Elliot Kim ’23

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Panda Lab, La Jolla, CA

The Panda Lab focuses on the circadian nature of living organisms and works to elucidate new information regarding the significance of bodily responses and adaptations to the 24-hour cycle. Over the summer, I mainly interned for two postdocs in the lab, supervised by Dr. Satchin Panda. Dr. Panda is a renowned figure for circadian biology research in this nation, and it was a huge honor to be able to work in their lab.

With Dr. Hugo Calligaro, I worked on making 3D volumetric models of suprachiasmatic neurons, which respond to blue light and are largely responsible for setting our circadian rhythms, as well as boutons (the specific part of an axon that synapses with another axon). The neurons we examined were from mice with Alzheimer’s disease, each at various stages of progression. After creating hundreds of volumetric models, we were able to compile them and compare the (quantitative) differences in volume, along with some qualitative differences such as relative shape and proximity to other similar neurons. The groups of mice were classified as 3-month, 5-month, 8-month and 12-month; the number of months counted from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. There were clear and obvious differences between the 3-month and 12-month groups, but further close examination needs to be done to identify and quantify the differences between adjacent groups.

Another postdoc that I worked closely with was Dr. Laura van Rosmalen, whose work focuses on time-restricted eating in mice (what Dr. Panda also specializes in), and the project we began this summer dealt with energy balance and relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). This condition is often seen in endurance athletes who expend a greater amount of energy each day and struggle to consume adequate calories and nutrients to support their bodily functions. We decided to model this condition with mice, imposing treatment that most closely resembles RED-S: a certain amount of time spent on a running wheel gives a food pellet, except each subsequent pellet requires greater run time. So far, we have completed the experimental set-up and are now in the process of beginning the data collection. I will not be able to assist with this portion of the project as I will be back at Williams, but I hope to return next summer and continue working on this project. I am excited about this time-restricted feeding project, because my thesis with Dr. Van der Vinne will also consist of this protocol.

In the future, I hope to work more in the new and expanding field of chronobiology and continue to make connections with researchers in San Diego and across the nation. I would like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for allowing me to have this opportunity. I am extremely thankful for the generosity and support that Williams provides. I hope to continue my research endeavors in chronobiology and expand our knowledge on the relevance and significance of circadian rhythms in regard to health.