OSU-HHMI



Faculty Mentors Accepting Undergraduate Researchers


Please note: Availability in labs may change without notice to our office. Our staff will do their best to keep this updated as timely as possible.



BIOCHEMISTRY & MOLECUAR BIOLOGY
Main department site

Dr. Peter Hoyt

Profile and Contact Info
1 opening available
Within the Genomics Core Facility, the robotic liquid handling system needs a student program/protocol developer or tester. Our $200,000 robotic system for producing next-generation sequencing libraries needs someone who can test and/or optimize different protocols and kits. Some knowledge of programming (particularly Javascript) would be highly desirable, but not absolutely needed.  Student should be self motivating and detail oriented. Long-term involvement in Genomics facility activities, expanding into grant writing and bioinformatics is possible. Minimum six hours per week and short weekly reports.

 

Dr. Estele Arrese

Profile and Contact Info



Dr. John Gustafson

Profile and Contact Info

 
Dr. Patricia Rayas-Duarte

Profile and Contact Info
This research project involves studying the ecology of fermented grains and exploring the potential use of microbes as probiotics for farm animals. 



Dr. Alejandro Penaloza-Vazquez

Lab Member of Dr. Patricia Rayas - Profile and CV
I am interested in study the interaction between pre and probiotics under stress factors including diseases by animal and human pathogens and environmental factors. To accomplish these goals is necessary to mastering basic microbiology techniques under BSL-2 label practices e.g. Dilutions, plate counting, media preparation, isolation of bacteria by four quadrant streak, etc. 


 

PLANT BIOLOGY, ECOLOGY, & EVOLUTION
Main department site

Dr. Mark Fishbein

Profile and Contact Info
Milkweeds (Asclepias) are common and ecologically important perennial plants of North American grassland and forest ecosystems. They are the only host plants of the monarch butterfly, a species of significant conservation concern. Because milkweed species diversified over a short evolutionary time span, reconstructing their relationships is exceedingly difficult and requires examination of a large amount of data from across their genomes and powerful computational techniques. This research will contribute to the development of new methods for more accurately determining evolutionary relationships when many species have been formed in rapid succession. The results will have implications for better understanding the coevolution between milkweeds and monarch butterflies and the evolution of plant defense, as well as provide a robust evolutionary context for understanding the results of other scientific studies exploring aspects of plant reproduction, genome evolution, and other areas using milkweeds. The project will train postdoctoral fellows and graduate student in the latest phylogenetic and bioinformatics methods thereby training the next generation of phylogenetic biologists.

This research will demonstrate the feasibility of solving difficult phylogenetic problems at the species level in plants by employing improvements in next-generation sequencing techniques. The work combines methods for targeted sequencing of hundreds of specific regions of the nuclear genome applied to unusually large within-species sampling. The project applies nuclear gene probes developed directly from Asclepias genome and transcriptome sequences to effectively target 768 genes and substantial amounts of their non-coding flanking regions. Phylogenetically useful off-target sequences, (e.g., complete chloroplastgenomes) are also obtained. By sampling 20 individuals per species, the approach will distinguish common causes of gene tree discordance:incomplete lineage sorting and introgression. An analytic workflow will be applied that incorporates simulation of incomplete lineage sorting and a combination of species tree inference methods that are effective even when introgression has occurred. Because current species tree approaches are constrained by a computational tradeoff between the number of loci and number of alleles that can simultaneously analyzed, the project will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of alternative methods. The large sample of loci will also validate the recognition of species not currently accepted in Asclepias. Undergraduate and graduate student training in genomics, bioinformatics, and phylogenetics will target participants from underrepresented groups. Project outcomes will reach the broader scientific community and the general public through workshops held at scientific meetings, K-12 education modules focused on milkweed ecology and evolution, and demonstration exhibits at a public botanic garden.

 

Dr. Andrew Doust

Lab Info

Dr. William Henley

Profile and Contact Info

Dr. Bill Henley’s lab (Plant Biology, Ecology & Evolution) studies the physiology, ecology, and biofuels potential of algae.  Depending on student interests, possible projects may include, for example, isolating and characterizing algae, physiological experiments, testing ways to improve content of useful compounds such as lipids, developing new measurement protocols, development of low energy input mixing mechanisms, etc. 

Dr. Gerald Schoenknecht

Profile and Contact Info
Dr. Schoenknecht’s lab studies ion transport in plants and how plants adapt to extreme environments. Available undergraduate research projects include phylogenetic work, data analysis, or bioinformatics.

- A phylogenetic analysis of two-pore calcium (TPC) channels. TPC channels occur in higher plants as well as in mammals, seem to be missing, however, from algae and many protists.
- pH regulation in plant roots: Arabidopsis plants lacking certain proton pumps were acidified with acetate and cytosolic pH was recorded. Analysis of these cytosolic pH recordings will give insight, which proton pumps are responsible for pH regulation in plant roots.
- The thermoacidophilic red alga Galdieria sulphuraria lives in volcanic areas tolerating up to 56°C and pH 0.5. To investigate how a thermophilic organism adapts to different temperatures Galdieria was shifted from 42°C to 28°C (and back), total mRNA was isolated and sequenced (RNAseq) at different time points. Bioinformatics analyses of RNA sequence frequencies will provide insights into the molecular mechanisms of temperature adaptation in a photosynthetic extremophile. 

 

Dr. Yixing Wang, Co-Mentor: Dr. Ming Yang

Profile and Contact Info
1-2 openings

We are looking for one or more excellent undergraduate students who will investigate the epidermal cell numbers in a plant organ (cotyledon) and the genes that regulate such numbers in many Arabidopsis accessions (strains).



MICROBIOLOGY & MOLECULAR GENETICS
Main department site


Dr. Tyrrell Conway

Profile and Contact Info
Lifestyle of E. coli in the intestine. Student- researchers will develop a hypothesis to determine one characteristic that promotes successful colonization of the mouse intestine. Experiment designs include, but are not limited to, use of mouse colonization model, RNA-sequencing, genetic mutation analysis, and metabolite measurements.

 

Dr. Randy Morgenstein

Profile and Contact Info
1-2 openings
We study the bacterial cytoskeleton and cell shape. We are interested in how these two things relate to different aspects of cell physiology.

 

Dr. Jeff Hadwiger

Profile and Contact Info
Eukaryotic cells respond to a wide variety of external signals that can regulate cellular growth, division, differentiation, migration, and function. Many of these signals are detected by G protein coupled receptors stimulate specific cell responses. The goals of Dr. Hadwiger's research program are to identify the molecular components of G protein mediated signal transduction pathways and to elucidate how these components act together to transmit signals important for developmental processes such as cellular migration and differentiation. Dr. Hadwiger's laboratory has investigated signaling pathways that regulate the foraging and development of Dictyostelium. This model organism provides an excellent system for the genetic and biochemical characterization of cell movement, cell differentiation, and cell-cell signaling. The research in Dr. Hadwiger's lab has provided insight into proteins and mechanisms that are important for signal transduction pathway specificity.


INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY
Main department site

Dr. Mary Towner

Profile and Contact Info
2 openings
Fertility Variation among Oklahoma American Indians: How Migration, Resources, and Ethnicity Description: Shaped Women's Reproductive Lives Between 1828 and 1887, tens of thousands of American Indians with diverse cultural histories migrated to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) under United States government removal policies. Migration under duress has multiple, often interacting,  consequences. Some, such as economic and cultural disruption are immediately evident; others, such as long-term biological effects, unfold more slowly over time. Through the use of historical demographic data such as the 1910 US Federal Census, the overarching goal of this project is to understand the impact of migration, access to resources, and ethnicity on fertility and the reproductive life histories of American Indian women.

 

Dr. Jason Bruck

Profile and Contact Info
1-2 openings
Dolphin communication and cognition / conservation. Potentially work with Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones).

 

Dr. Scott McMurry

Profile and Contact Info
Has available projects on amphibian and snails as related to toxicology and behavior

 
Christopher Goodchild & Ashley Love
Potential mentors: Jen Grindstaff, Jason Belden, Matteo Minghetti, & Polly Campbell

Contact Christopher Goodchild at: christopher.goodchild@okstate.edu 

The DuRant Lab group at OSU is interested in how environmental stressors influence the physiologies of animals. Animals encounter numerous natural and anthropogenic stressors simultaneously, and must adaptively respond to these stressors in order to survive. In our lab, our primary research interest is investigating how stressors affect hormones, metabolic rate, and immune function in birds. Because a bird's physiology can affect its behavior, we also investigate whether a bird's environment influences mate courtship, offspring provisioning, and other behaviors. Currently, we are investigating the effects of 3 common environmental stressors: disease, predation risk, and pollution. In order to assess the physiological effects of these stressors, we have colonies of zebra finches and canaries. Students interested in joining our lab should be excited to interact closely with birds, and have a general interest in animal behavior and animal physiology. 

Dr. Jen Grindstaff

Profile and Contact Info
There are two potential projects for motivated undergraduates in the Grindstaff lab this year. The projects for the upcoming year involve either hands-on work with a captive population of zebra finches or laboratory analyses of previously collected samples.

  1. What effects do parental pair bond disruption and paternal absence have on offspring behavior? Zebra finches are socially monogamous, form lifelong pair bonds, and provide extensive bi-parental care to their offspring. These traits make zebra finches ideal for studying how disrupted family environments early in life affect the growth, behavior, and physiology of offspring. A student working on this project would run behavioral assays to quantify the effects of the early life environment on subsequent behavior.
  2. Does exposure to a stressor early in life impact the rate of senescence by accelerating telomere attrition? Telomeres form the terminal caps of chromosomes and enhance genome stability, but shorten during each round of cell replication. In zebra finches, telomere lengths measured at one month post-hatch are predictive of longevity. In previous experiments, we have manipulated zebra finch exposure to stressors in early life and documented effects on growth, behavior, and physiology. Our next step is to test if early life stress exposure affects the rate of telomere shortening, and potentially longevity. A student working on this project would analyze previously collected samples to quantify telomere lengths.


Dr. Punidan D. Jeyasingh
2-3 Openings

Profile and Contact Info
Dr. Jeyasingh's lab concentrates on Daphnia/lakes. You can find out more information about the project at the links below: 
- Lab Info: 
http://puni.okstate.edu/Lab/Home.html  
http://www.fulbright.fi/en/read-online/punidan-jeyasingh 


Dr. Kristin Baum

Profile and Contact Info (Data Collection done Summer/Fall)
Research in the Baum lab focuses on the effects of land use and management practices on species of conservation and/or management concern.  Current projects focus on monarch butterflies, unexpected cycnia, and native bees in grasslands and/or crop lands.  For example, we are studying the effects of prescribed fire and mowing on the abundance and parasitism rates of monarch butterflies and unexpected cycnia, as well as the implications of different insecticides for native bees and canola production.  Most of this research is field based with research occurring from April through October, although there are sometimes opportunities during other times of the year.  



Dr. Stanley Fox

Profile and Contact Info (Data Collection done Summer/Fall with additional research projects available for Fall/Spring)

Currently conducting field and laboratory studies of the Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris), especially in regards to the possibility of the adaptiveness of early sexually dichromatic characters and sexually different behavior among reproductively immature hatchlings, a phenomenon I call precocial sexual selection.

 

Dr. Andy Dzialowski

Profile and Contact Info
Students will work on projects designed to determine indirect effects of herbicides on aquatic organisms and community structure. Research in our lab explores how biotic interactions, resource availability, and disturbance influence the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems.  We combine laboratory, observational, and experimental studies to address several major themes including metacommunity dynamics, the ecology of invasive species, zooplankton community structure, the ecology and management of cyanobacterial blooms, and reservoir and wetland ecology.  Please visit our website for additional information:  http://zooplankton.okstate.edu.  


Dr. Daniel Moen

Profile and Contact Info
In the Moen lab we have three potential projects for enthusiastic undergraduate students. All three involve working with museum specimens of frogs and images of their hands and feet, and all three projects address evolution of body form and function and how that relates to habitat use. Future projects in the lab will involve fieldwork and laboratory measurements of jumping and swimming in frogs.

The first project looks at the evolution of frog toe pad size and shape. Distantly related groups of frogs have independently become arboreal (living in trees) over 13 times, and in this project we ask: do the adhesive toe pads in frogs always evolve the same way? Or is there diversity in toe pad size and shape? A student working on this project will mostly measure frog toe pad size and shape from images of hands and feet, and future work in this area will involve testing the adhesive abilities of live frogs in the lab.

The second project examines the evolution of the relationship between body form (morphology) and habitat use in frogs. Frogs use many different types of habitats (trees, ground, burrows, water) and their body form seems to fit this habitat use – for example, aquatic frogs have pointed snouts, webbed feet, and muscular legs. Yet few studies have explicitly studied the relationship between morphology and ecology in frogs. In this study a student will measure the morphology of museum specimens of frogs (e.g. leg length, body size) and take photos of hands and feet of the frogs. She/he will then measure the size of toe pads and webbing from the photos. Finally, we will analyze the data to understand the relationship between habitat and body form. Future work in this area will involve testing the jumping and swimming abilities of local species of frogs and toads.

The third project will examine the patterns of evolution of habitat use in frogs and toads ("anurans"). There have been many transitions to different habitat types (trees, water, ground, burrows) throughout the history of anurans, yet some groups change much more than others.  For example, most of the 950 species of hylid frogs (the typical tree frogs of Oklahoma) around the world live in trees. Yet in Australia this group has diversified to use many different habitats. Why is this? This project will involve gathering much literature data on habitat use in frogs, and then we will analyze the evolution of habitat use across all frogs around the world, trying to understand (1) which groups show many changes, (2) where these frequently evolving groups occur, and (3) how these patterns of change relate to the evolution of morphology and species diversity. Future work in this area will involve statistical evolutionary analyses and bioinformatics.

 
Dr. Karen McBee

Profile and Contact Info
This opportunity will introduce the HHMI Life Sciences Freshman Research Scholar to the exciting world of mammalian research. The student will learn about and participate in a unique experiment conducted on live, small mammals. He or she will conduct fieldwork and learn techniques used by mammalogists in live-trapping small mammals. The project is focused on the use of a prototype device called a y-maze that is typically used to gauge behavioral responses of animals to stimuli. This student will use the y-maze to investigate limits of visual responsiveness to light of a small woodland mouse species called the White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). Additional studies on light pollution affecting small rodents may also be explored. 1 opening available.

Dr. Barney Luttbeg

Profile and Contact Info
The Luttbeg lab studies how individuals assess and respond to their environments. We are behavioral ecologists. In particular, they are interested in how prey detect and respond to predation risk. Topics of their research include 1) how does the experiences of parents affect the morphology and behaviors of their offspring, 2) what cues do individuals use to assess predation risk, and 3) how do predators and prey shape each other's use of space.


 

PSYCHOLOGY, PHYSIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, VET MED

Dr. Carey Pope, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences-Physiological Sciences

Profile and Contact Info
Available labs researching in: Cholinesterase biology and toxicology, Endocannabinoids and endocannabinoid-like metabolites, and Neurotoxicology


Dr. Charles Abramson, Department of Psychology

Profile and Contact Info
1-2 openings
My research is different from most as I am a comparative psychologist – the application of the comparative method to problems in psychology. We work with a wide variety of animals – especially honey bees. We also have projects relayed to equine therapy and will begin in the fall a service dog project. If there are any students interested, please see articles below:

Link to comparative psychology article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01500/full

Other links – here is a link to several online articles: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/search?filterJournals=PLoSONE&q=Charles+Abramson&page=1 (Note: The first five articles are from our laboratory.)

 

Dr. Allen Apblett, Department of Chemistry

Profile and Contact Info
1-2 openings
We are conducting research on binders that will prevent the absorption of copper by the digestive tract for the treatment of Wilson's disease,  a rare inherited disorder that causes copper to accumulate in the patient's liver, brain and other vital organs.

In a similar line of research, binders for phosphate are being sought for treatment of dialysis patients

We are developing methods for purifying magnesium chloride solutions to produce pharmaceutical grade materials. This project would have an industrial tie-in with a company in Tulsa.

 

Dr. Jimmie Weaver, Department of Chemistry

Profile and Contact Info
1-3 openings

Fluorine, located in the top-right corner of the periodic table, is like no other element.  It is the most electronegative element, and as such, when incorporated into drug like molecules, imparts remarkable properties and can substantially alter the interactions of molecule with the organism.  Not surprisingly, organofluorines make up the majority of new compounds in the drug pipelines of pharmaceutical companies for the treatment of various diseases.  However, in sharp contrast to their utility, organofluorines are an incredibly difficult class of molecules to make.  Our lab is recognized as a world leaders in the development of new strategies for synthesizing these vital organofluorines.  This project will focus on the development of new strategies to make organofluorines more synthetically accessible.  No experience is needed, just a sharp mind and strong work ethic.


Additional available research opportunities can be found here: http://www.vpr.okstate.edu/research-communications/top-research-picks