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Editing the Human Microbiome: Proactively Preventing Conotoxin Pathology

Conotoxins are small neurotoxins that bind to and affect the opening and closing of ion channels, thus altering membrane potential and disrupting neurological signaling pathways. Our goal of this project has two components. The first is to create a program to mathematically model both normal and conotoxin-affected intracellular ion concentrations. The second is to develop a signaling and responding pathway to detect changes in membrane potential and eliminate the conotoxins.

The USNA Team

Brian Pate

Dr. Pate is a Science & Technology Manager at the Joint Science & Technology Office for Chemical & Biological Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, serving as the agency’s lead for synthetic biology. He manages a portfolio focused on (1) interactions relevant to human effects of advanced and emerging weapons threats and (2) identifying and controlling new phenomena to enable breakthrough countermeasures to chemical and biological weapons. He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland and has recently served as an instructor in biochemistry and in weapons chemistry at Northern Virginia Community College and the U.S. Naval Academy, respectively. Dr. Pate earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Indiana University, followed by postdoctoral training at MIT in Materials Science & Engineering. Prior to his current role, Dr. Pate was employed as a Visiting Scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, as a Senior Chemistry Specialist at Dow Chemical, and as a Lecturer in Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science at Central Michigan University. Dr. Pate recently served as Deputy Director for Technology Watch and Horizon Scanning at the Office of Technical Intelligence, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and he maintains an active interest in using data-driven analytics to improve S&T understanding, investments, and outcomes.

Aurelia Minut

Aurelia Minut is an Associate Professor at the US Naval Academy. She received her Ph.D from Michigan State University. Her research interests are Partial Differential Equations, Applied Mathematics, Nonlinear Optics, Scattering Theory, Integral Equations, and Inverse Problems.

Sarah Glaven

Dr. Sarah Glaven is a research biologist and microbial electrochemist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. She studies microbial extracellular electron transfer and its biotechnology applications including microbial fuel cells and microbial electrosynthesis.

Brian Eddie

Dr. Eddie is a microbiologist who primarily uses transcriptomics, genomics, and bioimaging to better understand bacterial metabolism so that we can exploit it.

Tanya Tschirhart

Tanya is a postdoctoral fellow at the Naval Research Lab whose work focuses on developing synthetic biology tools for marine organisms and new communication pathways across biotic-abiotic interfaces.

Lawrence Kennedy

CDR Kennedy is a permanent military professor of chemistry at the Naval Academy. CDR Kennedy graduated from USNA in 1992, after which he flew helicopters for the Navy. In 2012, he received his Ph.D. in chemistry from University of Memphis

Maggie Pana

Maggie is a junior at the US Naval Academy. She is a Chemistry major but is also interested in Biology and Spanish and is currently studying abroad in Singapore. Originally from Bellevue, Washington, Maggie hopes to service select Navy Medical Corps or the Surface Navy

Mina Kim

Mina is a junior at the US Naval Academy. She is an Applied Mathematics Major. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Mina hopes to serve as a Naval Aviator or Surface Warfare Officer.

Alex Ki

Alex is a junior at the US Naval Academy. He is a Applied Mathematics major. He is originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, and hopes to serve as a submarine officer following graduation.

Trevor Karn

Trevor is a junior at the US Naval Academy, in the Honors Mathematics program, whose primary area of interest is combinatorics. He is originally from Plymouth, Minnesota, and hopes to serve as a submarine officer following graduation.

Seok Park

MIDN 2/C Seok Park is a junior at the United States Naval Academy and he is a chemistry major. He is from the Island of Saipan, and he plans to commission in the United States Navy as a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer in May of 2018.

Sara Peeleman

Sara Peeleman is a Junior at USNA. She majors in Applied Math and Operations Research. In her free time she enjoys running and skiing. She is also a member of the jazz band

Mitchell Winkie

Mitchell is a sophomore at the United States Naval Academy and a chemistry major. He is from Bridgeport, WV and hopes to commission as a Medical Corps Officer following graduation.

Gabrielle Tender

Gabrielle “Gabby” Tender is a junior at the California Institute Technology studying chemistry. She is passionate about research and campus academic issues and aspires to be a professor. She is currently interested in neuro biochemistry and pursues related research during the academic year.

Kirstie Coombs

Kirstie Coombs is a senior bioengineering major at the University of Maryland - College Park. She worked as a NREIP Intern at the Naval Research Laboratory during the summer 2016.

Sarah Barr Engel

Sarah Barr Engel is a junior at Cornell University studying Environmental Engineering with a minor in sustainable energy systems. She is working with Engineers for a Sustainable World to design a wind turbine and hopes to work in the renewable energy field.

J. Fitzpatrick Doyle

J. Fitzpatrick "Fitz" Doyle is a senior at George Mason University studying biology with minors in psychology and music. He is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he plans to go to graduate school for genetic counseling this upcoming fall.

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