Summer Research Interns 2023


Colgate-Palmolive Summer 2023 interns

The Colgate-Palmolive Company has generously provided funding for trainees from underrepresented minority groups to conduct 10 week summer research projects focused on pigment cell biology. This is the third year that the PASPCR has received funding for this amazing program. Here are the 2023 interns and their PASPCR supervisors! 


Emilio, Tharun and Sudeshna, we hope you have a successful and rewarding summer!

Student looking through a microscope

Emilio Sanchez

PASPCR supervisor: Cynthia Cooper

Emilio Sanchez

Emilio Sanchez is a rising senior at Camas High School in Washington state, in the MST Magnet program. He is interning in a lab to gain insight into the amazing world of biology research and inform his future career goals. He is interested in the medical field, either as a researcher or as a physician. In his free time, Emilio likes to walk around the Round Lake trails with his friends and read books by R. Buckminster Fuller. Emilio also enjoys playing in his backyard with his four Chihuahua Wiener dogs, bodybuilding at Gold’s Gym, and watching movies with his family. Emilio is working with Dr. Cynthia Cooper.

Young man dressed in a tuxedo with a white flower corsage

Tharun Potluri

PASPCR supervisor:
Bonnie Carney

Tharun Potluri

Tharun Potluri is going into his third year at Georgetown University, in Washington D.C. This summer, he is interning at the Firefighters’ Burn and Surgical Research Lab where he assists in research on burn-induced epidermal dyspigmentation and the dysregulation of pigment cell function as a result of soft tissue trauma, with Dr. Bonnie Carney. Outside of the lab, he loves running, playing the drums, volunteering as an EMT, and enjoying the outdoors. His career interests lie in medicine, specifically in the field of burn surgery and acute trauma.

Wind blown young woman on an overlook

Sudeshna Uppalapati

PASPCR supervisor:
Sun (Coco) Yang

Sudeshna Uppalapati

Sudeshna Uppalapati is going into her second year at Chapman University in California. She is majoring in Applied Human Physiology and would like to become a surgeon after finishing university. She is interning to gain insight into drug development and nurture her excitement in research. Outside school and research, Sudeshna enjoys being outdoors, whether playing sports or hiking and camping. She is working with Dr. Sun “Coco” Yang.

Updates on their research projects:

Tharun Potluri and Bonnie C. Carney

Burn wounds can result in the development of hypertrophic scar (HTS). A problematic characteristic of HTS is dyschromia, which is often distressing to patients and has been shown to impact the quality of life. There are currently no viable, non-surgical treatment methods for dyschromia, and the mechanisms underlying it are not well understood. We aimed to test if the fibrotic microenvironment of the dermis plays a contributing role in the development of epidermal dyschromia. To do this, we focused on reproducing a previously published model of bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis. To add to the replicability of previous findings and at the same time to establish a reliable model to serve as a basis for understanding post-burn dyschromia development. We treated C57BL/6 mice with intradermal injections of three varying doses of bleomycin for two weeks, followed by histological and molecular analyses of collected specimens. We were able to assess the adequacy of dermal fibrosis development. We demonstrated evidence of hair follicle obliteration, dermal thickening, and other characteristics of fibrotic architecture within all three bleomycin-treated groups, but most profoundly in the high-dose of bleomycin group. However, qRT-PCR data did not reveal any significant trends in the differential expression of genes of interest. In future work, additional qRT-PCR analysis, immunofluorescence visualization, and other molecular assays will be conducted to obtain further molecular confirmation of bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis. These additional data may provide rational basis in the relationship between dermal fibrosis and epidermal dyschromia.

Sudeshna Uppalapati and Sun Yang

Cutaneous melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin malignancy. Despite the revolutionary developments in treatment using immunotherapy and targeted therapy, the 5-year survival rate of metastatic melanoma remains low. A notable proportion of melanoma patients do not respond to existing therapies, and treatment options become even more limited when patients develop resistance over time. Our interdisciplinary team has demonstrated that neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS)-mediated nitric oxide (NO) signaling plays an important role in melanoma progression. Inhibition of nNOS has shown great promise in inhibiting melanoma tumor growth. In this study, we determined the drug concentrations in excised tumor samples following oral gavage administration using a mouse melanoma model. Our results showed that oral administration of nNOS inhibitors can achieve sufficient drug levels in xenografted tumors despite a wide variety of bioavailability. No significant systemic toxicity was observed with treatment. Based on these findings, we will conduct a pharmacological proof-of-concept study for utilizing nNOS inhibitors in melanoma treatment.

Emilio Sanchez and Cynthia Cooper

Loss of function mutations in the oculocutaneous albinism 2 (oca2) gene not only lead to defects in black pigment (melanin) synthesis important for skin color, but also increase the chances of developing “side” or “pleiotropic” effects.  Some examples of pleiotropic effects include deficiencies in sensory or neural system development.  Using our previously published oculocutaneous albinism 2 (Oca2) zebrafish model, we conducted experiments aimed at uncovering novel mechanisms underlying non-melanocyte development defects.  

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