Projects

PROJECTS WILL BE LISTED SEPTEMBER 5. YOU CAN SUBMIT APPLICATIONS BETWEEN TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 5 THROUGH SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 10.

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.

3D house project

The Irschick lab at UMASS Amherst is looking for a committed undergraduate to work on 3D houses with a team of other faculty. The student will work with pre-existing photos to use photogrammetry to create 3D houses, and will also likely use new photo gear to take new photos of various endangered houses in MA. Please send a CV, a 200-word statement on why you want to join lab, and contact info for a reference to Duncan Irschick at irschick@bio.umass.edu

3D sea turtle digital project

The Digital Life project (see www.digitallife3d.org) is seeking a committed undergraduate who will work 6-8 hours/week creating 3D sea turtles through the process of photogrammetry. The student will work with prior photos to create 3D models, as well as work with the team to develop new 3D models. Student must be willing to do hours of photo organizing work and to learn new photo software. Students should send a CV, a 200 word statement on why they want to join the lab, and contact info on a reference.

Adventures in root growth

I am looking for a motivated undergraduate to help us with our experiments on the growth of plant roots. For the moment, tasks will be physiologically based, measuring elongation rate, root diameter, and some other parameters. Some methods will use basic light microscopy. Molecular experiments are likely, in the future. Some work managing plant growth and seed harvet to maintain our lines will also be involved. As the student gains experience in the lab, they will get to take on their own project. Previous lab work is not necessary.

Armored scale insect systematics

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.

Avian Bioacoustics - Urban noise and bird song.

Noise affects how birds communicate. Conservation biologists have become interested in how anthropogenic noise may impact behavior and physiology, which in turn may impact population dynamics, evolution of behavior, and community structure. This project is investigating how nightingales and other species of European birds respond to anthropogenic noise. The investigation focuses on how noise might change the acoustic characteristics of songs.

Avian Vocal Behavior: Pine Warblers

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.

Biosynthesis of plant natural products and their applications

Our lab is interested in unravelling how natural products are biosynthesized 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.

Bird Nestling Videography Lab Technician - House Wren Project

I’m Aaron Grade (agradeeco.wordpress.com), a PhD student in Dr. Paige Warren’s lab. We are an urban ecology lab based in the Department of Environmental Conservation. I am seeking laboratory technicians in Fall 2017 for an avian urban ecology study. There is the potential to continue working for the project into the Spring semester as well. My study is focused on the effects of perceived predation risk on House Wren nesting biology on an urban-to-rural gradient. During our summer field seasons, we monitor House Wren nests in nest boxes on private homeowner lands.

Bird TV? Behavioral Analysis of Nesting Songbirds from NestCam Footage

Research in the Warren lab focuses on the impacts of urbanization on wildlife. 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.

Characterizing cell wall mutants in the model grass B. distachyon

Grasses represent some of the most agriculturally and economically important plant species around the world. Cereals are a cornerstone of food security, and several high biomass grasses are candidate biofuel crops. Understanding the genetic factors that regulate growth dynamics in grasses is key to bettering our ability to improve and implement these important crops species. In the Hazen lab, we study the transcriptional regulation of secondary cell wall biosynthesis in the model grass Brachypodium distachyon.

Control of Programmed Cell Death During Development and Pathogenesis

Our lab discovered a new gene that encodes a novel survival protein, Acheron/LARP6, that protects terminally differentiated cells like muscles and neurons from cell death. It is also misregulated in certain cancers and functions to both protect cells from toxic insults like chemotherapy and enhance metastasis. We have found an isoform of this gene that encodes only a small portion of the protein that we believe will antagonize the action of the normal protein.

Data Management Lab Technician - House Wren Project

I’m Aaron Grade, a PhD student in Dr. Paige Warren’s lab. We are an urban ecology lab based in the Department of Environmental Conservation. I am seeking laboratory technicians in Fall 2017 for an avian urban ecology study. There is the potential to continue working for the project into the Spring semester as well. My study is focused on the effects of perceived predation risk on House Wren nesting biology on an urban-to-rural gradient. During our summer field seasons, we monitor House Wren nests in nest boxes on private homeowner lands.

Development of Social Understanding

We are seeking dedicated students to assist with a set of studies exploring how social cues influence cognitive and emotional function in children and young adults. These studies incorporate behavioral, emotional and neural markers of reactivity. People who can stay on for 2 semesters are preferred. Potential RAs should have good time management skills and be comfortable interacting with children.

Discover genes driving cell migration in the frog-killing chytrid fungus

The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) causes an infection that is devastating amphibian populations world-wide. We have recently discovered that this fungus can migrate (crawl) like an amoeba during a few hours of its lifecycle, potentially during amphibian infection. To learn more about crawling by chytrid fungi, our recent paper can be found here: http://jcb.rupress.org/content/216/6/1673

Evaluating the Effect of Interplanting Oyster Mushrooms with Vegetables

Looking for a motivated independent study student interested in interspecies interactions between saprophytic fungi and vegetable crops (Pleurotus spp. (Oyster mushrooms) and Brassica spp.). Oyster mushroom mycelium release enzymes and acids that help break down organic matter in the soil and release potentially useful compounds for crop production. When interplanted with brassica plants some species have increased the yield of these crops by over 20%, while some have negative effects on plant yield.

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.

Global Patterns of Urban Biodiversity and Socioeconomic Inequality

In some cities, plant and animal diversity is closely tied to the wealth of city residents (more money means more diverse ferns and flowers, for example). But this is not the case in every city. Evan Kuras (graduate student) seeks an undergraduate research assistant to aid in a analysis of biodiversity and socioeconomic that will help us better understand these patterns at a global scale. The student will help compile, manage, and analyze city-level information related to such patterns.

Lab Librarian

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. We discover many undescribed species from around the world. The lab librarian is responsible for managing the lab's diverse array of interconnected information resources.

Mammal Camera Lab Technician - House Wren Project

I’m Aaron Grade (agradeeco.wordpress.com), a PhD student in Dr. Paige Warren’s lab. We are an urban ecology lab based in the Department of Environmental Conservation. I am seeking laboratory technicians in Fall 2017 for an avian urban ecology study. There is the potential to continue working for the project into the Spring semester as well. My study is focused on the effects of perceived predation risk on House Wren nesting biology on an urban-to-rural gradient. During our summer field seasons, we monitor House Wren nests in nest boxes on private homeowner lands.

Molecular genetic 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.

Novel, bioinsectidal ways to control adult house flies

Insects are developing resistance to most pesticides and many of the new ones, such as the neonicotinoids, are banned because of their negative effect on pollinators. A new strategy that is being developed uses natural products or biopesticides that occur in nature and should have little or no effect on non-target organisms or the environment. These products probably have antimicrobial effects on the insect’s natural microbiome and may destroy these microbes. Maintaining a nearly constant microbiome for any organism is essential for that organism to survive.

Probing the propensity of soil bacteria for couch-potatohood

The DeAngelis lab is looking for two students to help with a project looking at what makes soil bacteria decide to behave like slobs rather than lean mean growing machines. Students will measure optical density and carbon dioxide concentrations, in addition to preparing growth media. Students should be reliable and conscientious workers, show attention to detail even when faced with repetitive tasks, able to follow instructions, have neat handwriting, and work at a reasonable pace.

Research Assisstant Position in Dr. Elizabeth Jakob’s Spider Lab

I am a second-year Ph.D student looking for an assistant to help me design experiments, read scientific literature, and run trials in a visual ecology lab. I study behavior and visual capabilities in jumping spiders using a custom-made machine that tracks retinal movements. The selected applicant will be trained to use this machine, work outdoors to collect spiders, and help with other tasks around the lab.

Sex determination through programmed cell death in corn flowers

Male corn flowers undergo programmed cell death to selectively delete female sex organs. Although this process is critical to development and, in turn, to crop production, little is known about the genes controlling corn sex determination. Our lab has identified corn mutants that do not undergo programmed cell death in flowers. We are working towards understanding which genes have been disrupted in these mutants, and how they function in normal flower development. We are seeking a motivated undergraduate to assist with a project studying these genes.

The evolution of gene regulation in plants

Protein coding gene sequences differ very little between closely related species. Despite nearly identical proteins, the spatio-temporal use of protein-encoding genes, also called gene expression, is much more divergent, and likely explains differences between different species. We are seeking a motivated undergraduate to assist with a project studying gene expression in plants, and how evolution can conserve or innovate on expression patterns to explain the diversity we see in the plant kingdom.

The function of sleep in early childhood

Sleep protects and enhances memory in young adults. Specifically, performance changes on a range of tasks are greater following an interval with sleep relative to changes over an interval spent awake. Sleep also enhances encoding of subsequent memories. In young adults, a mid-day nap is sufficient for gaining these performance benefits. Unlike adults, mid-day naps are routine for young children. The age at which children wean from this biphasic sleep pattern is often influenced by parent and school schedules.

Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to study the genetics of plant development

Grasses are one of nature’s most successful experiments, the family displays a stunning amount of diversity. We have identified a previously uncharacterized family of plant genes that has undergone an extensive expansion during the evolution of grasses, and are likely contributing to grass development and physiology. We are looking for a motivated undergraduate to assist with a project studying these genes. To do this, we are using a CRISPR/Cas9 targeted knockout strategy in maize and Brachypodium distachyon.

Using cutting edge microscopy to study high-speed cell migration

Cells within your own body crawl over surfaces and through three-dimensional environments. Some cells crawl slowly, while others crawl very quickly. Conventional microscopy is good for imaging slow-moving cells on flat surfaces but cannot keep up with white blood cells like neutrophils that migrate a thousand times faster through 3D environments. To understand how high-speed cells interact with and crawl through complex environments, we use cutting edge lattice light sheet microscopy that has the necessary speed and resolution to image fast-moving cells and complex environments.

Using zebrafish to understand the developmental origins of disease

The Timme-Laragy lab uses the zebrafish and cell culture to understand how embryonic exposure to pollutants affects embryonic development and later-life health outcomes. We have ongoing projects examining the effects of phthalates, perfluorinated compounds, and PCBs on pancreas and liver development, and are investigating toxicant effects on later-life metabolic diseases. We anchor these morphometric and metabolic outcomes with experiments probing the antioxidant defense system and the Nrf2 signaling pathway.

Vocal communication & song learning in birds

In the Podos Lab, we study a variety of questions related to vocal communication and singing behavior in songbirds. Right now, we're working on a project with swamp sparrows in the lab to explore the process of song learning in males (those who sing to attract mates) and song preference development in females (those who assess songs when choosing a mate). These birds were collected as nestlings during the summer of 2016 from local field sites, and were raised in captivity on campus under controlled conditions.