STEM Summer Research Project Descriptions

Below are some examples of faculty lab opportunities for summer 2019. You can also find information on faculty members' webpages.

  • Nadia Ayoub - Biology (One or two students needed)
    The Ayoub lab is broadly interested in how molecular evolution generates phenotypic diversity with a current focus on comparing spider silk glue proteins among species that make different types of webs in highly variable environments. The lab is currently seeking people willing to work with live spiders who also have an interest in molecular genetics, biochemistry, or computational biology.

  • Ryan Brindle - Psychology and Neuroscience Program  (Two students needed)
    Research examines the impact of mental stress on health and disease. Projects are concerned with understanding how individual differences in physiological (e.g., blood pressure, heart rate) reactions to mental stress impact health. Projects also examine how stress impacts the neurobiology of nocturnal sleep and whether sleep can buffer the negative impact of stress and improve health.

  • Michael Bush - Mathematics (One or two students)
    Sequences defined by recurrences occur throughout mathematics. A famous example is the Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3,5, 8... in which each term is the sum of the previous two terms. This sequence of integers is increasing, and the terms do not repeat (it is not periodic). Sequences defined by similar recurrences over finite algebraic structures (such as a finite field or the integers mod n) are periodic and we will investigate the possible periods in these and other settings.

  • Paul Cabe - Biology (One student)
    This species ranges from South Carolina to Pennsylvania and likely consists of several closely related but distinct species. We will use DNA sequence analysis to determine how many species are present, and the geographic range of each. Students will participate in field work and lab work (DNA extraction, PCR, sequencing).

  • Chris Connors - Geology (Two to four students needed)
    The study of structural geology and stratigraphy using geophysical and photogrammetric methods.

  • Steven Desjardins - Chemistry (One student needed)
    ChemTutor is a software package to help incoming students practice skills necessary for General Chemistry before matriculation at W&L. The interested student will need knowledge of General Chemistry and a knowledge of programming with Python and Java.

  • Greg Dresden - Mathematics (One or two students needed)
    Research in Number Theory, specifically on continued fractions. We will be looking at polynomials and their roots in terms of continued fractions, and we will try to understand which polynomials have similar roots when expressed in a particular way. It's a nice combination of topics from abstract algebra and number theory. You'll need to have taken some 300-level math courses.

  • Jonathan Erickson - Physics and Engineering (Two to four students needed)
    The Erickson lab team My lab is developing a non-invasive biomedical technique to assessing how the colon contracts by measuring electrical signals on the skin surface. We will be conducting an IRB-approved human subject study to validate the new electronics module and computer automated algorithms which identify when and how the colon is contracting.

  • Carrie Finch-Smith - Mathematics (Two to ten students needed)
    An example of a Sierpinski number is 78557; this is a really cool number because 78557*2^n + 1 is composite for all positive integers n. Riesel numbers have a similar property. The Finch-Smith research group searches for infinite classes of Sierpinski or Riesel numbers in other sequences of numbers.

  • Megan Fulcher - Psychology (Two students needed)
    My project is the Toy Library Project. We will be investigating how a borrowing program for high quality STEM toys impacts children's STEM skills and attitudes as well as parents' attitudes and expectancies. Over the summer we plan to recruit 60 families with 3-10 year old children, collect pre-test data, distribute 6 toys to each family and collect post-test data.

  • Kyle Friend - Chemistry & Biochemistry (One to two students needed)
    We use a combination of computational and experimental tools to study how the ribosome translates messenger RNAs and how that translation is influence by cell signaling. We are also collaborating with Dr. Nadia Ayoub to understand how proteins give rise to the mechanical properties of spider webs.

  • Lisa Greer - Geology and Environmental Studies (Contact professor Greer if interested)
    The Greer lab is focused on documenting the health of Acroporid coral reefs in Belize. If you are interested in this work please contact Dr. Greer. Students seeking collaboration with Geology faculty may apply via the Regular SRS Application Process (January 25 deadline).

  • Dave Harbor - Geology (One to two students needed per project)
    River erosion through bedrock plucking
    Team Plucking has developed new hypotheses about the erosion of slabs of bedrock from the river bottom that we are testing in a small flume and an instrumented rock from a local river. Students interested in learning experimental and field applications including fluid mechanics, electronics, instrumentation design and installation, and programming should seek more information prior to the January SRS deadline.
    Carbon sequestration in Rockbridge County farm soils
    Harbor is developing a new research thread investigating carbon sequestration through regenerative farming techniques applied to local conditions. Students interested in climate change, soils and farming and undertaking field, lab and background research should seek more information prior to the January SRS deadline.

  • Margaret Anne Hinkle - Geology & Environmental Studies
    The Environmental Geochemistry lab investigates contaminant remediation by both abiotic and biogenic minerals, with special focus on the bioremediation of manganese and other heavy metals by biomineralizing fungi. Potential research projects can focus on either fungal or abiotic systems, depending on the student's interests. If you are interested in joining this lab, please contact Dr. Hinkle. Students who would like to collaborate with Geology faculty can apply through the regular SRS application (January 25th is the deadline).

  • Helen I'Anson - Biology & Neuroscience (Two students needed)
    The I'Anson research team studies the role of snacking using a developing rat model to understand the mechanisms involved in childhood snacking and obesity onset. This summer we will be using molecular tools to investigate the role of the GI tract, liver and abdominal fat in development of obesity and related metabolic problems.

  • Fred LaRiviere - Chemistry & Biochemistry
    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.

  • David Marsh - Biology & Neuroscience (Two students needed)
    Why some species of mountain top salamanders have very small ranges and others are widespread is a fundamental question in ecology. We are using experimental approaches in the field to compare movement ability of a salamander that is restricted to a single mountaintop to that of a closely related species found across eastern North America. Students should be enthusiastic about spending time in the forest chasing salamanders, but also working on the computer improving the range maps for these species.

  • Jeffrey Rahl - Geology
    This summer, Jeff Rahl and his students will collect and measure the geochronologic ages from sandstones to help reconstruct the pathways of sediment dispersal in North America about 325 million years ago. If you are interested in this work, please contact Jeff for more information. Students seeking collaboration with Geology faculty may apply via the Regular SRS Application Process (January 25 deadline).

  • Sara Sprenkle - Computer Science (One to two students)
    Two projects:
    1. developing automated techniques to test web applications
    2. developing user-friendly online tools to analyze ancient Roman graffiti

  • Bob Stewart - Psychology (Two students needed)
    The overall objective of the project is to obtain evidence for the involvement of purinergic signaling in the generation of taste stimulus-elicited neural activity in primary afferent axons of rat and hamster. Combined neurophysiological and immunohistochemical methods will be employed.

  • Erich Uffelman - Chemistry & Biochemistry (no students needed)
    "Technical Examination of Cultural Heritage Objects" asks students to participate in using portable and fixed instrumentation to examine cultural heritage material in the W&L collection and in the collections of other museums.

  • Fiona Watson - Biology & Neuroscience (no students needed)
    The focus of the Watson lab is to
    1. study the recovery of optic nerve axon following a crush injury
    2. investigate the effects of pesticides on neurogenesis and migration

  • Charles Winder - Biology (Two Students needed)
    House Mountain is a significant geographic and cultural landmark in Rockbridge County, and is currently managed as a public resource for recreation, education, and biological conservation. This long-term project continues to document existing forest composition and track long-term changes caused by natural and anthropogenic factors. The work requires precise identification and measurement of tree and herb species within established plots, takes place outdoors in all weather, often in rugged and remote terrain, and is physically demanding.