Chen's first research experience took place while taking classes from the Pasadena City College during his high school years. Under the guidance of his environmental science professor Carol Tydell, Chen attempted to track the cause of point source pollution through fecal coliforms. Fascinated by the impact microbes have on entire ecosystems, Chen spent the summer before college working with Maria Appleman of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, where he was involved in starting a clinical study to determine impacts of the gut microbial population in relation to metabolic disorder susceptibility.
Chen entered the University of California, Davis as an environmental toxicology major in order to better understand other scientific areas. However, he continued to work with microbes. During his first few years, Jeff conducted research in Reen Wu's lab, where he worked on a pilot project studying the effects of different immune signaling factors on Klebsiella pneumoniae infection in vivo. The following summer, Chen had the opportunity to conduct research in Adrian Ponce's lab at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory through the California Institute of Technology Amgen Scholars Program. His project focused on improving and automating an assay to better detect bacterial endospores for various applications ranging from validating spacecraft sterility to bioterrorism prevention.
Upon returning to the University of California, Davis, Chen joined nominator Neil Hunter's lab. "Chen is very personable, highly reliable and independent, mature, trustworthy, and intelligent," describes Hunter. "He has an excellent work ethic." In Hunter's laboratory, Chen explored the field of yeast genetics, elucidating the role of proteins that promote crossing-over during meiosis. "Chen initially characterized a specific allele of the DNA mismatch-repair factor, Mlh1, in order to determine its mutator phenotype. This involved construction of a variety of yeast strains and standard microbial techniques to perform fluctuation tests," explained Hunter. "His second project was to prepare and characterize numerous BAC clones by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis as a prelude to a sequencing project. More recently, he has been learning cell biology techniques to study chromosome metabolism during meiosis."
Fascinated by the novel methods utilized in the Hunter lab to better detect specific stages of chromosome junction formation, Chen was given an opportunity to innovate by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute Summer Internship Program. Chen worked in Nabeel Bardeesy's laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he studied a rare subpopulation of pancreatic progenitor cells and established a novel assay for determining the effects of oncogenes and epigenetic factors on cellular plasticity. "He performed at such a high level and showed so much initiative that I gave him an independent project focusing on the characterization of pancreatic progenitor cell populations," explains Bardeesy. "I soon realized that Chen had the maturity to develop a project on his own, which was remarkable for someone so young. He started a new project to attempt to isolate, culture, and study rare subpopulations of pancreatic cells enriched for the stem cell marker." With the generous Bardos Science Education Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), he presented his findings at the 2011 AACR annual meeting.
In addition to research, Chen is heavily involved in science education and service. He serves as a biology associate editor for the Journal of Young Investigators, an international peer review undergraduate journal. Chen has also contributed to and consulted for the National Science Bowl. His faculty advisor at the University of California, Davis, Michael Denison, says he fully expects Chen to develop into a top-notch researcher. "Chen is an outstanding, intelligent, and highly motivated student who has taken the time and effort to obtain excellent training and research experience." "His commitment, work ethic, and enthusiasm are the highest that I have seen for any undergraduate researcher," summarizes Bardeesy.
Provided by American Society for Microbiology
This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.