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The Impact of Black Sesame Pigment on Drosophila Melanogaster with Alzheimer’s Disease

By Ally Bauer, VI Form

The Impact of Black Sesame Pigment on Drosophila Melanogaster with Alzheimer’s Disease

My project for the STEM Fellowship was studying the impact of black sesame pigment on drosophila melanogaster with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease that affects over 44 million people worldwide. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease are amyloid-beta plaques that form in between the neurons and disrupt cell communication and function. Black sesame pigment, derived from black sesame seeds, has been proven to reduce the aggregation of these plaques in vitro studies. Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies, are wonderful model organisms that are utilized for their quick reproduction rate, easily manipulated genome, and the relation its genome has with humans. For my experiment, I was able to track the progression of memory loss in flies with Alzheimer’s disease. I had multiple groups to show me if greater concentrations of black sesame pigment would slow the progression of memory loss in the flies. Although the results of the experiment proved my null hypothesis to be correct, I now have a greater understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease, the scientific method, and having control over what I learn and how I learn it. I am incredibly grateful for Ms. Lohwater, Mr. Loomer, Mr. Valitutto, and the five other STEM Fellows who have mentored me, shaped my project, and problem solve throughout the year. 

Ally’s Video, for which she earned 2nd Place at the MSEF!

Bio-ink: Evaluation of Protein as Biomaterials for 3D Bioprinting

By Jiwon Choi, VI Form

Bio-ink: Evaluation of Protein as Biomaterials for 3D Bioprinting

Editor’s Note: This STEM Fellowship project by Jiwon won the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair (1st out of 130+ students). She placed third out of all 200+ projects at the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair allowing her to compete at 2019 ISEF in Phoenix.


Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is one of the most promising methods of tissue engineering as it provides unprecedented versatility and precision in delivering cells and biomaterials to desirable places. However, limitations still exist in the availability of bioinks with natural bio-macromolecular components. In this research, chicken albumin is evaluated as a potential bioink for direct extrusion bioprinting of hollow constructs through alginate-templated crosslinking. Channel diameter, wall thickness, and bioink feed rates are calculated to assess the printing performance of the alginate-based bioink. It is shown that an albumin-based bioink with as low as 1.33% of total alginate concentration can be employed to successfully print microfibrous hollow constructs with a uniform diameter.

Click on Image to View PDF of Jiwon’s Poster


The Effects of the Ketogenic Diet’s Effect in a Drosophila Melanogaster Model of Parkinson’s Disease

By Grant Gattuso, VI Form

The Effects of the Ketogenic Diet’s Effect in a Drosophila Melanogaster Model of Parkinson’s Disease


Click on Image to View PDF of Poster

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. This disease is chronic and causes tremors, muscle rigidity, difficulty speaking, and many other symptoms that debilitate the individual and deteriorate their quality of life significantly.  Currently, there is no cure for PD.  Previous research shows that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a significant role in the death of the dopaminergic neurons in PD.  Since the ketogenic diet – a four to one ratio of lipids to carbohydrates – has been shown to improve mitochondrial function in diseases like Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s,  the ketogenic diet could delay or improve the onset of Parkinsonian symptoms.  This study measured the effects of the ketogenic diet in a PINK1Drosophila melanogaster model of PD through a mobility test. Preliminary data found that the ketogenic diet can increase the mobility of PINK1 Drosophila melanogaster for at least four days and potentially even up to eight days, confirming the hypothesis.  Four to eight days could correspond to many human years if the same beneficial effects were found in humans.

To read Grant’s full STEM Fellowship paper, click here. (more…)

Unique Advances in Transplant Research with Hydractinia

By Haley Dion, VI Form

Unique Advances in Transplant Research with Hydractinia

Transplantation is the future of medicine. It is an ever-evolving field of research. For three weeks this summer, I was given the opportunity to take part in the research by interning at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplant Institute. At the institute, I worked in the Nicotra Lab under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Nicotra. The Nicotra Lab is one of the Stuart K. Patrick Research Laboratories at the Institute named after St. Mark’s alumnus, Stuart K. Patrick ’57. The lab I worked in is unique because it works with an organism that is very rarely used in research: Hydractinia

Hydractinia are invertebrates that live on hermit crab shells. These organisms are part of the cnidarian species, and they grow as colonies. Hydractinia grow mat tissue, which is the base of their colony. Within the mat, there are gastrovascular canals that allow cells to flow throughout the colony. Some Hydractinia have stolons, branched stem-like structures, that extend from their mat. Hydractinia also have polyps that protrude from the top of their mat. These polyps are tubes surrounded by tentacles that are used to consume food. In addition to the polyps that help the Hydractinia eat, there are reproductive polyps that can be used to tell whether the colony is male or female. This image illustrates the development of a Hydractinia embryo to a colony. The image shows what an adult polyp looks like, in addition to both the male and female sexual polyps. (more…)

Software Pipeline Connecting Close-Range Photogrammetry and 3D Printing

By Gillian Yue, VI Form

Software Pipeline Connecting Close-Range Photogrammetry and 3D Printing

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The aim of this project is to make it possible for an average person with no prior knowledge in photogrammetry to 3D-print small objects found in daily lives. My work is to create a software that serves as a pipeline; the software connects the multiple processes that are required to transform the input of of photos of the target object into an output of a 3D printable model file. In other words, what used to be a complicated process of switching between different tools and manually processing the model to make it 3D printable becomes a simple one-click routine where the user can provide the initial group of photos, and then simply sit next to the 3D printer to wait for the object to come out half an hour later. (more…)