Research Projects available to URM Students
We have recruited 19 faculty from 8 different departments to act as potential mentors to URM students. The faculty are arranged in 3 core areas of biological science: 1) Ecology & Evolution, 2) Physiology, Cell & Molecular Biology, and 3) Natural Resource Management. This approach enables students and mentors within a core area to closely share interests with their peers, while also providing breadth of options for prospective students and opportunities for cross-disciplinary discussion and collaboration. The following provides a brief description of research projects available to URM students. Please note that due to professors' various schedules, not all 19 faculty may be available to act as a mentor for a particular student cohort.
Ecology and Evolution
- Christine Cass (Oceanography). Dr. Cass' research interests encompass the ecology, physiology, and biochemistry of marine zooplankton and invertebrate nekton. Her previous research has examined adaptations of copepods to permanent low-oxygen features in the open ocean. Dr. Cass has recently been funded to assess energy content of zooplankton off the coast of Trinidad, CA to study how oceanographic processes impact zooplankton community composition and subsequent energy available for higher levels of the local food web.
- Sean F. Craig (Biology). Dr. Craig has developed polymorphic microsatellite loci that confirm an unusual form of reproduction called polyembryony in an intertidal bryozoan. These tools allow students to (1) type bryozoan colonies in the field to identify clonal diversity and the degree of larval dispersal, and (2) determine the fitness of copied genotypes relative to novel genotypes. In addition, students in Dr. Craig's lab investigate the importance of community structure on succession and species richness within intertidal and subtidal marine communities.
- Andrew Kinziger (Fisheries). Dr. Kinziger uses genetic (DNA sequences, microsatellites, and SNPs) and morphological data to study the conservation, management, systematics and evolution of fishes. Current research projects are focused on Chinook salmon, tidewater goby, lamprey and sculpin.
- Joseph M. Szewczak (Biology). Dr. Szewczak's lab is currently focused on developing hardware and software solutions for monitoring and species identification of birds and bats from their vocalizations. His current approach uses a consensus ensemble of multiple machine intelligence systems, e.g., artificial neural networks, support vector machines, and Bayesian methods.
- Alexandru (Mihai) Tomescu (Biology). Dr. Tomescu's research interests span the area of plant evolution and development (evo-devo). The studies in his laboratory address questions in two focal directions. One is the anatomy and genetic pathways of plant development and morphology, and their implications for plant phylogeny; the studies in this direction include the evolution of endodermis development in the roots and shoots of diverse living plant lineages, and the evolution of stele architecture. The other direction of focus is the plant fossil record, the reconstruction of plant fossils as whole organisms, and how these inform our understanding of evolution and the deep branches of plant phylogeny; studies in this direction include early terrestrial eukaryotes and the evolution of land plants, based on fossils from the Appalachian Basin, early vascular plants from the Devonian of Wyoming and Gaspe Bay (Quebec), the fossil record of bryophytes, and plant fossilization processes.
- Ethan Gahtan (Psychology). Dr. Gahtan's research focuses on the behavioral function of hindbrain neurons that project to the spinal cord in zebrafish. Students will gain first-hand experience in fluorescence microscopy, confocal microscopy, live cell imaging, use of fluorescent ion indicators, immunocytochemistry, and quantitative analysis of behavior. Zebrafish are an important model species for many types of biology research, and all students will learn standard zebrafish laboratory methods.
- Borbala (Bori) Mazzag (Mathematics). Dr. Mazzag is an applied mathematician who works on computation aspects of cell biology and cell signaling. Her work has explored localized calcium dynamics of calcium-gated calcium channels in Xenopus oocytes and mechanical signaling in endothelial cells. All potential student projects will include model development, mathematical and computational analysis of data and interpretation of results.
- Bruce A. O'Gara (Biology). Dr. O'Gara's lab examines three areas within neurobiology. 1) The effects of copper on behavior and nervous system function in the aquatic oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. These studies have relevance to both environmental toxicology and the role of metals in mediating neurodegenerative diseases. 2) The modulation of behavior by amine neurotransmitters. 3) The roles of ion channels and pumps during regeneration of lost body parts in Lumbriculus. Techniques employed in the lab include behavioral analysis, electrophysiology, biochemical assays, immunocytochemistry, and fluorescence microscopy.
- Justus Ortega (Kinesiology). Dr. Ortega's research focuses on the effects of aging and disease on the biomechanics, neurological control, and energetics of human movement. Students will gain first-hand experience in 3-D digital motion capture, electromyography, kinetic (force) measurement, indirect calorimetry, balance assessment, and gait analysis. In Dr. Ortega's lab, students use these tools in an integrated approach to understand the determinants of impaired movement and identify exercises for improved function.
- Patricia Siering (Biology). Dr. Siering's laboratory utilizes molecular and culture-based approaches to investigate microbial diversity and dynamics in high temperature, acidic geothermal features at Lassen Volcanic National Park (LVNP). They have focused on Boiling Springs Lake - a stable, acidic (pH 2.2), hydrothermal (52-92°C) lake in LVNP. They are investigating interactions among prokaryotes, microbial eukaryotes, and viruses in extreme environments. Undergraduate projects provide differing levels of emphasis on microbiology, molecular biology, population genetics and systematics (theory and data analyses), analytical chemistry, and geochemistry.
- Amy E. Sprowles (Biology). Dr. Sprowles investigates how the regulation of gene expression affects cellular processes such as differentiation and transformation. She is also interested in identifying molecular markers to promote the conservation of threatened or endangered species. Currently projects include understanding the role of cJun in cellular transformation and gene expression in embryonic stem cells, and Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPS) that differentiate populations of Chinook Salmon, a species with significant dietary and cultural value to the Native Americans of the region.
- Jacob P. Varkey (Biology). Projects in Dr. Varkey's lab include: molecular characterization of C. elegans genes required for sperm specific meiosis, molecular characterization of paternal effect genes in C. elegans, and characterizing the molecular nature of innate immunity in C. elegans.
- Mark S. Wilson (Biology). Students working with Dr. Wilson will learn to apply molecular approaches to study microbial communities involved in pollutant degradation. Continuing projects are focused on the characterization of novel polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) –degrading bacteria, and analysis of natural horizontal genetic transfer among these bacteria. Efforts will be focused on the isolation and characterization of PAH-degrading bacteria from marine and estuarine environments, and the genetic characterization of large conjugative plasmids involved in PAH degradation.
- Jianmin Zhong (Biology). Dr. Zhong's research studies the symbiotic association between Rickettsia bacteria and its tick host, Ixodes pacificus. His studies examine gene expression patterns that are essential for maintenance and survival strategies of the symbionts in ticks. Greater understanding of the symbiotic relationship will lead to the development of novel control measures for tick-borne diseases.
Physiology, Cell & Molecular Biology
Natural Resource Management
- Kristine Brenneman (Fisheries). Dr. Brenneman has research interests in water quality in lakes and streams, wastewater management and treatment, and wastewater aquaculture.
- Richard N. Brown (Wildlife). Dr. Brown studies mammalian ecology and the ecology of diseases in communities of wild mammals. Students will learn some combination of trapping, handling, and collecting of disease-related samples from small mammals (perhaps mid-sized carnivores), conducting radio telemetry studies of previously trapped carnivores, identification of ectoparasites, laboratory processing of disease related samples, and basic analysis of data collected.
- Matthew D. Johnson (Wildlife). Dr. Johnson's research focuses on habitat ecology of birds and mammals in human-modified habitats, such as managed timberlands and agricultural areas. Current projects include habitat selection of pileated woodpeckers on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, creating artificial nest cavities for northern flying squirrels on National Forest lands, manipulating cattle-grazed pastures to provide habitat for Aleutian cackling geese, and examining effects of coffee cultivation on birds in Jamaica.
- Susan E. Marshall (Forestry and Wildland Resources). Dr. Marshall's research examines the health of wildland soils using microbial indicators. Another aspect of her research examines the effects of grazing on soil health.
- Darren Ward (Fisheries). Dr. Ward's research addresses the ecology and conservation of freshwater fish, with a particular focus on juvenile salmon and trout in local river basins. Current projects include an assessment of habitat factors that limit overwinter survival of juvenile coho salmon, a demographic analysis of the relationship between juvenile growth in fresh water streams and marine survival of coho salmon, and an investigation of the effects of an invasive snail species on food webs in salmon streams.