2018 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant and 2019 Student Mentor

Home Department: Biology and Comparative Literature
2018 Mentor: Alan Cheng, Otolaryngology (Head & Neck Surgery)
2019 Mentor: Crystal Mackall, Pediatrics (Hematology & Oncology) and Medicine (Blood & Marrow Transplantation)

Photo of USRP student Panos Vandris in the laboratory, looking at cells under a microscope.2018 Research Project: Damage to the vestibular system in the mammalian inner ear can result in debilitating imbalance. Panos will utilize a mouse model to better understand how reestablishing the system’s neural circuitry following injury allows for recovery of vestibular function, which can help with developing future therapies for patients with hearing loss and balance dysfunction.

2019 Research Project: CAR T cell therapy has shown promise in the treatment of B cell malignancies, but the adoption of CAR T cell therapy as a standard of care for a wider range of cancer types is limited by factors including T cell exhaustion. Panos’s project will use synthetic biology approaches to assess a tunable CAR system that is resistant to exhaustion. A mechanistic understanding of exhaustion and the application of engineering principles to CAR T cell design will promote the translational potential of adoptive immunotherapy for cancer.