Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics Faculty
Dr. Vytas Bankaitis
Our lab studies the genetics and biochemistry of lupus signaling.
Dr. Jae-Hyun Cho
Our lab studies protein-protein interactions between a virus and a host. Our students will participate in protein expression and purification, binding affinity measurements using bio-layer interferometry.
Dr. Tim Devarenne
The Devarenne lab works on the biosynthesis of algal hydrocarbons that can be used as a biofuel feedstock. We are interested in identifying the genes responsible for the hydrocarbon production. We also study the interaction of plants with pathogenic bacteria. We want to understand how tomato plants regulate cell death pathways to confer resistance to these bacteria.
Dr. Margy Glasner
The Glasner Lab’s focus is to understand how biophysical characteristics of proteins affect the evolution of protein functions. We are determining how epistasis, which occurs when the same mutations have different effects on related enzymes, depends on the sequence and structure of proteins. We have identified an amino acid that determines the specificity for N-succinylamino acid racemase activity in one group of enzymes. However, related enzymes with the same activity have a different amino acid at this position. The student will determine how mutating this site affects activity of these enzymes using site-directed mutagenesis, protein expression and purification, and enzyme assays. The student will also use computer software for protein sequence and structure analysis to predict how other amino acids in these proteins influence the function of the site in question.
Dr. Vishal Gohil
The summer research project in the Gohil lab will focus on discovering evolutionarily conserved proteins that are required for mitochondrial energy and intermediary metabolism. To accomplish this, we use the model organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a non-pathogenic simple eukaryotic model system that is ideally suited to train undergraduate researchers. We have used an integrative approach that combines evolutionary history, genomics, and subcellular proteomics to prioritize candidate genes that encode highly conserved, uncharacterized mitochondrial proteins that are likely involved in mitochondrial energy and intermediary metabolism. The undergraduate student will use these prioritized candidate genes to test their requirement for mitochondrial bioenergetics and intermediary metabolism by placing the gene in the metabolic pathway and defining their biochemical function.
Dr. Ping He
Our lab focuses on keeping immunity from running amok by a, “bak to life,” screen. Maintaining active growth and effective immune response is often costly for a living organism to survive. The uncontrolled defense activation is often detrimental to the hosts, and potentially leads to massive cell death. The depletion of a key immune regulator BAK1 in the model plant, Arabidopsis, leads to spontaneous cell death with extensive defense activation. My lab has developed a RNA interference (RNAi)-based genetic screen for suppressors of BAK1-mediated cell death. Mutants that suppress BAK1-mediated cell death are named “bak to life” (BTL). The research team will isolate and characterize these BTL mutants genetically and biochemically. Understanding defense and cell death control is essential for the survival of all organisms.
Dr. Jennifer Herman
Bacillus is a soil bacterium that forms dormant spores to protect its DNA during times of stress. We have identified a sporulation mutant that dies during stressful times because instead of forming a spore it continues to divide without growing until there is essentially no cell left. We call this phenotype, “Death by division,” (Dead). The student will investigate the genes responsible for the Dead phenotype.
Dr. Tatyana Igumenova
The central research objective of my laboratory is to understand the mechanisms of signal transduction processes that occur at the membrane surface. These processes are mediated by multi-modular proteins that bind to membranes in response to second messengers. My laboratory uses a combination of biochemical and biophysical techniques (NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, SAXS, and fluorescence spectroscopy) to understand the structure-dynamics-function relationships in these proteins.
A typical research project for an REU student will include both biochemistry and biophysics components. The biochemistry component will involve training the student in molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, through implementation of protein cloning and/or mutagenesis, purification, and labeling with fluorophores or stable isotopes. The biophysics part will involve detection and characterization of protein-membrane binding events, using fluorescence and/or NMR spectroscopy. I will individually adjust the relative weights of the biochemistry and biophysics components, depending on student’s interest and inclinations.
All biophysical experiments will be carried out under my direct supervision. Wet-lab results will be discussed twice a week during one-on-one meetings. My objectives in training an REU student will be to (i) spark interest in the interdisciplinary field of biophysics, (ii) give the student an opportunity to work on the state-of-the art instrumentation, and (iii) teach them how to design, execute, and troubleshoot scientific experiments.
Dr. Wenshe Liu
Projects in the Liu lab involve the in vitro assembly of designer nucleosomes that contain posttranslational histone modifications, and their use in the investigation of how particular posttranslational histone modifications influence chromatin structures and functions. Techniques such as genetic code expansion and Cryo-EM will be used in these projects.
Dr. Vladislav Panin
In our studies, we use multidisciplinary strategies and advantages of the Drosophila model to study neuromuscular glycosylation at molecular, cellular, and organismal levels. Our laboratory will provide a comprehensive training environment for REU students, offering projects involving molecular biology experiments with DNA constructs, genetic approaches, tissue culture, and biochemical assays of glycosylation enzymes. An REU project will focus on recombinant expression and characterization of a new glycosylation enzyme involved in neural development. Students will also work with Drosophila to analyze the expression of the enzyme in vivo and investigate corresponding mutant phenotypes.
Dr. Jean-Philippe Pellois
A REU student will be involved in developing the reagents and protocols necessary to test a new therapeutic approach that aims at repairing spinal cord injuries. The project is called, “Intracellular Delivery of Transcription Factors into Nerves Cells at the Site of Spinal Cord Injury to Promote Tissue Repair.”
Dr. Michael Polymenis
Undergraduate students will participate in the analysis of cell cycle progression in the model organism, budding yeast. They will also gain experience in the construction of yeast strains by performing crosses and segregating their progeny.
Dr. James Sacchettini
The students will have a chance to participate in cloning, purification, and crystallization of proteins essential for the survival of pathogenic bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The project will also involve testing small molecules in activity assays in a high throughput screening format, analyzing the data, and characterizing identified inhibitors.
Dr. Paul Straight
The students will work on the competitive and cooperative interactions between soil bacteria. They will use genetic methods to understand the signals produced by bacteria and how different species of bacteria detect and respond to the signals.
Dr. Josh Wand
There will be two projects available for the students to participate in.
Project 1: Reverse micelle encapsulation for fragment-based drug discovery using NMR spectroscopy. The Wand group has recently invented a new approach to fragment-based drug discovery. This project will prepare isotopically labeled protein, undertake encapsulation trials and ultimately carry out a first-pass screen with a small fragment library. The successful candidate will work closely with a postdoctoral associate.
Project 2: Integral membrane protein dynamics. Very little is known about the dynamical character of integral membrane proteins. The Wand group has recently completed the first detailed study of fast internal motion in integral membrane proteins. This initial view suggests that integral membrane proteins may generally have internal motion that is distinct from that seen previously in soluble proteins. This difference may have significant functional implications. The successful candidate will work closely with a postdoctoral associate to prepare an integral membrane protein for dynamical characterization by advanced NMR methods.
Dr. Ryland Young
The REU student will isolate and characterize new bacteriophages from environmental samples, with the goal of identifying viruses that attack bacteria responsible for disease in humans, animals and crop plants. The student will learn techniques of viral isolation, physiological characterization, DNA isolation and genome sequencing. The new phages may be assembled into cocktails to be used for treatment of the bacterial disease.
Dr. Xiuren Zhang
The REU students will join a group of graduates to conduct rough mapping of mutants that we generated through EMS treatment.
Department of Ecosystem Science & Management
Dr. Thomas Boutton
One of the most significant contemporary ecological changes is the invasion of woody plants into grasslands, savannas and other dryland ecosystems throughout the world. Our team is studying how increased woody plant abundance, long term grazing, and fire history interact to influence carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling in the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas. Our research is a blend of field work at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station at Sonora, and lab work here at the university in College Station. An REU student would be part of a research team, but would develop his/her own independent research project that would complement and enhance our ongoing work. This student would have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the research process, expand their knowledge of the science of ecology, develop broadly applicable lab and field skills, and advance their oral and written scientific communication skills.
Dr. Georgianne Moore
Students would join a cohort of eight students who spend five weeks in Costa Rica and five weeks in College Station. The goal of the Research Experience is to allow undergraduate students to develop essential skills in designing, executing and disseminating original research that quantifies the hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes in the watershed of a tropical montane forest. All the details are at: https://costaricareu.tamu.edu/
Department of Nutrition & Food Science
Dr. Erin Giles
Students participating in a summer research experience in the Giles Lab will be involved in ongoing studies examining the impact of obesity and weight gain on tumor growth in a preclinical model of obesity and postmenopausal breast cancer. Students will assist with ongoing animal studies (measuring tumors, body weight, body fat distribution) and will also gain experience with molecular techniques to measure changes in plasma and tissue levels of inflammatory cytokines, adipokines, and metabolic markers by ELISA, immunohistochemistry, western blots, and qPCR.
Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology
Dr. Sanjay Antony-Babu
Title: Bioprospecting plant associated actinomycetes
Description: Actinobacteria have an unrivalled track record in biotechnology, finding their major applications in pharmaceuticals and plant growth promotion. The project will focus on isolating, characterizing and bioprospecting of actinomycetes from maize and cotton. The student will be trained in microbial isolation, DNA extraction, PCR, phylogenetics and relevant bioinformatics.
Dr. Michael Kolomiets
Students will be able to identify the functions of lipoxygenase gene family in resistance against fall armyworm by utilizing available LOX mutants in maize, and to identify novel oxylipin signals governing insect resistance by analytical chemistry approaches.
Dr. Libo Shan
Dr. Shan’s laboratory has established a series of platforms for functional, biochemical and translational genomic studies in cotton to improve its stress resilience. REU students will be involved in a project on Unraveling Molecular Players in Cotton-Fusarium Interaction to Mitigate Infections. Students will characterize fungal fusarium field isolates obtained from Texas cotton-growing regions with active F. oxysporum infection cycles, and perform the phylogenetic relationships among pathogenic and non-pathogenic races using marker-assisted next-generation sequencing. The project will gain insight into the genetic diversity and pathogenicity process of different Fov genotypes in the cotton fields.
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Dr. Andrea Ettekal
Our lab has two mixed methods studies involving character development through competitive youth programs. In one study, we are investigating how coaches’ attitudes, values, and behaviors are associated with character development in competitive youth programs by collecting quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data from youth, parents, and coaches involved in 4-H programs. In another study, we are developing a program evaluation profile, including a context analysis and theory of change, to understand programming and its effectiveness of a summer camp for youth from low resource families. Across the two studies, there are opportunities to contribute to survey/interview design (e.g., creating surveys in Qualtrics), data collection (conducting interviews and/or administering surveys), and data management (e.g., data entry).
Dr. Jim Petrick
The student(s) will be assisting with research on the physiological benefits of travel. They will help to inform the study via a review of related literature and will assist with the development of measures and methods for collecting physiological data from other undergraduate students.
Department of Soil and Crop Sciences
Dr. Muthu Bagavathiannan
The Bagavathiannan lab has multiple projects that students can be a part of.
Project 1: The focus of this project is to work on the use of drones for weed mapping in agricultural fields. The student will gain excellent exposure to drone-based research for field scouting of weeds.
Project 2: The focus of this project is to evaluate organic weed control methods in cotton. There are opportunities for hands-on experience with cover crops, living mulches and non-synthetic organic weed control options.
Project 3: The focus of this project is understanding gene flow between sorghum and johnsongrass. The student will gain experience with field crosses and progeny characterization for fitness and adaptive traits.
Dr. Sakiko Okumoto
Plant roots secrete various chemicals, both “common” metabolites such as sugar and amino acids, as well as specialized chemicals to modify the activities of soil microbes. We are interested in how the plant root-derived chemicals affect the use of nitrogen, one of the most important plant nutrient for growth. The student is expected to analyze the responses of microbes to a set of plants that secrete varied amounts of root-derived chemicals to understand the impacts of chemicals secreted by plant roots.
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Dr. Perry Barboza
We have a project that applies digital technology to a well-established method for determining the diets of wild animals. The REU student will work on developing automated methods to determine diets of a variety of herbivores including moose, caribou, goats and deer. Diet composition of animals will be determined from slides that have already been prepared from fecal samples. The REU student will use a scanning microscope and image recognition software while learning about the role diet composition plays in wildlife nutrition.
Dr. Masami Fujiwara
Student(s) will learn the use of R and investigate coastal marine fish monitoring data collected by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Potential questions will include how climate change impact fish abundance and diversity, how coastal abundance impact offshore abundance of migratory fishes, and how freshwater discharge influences the abundance of estuarine fishes.
Dr. Delbert Gatlin
We could select any number of topics dealing with nutrition and metabolism of fish which could be executed in comparative feeding trials in our wet lab. We also would have several fish species available at that time for the feeding trials including red drum, channel catfish, hybrid striped bass and tilapia.
Dr. Jacquelyn Grace
Students will participate in avian ecological and hormonal research, focused on how birds perceive and respond to environmental stressors. Research projects include avian hormonal and immune responses along elevational gradients, and the effects of nest parasitism on duckling physiology and behavior.
Dr. Luis Hurtado
Research Projects include:
- Conservation genetics of sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
- Population genetics of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus and other marine invertebrates in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Worldwide phylogeography and evolution of coastal isopods
- Evolution of terrestriality in Oniscideans, the most successful crustacean group to invade land.
- Conservation/population genetics of freshwater fishes.
- Independent projects on population genetics of any taxa.
Dr. Mariana Mateos
Insect-bacteria associations, particularly evolutionary ecology and mechanisms involved in defensive mutualisms.
One potential project within this theme involves determining whether one or more fly-bacteria associations are mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic, particularly in the context of different natural enemies (wasps) of the fly. Another potential project utilizes molecular tools to examine the mechanism by which bacteria protect their host (fly) against a natural enemy (wasp). A third potential project involves searching for new insect-bacteria associations by using PCR to screen insect DNA for infection with certain bacteria. Evolutionary genetics of fishes and other organisms. Potential projects involve characterizing genetic diversity and evolutionary history of asexual fish hybrids or insects. For more info, see http://people.tamu.edu/~mmateos
Dr. Jessica Yorzinski
The REU student would work on a project related to sensory ecology in birds. The student would gain experience in designing and conducing an experiment as well as learn valuable field techniques such as capturing and measuring birds.