Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program (URAP)

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UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANTSHIP PROGRAM (URAP)

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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URAP Undergraduate Research Projects

Cell biology studies on actin depolymerizing factor

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

Project Description: 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,

Required Skills: 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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Undergraduate Project Options with the Putz Lab

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

Project Description: 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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Carbon flow in permafrost zones

Contact: Elizabeth Webb – webbe@ufl.edu
Faculty: Jeremy Lichstein
Lab/Collection: Lichstein Lab

Project Description: The over-arching science question is quantifying the amount of carbon in abrupt thaw features across the permafrost zone. The nitty-gritty is working to identify satellite images with these thaw features in them.

Required Skills: No prior work with remote sensing images or coding is necessary, although experience using python could be a plus for future work. Student will gain skills working with satellite images and GIS software.

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Systematics of Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Cactaceae)

Contact: Bethany Zumwalde – bzumwalde@ufl.edu
Faculty: Lucas Majure
Lab/Collection: Majure Lab / University of Florida Herbarium

Project Description: Polyploidy is an important process in plant evolution, and having multiple chromosome races within a taxon can result in taxonomic difficulties. Furthermore, polyploidy has been known to significantly contribute to differences in the genetics, morphology, and environmental-breadth of a species. By studying cytotype distributions (i.e., cytogeography) and coupling this with genetic, morphological, and environmental data, we can examine possible evolutionary origins and subsequent divergence of a species. This project will examine the cytogeography, population genetics, morphology, and environmental variables that may be shaping cytotype distributions of the multiple cytotype cholla species Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Cactaceae). Cylindropuntia leptocaulis has the largest range of any cholla and consists of multiple ploidal levels across the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. By first understanding the variation and distributions of cytotypes, we will be able to ask more complex questions regarding biogeographic and evolutionary processes, which have led to these patterns and may be applicable to many desert species.

Required Skills: To complete this project, a student will need to be very detail-oriented and have an interest in botanical research. This project incorporates a variety of laboratory, field, modeling, and herbarium methods and the types of skills that will be developed will be dependent upon the student’s interest. Some possible skills that could be developed range from working in a molecular lab to extract DNA, collecting morphological measurements of cacti in the field, environmental niche modeling, or chromosome counting using a phase-contrast microscope.

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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 and 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 by 5:00pm on Friday, April 30, 2021 and should be submitted to the URAP committee at urapsymposium@gmail.com.

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

For the 2020 application instructions and materials, please download the Cover Letter and Instructions PDF file here. The instructions for 2021 will be added in Spring 2021.

Past Award Winners:
2019
“An integrated approach to understand the ploidy variation in a South African Memecylonclade (Melastomataceae)”, Phuc Pham

2018
“Sexually Dimorphic Digit Development in Anolis sagrei”, Griffin McNamara

2017
“Variation of Organ Position in Snakes” , Daniela Perez
“Ontogenetic variation in costs & benefits of a widespread ant-plant mutualism”, Gabriella Mizell

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URAP Undergraduate Research Symposium

UF Biology Department URAP Symposium

The Symposium occurs at the end of  Spring every year, check back for more information about the 2021 symposium.

Past Symposium: Friday, May 8th, 2020 | 2:00pm – 5:00pm

See the 2020 symposium schedule of oral presentations and previews of each poster will be provided here.

Past Symposium (May, 2020):

UF Biology Department URAP Symposium
Friday, May 8th, 2020 | 2:00pm – 5:00pm

Posters:  2:00 – 3:15 pm (Zoom)       Posters will be presented concurrently (each presenter will have a unique Zoom link)

Talks:  3:30 – 5:00 pm (Zoom)       Talks will take place in a single Zoom webinar

Abstract deadline: 5:00pm on Friday, May 1st – Submit abstracts to urapsymposium@gmail.com
Poster deadline: 5:00pm on Monday, May 4th – Submit as a pdf to urapsymposium@gmail.com

Guidelines for the URAP symposium can be downloaded here.
A schedule of oral presentations and previews of each poster will be provided here.

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