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McNair Scholar 2015Azira Rivera

Azira Rivera is a junior at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, obtaining a B. S. in mathematics with an emphasis in mathematical biology-physiology. She is interested in modeling biological systems to gain a deeper understanding of the physical world. Rivera plans to obtain a Ph. D. in mathematical biology while researching the mathematics of the brain.

Azira Rivera photo
My dream is to be able to change the stigma behind mental illness through my understanding of the human brain. I want to be able to teach others about the complexities and beauties behind not only the brain, but the underlying mathematics of what makes us human.

Research project

Characterizing Indel Mutations in Arabidopsis thaliana as a Model for Compensatory Evolution

Abstract: I examined patterns of nucleotide insertion and deletion mutations within the genome of A. thaliana. Indels can have varying impacts on fitness. Codons, occurring in groups of three nucleotides, are susceptible to mutations which do not occur in these modulus three patterns. These frameshift mutations change the sequence frame and are potential instances for compensation. When an initial indel mutation is compensated by a later mutation, the frame of the gene is then restored, allowing for future sequencing mistakes to be mitigated. This phenomenon is referred to as compensatory evolution. In order to fully understand this process, multiple properties and patterns of these mutations were determined and analyzed. These include, but are not limited to: the position of each mutation, the distance between each compensating loci, and gene function. It is suggested that coding mutations will be compensated at a higher rate than mutations in non-coding regions as well as the distance between the compensatory pairs is inversely related to the rate of compensation. Download poster. [PDF]

Faculty profile

Yaniv Brandvain is a current Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Biology in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Professor Brandvain received his B. A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic before obtaining his Ph. D. in Evolutionary Biology from Indiana University. Brandvain has also completed research at the University of California- Davis as a postdoctoral fellow. Most recently, Brandvain has published an article with fellow UMN faculty, Dena Grossenbacher, Ryan Briscoe Runquist and Emma E. Goldberg in Ecology Letters entitled ‘Geographic range size is predicted by plant mating system.’