Summer 2019 Biology Research Fellowships

Potential Research Opportunities in Biology for 2019 (final project decisions not yet made):

Ashley Fink – The impact of diet and exercise on the immune response to influenza vaccination.  It has been previously demonstrated by myself and others that both biological (i.e. sex and age of the organism) and environmental (i.e. nutrition and stress) factors can modulate the antibody responses to vaccines. This summer we will use a mouse model of influenza vaccination to begin to evaluate how either moderate exercise or calorie restriction alters influenza-specific, post-vaccination antibody responses. We will further evaluate how these responses differ between males and females.

Trevor Keyler Deepwater Sculpin (Myoxocephalus thompsonii) Behavior: The Effect of Light Intensity on Activity.   Deepwater sculpin are a benthic species of fish within the offshore waters of Lake Superior. The species shows a decrease in activity with increasing light intensities in the presence of the predatory siscowet lake trout. Our study will investigate whether sculpin retain this behavior in the absence of siscowet, or whether the behavior is directly linked to siscowet presence.

Dr. Katherin Leehy – Solving the End Replication Problem: Investigating the role of the CST complex in telomere protection and maintenance.  Telomeres are the very ends of the DNA on each chromosome. Due to the nature of DNA replication, the telomeres progressively shorten with successive cycles of replication. In order to compensate for this shortening, the enzyme telomerase is expressed in stem cells and gametes to extended these shortened telomeres. CST is a three protein complex that is conserved from yeast to humans with an important role in telomere biology. My previous work has investigated the phenotype of a single point mutation in the TEN1 protein in Arabidopsis thaliana. We will be screening mutants CRISPR/Cas9 for a knock-out of the TEN1 gene. (Given time and interest we may create additional CRISPR/Cas9 construct to target TEN1 and create additional mutants to study.) We will use this knock-out to investigate the role of the TEN1 protein (part of the CST complex) in protection and maintenance of telomeres in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana

Dr. Demelza Larson Investigations of mouse corneal cells.  This summer, I plan to continue research that was originally started at the University of Iowa while I was a postdoctoral fellow. These experiments will entail the characterization of mouse corneal epithelial cells and mouse corneal keratocytes (a specialized fibroblast) using mammalian cell culture techniques. The cells will be isolated from primary tissues of mice. In addition to these experiments, I will be performing experiments to determine the role of Tyrosinase (a protein implicated in contributing to corneal thickness) in mouse corneal cells.

Dr. David Mitchell Bacterial Evolution.   This project will investigate the evolution of bacteria in response to changes in their natural environment or environments created in the laboratory.  Students will build on past experimental results or create their own challenges to an isolated bacteria or natural samples.

Jen Schaefer – Interactions between metacognition, self-efficacy, and grades in an upper-division Biology course.  Metacognitive ability (one’s ability to evaluate own thought processes) improves academic performance.  Self-efficacy (one’s confidence in own academic ability) also has a direct relationship with academic success.  It is unclear, however, whether metacognitive ability and self-efficacy influence each other or how they interact to impact academic success.  If improved metacognition increases self-efficacy, the value of metacognitive training would be enhanced due to a synergistic effect of metacognition and self-efficacy on academic performance.  Students involved in this project will help to code and analyze data and to compile results into manuscript(s) for submission to academic journals.

Kristina Timmerman – Wildlife studies on SJU campus.  This study will have two goals - first, I want to continue documenting wildlife use of the Arboretum via remote camera traps. We will be placing cameras in areas where we have documented mustelids (otters, mink, fisher, to name a few) in previous years. The goal is to obtain further information about their spatial use and to use this information to establish a mark-recapture program in future years. The second goal includes trapping and marking Painted turtles (Chrysemus picta) and documenting their use of lake shorelines. Applicants should enjoy tromping through the forest in all weather.

For more information, contact Mike Reagan ([email protected]; 363-3110).

To apply please click here

Application period:  December 14, 2018 – February 5, 2019