Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program (URAP)

Contents:

Description and Purpose

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program (URAP) provides several resources for undergraduates interested in research at UF. For undergraduates interested in conducting research, URAP helps undergraduates to find volunteer opportunities in research projects they are interested in by posting graduate student and faculty research advertisements on this website. For undergraduates currently doing research, URAP supports the BSC 3911 Entering Research course for undergraduate researchers, which aims to enhance the undergraduate research experience by focusing on critical communication skills for success in research, and broadly transferable professional skills. In addition, URAP and BGSA funds and provides two opportunities for undergraduates to gain money for their research projects by submitting scientific research proposals. Finally, URAP organizes an annual symposium exclusively for undergraduates conducting research where students can present their work and participate in a community of researchers at the University of Florida.

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Undergraduate Research Projects

(Updated 16 August 2017)

If you are an undergraduate interested in volunteering on a listed research project send an email to the individual listed under the Contact. This list is updated semi-regularly, but keep in mind some positions may have already been filled when you apply. Keep scrolling down to see the list of projects below.

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Development of Endocrine Disruptor Induced External Genitalia Defects

Contact: Kelsey Lewis – lewis23a@ufl.edu
Faculty: Dr. Martin Cohn

Our lab studies genetic and environmental causes of disorders of sex development in the embryo. Congenital malformations of external genitalia are among the most common birth defects– congenital penile anomalies, such as hypospadias, chordee, and micropenis, occur in 1 in 125 male births. A major focus of the lab is understanding the molecular control of external genital patterning in mammalian embryos.

I have one project which focuses on the effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on genital development, and another that examines the cellular biology of urethral development.

Specific techniques include, but are not limited to, PCR, qPCR, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, and histology. Previous research experience is not necessary, but both a strong desire to learn and a willingness to work hard are essential. Freshman and sophomores are particularly encouraged to apply.

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Cell biology studies on actin depolymerizing factor

Contact: Paris Grey – phgrey@ufl.edu
Faculty: Dr. David Oppenheimer

Our lab focuses on understanding how the assembly and disassembly of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons are regulated. Cytoskeleton dynamics underlie many fundamental cellular processes such as control of cell shape, cell movement, and membrane trafficking. Specifically, we study a family of proteins that control the activity of actin depolymerizing factor (ADF). Although our lab conducts mostly basic research, we are aware of the impact of our research on problems in human health.

We use molecular, genetic, biochemical, computational, and cell biological methods and approaches. Specific techniques include, but are not limited to, PCR, confocal microscopy, cloning, aseptic techniques, bacterial transformation, restriction digests, plasmid isolation, DNA and protein gel electrophoresis, genomic DNA isolation, RNA isolation, protein expression, pull-down assays, yeast-two hybrid screens, and spectrophotometry,

The available research project was designed for an undergraduate at the first-year or sophomore level student Previous research experience is not necessary but both a strong desire to learn and a willingness to work hard is essential. At the start, the research focus will be to acquire the fundamental molecular / cellular skills necessary for advanced research, followed by creating and optimizing heterologous protein expression clones.

For more information, or to apply for the research position, please fill out an application here: http://bit.ly/1SDUzRf

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Electricity in the Air

Contact: Stephanie Wheeler – swheele2@ufl.edu
Faculty: Scott Robinson

The overall project is focused on studying seasonal movements of different species of birds across an elevational gradient. I will be studying where birds go, and looking into the reasons why they migrate. For part of my project, I will be testing hypotheses concerning food availability, access to food, and food quality. In initial seasons of my study I will set out a few feeders equipped with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers for my nectarivorous species, Olive Sunbird. The Sunbirds will be banded with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, and as they visit feeders the RFID readers will record their visits. From my first season I will use visitation data to establish baseline foraging rates and spatial use. However in subsequent field seasons, I will increase the number of feeders and use them to manipulate food availability, access and/or quality.

I am seeking a student to help construct the RFID readers and PIT tag bands. Ideally this person will have experience with electronic construction/electrical engineering and enjoys tinkering with electronics.

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Undergraduate Project Options with the Putz Lab

Contact: Francis E. “Jack” Putz, fep@ufl.edu, 209 Carr Hall
Faculty: Francis E. “Jack” Putz

Undergraduate students who conduct research with Professor Putz are expected to carry out their own work with his assistance—they are not part of a larger, grant-funded project (but some funds are generally available). Below he lists some topics that might yield interesting and potentially publishable results. In addition to supporting undergraduate scientific endeavors, he wants to disseminate research results to broader audiences than just other scientists. For that reason, if you are a nature writer in need of a biological mentor (who is also interested in nature writing), he might be helpful (especially ecological and native plant-related topics). See his lab’s website to get more of an idea of the sorts of research in which he and his students are involved (http://people.clas.ufl.edu/fep/).

  1. Duff (=mor humus): What is it? Where does it accumulate? How does it ignite during fires? How can duff fires be most efficiently extinguished (water vs. wet water (water plus surfactants) vs. compaction).
  2. Sources of charcoal in controlled burns in longleaf pine savannas, with emphasis on what seems like a disproportionately large contribution from charred bark.
  3. Why is so much live oak leaf litter converted into charcoal (i.e., black carbon) instead of being combusted (i.e., converted into ash) during landscape fires?
  4. Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian pepper) invasion on maritime forests on the East Coast of Florida: spatial patterns and biodiversity impacts, perhaps with a nesting pelican perspective. Live oak (and cabbage palm) crown penetration by pepper shoots.
  5. Getting food (starch) from Smilax rhizomes, the “red coontie” of the Timucuans and other Amerindians in the southeast. Problems with fibers and phenolic compounds—solution might be lye. Could include a broader study on the use of lye in food preparation (e.g., olives and acorns).
  6. Vine roots…almost anything on the topic, but something on the high frequency of storage tissues in the roots of climbing plants seems like a good topic— Matelea (Asclepidaceae), Clematis (Ranunculaceae), Ampelopsis (Vitaceae), Campsis (Bignoniaceae), Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae), to mention a few.
  7. Compartmentalization of decay in roots after mechanical damage—a critical issue in urban forestry.
  8. Water uptake by the crowns of cabbage palms—using stable isotopes (with which I have no experience, but plenty of labs on campus do this sort of work).
  9. Using wiregrass (Aristida stricta) and other native bunch grasses to replace turf in suburban lawns…would have a substantial social component to this research and might require more than a semester to complete.
  10. Design and construction of “moss fountains.” Solar (or etc.) powered, multi-species, table top models (not really research, but would be fun and might result in a marketable product).
  11. Why do burn bosses not burn as much as they are supposed to/intend to/plan to? This would be more of a sociological study for which I might not be a suitable advisor.
  12. Plant Ecology and Ethnobotany/Ecology of Bidens alba (beggarticks): This common annual weed displays remarkable diversity in growth form. For example it can grow to heights of >2 m but reproduce when only 0.1 m tall. It is light-demanding, but when overtopped it gets very spindly and tall, thereby often overtopping its competitors. A study on growth-form or biomechanical plasticity might be interesting.
  13. Green Wood: The phylogenetic and ecological distribution of chloroplasts in the xylem of woody plants has not previously been investigated, and the role of xylem photosynthesis needs further study.
  14. Tooth-Ache Tree: Investigate how concentrations of hydroxyl-beta-sanshool and hydroxyl-gamma-isosanshool in Zanthoxylum spp. vary among branches, fruit capsules, and commercial preparations as a spice (e.g., Sechuan pepper) and herbal medicines. Collaboration with a well-equipped organic chemist will be required

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Genetic Determinants of Plant Vascular Development

Contact: Johnathon Blahut, johnathon.blahut@ufl.edu
Faculty: Matias Kirst

The Forest Genomics Lab (http://sfrc.ufl.edu/forestgenomics/Kirstlab/) at UF uses pine, poplar and eucalyptus for advancing biotechnology applications in addition to answering fundamental questions in plant biology. Our lab relies heavily on tools adapted from quantitative genetics, genomics, and molecular biology. By analyzing quantitative traits (traits controlled by many genes) we seek to understand terpene synthesis, the factors influencing floral transition, components of the plant cell wall, and the genes controlling development of vascular cell types. Currently we seek a motivated undergraduate student researcher for testing an association between genotype and vascular cell size in poplar trees. This work is original and not a “canned experiment.” The project will include preparing samples for light microscopy and measuring cell size using computer software. After producing the raw data, the researcher will test associations using the appropriate statistical model. We predict a short turn around time but the results are likely to develop future hypotheses. No prior lab experience is required but self-motivation, natural inquiry, and enthusiasm are a must.

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Understanding variation in tree growth rates: field and lab research experience in ecology

Contact: Jeremy Lichstein, jlichstein@ufl.edu
Faculty: Jeremy Lichstein

How do the growth rates of individual trees vary in relation to abiotic factors, such as soil texture and weather? How do these growth rates vary in relation to the functional traits of the individual, such as concentrations of leaf nitrogen, phosphorus, lignin, and cellulose? Are the relationships consistent across different phylogenetic lineages (e.g., pines, oaks, maples)? We are studying these questions (and much more!) at field sites across the eastern U.S., including the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station located 40 minutes from UF. We seek bright and energetic undergraduates who are excited to get involved in ecological research. Previous research experience is not required, but preference will be given to applicants with relevant coursework, including introductory biology and/or courses related to ecology. Experience with statistics is preferred but not required. We will work with you to develop your own project and analysis that fits within the larger project. We are currently recruiting undergraduates (preferably sophomores or juniors) for Spring 2016. Students should be able to devote 6-10 hours per week to research, and may register for 0-2 research credits depending on time commitment and desired number of credits. To apply, please send a 1-page resumé and a brief statement (up to 1/2 page) describing why you are interested in this project and what you hope to learn or accomplish. Priority will be given to applications received by December 1, 2015.

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Undergraduate Research Opportunity

Contact: Sooyeon Lee, Sooyeon.Lee@surgery.ufl.edu
Faculty: Sooyeon Lee

We are looking for highly motivated undergraduate students or recently graduated undergrads for a research assistant position in our lab. We study ischemia reperfusion injury in the liver, which is a fundamental obstacle during liver resection surgeries and transplants. Our research focuses cellular events during ischemia that induce hepatocyte cell death. The student will be involved in an ongoing project on post-translational modification of mitochondrial proteins and their regulation of mitochondrial dynamics during ischemia reperfusion. Specifically, we study specific mitochondria outermembrane proteins that regulate its fusion and fission, and want to understand how mitochondria re-organize in response to various stresses (aging, chemical toxicity etc) and whether these changes impact their recovery response during ischemic shock. I am looking for a research assistant that will be expected to perform basic lab duties such as autoclaving and buffer preparations, western blotting, PCR, mammalian cell culture etc. Students will be trained by me or a graduate student in the lab. Demonstration of strong work ethic, proficient lab skills and meaningful contributions to projects will be recognized with co-authorship on scientific publications. Current seniors, juniors or recent graduates in biology/biochem/microbiology major are encouraged to apply. The position will be unpaid volunteer research with the possibility for transitioning into a paid position, depending on the student’s desire to be more involved with experiments.

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Bibliography of crocodilian biology

Contact: Kent Vliet, kvliet@ufl.edu, Carr 208
Faculty: Kent Vliet

I am working on an extensive bibliography of crocodilian biology. I need assistance in library work and data base entry of reference material. Assistants will also have some opportunity to work with captive collections of crocodilians at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

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Graduate Students and Faculty Members Interested in Advertising on the URAP Website

If you are interested in being a mentor to an undergraduate please read the information in the following link to the BGSA website. If you would like to add a listing for an undergraduate research opportunity please contact us at urapsymposium@gmail.com

URAP Undergraduate Research Grants

The Biology Graduate Student Association (BGSA), which includes URAP, tries to fund up to two undergraduate research grants of $250 each annually. These grants are meant to provide support to undergraduates and can be applied to research expenses, fieldwork, or travel to conferences. All undergraduates conducting research in labs associated with the Department of Biology are welcome to apply. Preference will be given to projects that are not currently funded, but students with well-funded projects are encouraged to apply.

Applications are due April 13, 2017 at 5pm and should be submitted to the URAP Committee (urapsymposium@gmail.com). Winners will be announced at the URAP Symposium and applicants are encouraged to attend.

The budget statement should only include a list of items that will be purchased with this grant money and a one-sentence justification.

For application instructions and materials, please see the URAP_GIAR_Cover_Letter_and_Instructions.

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URAP Undergraduate Research Symposium

During the spring semester URAP organizes an undergraduate research symposium. There are opportunities for undergraduates to present either a poster or to give a 15-minute talk.

Guidelines for the URAP symposium are found HERE.

The dates and locations are subject to change so look out for email updates! If you want to participate in the URAP symposium, a 250-word abstract must be submitted to the URAP Committee (urapsymposium@gmail.com) by April 13, 2017 at 5pm.

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