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NEUROBIOLOGY

RESEARCH 

Conducting research in the Diaz Lab at the UC Davis School of Medicine, I have applied my interdisciplinary skillset to help answer biomedical questions relating to neuronal/synaptic biology and the drivers of neurological disease, under the mentorship of Dr. Elva Diaz & Dr. David Speca. Guided by a blend of both computational proficiency and wet-lab familiarity, I have worked on numerous projects that have included key contributions to the lab’s research efforts.

Some of my notable independent research projects include:

  • Characterizing RNA-seq expression profiles of synaptic adhesion GPCRs (aGPCRs) focusing in particular on the brain angiogenesis inhibitor (BAI) family, across multiple high-grade glioma (HGGs) histological subtypes and breast carcinoma metastases

  • Using site-directed antibody evolution guided by machine learning (ML), alongside recombinant cloning and ELISA, to drive rational design of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for neural antigens, including BAI2 and PRRT2 (presynaptic vesicle fusion regulator clinically linked to epilepsy)

  • Performing computational docking simulation to model protein-protein binding interactions between mutant BAI2 (orphan aGPCR thought to facilitate excitatory signaling) and PSD-95 (a vital synaptic scaffolding protein) PDZ domains in investigation of potential autism spectrum disorder (ASD) links

  • Designing a convolutional neural network (CNN) architecture for efficient synapse classification, integrating deep learning techniques such as residual network-based transfer learning and generative adversarial network (GAN) pipelines in an attempt to overcome the limitations of a small training set

  • Developed a regression-based software tool in R enabling dynamic analysis of neurotransmitter receptor trafficking patterns in live imaging of neurons and dendritic spine puncta, substantially accelerating analysis by transforming an hours-long process into one that only requires minutes

  • Developed a versatile automated software tool (usable in ImageJ) for evaluating synaptic colocalization in multichannel confocal microscopy images with fluorescent signals, successfully reducing the time-cost of the standard workflow by over 80% and now regularly used by lab members for experimental image analysis

Select Presentations & Posters

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Low, H. & Ellefson, M. (2024). Developing an immersive educational game-based platform for learning genetics. Simulation & Gaming, Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/10468781231220728

 

I developed Punnett Farms as an exciting new way for students to learn genetics. Advised by Dr. Marina Ellefson, I designed the game with a focus on pedagogical theory and educational utility. This interactive platform features 20000+ lines of code, novel learning mechanics, hundreds of self-written practice exercises, and an original animated/narrated lesson curriculum exploring Mendelian/molecular genetics. In a study at a community college, we found that Punnett Farms and its implementation of a pedagogical serious gaming framework, based on cognitive flow and endogenous fantasy, strongly enhanced genetics learning, engagement, and interest in students. Having received extremely positive user feedback, the game is currently being implemented in community college and high school classrooms to support students.

 

I am carefully optimistic about the potential of simulation/game platforms, under guidance of theory, to positively impact community health and education. I seek to combine both creative and rigorous engineering approaches to empower biomedical study (e.g. developing interactive 3D programs to help researchers visualize molecular settings like tumor microenvironments), improve medical training (e.g. expanding VR clinical simulations), and foster patient-centric education (e.g. creating games to drive health literacy and empower young patients).

Educational Game and Simulation

Platforms for STEM/Medicine

 

Punnett Farms (Full Trailer)

 
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Other Software
Projects

Screenshots of Other Projects 

 

Bridging community outreach with technology-based service projects has been a vital chapter of my journey to medicine.  I have worked on numerous other interdisciplinary software projects, including:

  • Currently developing SpringVR (a VR prototype for chronic pain) which aims to enhance biofeedback-based pain modulation and hypoalgesia via interactive multi-sensory gaming environments with dynamic avatars (e.g. virtual animals)

    • Working with team of clinicians to coordinate a clinical study for this program​

    • Planning to present at the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) 2024 World Congress in Amsterdam

  • Developing Tranquility, a mobile app designed in consultation with therapists/professors, which provides gentle visuals and accessible wellness resources, to help support the mental health community

    • Tranquility has helped 2000+ individuals and been adopted by wellness groups including the Placer Health & Human Services Department, Network of Care, & Michigan OCD Foundation

  • Developing Breathe, a series of digital app modules to support wellness in the COVID-19 pandemic environment​

  • Created Bunny Dash (Received community developer award at UCSF Unity-Microsoft event), Synapse Surfer (Game about neuronal physiology and action potentials)Chronicles (Educational app exploring historical timelines), and Highway in the Sky (Physics-based aviation simulation)

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