NickNick is a third year Distinguished Major in Biochemistry.  He is chair of the Undergraduate Research Network, an organization dedicated to fostering undergraduate research on Grounds, and he is heavily involved in the Honor System, serving as a Senior Counsel and a Co-Chair of the Policies and Procedures Subcommittee.  Nick also is the founder and President of College Science Scholars Council, works with OpenGrounds, has served as a TA for Organic Chemistry, and currently teaches a Neuroethics class.  Administratively, Nick is a member of the Provost’s Office’s University Student Opportunities for Academic Research (USOAR) Planning Committee, the Vice President for Research’s Public Day Committee, and the Office of the Dean of Students’ Leadership 2014 Planning Committee.  He conducts undergraduate research in the laboratory of Anindya Dutta, M.D., Ph.D., working with proteins that play important roles in the cell cycle and, therefore, tend to be upregulated or downregulated in cancers.  He is the recipient of a David A. Harrison III Undergraduate Research Award, College Small Research and Travel Grant, College Council Fall Grant, and the Thomas Henry Leach II U.Va. Summer Scholars Award, all of which have helped fund his undergraduate research.

Nick’s activities are more closely linked than their disparate nature leads one to believe, and transduction plays a pivotal role in each of them.  Whether it is his research or activities, signaling is present in each.  Proteins are, in essence, highly specialized signaling agents and his independent research investigates how a specific protein is able to signal to the rest of the cell.  By removing this protein from healthy cells, it is no longer able to transduce information to other proteins resulting in the drastic decrease in other important regulatory proteins.  In other words, the protein of interest is a critical signal to maintain the stability of proteins that are necessary for the normal regulation of the cell.  Perhaps the greatest example of transduction lies in the macroscopic view: the inanimate amino acids that create this one protein are fully able to properly regulate our bodies, allowing for the “animate” processes that humans normally take for granted.  From this view, there is a beautiful elegance to all proteins since they are responsible for all transduction between the human body and the external environment.

Nick’s other activities incorporate transduction by forming connections between students to improve signaling across the University.  The Undergraduate Research Network works to connect students to information on research—enabling easier transmission of that information—along with connecting researchers to each other to facilitate the growth of interdisciplinary ideas.  On a basic level, the Undergraduate Research Network is a Special Status Organization consisting of over fifty students, but the more accurate perception is to view it as a fluid and dynamic set of interactions between students, professors, and administrators.  The group seeks to maximize transduction between these parties to produce the greatest scholars and research that the University has ever seen.  To complete this ambitious goal, the Undergraduate Research Network looks to get more students involved in research—to connect them into a network of signaling to allow them to receive information whether it be verbal or electronic—and to amplify the levels of transduction between students to inculcate a community of research.  In addition to verbal and electronic signaling, the Undergraduate Research Network produces an undergraduate research journal, The Oculus, along with facilitating the publication of other journals such as The Spectra, Seriatim, The Academical Heritage Review, and The Wilson Journal of International Affairs to promote transduction via the written word—an increasingly rare art.  For his work with undergraduate research and their publication, he was recognized by the O.W.L. Society, a secret society dedicated to the preservation of the written word.Nick OpenGrounds

Interestingly enough, Nick discovered OpenGrounds not through research, but for recognition for his work with the Honor System by the 21 Society, a secret society dedicated to the preservation of student self-governance.  OpenGrounds seeks to accomplish the same idea: connect undergraduates across the University to lower the activation energy for signaling to make it easier and more effective, resulting in more cooperation from previously disparate parties.  To accomplish this goal, Nick is working with Housing & Residence Life to establish a form of OpenGrounds in first-year dorms along with creating a series of intimate discussions about important University topics.  Each of these initiatives hopes to increase communication between students that would normally not exist, thereby facilitating transduction across different perspectives and disciplines.