible for acetylating nascent polypeptides in the Endoplasmic Reticulum.  AcetylCoA is the donor for aforementioned acetylation events. AT-1 is the ER membrane transporter which translocates AcetylCoA from the cytosol into the ER.  Changes in AT-1 activity are rapidly sensed by the nucleus, where it causes epigenetic changes, the mitochondria, where it causes metabolic changes, and the cytosol, where it causes changes in lipid metabolism. Therefore, AT-1 is emerging as a central novel regulator of intracellular and metabolic cross-talk linking together different cell organelles and metabolic pathways. I aim to understand the specific biochemical and molecular mechanisms that ensure this cross-talk, which are currently unknown.


John Li in Laboratory Zhonggang (John) Li, PhD

Department: Nutrional Sciences
Lab: Brian Parks
Molecular and Applied Nutrition Training Program
“Integrative analysis of mouse liver co-expression networks and human lipid GWAS data pinpoints Sestrin1 as a regulator of cholesterol metabolism”

To aid in prioritizing and identifying genes that contribute to variation in plasma cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels, we are applying a suite of network-based approaches to genome-wide gene expression and proteomic datasets.
Through this approach we can identify a highly enriched sub-network of genes that are enriched for cholesterol biosynthesis genes. We are actively engaged in building genome-wide networks and screening candidate genes through in vitro and in vivo experiments.


Brian Walczak in scrubsBrian Walczak, DO

Department: Orthopedics and Rehabilitation
Laboratory of Wan-Ju Li
“Reprogrammed Synovial Fluid-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Acquire Enhanced Therapeutic Potential For Cartilage Repair”

I work in the lab of Dr. Wan-Ju LI in the department of orthopedics & rehabilitation. We investigate cell therapy for age-associated osteoarthritis and cartilage repair. Specifically, we are using reprogramming strategies as a model to understand stem cell aging and targeted strategies to improve cartilage repair.