Projects

PROJECTS WILL BE LISTED WEDNESDAY JANUARY 16. YOU CAN SUBMIT APPLICATIONS BETWEEN JANUARY 16 AND JANUARY 27. INTERVIEWS WILL START THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL, SO WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO APPLY EARLY!

Remember: You can apply to a maximum of 3 projects, so choose carefully!

You can choose to scroll through all of the projects, or filter them based on whether they are paid or unpaid, whether they offer enough hours for you, etc. For example if you want to see projects that require somewhere between 8-12 hours a week, click on both the 6-10 and 11-15 options under "Hours?" and press the filter button. If you're using a Mac you can select both options by holding the shift while clicking on the options; if you're using a PC, you hopefully know how to do this.

Bioinformatics, X-chromosomes, Dead Viruses, and You

The Markstein lab develops computational tools to find DNA sequences with regulatory functions that control when, where, and at what levels genes are expressed. Recently, we found that GA-repeat sequences—which are known to augment gene expression on the X chromosome of fruit flies—are also enriched on the X chromosomes in mammals, from opossums to humans (see D’Souza et al. 2018: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/12/04/485300).

Biosynthesis of natural products

Our lab is interested in unravelling the biosynthetic pathways of natural products in various crop species and medicinal plants.

Plants produce an array of chemicals for adaptation to their ecological environment. These specialized metabolites have been adapted for use as pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. Our research includes identification and biochemical functional characterization of the enzymes to decipher biosynthetic pathways of interest (with a focus on terpenes) and incorporation of protein engineering to understand the mechanistic basis of enzymes of interest.

Biosynthesis of plant natural products and their applications

Our lab is interested in unravelling the biosynthetic pathways of natural products in various crop species and medicinal plants.

Plants produce an array of chemicals for adaptation to their ecological environment. These specialized metabolites have been adapted for use as pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. Our research includes identification and biochemical functional characterization of the enzymes to decipher biosynthetic pathways of interest (with a focus on terpenes) and incorporation of protein engineering to understand the mechanistic basis of enzymes of interest.

Cell division lab

Scientists have been studying mitosis for more than one hundred years, but there are still many unanswered questions! Our lab is interested in how the mitotic spindle forms and moves chromosomes in anaphase. We use diverse cells in our work. We utilize microscopy to image the mitotic spindle in control cells and following various perturbations. We spend lots of time watching cells divide. I am looking for students who like science, and who are curious about how cells work. Computer skills are a plus.

Characterization of rice plasma membrane intrinsic protein members, OsPIP1;

In this project, our lab is characterizing the members of Plasma Membrane Intrinsic Proteins (PIP) subfamily of aquaporins for metalloids (arsenic and boron) transport in rice. It is well known that rice accumulate very high amount of arsenic in the edible grains and arsenic being very toxic and carcinogenic, there is a significant health risk associated with rice-based diet. We are interested in developing arsenic free or low levels of arsenic accumulating rice cultivars via manipulating genes associated with arsenic accumulation using both forward and reverse genetic approaches.

Climate Change and Fish Physiology

Temperature and other factors pose lethal and sublethal limits on animals, determining where they can thrive. My research focuses on how temperature and food availability affect fish physiology (e.g. growth, energetics, swimming ability) to understand how climate change affects fish populations and their geographic distributions. I specifically work with alewife and blueback herring, two Species of Concern that are an important food source for aquatic, marine, and terrestrial animals along the Eastern coast of the United States.

Climate Resilient Wine Grape Cultivars: Thinning and Juice Quality

Facing unpredictable climate changes, maintaining a resilient agriculture depends on the availability of genetically diverse cultivars. The traditional European grapes (e.g. Pinot Noir) are cultivars of a single species. In contrast, emerging grape cultivars (European-American hybrids) take advantage of the tremendous genetic diversity of the native American grape species (about 30 species). In the traditional European grape varieties, shoot and fruit thinning is known to influence fruit juice quality (ripening time, sugar, acidity) and help reduce pesticide usage.

CRISPR/Cas9 knockout of plant development genes

The goal of this project is to determine which genes are involved in the development of a specialized floral tissue type in grasses - the awn. The awn projects from the tissue that protects the developing seed and has diversified widely throughout different grass species. Awns are specialized for a number of ecological roles, including photosynthesis to provide the seed with nutrients. Although the ecology of awns has been examined, the genetics and development of awns have not been well-studied.

Discovering microbial associations that can improve plant growth

Current agricultural practices will not meet the nutritional needs of the human population that will reach nine billion people by the middle of this century. There is a clear need for sustainable agricultural innovations that can increase yields and provide food security without incurring environmental degradation. Soil microbes are known to form associations with plants and affect plant health, and in recent years, interest has grown in exploiting the beneficial associations that plants establish with microbes.

Emerging grape varieties for a changing climate: cold hardiness

Facing unpredictable climate changes, maintaining a sustainable agriculture depends on the availability of genetically diverse cultivars. The traditional European grapes (e.g. Pinot Noir) are cultivars of a single species. In contrast, emerging grape cultivars (European-American hybrids) take advantage of the tremendous genetic diversity of the native American grape species (about 30 species). The traditional European grape varieties have little cold hardiness.

Engineering oilseed crops for enhanced oil contents for biofuels and health

In this project, we have engineered Camelina sativa, an oilseed crop, by overexpressing and RNAi knock down of several genes involved in the lipids biosynthesis pathway for increasing the oil and seed yield for biofuels production. Students will analyze these transgenic plants for physiological, biochemical and molecular levels by confirming gene expression, plant seed yield, oil contents and lipid composition. Students will learn the techniques- qPCR analysis of gene expression, biochemical and physiological analysis such as fatty acids profiling, antioxidant enzyme assays etc.

Global Invaders Project

Invasive species reduce biodiversity and are considered a major threat to ecosystems worldwide. Despite general knowledge of their widespread impacts, we still lack a consistent list of which species are invasive, where they have been studied, and what sorts of specific impacts have been identified. This information is critical for understanding the conditions that lead to invasion and informing effective monitoring and management.

How do cells divide asymmetrically?

When a cell divides to create two cells that are different from each other, how does this occur? How does the organism “know” that cell A goes on the right and cell B goes on the left, or how does the cell ensure that the division and all the cellular contents get segregated correctly? The Facette lab is interested in how cells divide asymmetrically, and we study this process in plant cells.

Immunoengineering the tumor microenvironment with electric pulses

The Srimathveeravalli Research Group studies the effect of non-ionizing energy on tissue biology and uses cell type specific differences to enable tumor ablation, drug delivery and other applications. Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) are essential for the success of cancer immunotherapy. However, there is high variability in the presence of TILs based on cancer type, immunogenicity of the specific tumor and other factors.

Internship with the Kasanka Baboon Project

We are looking for an undergraduate intern willing to earn credit for working 3- hours per week wit the Kasanka Baboon Project.

Duties include organizing data collected on wild baboons, helping to promote the project via social media, and participating in creating a fundraising campaign for 2019. fundraising. There is potential for the student to learn how to collect behavioral data on baboons and contribute to scientific publications.

Molecular Genetics Lab Helper

The Walker lab is seeking a general lab helper to assist with testing and maintaining our genetic stocks of Arabidopsis and other plants. This will be a great opportunity to get some first hand experience learning sterile lab technique, use of the autoclave and laminar flow hood, preparation of growth medium and plant growth experiments.

Molecular Mechanisms of Fungicide Resistance in Sclerotinia homeocarpa

The turf pathology lab is looking for a motivated undergraduate student with an interest in mycology and plant pathology to be involved in projects related to microbiology, genetics, and bioinformatics of the turfgrass fungal pathogen Sclerotinia homoeocarpa. In this lab, students will gain experience in lab techniques including (but not limited to) DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis and culturing and propagation of fungi. Prior relevant lab experience is preferred, though coursework in biotechnology and/ or microbiology will be sufficient.

Neural Stem Cell proliferation and Brain Growth (Soph/Jr, Honors)

The Karlstrom Lab investigates the formation and growth of the forebrain, hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the zebrafish. We are examining how cell-cell signaling controls stem cell proliferation to regulate tissue growth and cell renewal in larvae and adults. This position is for students ready to pursue a serious honors thesis project, including summer research. The student will begin by quantifying normal brain growth during larval development using a series of fluorescent transgenic zebrafish lines.

Neurobiology of song learning & auditory perception in sparrows

In the Podos Lab (Biology Department), we study a variety of questions related to vocal communication and singing behavior in songbirds. Right now, we're collaborating with the Remage-Healey lab (Psychology Department) on two experiments working with sparrows – one exploring song learning in male swamp sparrows, and one exploring auditory perception in male song sparrows. We already completed behavioral assays with the live birds, and then looked into the brain using electrophysiology techniques to try to understand how the brain encodes those behaviors.

Quantifying features of male Colias butterflies that females prefer

Two extremely closely related butterflies, Colias eurytheme (the alfalfa butterfly) and Colias philodice (the clouded sulfur), are sympatric throughout eastern North America, and appear to hybridize so frequently that they share a very large fraction of their genomes. That's crazy -- different species aren't supposed to hybridize, except maybe only rarely, because otherwise they'd blend so thoroughly that they'd merge to become a single species. And yet, the differences between them persist: C.

Sea slug neuroscience

We are studying the brain of the nudibranch mollusc, Berghia stephanieae. The work is funded by an NIH BRAIN award and is in collaboration with labs at 3 other universities. All of the projects are on campus.
We have several projects for students to choose from. These include:
1) Helping to fix and embed tissue for electron microscopy.
2) Reconstructing neurons in the sea slug brain from serial electron micrographs.
3) Immunohistochemistry and in situ hydridization studies of neurons in sea slug brains.

The Forest Microbiome Project: Host-Virus Associations

Microbiome research is among the most exciting and promising areas of science today due to many technological advances that allow us to determine in complex environments which microbes are present and their metabolism. Our laboratory’s primary long-term research goal is to contribute to the understanding of microbial communities and their evolution by developing and applying genome-based technology. A distinguishing feature of our research is the use of long-term experimental manipulation approaches on scales from individual microbes to ecological communities.

Umass student-run organic vineyard on campus

There is a growing awareness of the possibilities of viticulture in cool climates thanks to newly bred varieties adapted to the New England local conditions. These new varieties are much more resilient to the sudden climate variations that we are now experimenting due to global climate changes. Because of this new opportunity, an increasing number of small, family-run vineyards has been opening in New England. New courses of viticulture that we have developed emphasize in particular the challenges and opportunities of the growing local cold climate industry and small-scale vineyards.

Uncover the molecular secrets in host-microbe mutualism with genetic tools

The Wang Lab, located in the Life Science Laboratories, is interested in the mechanisms of beneficial host-microbe interactions. Our experimental system is the symbiosis between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, with important economic and environmental relevance, as well as similarities to pathogenic systems. We seek BURA students to dissect the genetic basis of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, using forward genetics (map-based cloning) and reverse genetics (CRISPR/Cas9) approaches.

Understanding and optimizing plant development for agricultural gains

The Bartlett Lab is seeking undergraduate researchers interested in plant biology and genetics to work on the evolution of development in the grasses. While some genes enhance growth in the plant, other genes work to repress growth. In the grasses, these genes have a role in flower and seed development, and thus could be important for agriculture. To better understand the role of these genes, we will be using molecular biology techniques to test the function of these genes in different tissues and different species.

Vertical launches by butterflies: How do they do it?

A few years ago, Tom DeNatale, a student in Tropical Field Biology, discovered a surprising new trick that butterflies use when they launch themselves into flight: they do a little flip into the air such that they end up being upside down at the end of their first downstroke. So what? For every downstroke there needs to be an upstroke, but since the butterfly is upside down, the "upstroke" becomes another downstroke, propelling the butterfly vertically.

Vertical launches by butterflies: When do they do it?

A few years ago, Tom DeNatale, a student in Tropical Field Biology, discovered a surprising new trick that butterflies use when they launch themselves into flight: they do a little flip into the air such that they end up being upside down at the end of their first downstroke. So what? For every downstroke there needs to be an upstroke, but since the butterfly is upside down, the "upstroke" becomes another downstroke, propelling the butterfly vertically.

What is the function of the HERE BE DRAGONS gene?

In the Bartlett lab, we study plants, and how their genes have evolved to control plant growth. The HERE BE DRAGONS (HBD) gene in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana is closely related to many important and very well-studied genes, and is deeply conserved, yet itself remains mysterious. To learn what HBD does, we need to make new plant lines defective for hbd and other genes. A position for a new undergraduate is available; they will work with this plant, learn to make crosses and test for hbd gene variants, introduce new genes, and evaluate plant growth characteristics.