Potential Research Mentors and Projects


The following are potential research mentors and CIHMID host labs for undergraduate research program participants; REU students may choose from the list except for the final four PIs listed, who are potential host labs for URE (CU student) participants.

REU participants will develop individual research projects with guidance from their mentors.


Esther Angert

The Angert lab specializes in the interplay between specific microbial populations and their animal hosts. Current research is aimed at defining these relationships and understanding how they impact host nutritional ecology and evolution. The lab group is interested in developing a comprehensive understanding of the biology of an exceptional group of bacteria called Epulopiscium spp. that inhabit the intestinal tract of tropical marine surgeonfish. These bacteria are the largest heterotrophic bacteria known and can be seen with the unaided eye. They have evolved unique cell structures and reproductive strategies that support their unusual size and reinforce their symbiotic associations. Undergraduate projects in the lab allow students to gain experience in molecular biology, microbiology, and basic bioinformatics tools.


Adam Bogdanove

Our research centers on crop diseases caused by Xanthomonas bacteria, focusing on TAL effectors injected by the bacteria to manipulate host gene expression after discovering how TAL effectors recognize their DNA targets and pioneered their use as tools for experimental gene regulation and genome editing. Current efforts focus using TAL effectors to generate plant disease resistance.


Nicolas Buchon

The Buchon lab is interested in understanding host-microbe relationships and the genetic network that governs the host response to microbes. The main focus of work in the lab is to characterize the host mechanisms that control intestinal homeostasis in response to infectious and resident microbes. Lab members aim to understand how microbes can alter intestinal homeostasis and give rise to pathologies. Finally, research in the lab characterizes the spatial complexity of the gastro-intestinal system and how gut regions are established and maintained and how regional variations in intestinal physiology are relevant to health and disease. The lab makes use of the fruit fly as a model system and emphasizes couplings between genomics, functional genetics, cell biology and systems level approaches (computation and theory).


Clare Casteel

Numerous studies have demonstrated that vector-borne pathogens influence host characteristics, resulting in altered host-vector interactions and enhanced transmission. The Casteel Lab seeks to determine the molecular mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon and utilize this knowledge to develop innovative control strategies using genetic and biochemical approaches. Current focuses are on changes in plant signaling and defenses, cell biology, and protein functions in response to insect vectors and the viral pathogens they transmit.


Tobias Doerr

The Doerr lab employs bacterial genetics, biochemistry and cell biology to study cell envelope remodeling in bacterial pathogens. In particular, work in the lab aims to define regulatory pathways and functional networks of enzymes involved in cell wall degradation, modification and synthesis as well as factors required for upholding outer membrane barrier function. The lab seeks to understand these processes to gain insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of cell growth and cell shape maintenance as well as to elucidate the mechanism(s) of action of envelope-acting antibiotics. Specifically the lab studies these functions in the human pathogen Vibrio cholerae. Undergraduate students in the lab will learn skills in microbiology and molecular biology.


John Helmann

The Helmann lab investigates adaptation to stress using Bacillus subtilis as a model organism. One project focuses on the roles of alternative sigma factors and other regulators in controlling cell envelope stress responses. These studies support our ongoing work on the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. A second major research effort is directed at metal ion homeostasisMetal regulation plays an important role in host-pathogen interactions, where sequestration of essential metal ions is a critical part of the innate immune response. We can currently recruiting undergraduate to help with investigating how cells adapt to both metal ion limitation and excess and working to identify the specific physiological processes that fail under these conditions.


Tory Hendry

The Hendry lab studies the evolution and ecology of bacteria interacting with animal hosts. We are currently focused on pathogenic interactions between plant-associated bacteria and sap sucking pest insects. The bacteria, Pseudomonas syringae, are common plant pathogens and also widespread on plant surfaces. They can infect and kill insects like aphids in as few as three days. We are working to understand the mechanisms of this interaction what the consequences are for insects, bacteria, and plants. There are several undergraduate research opportunities in the lab using techniques in microbiology, molecular biology, and genomics.


Elizabeth Johnson

Our lab is interested in understanding mechanisms of lipid dependent host-microbe interactions and how these interactions influence human health. We use techniques in high-throughput sequencing, mass spectrometry based lipidomics, and general molecular biology to address these topics. 


Brian Lazzaro

The Lazzaro lab is recruiting undergraduates to assist with a project investigating how animals balance investment in immunity versus reproduction. Both immunity and reproduction are energetically demanding traits. Therefore, increased investment in one trait usually comes at the cost of other. We recently found that juvenile hormone plays an important role in mediating trade-off between immunity and reproduction. Using Drosophila melanogaster as a model host, we are interested in finding out the mechanisms underlying this trade-off. We have hypothesized that juvenile hormone mediated increased investment of resources towards reproduction upon mating could cause a deficit in resources available for immunity and hence, resulting in trade-off. We aim to measure various metabolites such as lipids, proteins and carbohydrates in organs that are important in either immunity or reproduction.


Cynthia Leifer

The Leifer lab investigates how the immune system detects and initiates inflammatory responses to microbes. Our focus is on regulatory mechanisms that control signaling through a class of innate immune receptors, Toll-like receptors.


Gregory Martin

The Martin lab studies the molecular bases of bacterial infection processes and the plant immune system. Our research focuses on speck disease caused by the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato. We use diverse experimental methods in biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, forward and reverse genetics, genomics, molecular biology, plant pathology, and structural biology.


Scott McArt 

The McArt lab focuses on the ecology of plant pollinators and their diseases. Undergraduates in the lab have previously studied how bee traits influence pathogen prevalence among wild bees species and how flower traits influence likelihood of pathogen transmission in plant-pollinator networks. Current research projects include: 1) Combining empirical data with network modeling to understand pathogen transmission in plant-pollinator networks, 2) Evaluating the relative importance of multiple factors (pesticides, pathogens, diet, landscape variables) on bumble bee and honey bee colony performance, and 3) Understanding how pesticides and pathogens influence the delivery of pollination services to agriculturally important crops.


Andy Moeller

The Moeller lab studies the evolution of hots-microbe relationships. Our current work focuses on vertebrates’ co-evolutionary histories with microorganisms through a combination of -omics approaches, gnotobiotic experiments, and field studies.


Corrie Moreau

The Moreau lab focuses on the symbiotic factors that drive speciation, adaptation, and evolutionary diversification.  Much of the research in the lab focuses on the potential co-evolution of ants and their gut-associated bacteria to understand the diversity and putative function of host-associated microbes.  By coupling this information with data on diet, trophic ecology, evolutionary history and biogeography, we hope to gain a better understanding of how these intimate interactions influence patterns of biological diversity.


Teresa Pawlowska

Research in the Pawlowska lab is focused on understanding the biology and evolution of symbiotic associations, with a particular focus on interactions between fungi and bacteria.  In the past, undergraduates in the lab authored and co-authored several papers describing their projects, which used molecular evolutionary analyses to understand the evolution of bacterial symbionts and their interactions with fungi.


Joseph Peters

The central focus of my lab is microbial evolution with mobile genetic elements. We are interested in how highly evolved mobile elements contribute to evolving new functions with a strong focus on emerging pathogens and antibiotic resistance. We use a combination of tools, but primarily bioinformatics, molecular genetics, and biochemistry.


Angela Poole

We are interested in understanding the interactions between nutrition, host factors, and oral and gut microbiomes and the resulting effects on host physiology. This knowledge will help us determine how we can perturb the microbiome to alleviate and prevent metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. 


Maren Vitousek

The Vitousek Lab investigates how organisms cope with stress, and how the social environment impacts biological state. We are currently using free-living songbirds (tree swallows) as a model system to test the links between the social environment, stress, and the gut microbiome. Undergraduate researchers, working with postdocs and the PI, will work to extract and sequence microbial DNA in order to characterize gut microbial diversity, and explore its relationship with phenotype and fitness under different contexts.


CIHMID PIs who are potential URE hosts:

Hector Aguilar-Carreno

Laura Harrington

Jeongmin Song

Gary Whittaker