Projects

THE DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING APPLICATIONS HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO NOON ON SUNDAY SEPT 11.

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.

Alzheimer's Disease Mouse Study

We are looking for an undergraduate student with experience working in an animal colony with mice to help us breed and treat mice with compounds made in our lab as part of an Alzheimer's Disease study. Students MUST have prior experience working with mice and be independent and internally motivated. Students lacking prior experience with animal husbandry in rodents should NOT apply. Please apply by directly emailing hardy@chem.umass.edu.

Analyzing Bird Claw Structure and Modularity

The Dumont lab focuses on the study of comparative morphology in extant and extinct animals. I am currently collaborating on research on bird ungual bone and keratinous sheath morphology and their potential integration using modularity analyses. As part of this project, I will be examining bird claws using both traditional arc length measurements, which were first introduced in the early 1990s, and comparing them with modern geometric morphometric analyses.

Analyzing Fossil Asymmetry

The Dumont lab focuses on the study of comparative morphology in extant and extinct animals. My research has focused largely on geometric morphometrics and the application of geometric morphometrics to the fossil record. During the process of fossilization, bones undergo breakage and plastic deformation. This plastic deformation changes the shape that the animal’s bones had during life. Geometric morphometrics is a technique for quantitatively measuring of shape and is an excellent tool for analyzing shape change within and between organisms.

Armored scale insects: DNA and microscope slide preparation

Our laboratory uses DNA sequences and morphological characters to investigate the diversity, evolution and ecology of armored scale insects (class Insecta: order Hemiptera: family Diaspididae), especially in tropical rainforests. Paid lab assistantships are available for students to prepare DNA and microscope slide mounts from individual armored scale insect specimens. For advanced students, independent research projects are also possible.

Assistant in Biological Chemistry Laboratory

WORK STUDY ONLY. We are seeking a student with a Work Study Award to work as a technician in our lab. This person will clean, autoclave and sterilize glassware and waste, pour gels for electrophoresis, prepare plates and liquid for bacterial culture and generally assist around the laboratory. The pay rate is $9-10/hour depending on experience. PLEASE ONLY APPLY IF YOU HAVE A WORK STUDY AWARD. This is an excellent inroads to laboratory work. We will train the selected student, but experience with any of these techniques is a plus.

Bird TV? Behavioral Analysis of Nesting Songbirds from NestCam Footage

Suburban development changes habitat structure, influences resource availability, and affects wildlife behavior. As food availability in a habitat changes, animals must make foraging decisions to optimize the use of their time and energy while still avoiding predator detection. I am seeking volunteer undergraduate research assistants for Fall 2016 to assist me with my PhD research on food availability in suburban forest habitats and its effect on the behaviors of Wood Thrushes and Gray Catbirds rearing chicks.

Building a Global Plant Invaders Database

Invasive plant species transform ecosystems and significantly reduce biodiversity worldwide. A prominent issue of invasion biogeography is that invasive plant species are inconsistently defined. Oftentimes, studies use established plant species (i.e., non-native species that have established in a new area) as a proxy for invasive species (i.e., non-native species that have established in a new area and are spreading, often with adverse impacts). By failing to separate established and invasive plant species, it is difficult to fully understand the invasion process.

Cell and Molecular Biology of Yeast Mitosis

You will learn to use a combination of genetics, biochemistry, cell biological assays, and fluorescence microscopy to try to understand the process of mitotic spindle stabilization and/or microtubule dynamics and/or dynein motor regulation. The project depends on your specific experience and interest. For example, it could involve analyzing movies of yeast cells labeled with GFP-tubulin, or constructing a brand new plasmid for gene tagging, or performing western blotting to confirm protein levels, or using the fluorescence microscopy to capture dynamic spindle behavior.

Creating a land cover map for fire analyses

Fire is a natural component of many of Earth’s ecosystems, and it has a profound effect on carbon storage. Humans have altered natural fire cycles in many places by providing ignition sources, and altering fuel loads (ie. from the introduction of invasive plants), and these changes are likely impacting our natural carbon sinks. In Dr. Bethany Bradley’s Spatial Ecology Lab, we look to address such issues at the regional level using GIS and remote sensing technology. By focusing on a large spatial scale, we are able to search for patterns and make inferences about spatial relationships.

Data Management & Analysis, Interpreting the Data You've Worked So Hard For

Suburban development changes habitat structure, influences resource availability, and affects wildlife behavior. As food availability in a habitat changes, animals must make foraging decisions to optimize the use of their time and energy while still avoiding predator detection. I am seeking volunteer undergraduate research assistants for Fall 2016 to assist me with my PhD research on food availability in suburban forest habitats and its effect on the behaviors of Wood Thrushes and Gray Catbirds rearing chicks.

Designing genetic markers to identify Brachypodium species

Brachypodium distachyon is a premier model species for biologists working with grasses. However, B. distachyon is difficult to distinguish morphologically from two other species: B. staceii and the hybrid tetraploid, B. hybridum. This has made expanding the breadth of B. distachyon collections from the wild very difficult, hindering the development of resources for this species. Professors Caicedo (Biology), Hazen (Biology) and Tyler (BMB) have a large collection of Brachypodium spp.

DNA Extraction, PCR and Sequence Alignment of a Gall Wasp

This project will be based in an invasive insect and biological control lab. The black oak gall wasp is a stem galling insect that causes extreme oak tree mortality on Cape Cod and Long Island. The student will assist a PhD student with DNA, PCR and sequence alignment of parasitoids of the black oak gall wasp. It is not expected that the student have experience with these methods prior to hire. If the student does have experience, that will just accelerate the process and increase their independence.

Ecology and Evolution of Primate Communities

Primates do not live by themselves in the forest. They interact with many other plants and animal species and these interactions can have important effects on primate behavior and ecology. Primate communities consist of all the primate species that interact with each other in a particular study site or area. Data are now available for several hundred primate communities from around the world. These data can be used to examine broad patterns of diversity and to test if these patterns are similar or different across continents.

Emerald Ash Borer Technician

I am seeking a motivated student interested in conservation, ecology, or entomology to work with me on field and laboratory studies focused on controlling the invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. Since its discovery in Michigan in 2002, the emerald ash borer (EAB) has spread to 25 states in the US, killing millions of native ash trees. Management of EAB now focuses on biological control through the use of three introduced parasitoids that specialize in destroying EAB.

Estrogen responsive cells in the zebra finch brain

We are interested in how hormones that are made in the brain impact neurons. In our lab we focus on the estrogen hormone known as estradiol, and determine how the synthesis of this chemical impacts audition in a small songbird known as the zebra finch. For this particular study, we are quantifying neurons that express a receptor for estradiol and asking whether these estrogen responsive cells belong to a specific subtype of neurons.

Evolution of Primate Hair

Humans are unusual primates in many ways, including our hair morphology. Human body hair is very short and less dense than other primates. In addition, many human populations exhibit scalp hair that has very long growth cycles. Other primate species exhibit interesting variation in their hair characteristics, though the reason for this variation is poorly known. Our project will test several hypotheses to explain variation in hair length, width, and density across many primate species.

Exploring the Diversity of Wood-warbler Singing

Birds of many species in the wood-warbler family use their songs in especially interesting ways. For example, their songs fall into two categories, and the two kinds of songs are used in different contexts, vary over time and space in different ways, and have different functions in communication. However, although many species in the family share this two-tiered singing system, species differ in the sizes of their song repertoires, how the difference between the two categories is encoded, how song form varies within a population, how songs change over time, and so on.

Feeding Behavior of Stable Flies

Join a research group that is interested in better understanding the physiology of stable flies, blow flies, house flies and Drosophila. Currently we are investigating various aspects of feeding behavior as it relates to a special organ known as the crop. This organ is essential in controlling short term and long term feeding, as well as helping regulate the fly’s blood sugar levels. Because of this, this organ is especially important in current studies related to human diabetes.

Genetics and molecular mechanisms of host-microbe mutualism

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 interactions. The BURA student will be engaged in dissecting the genetic basis of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, in particular characterizing the defects in host mutants unable to sustain a successful symbiotic relationship.

Historical Perspectives of Urban Environmental Education

The goal of this project is to archive and interpret historical records concerning the formation and evolution of an urban environmental education program in Springfield, MA, specifically the Environmental Center for Our Schools, or ECOS. UMass Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) holds 50 years of ECOS documents, including information about its beginnings under Title III through the Office for Civil Rights. Research assistants will process this collection and have the opportunity to develop and pursue independent research questions involving these documents.

Hormone-Behavior Responses to Chronic Stress

Research in the Meyer lab focuses on the relationships between hormonal and behavioral responses to stress, especially chronic or long-term stress. Stressful events trigger the adrenal glands to secrete several hormones, including epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, into the bloodstream. Over periods of weeks to months, circulating cortisol is incorporated into keratin-containing tissues like hair and fingernails, where the hormone can be measured as a biomarker of long-term adrenal secretory activity.

Insect antimicrobial peptides and novel ways to control flies

In 2011, Jules Hoffmann received the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for his research on antimicrobial peptides in the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This was significant research because antimicrobial agents used in human medicine are often no longer effective. Microbes have developed resistance to many of our current antimicrobials. Hoffmann’s research was significant because now researchers had access to a variety of new antimicrobials never before used against human pathogens.

Invasive Species Ecology and Climate Change Research

The Stinson lab is looking for two students interested in a holistic ecological research experience; the research will involve field and laboratory work. Overall, we are looking for students interested in earning 1 or 2 credits for helping with ecological research within the Environmental Conservation Department. Before November, some time will be spent out at the Harvard Forest (in Petersham, MA) looking at microhabitat effects on a metapopulation of garlic mustard – an invasive, biennial plant.

iPads and Children's Attention Networks (iCAN)

This project, iPads and Children’s Attention Networks (iCAN), will examine the ways in which young children's attention can be affected by tablet play in comparison to regular toy play. We are seeking RAs to help recruit participants, run the experiment, and enter collected data. New RAs will be trained in recruitment processes, procedures for running participants, SPSS statistical software analyses, and electrophysiological data (i.e., EEG) collection and analyses.

Prerequisites:
Psych 100, Psych 240, and Psych 241 (or equivalent courses)
3.5 GPA

Isotope Probing for Active Soil Microbes

Metabolically active soil microorganisms may cause an increase in respiration in response to climate change. At the Harvard Forest, three long-term soil warming plots were established nearly 25 years ago to determine how forest ecosystems are effected by warming. Researchers are using various approaches to determine which organisms are actively contributing to respiration in the soil. My dissertation research addresses the question of which soil organisms are metabolically active using an isotopic labeling approach.

Numerosity Perception and Numerical Cognition

At the CoDeNeuro Lab, we are studying several aspects of numerosity perception and numerical cognition, ranging from basic perceptual abilities – like approximately estimate sets of items – to more complex mathematical skills, as well as the intertwining between perceptual and cognitive processes. Moreover, beside studies on adults, we are also performing experiments on young children, to study how the developing brain acquires numerical and mathematical skills.

Pathogens, parasites, and predators of an invasive insect

The winter moth (Operophtera brumata), an invasive insect accidentally introduced to eastern Massachusetts from Europe, has been causing widespread damage to deciduous trees and crops. I am looking for a motivated student interested in ecology, evolution, pathology, or entomology to work with me, a Ph.D. candidate in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, on various aspects of winter moth population ecology. Projects include microscopy of diseased samples, molecular work evaluating the parasites affecting winter moth, processing field samples, and more!

Spiders, Worms, and Pillbugs – Oh My! Sorting Leaf Litter Invertebrates

Suburban development changes habitat structure, influences resource availability, and affects wildlife behavior. As food availability in a habitat changes, animals must make foraging decisions to optimize the use of their time and energy while still avoiding predator detection. I am seeking volunteer undergraduate research assistants for Fall 2016 to assist me with my PhD research on food availability in suburban forest habitats and its effect on the behaviors of Wood Thrushes and Gray Catbirds rearing chicks.

Testosterone synthesis induced by auditory stimuli in the zebra finch brain

I’m really interested in studying how hormones rapidly fluctuate in the brain to acutely regulate behaviors. In the Healey lab, we analyze how steroids influence vocal learning in a rapid and dynamic way. To study this question, we use a songbird species, zebra finches, and focus on an auditory region of the forebrain, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM). Previous data have shown that hearing songs induced an increase of estradiol (E2) in this region in both males and females.

The genetics of alkaloid production in tomatoes

A for-credit position is available at Caicedo Lab, Biology Department.

Traits such as bitterness are linked to alkaloids in tomatoes. Through their anti-herbivory properties, some alkaloids are thought to increase resistance in tomatoes against pests. However, little is known about the genetic basis of alkaloid production in tomatoes. Thus, this project aims at finding the genetic basis of alkaloid production and changes in alkaloid content during domestication.

Using Microbes for Paper Pulping

Paper pulping uses hazardous chemicals to remove lignin from the hemicellulose and cellulose components of wood. This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. A more sustainable and greener process is known as biopulping, which uses microbes and their enzymes to break down lignin. The DeAngelis lab in particular focuses on anaerobic bacteria as a promising source of enzymes.

Wine quality of emerging grape varieties for New England

The cold climate wine industry has recently boomed in the Northeastern America after the successful breeding of cold-tolerant grape varieties. These cultivars are also of interest in a broader geographic area as they are the most resilient to climate change. Cultural practices can have tremendous effect on fruit juice quality (sugar, acidity,...) and might allow to control disease by sustainable means rather than the use of pesticides. This project will quantify the effect of cultural practices on grape varieties to optimize fruit juice quality and control diseases.

Zebrafish Neural Stem Cells and Brain Growth

The Karlstrom Lab investigates the formation and growth of the forebrain 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.

Zebrafish Neurobiology: Fluorescent transgenics and brain development

The Karlstrom Lab investigates the formation and growth of the ventral forebrain in the zebrafish. We have created/collected a large number of transgenic lines that allow us to 1) document gene expression domains in the brain and 2) study how cell-cell signaling systems control forebrain development and growth. This entry-level undergraduate project is to work with a graduate student to maintain these zebrafish transgenic lines and use fluorescence microscopy to examine gene expression patterns in the brain.