Biology Research Fellowships

Research Opportunities in Biology for Summer 2024

Katharine Cary - Impacts of Field Soil on Oak Restoration

Does field soil collected from underneath mature, healthy oaks on campus help oak seedlings grow and survive? Field soil contains microorganisms like mycorrhizal fungi that can mutualistically benefit plants, so we hypothesize that adding field soil to the pots of oak seedlings will increase the success of our restoration efforts on campus. However, collecting field soil disturbs existing habitats and takes extra effort. Is adding field soil a worthwhile restoration technique? Research will likely involve substantial time in Abbey Arboretum; preferred if student can take 1-2 credits of Biol 372 in Spring to get project started.

Ashley Fink - Stress, Exercise, and Immunity

Lifestyle factors like exercise and stress, and biological factors like sex and hormones, can all impact immune cell activation and the immune response to both vaccination and infection. This summer we will use a mouse model of influenza vaccination as a tool to evaluate how stress and exercise alter immune responses. An in-depth analysis of immune cell subsets, stress hormone levels and cytokine levels will allow us to investigate potential molecular mechanisms for the changes in immunity induced by stress and exercise.

Trevor Keyler - Aquatic System Development and Impact of Sound on Native Fishes

Help design and implement a Recirculating Aquatic System (RAS) for native fish and investigate the effects of sound on their behavior. Spend the summer immersed in hands-on RAS assembly including plumbing, filtration, and cooling. Ideal for technically-minded individuals with engineering and biology skills. Collaborate with the University of St. Thomas to explore fish responses to sound in motorized vs. non-motorized lakes. Join us for a dual-focused research experience at the intersection of aquatic systems and fish behavior.

Demelza Larson - Investigating a Spontaneous Coat Color Mutation in Mice

This project involves characterizing the biological basis of a spontaneous coat color mutation in mice, which also causes fertility defects. Molecular, cellular, and histological approaches will be used to investigate these phenotypes.

Dave Mitchell - The Magic of Microorganisms

Microorganisms are often under a great degree of selection pressure or stress as they move into new environments or are challenged by changes in their environment. As a result, they become interesting study systems or models to ask and answer questions about bacterial adaptations and responses. In this project we will try to find interesting places to sample for microorganisms and create laboratory experiments that will try to force these organisms to adapt to survive. Organisms will hopefully be identified using sequencing technologies and other classic microbiological laboratory techniques.

Alexa Roemmich - Neurobiology in C. elegans

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that can have overlapping symptoms with other neurological disorders such as intellectual disability and autism. C. elegans are microscopic worms used as model organisms for research in cell biology and neurobiology. Scientists have made recent strides in developing C. elegans assays for seizures, social behaviors, and learning and memory. This summer, research fellows will assist Dr. Roemmich in establishing a worm lab at CSB+SJU that aims to study the interaction between seizures, learning and memory, social behaviors, and lifespan in worm models of disease. Students will learn how to work with worms, run neurological behavioral assays, and analyze and present relevant data, all while learning more about worms and their role as a research organism.

Kristina Timmerman - Monarchs on the Arboretum: butterfly, caterpillar, and egg density

This research will focus on pollinator/plant interactions. One focus will be the monarch/milkweed system, and in particular we will be asking the question "What is the availability of milkweed for monarch egg deposition on the Saint John's Abbey Arboretum". To answer this question, we will survey the Arboretum prairie for both milkweeds and monarchs (adults, eggs or larvae). We can also investigate other pollinator/plant systems. Applicants should be comfortable with long days in the field, regardless of weather and with time spent analyzing the data collected.

For more information:
College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University

Dr. Jennifer Schaefer
Chair, Biology Department
SJU PEngl 303