STEM Summer Research Project Descriptions

Below are some examples of faculty lab opportunities for summer 2017. You can also find information on faculty members' webpages.

  • Aaron Abrams – Mathematics. (One or two students)

    Research in Topology, Algebra, and other areas.

  • Kevin Beanland – Mathematics. (One or two students)

    Research in Analysis, specifically in Banach spaces.

  • Sarah Blythe – Biology & Neuroscience. (Two students)

    My research interests include the mechanisms underlying learning and memory in the brain, as well as sex differences in the brain. This summer my research group will employ behavioral and physiological techniques to address how alterations in body weight affect attention capabilities. Students will have the opportunity to learn a variety of hands-on techniques including: animal handling, behavioral analysis, rodent surgery, immunohistochemistry, ELISA, and microscopy.

  • Paul Cabe – Biology. (One or two students)

    My lab will be working on several projects involving the conservation and population genetics of crayfish. Students will learn common techniques of DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA sequence acquisition and DNA sequence analysis. Some field work (in streams), too!

  • Greg Dresden – Mathematics. (One or two students needed)

    Research in Number Theory, specifically on continued fractions and common tails. This summer, we will be doing the following:

    • Drinking lots of coffee.
    • Staring moodily off into the distance.
    • Trying to find all such polynomials whose roots have common tails.

    Should you join us? Yes you totally should, but you'll need to have taken some 300-level math courses. And you should talk to Prof. Dresden.

  • Wayne Dymacek – Mathematics. (One or two students needed)

    Conducts research in Graph Theory and Combinatorics.

  • Nathan Feldman – Mathematics. (One or two students needed)

    Conducts research in Analysis, specifically in Operator Theory.

  • Carrie Finch-Smith &ndash Mathematics. (One or two students needed)

    Conducts research in Number Theory, specifically in covering systems and irreducibility of polynomials.

  • Kyle Friend – Chemistry & Biochemistry. (Two students needed)

    My lab focuses on RNA biochemistry. We are currently using both in vivo and in vitro systems to assess how ribosomes move along messenger RNAs during translation, what happens to amessenger RNA when the ribosome makes a mistake, andhow metabolic enzymes bind and regulate RNA.

  • Bill Hamilton – Biology & Environmental Studies. (Two students)

    Bison grazing, soil biochemistry and molecular biology. The Hamilton lab conducts research on soil organic matter and microbial dynamics in soils from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). The overarching goal is to elucidate the interactions between grazers, grasses and microbes that contribute to the ability of grassland systems to maintain primary productivity. The soils come from a large long-term collaboration with the National Park Service that investigates the effects of bison grazing in YNP. We have established 25 field sites throughout the migratory range of bison that will be monitored for the next 5 years. Methods include: stable isotope mass spectrometry, spectrophotometric determinations of soil NH4+ and NO3-, soil and root respirometry, analysis of soil organic matter quality and quantity, soil DNA extraction, PCR, quantitative PCR and DNA sequencing.

  • David Harbor – Geology & Environmental Studies. (Two students needed)

    Join a NASA-funded project to understand the Quaternary history of the Hoshab Fault in southern Pakistan. No fieldwork is planned, but mapping efforts will continue from previous year along the fault and we will also begin new workflows characterizing river erosion near the fault. Our ultimate goal is to understand the style of fault offset through time, and whether it switches from reverse to strike-slip. Geomorphology and GIS courses expected but not necessarily required.

  • Thomas Helmuth - Computer Science. (Two students needed)

    My research focuses on using genetic programming to automatically synthesize general-purpose programs. Genetic programming borrows ideas from biological evolution to evolve populations of computer programs. This work has ties to software engineering, machine learning, and evolutionary biology.

  • Robert Humston – Biology & Environmental Studies. (One or two students needed)

    I am seeking students to join my lab to contribute to a study on the impacts of smallmouth bass population range expansion on native trout species in Virginia. Research activities include field work for fish and invertebrate collections, gut content analyses, and stable isotope analyses to determine trophic niche of species food web alteration from invasion of smallmouth bass.

  • Helen I’Anson – Biology & Neuroscience. (Two students needed)

    My research team studies the role of snacking using a developing rat model to understand the mechanisms involved in early childhood obesity onset. We will be using molecular tools to determine protein levels and gene expression in tissues vulnerable to obesity. We will also be using immunocytochemistry to determine neurotransmitter levels in the brains of control rats and rats with constant access to snacks.

  • Mitchel Keller – Mathematics. (May accept 1-2 students)

    Conducts research in Graph Theory and Combinatorics, specifically in poset theory. He may accept 1-2 students for Summer 2017, although students must speak with him before applying.

  • Joel Kuehner – Physics and Engineering. (Two students needed)

    Fluid Diagnostics Lab: Students will explore two oscillatory flows to investigate the underlying physics that causes the oscillations. We will then investigate whether these oscillations can be used as an advantage in engineering applications. Students will gain experience applying laser diagnostic methods to these flows, and no prior experience with lasers or fluid mechanics is necessary. We will also utilize the 3D printing capabilities in the IQ Center to develop portions of the experimental setup.

  • Fred LaRiviere – Chemistry & Biochemistry. (Two students needed)

    The LaRiviere lab is studying two eukaryotic ribosome degradation pathways called nonfunctional rRNA decay and ribophagy. Currently, we are investigating how cellular stresses affect these RNA decay pathways.

  • Simon Levy – Computer science & Neuroscience. (No new students need apply)

    Prof. Levy studies miniature aerial vehicles ("drones"). He already has two students working with him this summer.

  • David Marsh – Biology & Neuroscience. (Two students needed)

    We're studying the factors that limit the distribution of a rare mountaintopsalamanderin the Blue Ridge. Students should be prepared for extensive hiking and field work - i.e. dirt, sweat, bugs, etc. Willingness to take Field Herpetology (BIOL 242) is a plus as the course offers research training and a head start on the project.

  • William Schreiber – Psychology & Neuroscience. (One or two students needed)

    Mechanisms of learning and memory. This summer, we will be studying non-associative learning by examining the habituation of aggression responses in black carpenter ants. Ants will be exposed to cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs; chemical signatures on the exoskeleton of ants) for periods and tested for aggression to innocuous objects treated with nestmate and non-nestmate CHCs. These baseline experiments will be used more broadly as way to examine the extent to which habituation in insects compares to habituation in mammals.

  • Sara Sprenkle – Computer Science. (Three students needed)

    Development of visualization and analysis tools for the Ancient Graffiti Project.Preferred CSCI209 or equivalent experience. Looking for one student with PHP and Spanish knowledge.

  • Bob Stewart – Psychology.

    Stew Lab explores neuroplasticity in the developing and injured taste system. Our current focus is on the impact of drug-induced, reversible taste nerve interruption on taste primary axon terminal field and second order taste neuron dendrite morphologies. We use a variety of traditional neuroanatomical techniques including axonal tract tracing, Golgi impregnation, and digital image analysis.

  • Natalia Toporikova – Biology & Neuroscience. (One or two students needed)

    Project: Effect of diet on reproduction in the female rat.
    High-fat, high-sugar diets have been shown to produce alterations in reproductive hormone signaling. However, both the locus of action and the mechanism underlying these effects remain unclear. This summer we will be working with ovarian tissues collected from rats on control and high-sugar, high-fat diet. We will be using staining techniques to quantify the distribution of receptors for several reproductive hormones in ovarian tissues. By comparing the receptor expression in control and diet animal, we can determine the sensitivity of the ovary to hormonal signaling from the brain.

  • Erich Uffelman – Chemistry & Biochemistry.

    The Uffelman group uses various instrumentation and imaging modalities to study cultural heritage objects. Techniques including portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive spectroscopy, infrared imaging, multispectral imaging, reflectance transformation imaging, and photogrammetry are employed. This summer the Uffelman group will be looking for 0-2 students.

  • Fiona Watson – Biology & Neuroscience.

    The focus of the Watson lab is to 1) study the recovery of optic nerve axon following a crush injury and 2) investigate the effects of pesticides on neurogenesis and migration. Two or three students are needed

  • Wythe Whiting – Psychology & Neuroscience. (Two students needed)

    Two projects under way: 1) Examines the role of neural noise in older adults’ (aged 60 and above) cognitive abilities, like attention and memory. 2) Measuring the impact of distractions (like text alerts) on task performance using heart rate variability and galvanic skin responses.

  • Gregg Whitworth – Biology. (Two students needed)

    This summer the Whitworth lab will be continuing their work investigating the molecular mechanisms that control apoptosis, which is the process of regulated cell death. They work in baker's yeast, which is an excellent model for eukaryotic cells, and have developed a technique for monitoring apoptosis in live cells using time-lapse microscopy. They also work with collaborators to measure changes in gene expression and gut microbiome composition in animal models using bioinformatics.