Preventing pandemics | Willett’s research focuses on vaccines.

Student Spotlight on Bailey Willett ’20: Combating Antigenic Drift in Influenza Viruses

In 2009, the world saw the first influenza pandemic in more than forty years in the form of the H1N1 strain. Although response to this variant was fast and a vaccine quickly developed, the fight against influenza hasn’t ended. Bailey Willett ’20 continues to be a part of this fight as a Cornell undergraduate researcher working to combat the new strains of influenza that appear every year. Willett works alongside graduate student David Buchholz in the Aguilar-Carreno Lab of Microbiology and Immunology doing research concerning antigenic drift, one of influenza’s greatest hidden weapons. According to the Centers for Disease Control, antigenic drift is an abrupt change in the glycoprotein receptor makeup of the virus.

Cornell Lab Discovers New Regulatory Mechanism of Protein, Sheds Light on Importance of Cornell’s High Energy Synchrotron Source

Proteins are strikingly complex macromolecules, which control every aspect of molecular function in all living organisms, making them an interesting research target. The Ando Lab studies the structure of proteins, specifically enzymes, in order to understand their function, using structural techniques like x-ray diffraction and small-angle x-ray scattering. These techniques allow for the visualization of atomic and molecular structure of proteins. Small-angle x-ray scattering is a technique used to study the structure of proteins in solution. SAXS maintains an advantage over other techniques because it allows for the understanding of the movement of proteins; however a caveat to SAXS is its lower resolution, creating the need for combinatorial approaches to studying proteins such as combining SAXS with chromatography.

Professor Saule T Omarova

Cornell Law Professor Advocates for More Regulations on Financial Technology

More than 10 years have passed since the global financial crisis broke out, and the financial institutions’ ability to rethink and sophisticate their business has been growing relentlessly. Prof. Saule T. Omarova, law, argues in her latest work that while we are now more cognizant of, and to an extent protected from, the risk in some financial products, the financial system could be ill-equipped for the latest technological innovations in finance, otherwise known as fintech. In her research paper, New Tech v. New Deal: Fintech As A Systemic Phenomenon she suggests that the fintech revolution can’t be as neutral as some actors pretend, because finance is “a matter of utmost and direct public policy significance.”

Omarova writes in New Tech v. New Deal that if we blur the public policy dimension in fintech, and grasp only the private dimension of how it enables transactions, we misrepresent its systemic risk. By doing so, she warns, we help new financial and tech conglomerates avoid financial regulation and circumvent the fundamental separation between banking and commerce, giving them a carte blanche to engage in riskier activities for consumers. This reflection is at the very core of Omarova’s pro-regulation stance, made clear throughout her research work and more recently in her testimony before the Senate two weeks ago.

Interdisciplinary  | Linster’s research lies at the 
intersection of computer science, physiology and biology.

Cornell Professor Examines the Effect of Stress Hormone on Sensory System

It’s a Sunday morning and you’re hiking by Taughannock when suddenly you’re confronted by an eight foot grizzly bear. Before you can form a coherent thought, you find yourself fleeing back towards campus. This instinctual response, aptly named the fight-or-flight response, is triggered by a hormone released in situations of stress or danger: norepinephrine. A lesser known function of norepinephrine is currently being explored by Prof. Christiane Linster, neurobiology and behavior. Linster used behavior, electrophysiology, and computational modeling to research how modulation of norepinephrine affects the olfactory system, the sensory system used for smelling.

Canine connection  | Prof. Elia Tait Wojno, animal health, (pictured above), is the namesake of the lab in which Page works to understand the optimal inflammatory response to diseases.

Student Spotlight on Melissa Page ’20: Researching an Optimal Response to Allergies

Corrections appended. There are few things that can put a damper on an end of summer evening in upstate New York, but allergies are one of them. The classic watery eyes, incessant sneezing, and insatiable back of throat itch one feels while relaxing on Libe Slope or hiking to Second Dam can be attributed to little molecules called allergens, and our bodies response to them. Yet pollen isn’t the only thing that can send one running for a tissue or bathroom. Many compounds in the environment including plants, food and insect product can cause full scale immunological responses and Melissa Page ’20 has set out to better understand why.

Image of skeletal muscle fibers that have been generated in vitro using a novel 3-D encapsulation method. Magenta=myosin heavy chain; Turquoise=actin; Green=Lamin B1; Red=DNA

New Frontier in Nucleus Capabilities

From middle school biology we were always taught that the nucleus is the “control center” of the cell, similar to how the brain is the control center of our own bodies. At first glance this makes a lot of sense, considering the nucleus contains DNA — the genetic code of life — and a good amount of the machinery that is required to transcribe this code into the proteins that make up our being. Despite this seemingly intuitive role of the nucleus, a recent study conducted by the Prof. Jan Lammerding, biomedical engineering, and post-doctoral fellow Tyler Kirby, suggests the nucleus may also act as a “mechano-sensor” in the cell. A mechano-sensor is a component of the cell that responds to physical stimuli in the environment of the cell, such as touch, charge, or temperature. Previously the role of mechano-sensor was credited entirely to cell membrane proteins.

Indian immersion | Students pose outside Mysore Palace in Mysore, India. During the collaboration with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, students were immersed in Indian culture.

Global Health, ILR Students Gain Service Experience Collaborating with Indian NGO

This summer, 15 Cornell students embarked on a journey that reshaped their awareness of global health systems. In partnership with the non-governmental organization Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and the ILR School, students in the Global Health program worked on four to six week projects at SVYM sites that related to students’ career and service interests. In addition to projects, the students took classes at the Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies in Mysore, India, where they learned about Indian culture, gender, labor relations and economics, language and yoga. Global Health student Simran Malhotra ’20 saw her project on digitizing patient history have a tangible impact despite organizational complications. “Because I was not working to publish something, I could work immediately with the NGO and actually saw them using my work,” Malhotra said. According to Malhotra, since the doctors in India see up to 50 patients in a day — such a high volume of visits means that doctors do not have time to go over treatment procedures with patients.

Parasitic threat | Black vine weevils such as these pose a significant threat to a variety of crops vital to New York agriculture.

Student Spotlight on Ben Engbers: Researching a Sustainable Way to Control Pests

While many Cornell students were off enjoying summer vacation away from Ithaca, Ben Engbers ’20 remained on campus to defend and improve the vitality of New York’s berry industry. As a research assistant and project manager at Elson Shields Laboratory of Entomology, Engbers has dedicated the majority of his undergraduate career to demonstrating the efficacy of nematodes as a sustainable biocontrol for berry farms.

“Nematodes are a native, sustainable, and organic solution to a food security problem that is affecting New York state and the world,” Engbers said. While Shields laboratory has studied the behavior and application of nematodes as pest control for over two decades, this summer, Engbers facilitated a specific project concerning the control of black vine weevil at Rulfs Orchard located five hours away in Peru, NY. “My work this summer resulted in promising data that I am excited to see published and ultimately applied in the real world,” he said. Black vine weevil is a formidable obstacle to crop growers worldwide and has been a significant detriment to the berry industry.

Students Study Health Policy, Gain Hands-On Experience in Tanzania

Any person, any study, anywhere! This past summer, 16 students were selected to spend eight weeks in a cross cultural exchange after undergoing an application and interview process through the College of Human Ecology’s Nutritional Science Department. The Global Health Program in the Division of Nutritional Sciences provides students across colleges with opportunities to engage, explore, and learn in Tanzania, Zambia, the Dominican Republic and India. For the first four weeks of the program in Moshi, Tanzania — which is near Mount Kilimanjaro — the students lived with local families and enrolled in a course at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College. The second four weeks had students working 40 hours per week at a local non-governmental organization or hospital and engaging in service projects that related to their individual interests in global health.

The cohort along with their host families in Zambia

ILR Program Gives Students Policy Analysis Experience in Zambia

This past summer, a group of students from Cornell’s global health program and School of Industrial and Labor Relations traveled to Lusaka, Zambia for a research project that immersed them in the sociopolitical landscape of Southern Africa for eight weeks. The 12-person team consisting of 9 Global Health students and 3 ILR students interested in global health, worked with one another and with local organizations to study and present their findings on topics ranging from workforce barriers to new development policies. The program was initiated in 2013 in an effort for students not only to understand and appreciate the full scope of global health and labor relations, but also to apply their academic coursework in an environment surrounded by like-minded individuals and organizations. Each year, the focus of the research efforts differs depending on the current policies and events relevant to the community. Students had the opportunity to work with the Southern Africa Institute for Policy and Research, a research center in the Republic of Zambia that contributes to governance and policymaking through lecture series, fellowships, seminars and more.