Big Data of Small Things

  • Goals: The Big Data of Small Things team will conduct a systems biology analysis of the model organism, Caenorhabditis elegans. This small nematode has been extensively studied for decades, but not much is known about its metabolic pathways or its life in natural settings. The team will design experiments, make samples, collect metabolomics and other omics data, and analyze the data using sophisticated computational methods. We will also explore ways of studying C. elegans in controlled environments that mimic natural settings.
  • Methods & Technologies: General lab sterile techniques, study design, culturing C. elegans, making CRISPR mutants, sample preparation, fluorescence-based biosorting, nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry data collection and analysis, statistical analysis and data mining, unknown compound identification, RNAseq, glycomics, establishing natural growth chambers with natural food sources and pathogens.
  • Research/Design Issues: Training and experience in laboratory methods, microinjections, PCR, hands on experience with state-of-the art NMR and MS instrumentation, computer programming, computations involving large clusters, data integration techniques, chemical separation isolation, 2D NMR methods for unknown identification, development of training materials and videos for education, team skills.
  • Want to join this team? Please contact Dr. Edison ( to ask about available spots and then complete and submit the registration form once you have his permission to join and have agreed on which credits you will earn. 
  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Art Edison, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, Genetics, Institute of Bioinformatics. Lab website.

Biodegradation of plastic

  • Goals: Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a major component of plastic drinking bottles and other plastic products contributing to a large amount of plastic waste on Earth. The goal of this project is to express, purify, characterize, and crystallize proteins that degrade PET or PET byproducts to better understand the degradation process.
  • Methods & Technologies: General lab sterile techniques, molecular biology (cloning, mutagenesis, gene knockouts), study design, culturing E. coli, purification of proteins from E. coli, characterizing enzymes, genomics/bioinformatics, and crystallography
  • Research/Design Issues: What conditions are necessary for expression of PET degrading proteins in E. coli? What pathways do microorganisms use to degrade plastic and its byproducts? Can PET and other plastics be converted into useful products?
  • Want to join this team? Students on this team first register for BCMB 4030L. Please complete and submit the registration form for this credit. 
  • Principal Investigator: Dr. David Blum, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Bioexpression and Fermentation Facility

Social Psychology of Undergraduate STEM Education

  • Goals: The Social Psychology of Undergraduate STEM Education will conduct analyses of scalable ways of involving undergraduates in STEM research, including the impacts of embedding research into courses and expanding the pool of research mentors to include graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Although there are national calls for all undergraduate STEM majors to participate in research, little is known about who gets access to these experiences and what makes them effective for students. This VIP team will design and conduct qualitative and quantitative studies to understand how different forms of research experiences influence students’ educational and career trajectories, for example, by affecting their interest in STEM fields or research careers or connecting them with key resources that can help them be successful in college and in STEM.
  • Methods & Technologies: Human subjects research, mixed methods / educational study design, survey design and data collection, interviews and focus group design and conduct, qualitative content analyses of audio and video data, classroom and field observations, descriptive statistics, regression analysis.
  • Research/Design Issues: What are the roles of human, cultural, and social capital in students’ access to research experiences? Are there key features of undergraduate research experiences that promote or hinder student success? How are undergraduate research experiences functioning to influence students’ academic and career trajectories?
  • Want to join this team? Please contact Dr. Dolan ( to ask about available spots and then complete and submit the registration form once you have his permission to join and have agreed on which credits you will earn.  
  • Principal Investigator: Dr. Erin Dolan, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Math & Science Education. Lab website.