Summer 2018 Biology Research Fellowships

Potential Research Opportunities in Biology for 2018 (final project decisions not yet made):

Dr. Clark Cotton – Importance of Urea for Hibernating Animals.  Mammals are uniquely able to produce concentrated urine through the formation of a cortico-papillary osmotic gradient in their kidneys.  The waste product urea, created from protein metabolism, serves as a major component of this gradient.  Numerous studies have underlined the importance of urea by demonstrating that a low protein diet can significantly impair formation of concentrated urine.  Animals that hibernate regularly undergo seasonal reductions in protein intake and yet must routinely generate cortico-papillary gradients in the kidney as they periodically arouse from torpor.  This project will explore whether or not hibernating rodent species are better able to generate highly concentrated urine while consuming a low protein diet than non-hibernating species.

Dr. Katherine Furniss – Genetic Diversity in White Pines.  Pinus strobus, Eastern White Pine, while originally native to this area was not identified on an 1856 survey of the SJU lands. However, seeds planted in 1896 have grown to be the only adult Eastern White Pines in the SJU Arboretum. These seeds were likely collected from a handful of individual trees. We hypothesize that all the Eastern White Pines in the SJU Arboretum contain similar genes and therefore have low genetic diversity.  This summer we will map the Eastern White Pine trees in the Arboretum, collect needles, extract DNA, amplify DNA loci, and perform fragment analysis to determine the genetic diversity. If needed, the results of this work will be used, in conjunction with the Arboretum staff, to develop a plan for increasing the genetic diversity of the trees in the Arboretum.

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 Ctsc (a protein implicated in contributing to corneal thickness) in mouse corneal cells.

Dr. Katherine 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 extend 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 TEN1 in Arabidopsis thaliana. We will be using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to knock-out TEN1 to investigate the role of the protein (part of the CST complex) in protection and maintenance of telomeres in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana

Dr. David Mitchell  Adaptation and evolutionary responses in bacteria.  Bacteria must survive very competitive environments and changing conditions if they are going to survive.  The mechanisms for how they adapt provide interesting examples of how organisms respond and adapt.  We will try to create and study environments which force to adapt in order to survive and then look for the reasons they were successful or unsuccessful.

Kristina Timmerman – Arboretum Wildlife Studies.  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, and 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]; 3110).

To apply please go to:

Application period:  December 11, 2017 – February 5, 2018