Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Molecular Biology

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

Chen Lab

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Our research focuses on the use of physics-based simulations of RNA as a tool for studying RNA folding and biomolecular engineering.

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.

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.

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

Reliene Laboratory

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The focus of the lab is on translational cancer research on gene-environment and gene-nutrient interactions. We investigate whether mutations in DNA repair genes enhance susceptible to cancer associated with environmental causes and whether the risk of cancer can be reduced with intake of dietary antioxidants. For example, we are currently exploring the concept that antioxidant-rich pomegranate extract protects against breast cancer. Other projects include studies on genotoxic and cancer risks of engineered nanoparticles used in consumer products. We use genomic technologies in combination with cell and molecular biology and whole animal approaches to dissect the complexity of cancer.

Li Laboratory

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We study the molecular structure, function, and mechanism of proteins or complexes related to bacterial or viral infection and host response, using crystallography, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Current projects include bacterial and viral superantigens, signaling proteins involved in apoptosis and stem cell regulation, and rational drug design against key viral enzymes.

Institute of Biomolecular Stereodynamics

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The research areas in the Center include, but are not limited to, the dynamics of proteins and nucleic acids, the kinetic mechanism of protein function, structural characterization, protein-nucleic acid, protein-protein and protein-drug interactions, signal transduction pathways and drug design by chemical methods and combinatorial libraries

Herschkowitz Lab

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The research in my laboratory involves integrative approaches, utilizing multidisciplinary techniques including methods in molecular biology, cell biology, mouse models, histology, microscopy, flow cytometry, genomics, bioinformatics and systems biology to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in breast cancer progression and therapeutic resistance. Evidence from our laboratory and others has shown that there exist cells within tumors that have an intrinsic resistance to radiation and chemotherapeutics compared to the bulk of the tumor. These cells, often referred to as cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor initiating cells may also be responsible for metastatic dissemination and tumor dormancy and recurrence. Breast CSCs can have an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype and inducing EMT in human mammary epithelial cells can confer on them the properties of stem cells. In addition, we identified an aggressive molecular subtype of breast cancer that is enriched for CSCs. In recent years it has been appreciated that along with protein coding genes, much of our genome encodes tens of thousands of functional RNAs that do not make proteins. This includes small RNAs called microRNAs which have been very well studied as well as a large class of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) the functions of which still very much need to be explored. We hypothesize that lncRNAs play a critical role in an EMT gene expression program governed in part by RNA-mediated epigenetic regulation leading to resistance to conventional therapies in breast cancer. Our goal, using several model systems, is to first identify and then investigate the mechanisms of action of lncRNAs that regulate the EMT/CSC phenotype of claudin-low breast tumors using siRNA or antisense knockdown, CRISPR genome engineering, and lentiviral overexpression in cell culture and in animal models.

Research Group Halamek

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Our research group focuses on the areas of bioelectronics and bionanotechnology. These approaches, often combined with biomolecular engineering, are a rapidly emerging field aimed at development biology-inspired intelligent sensing systems. Our multidisciplinary research approach combines fundamental studies with forward-looking engineering efforts. Some of the projects our group is interested in stem from the fields of biochemistry, analytical science and biotechnology. We are exploring the biorecognition of different characteristics, such as, ethnicity and gender of forensic subjects. These are based on biological markers, detection of toxic compounds such as organophosphates and biochemical steganographic and encryptic systems or "smart" biofuel cells and actuators.

Center for Functional Genomics

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We are able to coordinate efforts among our different Facilities so that we can accommodate researchers in projects from start to finish. For example, the CFG is able to isolate genes, design and make DNA constructs through our Molecular Biology Facility, then coordinate with the Mouse Transgenic Facility to make Transgenic or Knock-out mice and then the mice generated can be analyzed at the DNA, RNA or Protein levels through our Molecular Biology, Microarray, Laser Capture Microdissection or Proteomics Facilities