Current Predoctoral Advisees

Laura Bronsart

BS: General Biology, University of Arizona in Pittsburgh, AZ

BS: Veterinary Medicine, University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ

DVM: Washington State University in Pullman, WA

Mentor: Christopher Contag, PhD

Research: My research focuses on understanding the mechanisms regulating glucose homeostasis and developing methods for detecting disruptions in those mechanisms early in the disease process. Glucose homeostasis is regulated by a multitude of hormones, insulin being one of the most influential. Insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to a rise in blood glucose levels and signals the cells of the body to internalize glucose. Insulin resistance occurs when the cells of the body no longer respond to normal levels of insulin and fail to internalize glucose. To maintain normal blood glucose levels, the beta cells release additional insulin. Eventually, however, the beta cells cannot produce enough insulin to compensate, resulting in type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is thought to be the result of obesity-associated chronic inflammation, and our goal is to define the role of the adaptive immune system in determining the degree or absence of insulin sensitivity. A second disease affecting glucose homeostasis is type I diabetes which occurs when the beta cells are attacked by an individual’s own immune system.  Unfortunately, current diagnostics limit detection of type I diabetes to late-stage disease; we aim to provide methods for earlier detection in the hopes of expanding potential interventional therapies.  

Cathy Jan

BS: Yale University in New Haven, CT

MS: Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA

Mentor: Christopher Contag, PhD

Research: I work in optical micro-electro-mechanical-systems technology, making miniaturized pressure sensors with photonic crystal membranes. They are used to measure the acoustic waves emitted by electrically active cells, such as cardiomyocytes and neurons, when they contract as a result of an action potential. The goal is to be able to non-invasively assay the health and viability of stem cell derived cardiomyocytes.

Nathan Loewke

BS: Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA

MS: Electrical Engineering, Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA

Mentor: Christopher Contag, PhD

Research: Current research focuses on the development of miniaturized optical microscopy designs and modalities to address unmet clinical needs including point-of-care pathology, image-guided surgical resection and therapy, monitoring response to topical therapies, in vivo flow cytometry for noninvasive circulating tumor cell quantitation, and early detection of various biological diseases. My personal work focuses on writing software for each of these custom devices, signal generation and sampling, image processing and analysis, computer vision techniques such as optical flow and image mosaicing, and alternative point-scanning scanning techniques for confocal instruments. Of particular interest is the miniaturization of dual-axis confocal microscopes and their potential for clinical use.