STEM Summer Research Project Descriptions
Below are some examples of faculty lab opportunities for summer 2021. Some of the faculty listed take part in the early STEM selection process, some do not. Please read carefully. For other STEM faculty members not listed, please see their web pages or contact them via email or in person.
- Ayoub lab: Integrating molecular and material evolution of spider aqueous glues
Nadia Ayoub is an evolutionary biologist interested in spiders and spider silk. She's seeking two students with interests in bioengineering, molecular genetics, spider care and field work, biochemistry, OR data analysis. You don't have to be interested in all of these to work with Dr. Ayoub! Current Spider Team members will also be happy to talk to you about the lab.
- Blythe lab: Diet and Obesity
The Blythe lab explores the physiological and neurobiological effects of obesity. During Summer 2021, we will be examining the role of the neurohormone oxytocin on feeding circuits in the rodent brain. Microscopy and image analysis will be the primary techniques. 2 students
- Brindle lab: Modeling Energy Regulation Under Mental Stress: A Possible Mechanism Linking Stress and Disease?
Our lab conducts studies aimed at understanding how psychological stress impacts physical and mental health. We use a variety of methods to measure the human cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and autonomic nervous systems during laboratory stress tasks. Over this upcoming summer we will be conducting a study looking at how the cardiovascular and metabolic systems respond to mental stress asking the question, is the stress response metabolically appropriate? Hopefully this study will give us insight into how mental stress "gets under the skin" so to speak and causes disease. I will be looking for 4-5 students to work on the project over the summer.
- Friend Lab: Stress and the ribosome.
In the Friend lab, we use computational and experimental tools to understand how stem cells differentiate into other cell types with a focus on the role of the ribosome in that transition. We also investigate how long messenger RNAs are successfully translated and how this connects to cellular nutrition and stress.
- Finch-Smith lab: Number Theory: fun with numbers!
Prof. Finch-Smith works on research projects in number theory. In particular, her research group searches for families of positive integers with special properties. The only requirements to work with Prof. Finch are arithmetic skills and a sense of curiosity and wonder. The best part of the Finch-Smith lab is getting to work with Victor!
- Gray lab: Illuminating New Catalytic Transformations
The Gray Group designs new catalytic transformations for the synthesis of complex molecules. To identify novel chemical bond-forming methods, we harness the activity of transition metal catalysts and visible light, with the goal of using these reactions to label and study biomolecules.
- Greer Lab: Habitat assessment of live coral cover of endangered Staghorn coral from Belize.
If we are able to travel to Belize together, students will help collect photographic data of live coral abundance at Coral Gardens Reef, Belize. Whether or not students can participate in the fieldwork, there will be plenty of photographic data to analyze back in the lab in Lexington, or even virtually if necessary.
- Hamilton Lab: Yellowstone Ecology
Research in my lab focuses on the effects of grazing by large ungulates (bison and elk) on grassland ecosystem processes in Yellowstone National Park. In partnership with the National Park Service we investigate the tri-trophic interactions between grazers, plants and microbes by quantifying plant productivity, grazing intensity, chemical soil properties (nutrients, pH and soil structure), and microbial diversity. From satellites to DNA, multiple methods are used to quantify responses across the migratory range of bison and elk.
- Harbor Lab: Experimental flume study of bedrock erosion.
I seek students to build equipment and run flume experiments to simulate removal of experimental, 3D-printed, plaster bedrock. Requires desire to learn or experience in data capture, programming (arudino, Matlab), electronics and signal processing, fluid mechanics, image processing and videography.
- Hinkle Lab: Environmental Geochemistry and contaminant remediation
Our lab investigates contaminant remediation by both abiotic and biogenic minerals, with special focus on the bioremediation of manganese and other heavy metals by biomineralizing fungi. Potential research projects can focus on either fungal or abiotic systems, depending on the student's interests. If you are interested in joining this lab please contact Dr. Hinkle. Students who would like to collaborate with Geology faculty can apply through the regular SRS application (January 25th is the deadline).
- Humston lab: "Ghosts of dams past" - The ecology of fish movement and the legacy of fish passage barriers.
Dam removal is proceeding across the country at an increasing pace. How can we predict how fish distribution will respond to the removal of these stream passage barriers? We will study the habitat of the Maury River and the movement of its smallmouth bass to determine how movement ecology in the population responds to the sudden change in geomorphology that follows removal of a nearly 200-year old dam.
- Marsh lab: Conservation Biology of Mountaintop Salamanders
Plans are not set for next summer but will likely involve a mix of field research and data compilation. Opportunities are available for students who are interested in environmental biology or statistics. No specific background is necessary, though students should be comfortable hiking off trail, getting dirty, and so forth. Contact Dr. Marsh if you want to learn more.
- McClain lab: Quantum gravity and gravitational wave astronomy
Professor McClain works on two parallel research projects: 1) the covariant quantization of general relativity and 2) computationally efficient source localization in gravitational wave astronomy. He has had students work on both projects in the past. Students working on project 1 will learn about the mathematics of general relativity and quantum theory and some of challenges inherent in covariant quantization in general, and the quantization of general relativity in particular. Students working on project 2 will learn about basic gravitational wave astronomy and how to write efficient code in SciPy and NumPy. Professor McClain anticipates being able to take one or two summer research scholars this year.
- Prince Nelson lab: Benford's Law in Music
Benford's Law, or the First Digit Law, shows that the frequency distribution of leading digits in a set of data follows a specific logarithmic pattern. A connection has already been shown for note duration in Classical music. Our goal for the summer is to look for connections in modern music.
- Sprenkle lab: Modern web applications and their development
Professor Sprenkle's lab is interested in understanding how modern web applications are developed, used, and tested. The current focus is on how we can develop representative, cost-effective test cases from actual usage and how we can create test cases that emulate bad guys. The application will either pass the test cases (yea!) or will fail, thus revealing faults in the application that must be found and fixed.
To understand the underlying challenges of testing web applications, it helps to be experienced Web developers. Therefore, our parallel focus is on developing user-friendly online tools for classicists and chemists. We can then use the Web applications we develop to learn more about how people use them and apply what we learn to improve automated Web application testing techniques.
- Toporikova lab: Computational model of rat ovary
This summer our team in collaboration with Duke Kunshan University, China, will be working on developing a computational model of the rat ovary. We will analyze data on gene expression and histological analysis and combine them in a stochastic model. We will then fit our model to the experimental data from our lab to predict changes in female reproduction in response to a diet high in fat and sugar.
Necessary qualifications: CSCI 111, MATH-102(or equivalent), any W&L statistics course, experience with Data Science software (R or Python).
- Whitworth lab: Regulation of cellular molecular mechanics
Description: We use bioinformatics, genetics, biochemistry, and microscopy to study the regulation of cellular molecular mechanics in model organisms like yeast and rodents. Current projects include a study of the regulation of programmed cell death, gene expression in models of obesity, and diet-induced changes in the gut microbiome.