2015 SFP Group Photo
February 2016
SURF Newsletter  

Dear Friend of SURF,   

On January 21 we celebrated the end of the 2015 SURF year by watching five amazing young scholars present their research at the Perpall Competition Finals.  At the same time we are working to help students find mentors and get ready to apply to SURF 2016. This cycle makes our days go by very fast, and the freshman who was scared about their first research experience soon becomes the senior heading off to graduate school!  And, the young alum quickly becomes a SURF mentor. As the SURF family continues to grow and flourish, we hope the same is true for you and your family.

Here's to a great 2016!


Candace Rypisi

Director, Student-Faculty Programs

An Interview with 2015 SURF Fellows
By Stefanie Garcia 
We recently interviewed three students to learn more about their SURF projects and the impact that doing research has had on their academic experience.
Sarah Cai is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. Last summer, as a Margaret Leighton SURF Fellow, she worked with Dr. André Hoelz on a project entitled
Structural and Functional Characterization of the Interaction of mRNA Export Factor Gle1 With Cytoplasmic Filament Protein yNup42/hNupl2 at the NPC.
Kevin Chen, a two-time SURFer, is a junior in applied physics. Kevin has served as both a house ambassador and student ambassador for the Student-Faculty Programs office.
Now a senior, Bianca Lepe has done two SURFs. After graduation, Bianca will be studying at the University of Edinburgh and at Imperial College London as a Marshall Scholar.
Briefly tell us about your SURF experiences.

SC: I started working with the Hoelz group in the fall of my freshman year, and I've continued through this (my sophomore) year. The Hoelz group works on structure-function studies of the proteins of the nuclear pore complex in eukaryotic cells, and my work concerns specific proteins of the mRNA export pathway. So far, I have solved three x-ray crystallography structures of these protein complexes.

Read full interview 
From Left: Dominic Yurk, Alison Lui, Toni Perpall, Moriah Bischann, Alec Brenner, Sean McKenna

Students and Donors Connect at the Perpall Finals

On SURF Seminar Day this past October, approximately two hundred undergraduates presented their summer research projects in eighteen concurrent sessions. These sessions served as the first round of the Doris S. Perpall SURF Speaking Competition. Faculty, alumni, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students volunteered their time to serve as session chairs and judges to help identify the best speakers in each session. Twenty students advanced to a semifinal round held in November and five students were selected to advance to the final round on January 21, 2016. The finalists were:
Alec Brenner (G. Edward Bryan Memorial SURF Fellow), a junior majoring in Geology

Alison Lui (Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Loschke SURF Fellow), a junior majoring in Chemical Engineering

Sean McKenna (The Associates SURF Fellow), a junior majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics

Moriah Bischann (Barbara and John Gee SURF Fellow), a junior majoring in Engineering and Applied Science

Dominic Yurk (Victor Neher SURF Fellow), a junior majoring in Physics.
All of the finalists gave excellent presentations!
Moriah Bischann placed first, Alec Brenner placed second, and Dominic Yurk placed third. Under the mentorship of Dr. Guruswami Ravichandran and Owen Kingstedt, Moriah worked on a research project titled High Strain-Rate Dynamic Behavior of Magnesium and AZ31B. Moriah examined the high strain-rate (102 to 103 s-1) dynamic response using the split-Hopkinson pressure bar. Supported by the Barbara and John Gee SURF Fellowship, Moriah had the opportunity to meet Barbara Gee at the finals. Sam Vodopia and the family of G. Edward Bryan and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Loschke were also in attendance to support their SURF students. On behalf of the SURF students and the Student-Faculty Programs (SFP) Office, we are so thankful to our donors for their continued support of our students and undergraduate research at Caltech.
The Doris S. Perpall SURF Speaking Competition was established in 1993 by Caltech alumnus Bob Perpall (BS '52 ME, MS '56 ME) in memory of his late wife Doris. Both Bob and Doris were interested in helping students communicate their ideas in a clear and enthusiastic way. Thus, the competition was designed to serve as an incentive for students to give excellent oral presentations. Over the years, it has succeeded in being an incredible force in improving the speaking skills of our students. Although Bob passed away in 2010 his support of Caltech and our students continue through this competition. Today, his wife Toni Perpall continues his legacy and was elected to the SURF Board for her ongoing contributions to the program.
The SFP Office would like to acknowledge everyone who contributed to the success of the 2016 Doris S. Perpall SURF Speaking Competition. 

Caltech Alum Mentors SURF Student and Uncovers Minimally Invasive Path to Recording Brain Signals

New research uses electrodes guided non-surgically into cerebral blood vessels to extract 100x better signal quality than scalp recordings - illustrating the possibility of a wide translational conduit for emerging neurotechnology. The research was performed by a team including Caltech undergraduate Bryan He (BS, 2015) through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program and led by Caltech alumnus Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan, (BS '02; SURF '98, '00, '01), MD, PhD, principal investigator of the Neural Signal Processing Laboratory at Stanford.

For emerging approaches to brain diseases like epilepsy, stroke, and depression, targeted and effective treatment requires skull-opening surgery for direct access to high quality neural signals. Bringing an open-skull approach to diseases that affect millions of people could be challenging because of the expense and inconvenience of open-skull surgery. "We owe it to our patients to ultimately deliver both clinically meaningful and cost-effective treatments," said Srinivasan. "We're betting that a minimally invasive approach will scale and accelerate the pace of translation in neurotechnology."

Read the full article  

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