FRI STREAM SORT GUIDE

Welcome to the FRI student feedback page, created by the UT Catalyst. Browse FRI streams by major and get feedback from your peers on the personalities of each stream. Included is also student survey results for each stream (if available). We hope this resource will help you find the undergraduate research experience that's tailored to you. *Not Listed: Quantam Computing, Symmetry, Robot Learning

Antibiotics

Overview
The purpose of this stream is to collect and grow antibiotic-producing bacteria that are found from soil samples around the UT campus. In each soil sample, a large diversity of species allows students to identify antibiotic products and compare the potency of these products across different strains. The stream is heavy in microbiology and lends itself well to potential medical applications.
Strengths
  • Flexibility of schedule
  • Good group dynamic
  • A lot of interaction with mentors and lab directors
  • Open-ended, discovery based environment gives autonomy
Weaknesses
  • Open-ended environment may make things confusing due to less instruction
  • Lots of reading required to close the knowledge gap
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Neuroscience
  • Nutritional Science
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Public Health
Skills
  • PCR
  • Growing bacterial cultures
  • Collecting and isolating bacteria
  • Asceptic Technique
  • Thin Layer Chromatography
  • Analysis-based lab techniques like Genetic Coding, NCBI BLAST searches, etc.
Independent Project/Special opportunities
    Isolation of antibiotic-producing bacteria and comparison of similar strains of bacteria in wet and dry environments. Students compared which type of environment grows the most potent antibiotic-producing bacteria.
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Aptamers

Overview
The Aptamer stream aims to develop novel therapeutics, diagnostics, and molecular sensors. The tool of choice for the development of these applications is an "aptamer," an oligonucleotide binding species. In the stream, students use the methods of in vitro selection methodology to identify aptamers against a variety of targets and develop their downstream application. For example, an aptamer that binds to a cancer receptor could potentially inhibit the progression of cancer.
Strengths
  • Friendly people and a great research educator
  • Strong preparation for molecular biology and biochemistry classes
  • Opportunity to attend conferences and possibility of publication
  • Strong team environment because of long time spent in the lab
Weaknesses
  • Requires more time commitment than some other streams. However, this provides the opportunity for students to invest in research and work hard towards a goal.
  • Open environment, can get lost easily if you don't have a set goal
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Public Health
Skills
  • Gel Electrophoresis
  • Radioactive imaging
  • Pipetting
  • Assaying
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    The projects themselves are individualized but overseen by lab mentors. One project involved students determining if FGF9B, a protein related to cancer, binds to RNA to identify the causes of disease.
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Autonomous Robots

Overview
Students create autonomous robots that are used in the GDC for a variety of tasks, including building upkeep and human-interactive assistance. This stream provides access to a variety of hardware, including quad-copters, segbots, and bionic arms. The research focuses mostly on creating a building-wide autonomous intelligence system and fully integrating this type of technology into the GDC. All work is very code intensive, so an understanding of programming will be useful.
Strengths
  • Post-doc students and professors are very approachable
  • Multitude of resources and lots of freedom to work on projects
  • Lots of hands-on experience that mimics graduate-level research
Weaknesses
  • Students need to be self-driven to succeed
Suggested Majors
  • Computer Science
Skills
  • ROS (Robot Operating System) and C++
  • Understanding of Hardware
  • Experience with robotic hardware and infrastructure
  • Translating design ideas to practical implementations
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    Examples of projects include designing a system to track how many people are in the building and where, creating robots to lead someone who’s lost to their destination, and building a quad-copter that catches ping pong balls.
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Big Data in Biology

Overview
This stream teaches the basics of computational biology using python packages like pandas, scipy, numpy, matplotlib, and more. It starts with the basics so no prior programming experience is needed before entering the stream. The stream is taught lecture style with project example problems on the screen for students to follow.
Strengths
  • Exposure to upper division material
  • Marketable skills and relevant material
Weaknesses
  • Rather rew stream, so lack of standardization of projects
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science
Skills
  • Python
  • PCR
  • Handling Large Sequencing Data Files
  • Big Data Analytics
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities: Students have group projects where he or she chooses an open source data set and then use the bioinformatic skills from lab to develop a pipeline from raw data to analysis. For example, one team presented a project on differential methylation of genes promoter apoptosis pathways between different cancerous cell types. For individual work, students have 3 sets of problem sets assigned about once every 3 weeks and one week to complete it.
big-data-in-biology-cs big-data-in-biology-wl
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Bioactive Molecules

Overview
The Bioactive Molecules (BAM) stream synthesizes libraries of structurally similar small organic compounds (ligands) in order to see how well they bind to biologically relevant proteins – this is applicable to the field of drug discovery. During the spring semester, we learn many organic chemistry lab techniques and characterization methods in order to become accustomed to working in a lab. In the fall, each student uses these techniques to execute multistep synthesis in order to generate a ligand. These ligands are tested for their affinities to the sigma 2 receptors which are relevant in neurodegenerative diseases.
Strengths
  • Learn important Organic Chemistry concepts
  • Flexible lab hours
  • Helpful mentors and RE
  • Possible to get Ochem lab credit
Weaknesses
  • It can sometimes be hard to find space to work when the lab is very crowded
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Public Health
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Neuroscience
Skills
  • Lab techniques like extraction, oxidation, and general synthesis techniques
  • Organic chemistry concepts like reaction mechanisms and reading an NMR
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities: Students are each tasked with synthesizing a ligand through a multistep synthesis. Each of these ligands will have a different selectivity with the sigma 2 receptor. The higher the selectivity to the sigma 2 receptor, the better. Students complete weekly lab reports detailing their experiments.
big-data-in-biology-cs big-data-in-biology-wl
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Biobricks for Molecular Machines

Overview
Research in this stream involves cutting genes and inserting them in plants to discover the binding motif of these genes. Genes are synthesized from short DNA fragments and are pieced together to build protein expression vectors. The undergraduates working in this stream form a very close team and are introduced to microbiology lab techniques.
Strengths
  • Very approachable PI
  • Structured environment with clear instructions
  • Great community
  • Flexible Schedule
Weaknesses
  • Difficult concepts may require extra effort in learning
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Public Health
  • Neuroscience
  • Medical Laboratory Science
Skills
  • PCR
  • Gel Electrophoresis
  • Ligation
  • Transformation
  • Restriction Enzyme Digestion
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    There are a number of independent projects that students work to complete. These projects involve mutating proteins and assessing their functions. DPX is a specific DNA sequence that the lab is currently working to isolate and piece together to perform protein expression tests and determine binding motifs.
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Biodiversity

Overview
The Biodiversity Discovery stream is interdisciplinary and develops skills relevant for a variety of careers in science. Research occurs in the lab and in the field. In the lab we measure and catalog specimens, map and analyze distributions, and use molecular genetic tools to uncover evolutionary history and relationships between species.
Strengths
  • Very hands on
  • Get to frequent the field lab
Weaknesses
  • Not enough hard science
  • Rather new stream
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Environmental Science
Skills
  • PCR
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Bioprospecting

Overview
Students in this stream culture fungi from plants in order to extract and identify new secondary metabolites to look for biologically active compounds and potential medical applications. The stream exposes students to a complete set of translatable biology and organic chemistry lab techniques that gives them the edge in pursuing future research and upper-division laboratory courses. As a bonus, the fungi come in all varieties of shapes, colors, and sizes that create eye-catching cultures.
Strengths
  • Very complete set of wet lab techniques
  • Mentors have options to go to conferences
  • Flexible schedules
Weaknesses
  • Some weeks can be very intense due to long procedures
  • Course structure is variable from time to time
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
Skills
  • Fungal isolation and culture
  • Distillation techniques
  • Microscopes techniques
  • Micropipetting
  • Chromatography techniques
  • PCR
  • DNA isolation
  • Extraction techniques: liquid-liquid and solid phase extractions
  • Aseptic techniques
  • NMR (second semester)
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    Isolation of antibiotic-producing bacteria and comparison of similar strains of bacteria in wet and dry environments. Students compared which type of environment grows the most potent antibiotic-producing bacteria.
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Bugs in Bugs

Overview
Students in the stream look at the bacterial symbionts in the digestive tracts of bees and wasps. We identify the roles those bacteria play in digestion, protection against pathogens, and other aspects of host life spans.
Strengths
  • Flexibility of schedule
  • Friendly Research Educator
  • One-on-one attention
Weaknesses
  • Location on Lake Austin Blvd, distance from campus
  • Lots of trial and error required due to little background knowledge
  • Freedom also leads to lack of direction
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Nutritional Science
  • Public Health
Skills
  • Grow and plate bacterial cultures>
  • PCR
  • Creating phylogenies
  • Insect collection, dissection, pinning, and preservation
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities Projects are open to student selection. However, the typical project looks like the following: students select one insect and symbionts. For example, looking at the range expansion of insects and change in their distribution as a result of various factors (climate change, land inhabitants, etc.)
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Computational Materials

Overview
The goal of the stream is using computational tools to develop better materials for energy storage, primarily batteries and fuel cells, in order to make solar energy viable for a full 24-hour day. The stream's work is entirely programming-based - students write and use Python scripts to simulate and optimize various catalysts, nanoparticles, and other chemical systems. The first part of the stream consists of 6 assignments, each on a slightly different topic. Then, there's an individual project where each student chooses his or her topic, works with a small group and stream mentor to develop a specific research topic, write and run the necessary.
Strengths
  • Nice and accessible Research Educator
  • Flexible scheduling
  • No time in wet lab
Weaknesses
  • Not much community of stream (since work is more independent)
Suggested Majors
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
Skills
  • Python
  • Linux system
  • Theoretical Chemistry
  • Stochastic Probability
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities There projects fall into two main categories. About half the class does "methods" projects, which deal with improving the computational processes used in the simulations. These are a lot more programming-intensive, and are mostly done by CS majors. For example, one project involved finding the best parameters for basin hopping, which is a computational method to find the global minimum of a high-dimensional system. The other half of the class pursues "applications" projects, which are a lot more chemistry-related; they involve problems like investigating the binding energies of different metals, or the reactivity of different nanoparticles.
comp-materials-cs comp-materials-wl
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Discovering Signals

Overview
It was found that extracellular ATP (eATP) can actually function as a hormone- many ATP protein receptors have been found on the cells of animals. In plants, eATP also acts as a signaling molecule. Some ATP protein receptors have been discovered on plant cells. This research, however, is much more recent- and some scientists are even skeptical of eATP's hormonal role in plants. The Sarah Simmons Cell Signaling Stream provides freshmen to participate in experiments that no one has done before- analyzing plant root hair growth in response to ATP treatments.
Strengths
  • Flexibility of schedule
  • Kind and Lenient instructor
  • Independence
  • Good for people with interest in grad schoo
Weaknesses
  • Some work can be monotonous at times
  • No wet lab
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
Skills
  • ImageJ software
  • Basic lab practice such as pipetting
  • Experimental Design
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities During freshman year, students will be working in groups of 2 to design original experiments. An example is a group that tested the effects of both ATP and ADP treatments on the plant root hair growth.
    .
sarah-simmons-cs sarah-simmons-wl
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Do-It-Yourself Diagnostics

Overview
This lab focuses on making technology easier in the medical and public health field using various lab techniques, coding and data analysis. It’s a great combination of molecular biology and app based diagnostics. Students can choose to work primarily in either wet lab or coding starting the second semester, and are encouraged to pursue individual ideas about novel diagnostics.
Strengths
  • Independent nature of research experiments
  • Flexibility in projects
Weaknesses
  • Lack of formal structure
  • Constantly shifting nature of projects
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Ecology
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Public Health
Skills
  • PCR
  • Extract DNA
  • Code online apps with Javascript, jQuery, HTML5
  • Use Qubit, nanophotometer
  • Perform statistical analyses
  • 3D Printing
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    One student’s independent project is using a DNA amplification method called Loop Mediated Isothermic Amplification, otherwise known as LAMP, to simply and accurately diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Another student has been working on a Ultra Violet radiation detecting Wearable device.
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Fish Behavior

Overview
This stream studies the behavior of fish to learn more about how they behave in different situations, including how social they are, their mating tactics, and their cognitive capabilities.
Strengths
  • Highly independent environment
  • Mentors and research educator flexible with the schedules
  • Workload is very maneagable
Weaknesses
  • Work in the lab can become tedious
  • Lab equipment is somewhat outdated
  • Lab smells like fish
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Textiles and Apparel
Skills
  • R Studio, Python, imageJ
  • Lab animal handling
  • Scoring behaviors
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    One students final project was on P. reticulata (fish species) color discrimination. They tested how well fish were able to associate rewards with either red or blue. The students were able to do the entire experiment on their own. Another student did their project on sex differences with color discrimination, or why female fish can learn when male fish cannot.
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Functional Genomics

Overview
This stream studies expression in yeast by subjecting it to stress and observing change in protein levels. Under certain types of stress, some genes of interest are down or up regulated. The long term goal of the lab is to understand transcriptional regulation and why genes are activated or repressed during environmental changes.
Strengths
  • Mentors are excellent at helping out, are available to help
  • Flexibility of the stream is very good (you may come and go as you like)
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
Skills
  • Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR)
  • E Coli. Transformations
  • DNA/RNA extractions
  • Plasmid purification
  • Growth curves for yeast
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    For most individual projects in this stream, a type of stress is picked and a ‘gene of interest’ is assigned.
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Functional Materials (Luminators)

Overview
The Luminators stream focuses on lanthanides, a series of chemical elements found at the bottom of the periodic table, to make new compounds that have real world applications such as biomarkers, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and anti-cancer drugs. The stream is looking for individuals who are interested in chemistry; people who are excited about chemistry, who want to do real chemistry outside of the classroom and who want to become real chemists.
Strengths
  • Build a firm foundation of chemistry knowledge
  • Amicable lab environment
  • Everything expected of the student is clearly explained
Weaknesses
  • Space constraints
  • Lab overlap between streams
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
Skills
  • Refluxing
  • Slow Vapor Diffusion
  • X-Ray Crystallography
  • NMR
  • Olex software
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
  1. There is an independent project that is looking to coordinate transition metals into the lanthanide complexes they synthesize. This project includes about 5 people, with one person coming up with the idea and being supported by the others.
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Magnetic Matter

Overview
Students study intriguing properties of magnetism and electricity through the observation of superconductivity and construction of superconductors.
Strengths
  • Very flexible, RE and fellow mentors are very informative, real, hands-on research
  • Class structured so that first semester provides background and second allows lab research
  • Professor's directions have direct applications to research
Weaknesses
  • The subject has outpaced the classroom experience of intro CNS classes
Suggested Majors
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Astronomy
  • Physics
Skills
  • Titrations
  • Furnace Techniques
  • Learning how to use machinery in RLM machine shop (e.g. power amp, signal generator, etc.).
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
  1. After the first semester and during the summer, there is a considerable amount of independence on projects. All students make their own superconductor, and an examples of another project a student may perform is building a system to catch NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) signals.
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Microbe Hackers

Overview
This stream aims to find problems in the world that can be solved using gene recombination. Once the pathway of a topic is understood via thorough research, students in the stream can find genes of interest and use it at the lower level of bacteria. This allows students to learn about the functionality of the gene and work towards making it a plausible functioning gene at the greater societal level.
 
Strengths
  • Helpful and understanding Research Educator
  • Good learning pace
Weaknesses
  • Newer stream, so little standardization of projects
  • Workload is exam and paper-heavy
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Public Health
 
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities There is a considerable amount of independence on projects. Students can form groups but are still expected to contribute individually in both designing the project and executing it. Through each step, there is substantial support form the professor and mentors. An example is automating the process of sequence alignment and mutation analysis so the students could focus efforts on more subjective or qualitative analyses. The software was able to identify and categorize various kinds of mutations in E. Coli plasmids after several rounds of dilution and growth, and helped identify some of the more mutable areas in the constructs.
hijacking-micro-factors-cs hijacking-micro-factors-wl
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Nanomaterials for Chemical Catalysis (Nano Chemistry)

Overview
In the Nanomaterials Stream, dendrimer encapsulated nanoparticles (DENs) are synthesized for use in catalysis. We make these nanoparticles out of a wide range of metals such as platinum and gold which are encapsulated in tree-like organic molecules known as dendrimers . Students learn a wide variety of experimental techniques in addition to refining their writing and presentation skills.
Strengths
  • The stream’s Research Educator is a wonderful resource for questions
  • Organized leadership that translates to group solidarity
  • Vast array of techniques and skills to learn and refine
  • TAs and student mentors are knowledgeable and eager to help students learn
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Environmental Science
Skills
  • UV-Vis spectroscopy (UV-Vis)
  • Transmission electron microscopy (TEM)
  • Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS)
  • Energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS)
  • Inert gas purging
  • Micropipetting
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities From FRI student and mentor: “One of the projects I did was synthesizing bimetallic gold/palladium nanoparticles with varying ratios of gold to palladium to see if any specific ratio served as a better catalyst than the others. UV Vis spectroscopy played a big role in this project, as it’s how I was able to prove the nanoparticles were monodisperse.”
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Plant Pathways

Overview
A comprehensive (classical, modern molecular, forward & reverse) genetics approach is taken to determine how cells differentiate into different phenotypic expressions in the model organism Arabidopsis. Genes are cloned, overexpressed, and integrated into the plant to see how phenotypes are affected.
Strengths
  • Great preparation for upper-division biology courses due to familiarity with lab techniques
  • Valuable work experiences, specifically for those planning to attend graduate school
  • A lot of hands-on experience and lab work
  • Very laid-back environment with a lot independence and little stress
  • Potential to work with new techniques (CRISPR)
Weaknesses
  • The relaxed environment can make it easy to slack off and become lazy
  • The work may not be as in-depth as you may wish
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Medical Laboratory Science
Skills
  • Basic biology lab techniques (PCR, gel electrophoresis, culturing bacteria, and using micropipettes)
  • Problem-solving skills and learning to work in an environment with unknown outcomes
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
  1. DNA cloning projects that involve creating new recombinant DNA constructs. DNA is purified, integrated into plasmids, grown in E. coli, and the reintegrated into the plant to create experimental transgenic plant lines.
  2. Opportunity to be in contact with people in the research field. Plenty of students in this lab have had their work published, gone on to graduate school, and received prestigious research awards.
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Practical Molecular Sensors - ARI (Practical Sensors)

Overview
This stream is concerned with channeling chemistry knowledge into tools that could serve a useful industry purpose. For example, a section of the stream worked on creating simple detection tools that could sense the presence of tartaric and malic acid, two major components of the flavor in wine. The ultimate goal of the research stream was to scale up findings into a portable tool that could aid wineries in detecting peak harvest times based on concentrations of tartaric and malic acid.
Strengths
  • Prioritizes giving lab experience to transfer and upper division students
  • Flexible in scheduling and choosing a project
  • Fun Research Educator
  • Relevant to industry
 
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
Skills
  • Creating saturation curves
  • LoggerPro
  • Dilutions and spectrophotometer
  • PCR
  • Peptide creation
  • Analyze with LCMS, HPLC, Masspec
  • Perform SELEX
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities in the ARI stream, there are three main projects to choose from:
  1.  Ellington project: uses a target aptamers to bind to nerve gas agents and serve as signals for those in risk areas as funded by the Department of Defense.
  2. Borich project with electrochemical sensors
  3. Borich project with UV spectroscopy
Some level of opportunity to collaborate with a local biotech company existed if you continued in the stream. There was also an opportunity to attend conferences to present work.
practical-mol-sensors-cs practical-mol-sensors-wl
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Supra Sensors

Overview
The Supramolecular Sensors streams makes chemical sensors to fingerprint complex mixtures and differentiate them from similar mixtures. For example, with wine, even though all kinds of wine are generally made of the same group of compounds, different concentrations of these compounds are present in each wine varietal, which can be determined by the sensors. The stream’s workload varies depending on your project and schedule, but an average of 6 hours is recommended. The stream’s RE, Dr. Ghanem, is assistant director of the FRI program and often provides her students many research opportunities within CNS and FRI. This stream is great for those interested in hands-on analytical and organic chemistry.
Strengths
  • Great staff support: involved RE and PI
  • Very flexible scheduling and time in lab
  • Good student and mentor community
Weaknesses
  • Projects can take a while to yield productive results; since projects are dependent on one another, work can sometimes get bogged down
  • Difficult and frequent research papers
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
Skills
  • Statistical techniques: Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) and Principal Component Analysis (PCA)
  • Analytical chemistry techniques: high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS)
  • Organic synthesis; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), high-vaccum filtration
  • Peptide synthesis; lyophilization
  • Phage amplification, phage titer, DNA extraction
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    Cachaça, a Brazilian rum, is usually aged in barrels, and thus has different concentrations of tannins from the woods of the barrels they are aged in. Their sensors can be used to figure out what kind of wood the cachaça was aged in. This identification can be used to help the Brazilian companies who contacted the stream to identify local woods that the cachaça can be aged in that will have the same compositional effect as the woods they import to age their cachaça in.
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Vertebrate Interactome Mapping (Gene Networks)

Overview
Students in the stream study the interactions that specific proteins make with other macromolecules, principally RNA and protein while mediating functions in gene expression. They attach DNA sequences encoding an “affinity tag” (the TAP tag) after the last codon of a gene using molecular cloning techniques and targeted homologous recombination. They then replace one copy of this gene with a tagged version in cultured animal cells (DT40 cells). The modified version of the gene will direct the DT40 cells to produce a protein with the TAP tag attached to its C-terminus. The TAP tag allows complexes to be isolated intact and purified from nuclei.
Strengths
  • Learn important microbiology lab techniques that can be used in future lab classes and biology classes
  • RE is very approachable and genuinely cares about the students' individual projects
Suggested Majors
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Public Health
  • Medical Laboratory Science
Skills
  • PCR
  • gel electrophoresis
  • ligation
  • transformation
  • TAP tagging
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    RNA helicases are enzymes that participate in gene expression by engaging in different aspects of RNA metabolism. The best way to understand the function of such proteins is to explore what other macromolecules they interact with to form complexes. The protein encoded by human DHX15 gene is among the class of ATP-dependent RNA helicases that functions in pre-mRNA splicing. By using PCR and other cloning techniques, a full length cDNA coding for hDHX15 protein can be cloned. The cDNA can then be mutated to halt its helicase activity, attached to TAP tag, expressed in cultured animal cells, and isolated to further study the protein complexes that it interacts with.
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Virtual Drug Screening (Virtual Cures)

Overview
The virtual drug screening (VDS) stream strives to streamline drug discovery by combining computational methods and wet-lab techniques to discover novel inhibitors of key proteins involved in disease. Students in VDS are provided excellent opportunities to apply for conferences where they can present their research. Scientific research is an invaluable academic pursuit and this stream has helped its students to further their understanding of coursework, enhance their communication, and solidify their decision to conduct research in the future.
Strengths
  • Outstanding support system
  • Devoted RE who guides students in exciting research projects
  • Mentors work closely with students ensuring comprehension in a fun learning environment
  • Rewarding independent research experience
Weaknesses
  • Being part of lab can be time consuming at times
Suggested Majors
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
Skills
  • DNA sequencing
  • Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR)
  • SDS-PAGE
  • Transformation
  • Cloning
  • FPLC
  • Enzyme/inhibition assays
  • Crystallography
  • Operating molecular docking software (i.e. GOLD, PyMOL)
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    The emergence of antimicrobial resistance from the overuse/misuse of antibiotics poses a serious health threat. Of particular concern is a new mechanism of multi drug-resistance to β-lactam antibiotics (‘last resort’ medications) by the novel New Delhi metallo-β-lactamase-1 (NDM-1). The purpose of this project is to determine if new compounds found through virtual drug screening can inhibit the enzyme’s activity.
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White Dwarfs

Overview
The group uses cutting-edge sciences grade telescopes to examine the physics behind the pulsation of white dwarfs stars (WDs). WDs are the ultimate fate of 95% of stars at the end of their lives, and the pulsation gives insight into the convection processes in the cooling cores. The stream also includes the new field of experimental astronomy, in which students have the opportunity to make photospheres (“mini chunks” of star surfaces in lab), and conduct experiments on a surface that mimics that of WDs. Skills from this lab are considered internationally cutting-edge, and students have found their skills translatable in astronomy across the department and around the world.
Strengths
  • Spring break trip to McDonald Observatory to use telescopes
  • New members do hands on work with telescopes and scientific data from the start
  • Wide range of projects: computational, observational, and experimental astrophysics which are not exclusive to studying WDs
  • PI/RE/grad student are humble and approachable.
Weaknesses
  • Disjointed due to a quickly expanding stream and diverse projects (but has adapted well)
Suggested Majors
  • Astronomy
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
Skills
  • Research telescopes
  • Data analysis
  • basic programming: IRAF (astronomy program), python, Unix, and other specialized astronomical programs
  • Sandia Z machine
  • Presentation skills
  • keeping lab notebook
Independent Projects and Special Opportunities
    One student compared the two techniques of WD mass determination and found that the results did not agree. The project is now focused on determining the cause for the differences between the old, accepted method and the new technique by expanding the sample size and running experiments related to both techniques. The new method is thought to be suitable for a larger range of star temperatures, while the old method was only valid for hot stars.
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