Education Department June 2024 Updates

Read more about SRF Education programs highlights and upcoming events.

Thank Yous

Thank you to UCLA for allowing us to participate at this year’s Get Hired UCLA: Senior & Master’s Student In-Person Job Fair. We met many remarkable students at our booth. We hope to connect with you all in the future and we look forward to your applications!

Thank you to Laura, Simon, and Tam for their final presentations! You all have made remarkable progress in your projects, and we thank you so much for your hard work.


We are proud to announce our two SRF Poster Award winners at this year’s NCUR 2024 conference! Below is information about their poster presentations.

Congratulations to James Overly from the University of Kentucky! His poster was titled Beyond Polyamines: Unveiling SSAT1 as a Novel Tau Acetyltransferase.

James Overly

Abstract: In Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and tauopathies, Tau, a microtubule-stabilizing protein, undergoes post-translational modifications, like hyperphosphorylation, aggregates, and ultimately contributes to neuronal death. Polyamines are aliphatic polycations with diverse physiological functions. In disease states, there is an observable flux of polyamine concentrations. Though this short-term increase may be beneficial in states of acute stress, chronic stressors result homeostatic dysregulation, termed a polyamine stress response (PSR). This research investigates the intricate role of the polyamine stress response (PSR) and the enzyme SSAT1 in Alzheimer’s disease progression, with a specific focus on their impact on Tau, the major pathological hallmark of neurodegeneration. Interestingly, we have found that SSAT1, an enzyme traditionally known for its role in acetylating polyamines, also acetylates Tau. This significant finding identifies SSAT1 as a novel Tau acetyltransferase via the polyamine pathway, presenting new avenues for understanding and potentially mitigating Tau aggregation in Alzheimer’s.

We will be employing Tau transgenic PS19 (human MAPT P301S, 1N4R) mice, which overexpress human tau, and novel SSAT1 heterozygous and homozygous knockout mice as our primary subjects. An equal number of male and female mice will be studied to explore sex as a biological variable. These mice will be aged and crossbred in controlled conditions to yield specific genotypes for study. Our analysis will aim to identify a broad range of acetylation sites on Tau, utilizing novel antibodies created by our lab via Western blotting and immunohistochemistry (IHC). We plan to conduct detailed measurements of Tau tangle pathology, neurodegeneration, and inflammation, providing a comprehensive picture of the disease state.

Underpinning our research is a hypothesis, supported by our preliminary data, that decreasing SSAT1 activity or genetic ablation of SSAT1 will significantly reduce Tau acetylation and subvert

the Tau-PSR. This, in turn, is expected to reduce Tau pathology, potentially slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. The anticipated outcome of this study has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of the role of SSAT1 and the PSR in Alzheimer’s disease. This could lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets to inhibit Tau aggregation, thus addressing one of the core pathological processes in Alzheimer’s. We will discuss our findings in the context of current the understanding of Alzheimer’s pathology and potential therapeutic interventions, contributing to the broader scientific discourse.


  1. James Overly, Huimin Liang, Jerry Hunt, Lesley Sandusky-Beltran, Lindsey Shelton, Maj-Linda Selenica, Daniel C. Lee
  2. Sanders Brown Center on Aging, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, United States
  3. Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, United States
  4. Department of Medicine, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, United Stateses

Congratulations to Nathan McCoy from Utah State University! His poster was titled miRNA in Ovarian Exosomes Influence Neurological Health in Mice.

Nathan McCoy

Abstract: Aging-associated changes in motor function often leads to the development of musculoskeletal tremors. In women, the development/severity of tremors is causally related to ovarian failure at menopause. In the laboratory, mice can serve as an effective model for the development of aging-associated tremors. Based on our previous studies, ovarian somatic tissues that have been transplanted from young mice to old mice significantly decreased the tremor amplitudes that the older recipient mice had developed and resulted in lower levels of gliosis compared to same age control mice1. The study was carried out using both germ containing and germ depleted ovarian tissue. Neurological improvement and overall health were achieved using both types of tissue with similar results indicating that it is a non-hormonal influence that is achieving these outcomes. This study is aimed to identify which properties of ovarian tissue causes these neurological health benefits to occur. Ovarian tissue contains exosomes that are vesicles that are filled with mRNA strands that are transported across the body2. We aim to isolate these exosomes from ovarian tissue using density gradient based centrifugation and have them introduced via injection intraperitoneally into mice to see if the same neurological improvements are achieved as it was done in mice with ovarian somatic tissue transplants. If such improvements are corroborated then ovarian exosomes will be sequenced to identify which mRNA sequences signal the body to undergo these improvements.

[1] School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences, Center for Integrated BioSystems, Utah State University, Logan, UT, 84322, USA

[2] Rocky Vista University, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Southern Utah Campus, Ivins, UT, 84738, USA.

We’d like to highlight the future plans our postbaccalaureate students have following the completion of their fellowship. We have a couple of students that will be starting a Ph.D. program! Students will be going on to Tufts University, Princeton University, and the University of Washington. Additionally, some students will be hired by their host lab and will continue conducting research. We also have a few students that are looking for full-time positions in biomedical, clinical research, and biotechnology fields. We wish all our students the best of luck in their future endeavors!

Ongoing Programs

The Sponsor a Student campaign is still ongoing! Please encourage people to sponsor our brilliant students and increase our reach. We love connecting students to labs to fuel the mission to end age related disease, but we also love transforming the lives and careers of young people. The investment in these students will ensure that the brightest minds, the best scientists, and the most influential leaders know that aging is not an absolute – we can combat aging and live healthier for longer!

Perks include:

  • A designated student sponsorship is named in your honor for the 2024 summer or 2024-2025 school year.
  • Postbaccalaureate sponsors will receive virtual invites to the sponsored student’s final presentation.
  • Your name is displayed on a plaque in our Research Center.

Open Applications

We have opened our 2024 Postbaccalaureate fellowship program one last time! Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until spots have been fulfilled. For more information, go to:

Our PhD and Master’s programs are open for applications! The deadline is June 1st, 2024 for fall admission. For more information, go to:

Also, our Graduate internship program is now open for applications! Applications will be considered on a rolling basis and are due by August 31st. For more information, go to:

— Upcoming Dates —

When What
11 AM PST: Seminar by Dr. Matt Kaeberlein
11 AM – 3 PM PST: UC Davis Virtual Career Fair. For more information, click here.
11 AM PST: Seminar by Dr. Chris Wiley

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