Faculty Research Opportunities

Program in Museums and Society/History of Art Department

Assist with research for a book examining the reception of a Renaissance portrait in the 19th/20th/21st centuries. Ideal candidate will speak/read/write Turkish in order to devise and conduct interviews via email and Skype. Other qualifications involve strong research skills, ability to work independently, and knowledge of/interest in history and history of art.

Contact: Dr. Elizabeth Rodini, Program in Museums and Society/History of Art Department, erodini@jhu.edu, 410-516-4827.


The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology

Project 1: Nutrigenomics

Several recent publications and unpublished studies have suggested the exciting but controversial possibility that genetic material from food is taken up by the ingesting host and has the potential to affect health. Could this be part of the reason why health “supplements” never quite match the salutary effects of ingesting nutrients in whole foods?

In the first part of this project, we will investigate the stability of an abundant and highly conserved plant small RNA that has been reported to act against various animal viruses and test three different ways of detecting it in biological samples. We will further examine how the exact nucleotide composition of the small RNA affects our ability to detect it.

In the second part of the project, we will test the uptake of this RNA (or any other prevalent dietary small RNA) by intestinal cells: when the RNA is introduced on its own or in complex with proteins, extracellular vesicles (“exosomes”), or as part of materials from plant material or animal (milk) material. If warranted by results, we will use a novel intestinal model to find out whether the RNA can be taken up on the lumenal side and release in some form on the other side.

Finally, we will investigate the ability of small RNAs introduced through the diet (using methods developed in the second part, above) to affect gene regulation, using both reporter assays and RNA sequencing studies, ultimately including a potentially revolutionary small RNA:target sequencing method known as CLASH.

Project 2 (or 3): Physiologic oxygen conditions and retroviral infection (2) or intestinal parasites (3)

The following project is described for mammalian cells and retroviruses. We could also plan a similar project with single-celled parasites related to Giardia, an important human pathogen, in collaboration with a leading parasitologist in our department.

Cell culture techniques allow scientists to investigate the molecular bases of diseases and their cures. Of course, many aspects of cell culture are artificial, among them the fact that most cell culture is done at atmospheric oxygen levels. Most cells in the body exist in much lower-oxygen environments.

Using a special incubator, we will first investigate the effects of varying oxygen concentrations on cell growth and gene/noncoding RNA expression by high throughput sequencing of a cell type involved in retroviral infection (including HIV). Cell types to choose include CD4+ T-cells, monocyte-derived macrophages, and astrocytes. We would focus on one cell type, but any or all could be studied depending on time commitment.

In the second phase of the project, we will test the hypothesis–supported by some work from another research group–that oxygen exposure affects the infectability of target cells and their ability to produce viral products. We will expose cells at different oxygen concentrations to a single-round retrovirus and record its ability to enter the cells and give rise to a fluorescent protein.

In the third phase of the project, we will use molecular tools such as reporter assays to focus on a rationally selected handful of RNAs identified in Part One and their ability to modulate oxygen sensitivity.

Contact: Dr. Kenneth Witwer, kwitwer1@gmail.com, (410) 955-9770