MUBS Faculty

The student application requires that you choose two faculty that you would be interested in working with over the summer.  Use the following descriptions of research projects to help in your decision. 

Macon Campus - College of Liberal Arts

Linda Hensel - Department of Biology

As part of an integrated laboratory experience for Biology and Organic Chemistry, 24 students tested over 50 novel lead compounds as potential inhibitors of biofilm formation and used their results to determine which derivatives of candidate drugs they should synthesize. Students then tested their novel drugs’ efficacy in three bacterial species: Bacillus subtilus, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Drugs were synthesized as an extension of the D3 project (IUPUI) and biofilm inhibition measured with a modified crystal violet 96-well assay. Bacteriostatic and bactericidal activity was measured with disk-diffusion assays and chemical dilution tests, respectively. Students discovered both broad and narrow spectrum biofilm inhibitors (and in some cases enhancers) using ANOVA and Tukey analyses to verify statistical significance. More than 75 % of the active drugs had neither bacteriostatic or bactericidal activity indicating they may be true competitive inhibitors of the biosignals required for biofilm formation. We have analyzed the class data and re-confirmed results to present over a dozen novel anti-biofilm lead compounds.

Hanan Trotman - Department of Psychology

My research ultimately aims to identify malleable intervention targets to reduce risk for significant stress-related disorders, including psychosis. Abnormal neurodevelopmental processes (e.g., changes in hormones) in adolescence may trigger the expression of latent vulnerability to severe mental illness. Consistent with a neurodevelopmental perspective of mental illness in adolescence, it is possible that changes in hormones trigger the expression of latent aberrant genetic vulnerabilities. Alternatively, it may be that neurohormonal changes that control normal neuromaturational processes during adolescence interact with preexisting vulnerabilities. Not much is known about the relationship between gonadal hormones and the development of severe mental illness, however, the well-established sex difference in age at onset and course of illness in psychosis suggests a pivotal role for these hormones.

There are two current projects available for student research assistants:

1) A naturalistic, longitudinal investigation aimed at examining the relationship between adrenal and gonadal hormones (e.g., testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone), the experience of stressful events, and risk and resilience factors in adolescents and young adults exhibiting adjustment problems.

2) An investigation of the interrelationships of acculturative stress, biological indicators of stress (e.g., cortisol), the intergenerational transmission of trauma, and broad mental health outcomes in adolescents and young adults.

Macon Campus - School of Engineering

Joanna Thomas - Department of Biomedical Engineering

This summer research project in Dr. Thomas’s lab will involve characterizing material properties of the drug-eluting nanofibers and characterizing the response of fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and immune cells to biomimetic materials.

Our long-term goal is to generate a nanofiber coated stent to be used in vascular or intrahepatic applications.  We are creating and testing scaffolds that are biodegradable which have similar material properties and surface characteristics to ECM.  As part of optimizing the biocompatibility of our scaffold we must evaluate the growth rate and morphology of applicable cell types (fibroblasts, endothelial cells, epithelial cells, and smooth muscle cells) on the scaffold.  In addition we will consider how different populations of immune cells react to the material.

A student participating in this summer project will utilize electrospinning and/or 3D printing to generate scaffolds and stent materials with desired biological and synthetic components.  He/She will utilize light microscopy and histological stains to determine collagen distribution in scaffolds.  Changes in fibroblast and epithelial cell phenotype due to scaffold composition and/or drug exposure will be evaluated with fluorescence microscopy and RT-PCR. Target genes include key growth factors, cell adhesion proteins, and markers of apoptosis.

Sinjae Hyun - Department of Biomedical Engineering

Project 1: 

This proposal addresses an imminent need for further exploration into the causal relationship between computational and experimental hemodynamics for evaluating cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

It is widely accepted that non-uniform hemodynamics events due to disturbed blood flows play a major role in a cascade of intricate physico-biological processes, e.g., the onset, development, and complications of CVD such as atherosclerosis, myointimal hyperplasia, thrombosis, and aneurysm formation and complications. Other factors contributing to the degenerative diseases include the genetic make-up, diet and life style of patients.

In summary, the hypothesis of the proposed research is: Computational hemodynamics modeling and simulations can be used for validating experimentally measured flow characteristics using 4D MRI.

Project 2:

Recently there have been great advances in biomedical engineering due to medical image processing. Specifically, in cardiovascular hemodynamics research, subject specific modeling and diagnosis can be possible with computational hemodynamics modeling and simulations, in-vivo experimental hemodynamics measurements, medical image processing technology, and related diagnosis technology. More advanced approaches of the cardio-vascular diseases which is related to the hemodynamics in the organ have introduced.  

Innovative three-dimensional (3D) modeling and printing technologies which are based on a medical imaging technology can be used for surgical training. Most medical trainings have been used cadavers but the supply of the training cadavers is very limited. For some complicated cases such as congenital heart diseases, it is very hard to have practice prior to the surgery due to the various geometric spectrums, the anatomy which is not-easy to understand, various 3D geometric interpretations for different surgeons, and no animal models for training recently.

3D printed organs provides the following benefits: (i) proper understanding and decision making to surgeons, (ii) giving a chance to practice surgical procedure prior to the real surgery, and (iii) hands-on surgical training for junior surgeons or students at medical schools. The model also can be used for clinical services – surgical planning and trainings, and education for patient and family members, classroom teaching, and surgical practice.  

We are going to create 3D printed tissue models which can be used for surgical training and surgical planning. One of the obstacles is the structural properties for the suture. Current 3D printed models are solid – Plastic – models or flexible – silicone – models. We are going to find an optimal 3D printing material and printing condition to print more human tissue-like 3D models.

BME Lab has equipped with two types of 3D printers (i.e., FDM and SLA type printers) and these two 3D printers will be dedicated for the proposed research during this summer. For this project.

Macon Campus - Mercer University School of Medicine

Robert McKallip - Department of Basic Sciences

Infection with Staphylococcus aureus is a major problem in both the community as well as the hospital setting.  S. aureus infection-related diseases are often a consequence of exposure to superantigens which bind to MHC class II molecules on antigen presenting cells and specific β-chains of the T cell receptor leading to clonal activation of up to 40% of naïve T. Currently, there are no known effective treatments for these conditions. We have identified CD44 as a possible target for treating S. aureus-induced lung pathologies.   Our work has shown that lung infections with S. aureus or exposure to SEB leads to a significant increase in the expression of CD44 in leukocytes and lung tissue and that CD44KO mice were resistant to T cell-mediated SEB-induced vascular damage, suggesting CD44 might as a novel target for treatment of S. aureus-induced lung injury. CD44 exists as a number of isoforms due to alternative spicing of 10 variant exons and it is becoming increasing clear that specific isoforms have unique functions and that specific isoforms play a role in lymphocyte functions. However, no studies have identified specific isoforms in the immune response to S. aureus infections. In preliminary studies, we characterized significantly increased expression of two CD44 isoforms, CD44v6-v7, and CD44v8-10 in the lungs of S. aureus-infected mice, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from S. aureus-infected patients and in SEB-activated PBMC.  We hypothesize that that the expression of CD44v6-v7 and/or CD44v8-10 isoforms on cells of the immune system play an important role in S. aureus-induced pathologies and that targeting these isoforms will lead to effective therapies of the T cell-mediated inflammatory response without suppressing the beneficial role of other CD44 isoforms. Specific aim 1 will characterize the nature and role of CD44v6-v7 and CD44v8-v10 in S. aureus-induced ALI/ARDS by defining the expression of these isoforms in lung immune cells including CD3+ lymphocytes and CD3+ subsets following S. aureus and superantigen exposure and determining the role of these CD44 isoforms in the development of lung injury.  Specific aim 2 will explore the therapeutic potential of targeting T cell expression of CD44v6-v7 and CD44v8-v10 for treating or preventing of S. aureus and/or superantigen-induced ALI/ARDS. Knowledge gained from this study will lead to a better understanding of the role of these CD44 isoforms in S. aureus-induced lung inflammation and may ultimately lead to significantly improved treatment of symptoms associated with S. aureus infections. 


Savannah Campus - Mercer University School of Medicine

Mohammed Abdelsaid

Our lab is interested in studying the vascular complication of diabetes. Diabetes is a devastating disease that develops due to either the lack of secretion or the development of resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. As a result of decreased insulin action the body suffers from hyperglycemia; an increased blood sugar; which could affect both the big and small blood vessels leading to macro and micro-vascular complications respectively. Diabetes is on the rise in USA (9% of the population). Currently, our lab has an ongoing projects that investigate the role of pericyte cells in diabetes induce blood vessel complications. Pericytes have a pivotal role in the vasculature, yet its role in diabetes complication is not clearly understood. The project will define the role and mechanisms by which pericytes contribute to diabetes-induced pathological vascular complication. The ongoing project will use biochemical assay on diabetic tissue samples (collected from diabetic and control animals) with some cell culture experiments to test our hypothesis. In addition, we will conduct some imaging and immuno-staining studies identifying the pericyte in tissue that will without doubt could use the help of biomedical engineer student with these experiments.

Atlanta Campus - Mercer College of Pharmacy

Kevin Murnane, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The Murnane laboratory is located on the Atlanta campus of Mercer University. We are currently engaged in several research projects. We are enthusiastic for a talented and energetic student to participate in any of these research projects over the summer. 1) Determine whether natural product omega-3 fatty acids and cannabinoids slow the progression of Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease; 2) Determine whether neuroinflammation contributes to the unusual psychoactive effects of “bath salt” cathinones; 3) Assess the effectiveness of brain targeting nanoparticle formulations of neuropeptides for the treatment of alcohol-use disorder; 4) Assess the abuse-liability, insomnia-inducing, and anorectic effects of candidate transdermal medications for ADHD; 5) Examine the neurobiological and neuroimmune mechanisms underlying the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelics.  

Clint Canal, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

There are no effective pharmacological (drug) treatments for core symptoms of autism spectrum disorder or fragile X syndrome—neurodevelopmental disorders with overlapping pathophysiology and cognitive-behavioral phenotypes, which in severe cases include profound intellectual disability, social-communication deficits, restricted and repetitive motor behaviors, and other psychiatric symptoms. The serotonin system (serotonin, serotonin receptors, serotonergic nerve fibers, etc.) modulates behavior (social behavior, motor coordination and control), mood (feelings) and cognition (attention, memory)—all domains affected by these disorders. Moreover, many targets of the protein (FMRP) impacted in fragile X syndrome interact with the serotonin system. Thus targeting distinct serotonin receptors may prove useful for treating autism and/or fragile X syndrome.