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(Week 2 / / 6.8-12)
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Revision as of 13:16, 19 June 2015

Research Topic

Mentor: Dr. Stephen Merrill

I will be researching the influence of leptin in the body, especially regarding fat, inflammation and immunity. Leptin, a hormone secreted by fat and fatty tissue which has pro-inflammatory effects in the body, provides a link between nutritional intake and the immune system. Much is still unknown about these connections, and my goal is to create a mathematical model of some aspect of leptin's influence in the body.

Milestones & Goals

Week 1

Verification of leptin production and relation to amount of fat

  • 3-5 pages of research paper
  • Key research topics:
    • What is the relationship between fat and leptin?
    • Is it linear or exponential or something else?
    • What are the units involved?

Weeks 2-5

How are leptin levels related to amount of inflammation?

  • 3-4 pages of research paper
  • Key research topics:
    • Look for inflammatory molecules that are measured regularly that will help to gauge inflammation levels
    • A biomarker to quantify inflammation levels

Weeks 5-10

Choose one of the following directions and develop its relationship with leptin, inflammation & autoimmunity

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Drug-induced autoimmunity
  • Thyroid
  • Sexual dimorphism of leptin levels

Research Log

Week 1 / / 6.1-5

  • Introduction to differential equations
  • Compiled research focus & milestones with Dr. Merrill
  • Became familiar with RefWorks & library resources
  • Became familiar with MatLab
  • Read literature about my topic and found answers to the following questions via databases such as Medline and Web of Science
    • What is the rate of release of adipokines from fat?
    • When leptin is released, where does it go and what is its rate of metabolism?
    • What are the units involved in the metabolism rate?
    • How does leptin relate to fat?
    • Is the leptin-fat model linear?
    • How is leptin measured?
    • Is the leptin-fat relationship related to gender?
  • Investigated free leptin vs. bound leptin

Week 2 / / 6.8-12


  • Condensed research so far into questions answered
  • Wrote part of research paper
  • Started researching inflammation and leptin


  • Researched bound and free leptin
  • Wrote part of research paper
  • Researched inflammation
  • Found research that may point to an exponential relationship between leptin and fat
  • Met with Dr. Merrill


  • Focuses: BMI, inflammation
  • Verified linear relationship between BMI and weight/fat - this could pose some problems for a linear model of leptin and fat
  • Read articles linking inflammation to leptin (key words: thyroid, TNF, T-cells)


  • Compiled information and wrote several pages of paper about leptin/inflammation/immunity
  • Met with Dr. Merrill - threw out linear model and opted to try some kind of quadratic model


  • Organized wiki page
  • Wrote about findings on leptin, inflammation, and immunity
  • Wrote new proposal for mathematical model equations

Week 3 / / 6.15-19


  • Finished Friday's paper
  • Literature search for biomarkers of inflammation
  • Investigated role of estrogen in obesity, breast cancer and the immune system


  • Continued investigating biomarkers
  • Met with Dr. Merrill


  • Focus: quantifying the relationship between fat and inflammation
  • Literature on inflammation in fat, sexual dimorphism in fat distribution and leptin levels


  • Created a visual model of a leptin/inflammation feedback loop (solidified our hypothesis)
  • Responsible Conduct of Research training


  • Solidify feedback loop
  • Meet with Dr. Merrill