Duke-mentored high school student Alisa Cui, of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, is presenting her results in Phoenix this week in Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), a prestigious annual science fair that convenes 1,700 of the best and brightest STEM students from around the world.
Cui has worked in Jorg Grandl’s lab on the mechanism by which a family of proteins called Piezo ion channels allow cells to detect mechanical touch and eventually become desensitized to repeated stimulation and shut off. By recording the electrical activity of cells that express one type of Piezo, Cui determined that the channels do not use a particular type of shutdown mechanism that researchers had previously thought. Now, the group will move on to test another major mechanism.
On Friday, it was announced that Alisa had won a fourth place grand award in Cellular and Molecular Biology, which includes a $500 prize. Her lab project ‘Mechanism of inactivation of Piezo ion channels’ also won 1st place at the NC State Science and Engineering Fare.
“I am very impressed by the impact Alisa made,” said Grandl, who is a member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. “The data she collected helped starting a completely new line of research,” in understanding how these channels deal with repeated stimulations, such as vibrations.