NSF Biological Sciences Capstone Project

Research Projects for Undergraduates in Biological Sciences
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation

NSF-funded laboratories in the Department of Biological Sciences offer research opportunities for undergraduate students culminating in a report that satisfies the Honors College Capstone Project requirement or credit in BIOS 399 for undergraduates who are not in the Honors College.

Admission. Students wishing to consider biology research as a Capstone Project are invited to a 1-day survey of NSF-sponsored research projects ongoing within the department. This event will take place annually in the fall semester. Students contemplating a career in biological research are encouraged to begin the Capstone/NSF Program in their sophomore year. Applicants are accepted into a research mentor's laboratory as space permits after submission of a resumé, personal statement of interests and goals, academic history, and choices of project areas of interest. All participating students are invited to an annual information session about graduate studies and careers in research biology.

First semester. During the first semester of participation, normally Spring or Summer semester, each student registers for BIOS 391, attends the mentor's weekly lab meetings, reads research literature in the mentor's research field and writes a term paper on a topic in that field.

Practicum. During 2-4 succeeding semesters, students conduct research in the mentor's lab, under guidance of the mentor and senior research students. These activities are recognized by registration in BIOS 399 and/or Honors supplemental activities courses. A written report is required each semester. Participating students should anticipate spending at least 10 hours in the laboratory each week.

Final year activities. In the senior year, graduating students present their work (Powerpoint talks or posters) to the other participating students and faculty members in a mini-symposium at the Honors College, participate in the campus-wide Student Research Forum and poster session and submit a Capstone Project Report.

Faculty and Research Subjects:

  • Aixa Alfonso - The main goal of the laboratory is to understand the role of helix loop helix proteins in the specification and function of the neurons in the nematode C. elegans. We are focused on hlh-3, a gene encoding an Achaete/Scute-like bHLH transcription factor. Our hypothesis is that HLH-3 has a direct and instructive role the differentiation of neurons involved in sex-specific behaviors and we wish to figure out how this happens.
  • Simon Alford - Synaptic plasticity and presynaptic receptor modulation of neurotransmitter release.
  • Hormoz BassiriRad - Eco-physiology, plant nutrition and global climate change.
  • Joel Brown - Foraging theory and game theory of predator-prey interactions and urban wildlife, local and global.
  • David Featherstone - Molecular mechanisms regulating synapse development and function.
  • Liang-Wei Gong - We are interested to understand how synaptic vesicle endocytosis is regulated, by using a combination of biophysical, cell biological and molecular biology tools.
  • Connie Jeffery - Protein structure and function, membrane proteins, moonlighting proteins.
  • Hua Jin - The role of primary cilia in development and cell signaling.
  • Jeremy Lynch - Evolution of development, insects, embryos, pattern formation, germline determination, cis-regulatory logic, microevolution, morphogenesis.
  • Robert Paul Malchow - Cellular & Molecular Processing of Neuronal Signals in the Retina.
  • Donald Morrison - Genetic recombination and quorum sensing in the streptococci.
  • Peter Okkema - C. elegans neuromuscular development and organogenesis.
  • Teresa Orenic - Pattern formation in the Drosophila adult limbs and nervous system.
  • Thomas Park - Neurobiology of sensory systems.
  • Rachel Poretsky - Natural microbial communities in aquatic ecosystems. Controls on and of bacteria, archaea, and viruses in the environment.
  • David Stone - G-protein regulated signaling, directional sensing, and cellular polarization in yeast
  • Kate Warpeha - How environmental signals affect the critical period in plant development in the transition from seed to seedling. Study of the GCR1-GPA1-PD1/ADT3 pathway which regulate the phenylpropanoid levels in seedlings, and these compounds can be used in medicine or agriculture.
  • David Wise - Interface between community and ecosystem ecology; control processes in terrestrial food webs.