STEM Summer Research Project Descriptions

Below are some examples of faculty lab opportunities for summer 2018. You can also find information on faculty members' webpages.

  • Aaron Abrams – Mathematics  (One or two students)

    Research in Topology, Algebra, and other areas.

  • Nadia Ayoub - Biology
    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.
  • Kevin Beanland – Mathematics  (One or two students)

    Research in Analysis, specifically in Banach spaces.

  • Sarah Blythe – Biology & Neuroscience  (Three to four students)

    The Blythe lab studies both the neurobiological and reproductive consequences of diet-induced obesity.  This summer's project will focus on the effects of estradiol on learning and memory behaviors in female rats fed an obesogenic diet.  Students will learn animal care procedures, blood sampling techniques, histology protocols, and microscopy skills.

  • 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!

  • Kacie D'Alessandro Lab - Physics and Engineering
    Recent projects in the Concrete Research Lab have involved high strength concrete bridge applications, historical concrete analysis, and photogrammetric techniques.  Students explore topics in structural and materials engineering while mixing, placing, and testing concrete in the laboratory.  Some projects also utilize IQ Center resources for photogrammetry and microscopic analysis of concrete.  If you're interested, please contact Professor Kacie D'Alessandro to setup an appointment to discuss specific projects and research opportunities in the Concrete Research Lab.
  • Elizabeth Denne - Mathematics  (One or two students needed)
    Professor Denne conducts research Folded Ribbon Knots in the Plane
  • 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. 
  • Wayne Dymacek – Mathematics  (One or two students needed)

    Conducts research in Graph Theory and Combinatorics.

  • Jonathan Erickson - Physics and Engineering
    The Erickson lab team are developing non-invasive methods to assess function of the gastrointestinal system, analogous to how the ECG is used to monitor cardiac function.  This project involves figuring out new ways to help computers recognize certain characteristics in the recorded signals ("automated signal processing methods"), building new electronics hardware to enable ambulatory patient studies, and increasing basic understanding of GI electrophysiology in health and disease.
  • Carrie Finch-Smith 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)

    We use a combination of theoretical and experimental techniques to investigate messenger RNA translation and regulation. More specifically, we are working to understand how mRNAs are regulated as cell state transitions.

  • Bill Hamilton – Biology & Environmental Studies  (One student needed)
    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.

  • 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.

  • Dan Johnson - Psychology
    The Johnson lab studies metacognition and how it can improve creativity and self-directed learning.  We use computational cognition measures like semantic distance from latent semantic analysis.

  • 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

    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.

  • Irina and Dan Mazilu - Physics and Engineering  (Four students needed)
    Professors Irina & Dan Mazilu offer three projects:
    1) Nanoscience project: we will work in the lab to create antireflective coatings using nanoparticles; we will take data using the new atomic force microscope (AFM) and the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and we will build mathematical and computational models for the nanoparticle coatings.
    2) Econophysics project: we will create mathematical and computational models for clusters of businesses.
    3) Physics & Politics project:  we will study the effects of lobbying on policy making using statistical physics methods.
  • Sara Sprenkle – Computer Science

    Two projects:
    1) developing automated techniques to test web applications
    2) developing user-friendly online tools to analyze ancient Roman graffiti.

  • Natalia Toporikova – Biology & Neuroscience

    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.

  • Fiona Watson – Biology & Neuroscience (One student 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
    Endemic plant species (such as the Appalachian leatherflowers) offer a great opportunity to study the ecological and evolutionary processes that have allowed plants to adapt and diversify in response to past climate change. However, loss of genetic diversity is a major threat to these rare species, and monitoring levels of genetic diversity is critical to preventing their extinction. Our goal is to use genetic information to learn about the evolutionary history of endemic Appalachian plants while also furthering their conservation.