Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Biology

Biological Imaging Center

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The Biological Imaging Facility was created to provide advanced microscopy technology to research labs. Originally containing electron miscroscopes and photographic darkrooms, the facility now is focused on light miscroscopy using digital imaging techniques.

Belfort Lab

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Our research explores the dynamics of elements that interrupt genes, introns and inteins. We study their basic properties of structure, function and regulation, and their applications in biotechnology and infectious disease.

The Agris Laboratory

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Research interests: Structure/function relationships of nucleic acids, RNA-targeted drug discovery, Novel RNA-based antimicrobial targets, Roles of modified nucleosides in tRNA, Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of RNA, RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions

Shi Laboratory

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Areas of interest: molecular and cellular biology of transcription and signal transduction, aptamer-mediated multi-pathway control in living cells and organisms, and drug discovery and development for cancer

Sammons Lab

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Our lab studies how transcription factors decode and transmit information stored on DNA. We are particularly interested in how one such transcription factor, p53, reads DNA information in the context of chromatin/DNA structure. p53 is the most commonly mutated gene in cancer, and loss of p53 activity is the strongest predictor of cancer development in mammalian systems, including humans. We use genetic, molecular, and genomic technologies to explore the relationship between how DNA information is stored and how that information is read and acted upon by the p53 transcription factor.

Robinson Lab

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Forest ecology, wildlife conservation, and ecological restoration: Field studies are mixed with laboratory and greenhouse experiments, computer mapping and statistical analyses. Two current topics are (1) mapping and designing control programs for invasive species that threaten natural habitats in nearby forested areas, and (2) exploring responses of forests to ongoing climate changes, with emphasis on tracking effects of lengthening growing periods on trees.

Rangan Lab

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The goal of the Rangan Laboratory is to understand how a stem cell fate is initiated, maintained and terminated. Stem cells have the capacity to both self-renew and differentiate. Improper differentiation or self-renewal of stem cells can result in a loss of homeostasis, which has been implicated in human afflictions such as cancer and degenerative diseases.

Fuchs Laboratory

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My lab is interested in the following questions: How is ribosome composition altered in cells during stress and during a viral infection? How does ribosome composition regulate how much and which proteins are synthesized? Are ribosomes in cancer cells different from ribosomes in healthy cells? Cab we use ribosome modifications to identify novel biomarkers for early cancer detection?

Forni Lab

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Correct development of the nose is necessary for detection of environmental odorants but is also crucial for maturation and function of the reproductive system. In fact, during embryonic development a population of neurons, called gonadotropin-releasing hormone-1 neurons (GnRH-1), migrate from the nose to the brain. Once in the brain, these neurons control the reproductive axis. Genetic defects that affect the formation of the nasal/olfactory structures, as well as migration, survival and/or function of GnRH-1 neurons lead to aberrant sexual development and sterility. Our understanding of who are the stem cells and what is the embryonic origin in the developing nose has only recently began, which leaves many blanks yet to be filled.

The Chen Laboratory

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Ion channels are membrane proteins which allow ions across cell membranes in response to physical and/or chemical stimulations. They play a key role in electrical signaling of excitable cells such as neurons and cardiac myocytes. Dysfunction of ion channels could cause human neuronal, muscular, and cardiac disorders such as arrhythmia and epilepsy. Our goals are to understand how several subfamilies of potassium channels are gated and regulated in physiological and pathological conditions.

Pager Lab

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The Pager lab is interested in the interaction and mechanisms by which RNA viruses subvert the cellular RNA metabolism pathways. We are particularly intrigued by how flaviviruses such as hepatitis C virus and Dengue virus commandeer the host’s mRNA storage and decay machinery to successfully establish an infection.

Osuna Laboratory

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Areas of interest: DNA binding and bending proteins, role of DksA in cellular response to nutritional stress, role of Fis in E. coli, genes subject to Fis regulation, and mechanisms of Fis regulation

The Lnenicka Lab

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The synaptic connections between nerve cells can be strengthened by increased use; this synapse strengthening plays an important role in the development of the brain, and in learning and memory in the adult. We study activity-dependent synapse strengthening in the fruit fly (Drosophila) where synapses are identifiable, accessible and amenable to genetic manipulations. Much of our work focuses on the role of intracellular Ca2+ in synapse strengthening. The following techniques are used in these studies: changes in intracellular Ca2+ levels are measured with fluorescent Ca2+ indicators; Western blots and immunocytochemistry are used to measure activity-dependent changes in specific proteins at the synaptic terminals; the levels of specific proteins are altered using transgenic Drosophila; and synaptic function is assayed using electrophysiology.

The Li Lab

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Our goal is to understand the fundamental principles that governing the folding of RNA and to protein-RNA interactions.

Larsen Lab

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My lab is interested in deciphering the molecular mechanisms controlling branching morphogenesis, which is a process required for the development of many mammalian organs, including the lung, kidney, prostate, mammary glands, and salivary glands.

Kleppel Lab

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We are broadly interested in the effects of land use patterns on ecosystems. Among the issues being addressed are: The use of livestock for restoration and management of early successional stage ecosystems, alternative urban typologies (development styles) and their effects on ecosystem structure and function, the use of economic, planning and policy tools to promote landscape scale conservation and sustainable agriculture, and synergies between climate change and land cover patterns of ecosystem structure and function.

Wang Laboratory

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I study experimental evolution by using microorganisms, particularly bacteriophage, as a model system. Currently my research focuses on two areas: (1) the genetic basis for the evolution of life history traits, with phage lambda as a model system, and (2) the identification of bacterial enzymes targeted by ssRNA phage lysis proteins.

Wendy Turner Lab

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We study animal ecology and behavior with an interest in how variation within and among species alters rates of disease transmission. Ongoing research in Etosha National Park, Namibia, focuses on anthrax and on gastrointestinal parasites.

Szaro Laboratory

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Areas of interest: Developmental neurobiology, molecular neurobiology, neural regeneration, neurofilaments, axonal growth, and xenopus laevis embryology

Stewart Lab

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My research program combines bioinformatic and molecular evolutionary methods to study the evolution of mammalian genes and genomes, with an emphasis on the primates. Our current projects include: (1) identifying genetic changes unique to the human and chimpanzee lineages; (2) understanding the genetic basis of SIV/HIV resistance in certain African primate species; and (3) studying the evolution of the lysozyme multigene family in the mammals, especially as related to fertilization. At present, our research is primarily computational.

The Scimemi Lab

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In our lab, we are interested in understanding the functional properties of central synapses, the specialized structures that convert the electrical activity of a neuron into a chemical signal for its target cells. We want to understand how individual molecules are distributed within the synapse and how their spatial arrangement influences the properties of neurotransmitter release. We want to know how neurotransmitters diffuse outside of the synapse and generate long-distance signals to different cells. Our ultimate goal is to gain insights into the functional consequences of changes in synaptic function associated with the onset of different neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.