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Asmis’ Lab High School Students Win Grand Prize At Science Fair

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Of Interest | April 04, 2016

Ruben Dicker and Shayan Sarrami, Health Careers High School seniors who are working in Dr. Reto Asmis' lab, won first place and the grand prize at the Alamo Regional Science & Engineering Fair; entitling them to participate in the international science fair.

One of the most rewarding things in my career is to mentor high school students," Dr. Asmis said. "I'm very proud of them and they are an excellent example that the combination of curiosity, creativity, and talent can lead to scientific success."

At the science fair, the students presented their research project on a new approach to prevent atherosclerosis. 

Their project focuses on using HDAC inhibitors as a means of upregulating Glrx1 expression as a means to prevent and treat metabolic diseases such as atherosclerosis. Glutaredoxin 1 (Glrx1) is a protein that reduces oxidative stress related to metabolic diseases in monocytes when its expression is upregulated. Histone deacetylases (HDACs) are enzymes that remove acetyl groups from histone tails along DNA, which can affect gene expression, and HDAC inhibitors take the role of preventing the activity of HDACs. 

"The method we used was novel because it deals with epigenetics," Sarrami said. "We hope in the future that it will lead to the reduction of atherosclerosis and other metabolic diseases."

The Alamo Regional Science & Engineering Fair includes over 700 students in grades six through twelve from thirty-two surrounding counties in Texas with fourteen different categories. 

Only nine science projects chosen at ARASE were chosen to compete at the international level science fair known as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF). 

As a result of winning the grand prize, the students will be progressing forward to Intel ISEF on May 8 to 13 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Intel ISEF is considered the world series of science fairs.

Nancy Nguyen, a graduate student in Dr. Asmis' lab who mentors Ruben and Shayan, said that she was overjoyed to learn that the students won first place and were going on to Intel ISEF.  

"It is so much fun to see the students so pumped up about their work. My students Ruben and Shayan spent many, many late nights in lab re-running a Western blot or treating cells for a time course," Nguyen said. "As a mentor, nothing is more rewarding than to hear their hard work paid off."

Both Dicker and Sarrami explained that they've enjoyed coming to UT Health Science Center San Antonio to learn from biomedical scientists. 

"I liked the independence of working in a lab and learning to do what researchers do," Dicker said. "The guidance provided in the lab was useful because we couldn't have gotten it at school."

In the future, Dicker plans to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to pursue a degree in computer science. Sarrami plans to attend the University of Houston to pursue his interest in biology and continue onto medical school.



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