Current and Past I-Corps Teams

Assessing emotion regulation ability through a portable mental health care system

PI: Jennifer Gutsell

Team: Tong Lin, Bhavya V. Kondamuri, Yaxuan Wen, Victoria Melbourne

Mood disorders and their treatments have been widely researched using neurophysiological methods such as (electroencephalography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). However, laboratory contexts do not reproduce everyday experiences. Laboratory research is also limited in sample diversity. For example, it is hard to recruit lower-income homebound older adults to the laboratories.

Using neural signals from mobile EEG in combination with machine learning (such as EEG-Based Emotion Classification) to assess emotions can provide reliable data on mood and mood dysregulation, opening the way to effective remote therapy for mood disorders. This invention aims to implement a multisensory system in a mobile health care app that assesses and tracks users’ emotion regulation ability.

Microfluidic Chip for protein crystallization and X-ray diffraction to accelerate drug discovery

micro chip
PI: Seth Fraden

Team: Michael Stehnach, Dante Sasso, Yichen Ma

Crystallization remains the bottleneck of structure determination, which is a fundamental need for targeted drug development. Screening through a wide range of parameters such as protein concentration, precipitant concentration, pH, temperature, etc., manually or by expensive pipetting robots is the current strategy of obtaining crystal hits. Harvesting these precious crystals, and transporting them to the synchrotron facility to X-ray diffraction damages them, because stresses introduced by environmental changes and mechanical manipulation can strain or destroy protein crystals. We overcome above mentioned limitations by formulating, screening and X-ray diffracting the crystals all in one microfluidics device.

Engagement analytics for online classrooms

PIs: Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, Pito Salas

Team: Yousuf Khan

Teachers are perennially looking for ways to engage better with their students. We try different pedagogies learned by experimentation and from colleagues. But it’s hard to know what is working and not working. With online learning, this concern takes on a new dimension. There are new opportunities for distraction, and it is harder for teachers to read the room. Engagement is critical because it affects learning success, student retention and completion, and the satisfaction of students (and alums). Better measurement and analysis of engagement can provide early-warnings to advisors, help with student retention, and improve the quality of online courses. Our technology offers a new level of reliable, objective, and detailed information about student engagement and participation in online synchronous courses. This information helps teachers engage students more equitably and effectively, and gives students actionable feedback on their performance.

Leveraging phosphatase synergy for tissue specific p38 inhibition

PI: Niels Bradshaw

Team: Emily Stadnicki, Khaing Hnin Hnin Oo, Ci Song

p38 MAP Kinase regulates inflammation and is a major target for drug development for conditions including autoimmune diseases, myocardial ischemia, and cancer. Existing inhibitors of p38 have failed clinically because of on-target toxicity, indicating that tissue- and process-specific p38 inhibitors are needed. Previous efforts have focused on identifying inhibitors that are specific to particular downstream targets of p38 or particular upstream activating mechanisms. Here, we take an alternative approach, leveraging the native inactivation mechanism of p38 by protein phosphatases. This project exploits synergy between pharmacological p38 inhibition and inactivation by tissue- or condition-specific phosphatases to identify beneficial p38 inhibitors to potentially treat a myriad of diseases.

CapGun Genomics

PI: Paul Garrity

Team: Manny Glinsky, Omer Barash, Viraj Gandhi

Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a powerful, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly strategy for controlling and even eradicating invasive species, crop pests, and vectors of disease. In SIT, sterile males are released into the environment to seek out and mate with wild females of the same species. A major bottleneck in implementing SIT is the difficulty of generating large numbers of sterile males (currently done using the irradiation method) that are otherwise competitive for mating. Genetic engineering can specifically inactivate genes required for fertility, leaving animals otherwise healthy and competitive for mating. However, identifying and propagating mutant strains at scale remains challenging, particularly for sterile phenotypes. To address this limitation, this project is a simple generalizable strategy to create and identify sterile individuals at scale. The lab has already successfully created identifiable sterile male and female individuals (among fruit flies and mosquitos) capable of inducing mating refractoriness in wild counterparts and plans to develop the tool further.

Optical-controlled reusable nano-porous material for water purification

water purification
PI: Grace Han, Xiang Li (graduate student)

Team: Mingrui Qi, Scarlett Ren, Tianyu Gao

According to a 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water supply; 88% of 4 billion annual cases of diarrheal disease are attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, while 1.8 million people die from diarrheal disease each year. In addition, treatment of oil spills and organic solvent pollution is an important issue for environmental science and technology.

This project is a wastewater treatment device that can complement the conventional pollutant adsorption methods for industrial and household applications by using state-of-the-art nanoporous materials that are capable of adsorbing organic pollutants and releasing them upon light irradiation. It makes wastewater treatment easier, more flexible, and more cost-effective.

Past I-Corps Teams