The following are potential research mentors and CIHMID host labs for undergraduate research program participants; REU students may choose from any on this list as all projects can be completed in person, or remotely.
REU participants will develop individual research projects with guidance from their mentors.
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.
Our research centers on the development of broad-spectrum, durable disease resistance in crop plants with a focus on diseases caused by bacteria that deploy host DNA binding proteins called TAL effectors. We also continue to be interested in the use of TAL effectors as customizable DNA targeting tools for applications such as targeted gene regulation (dTALEs) and genome editing (TALENs).
The Heck lab deciphers molecular mechanisms regulating insect transmission of plant pathogens and uses this knowledge to create practical solutions that mitigate vector-borne diseases in agriculture. We use a combination of computational and wet-lab approaches to study vector-pathogen-plant interactions. Students will receive training at the intersections of computational biology, plant pathology, entomology, microbiology, genetic engineering and synthetic biology.
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 homeostasis. Metal 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.
The Hendry lab studies the evolution and ecology of bacteria interacting with animal hosts, particularly insects. Study systems include both pathogenic interactions of bacteria with agriculturally important insects and mutualistic interactions where bacterial symbionts influence insect ecology and evolution. There are several undergraduate research opportunities in the lab using techniques in microbiology, ecological experiments, and genomics.
The research in the Kessler Lab focuses on the ecology and evolution of plant chemical defenses (secondary metabolites) to pathogens and herbivores and the role of soil microbial communities to affect and be affected by plant secondary metabolism. Thus we try to understand how microbially-mediated plant-soil feedbacks influence the macroscopic interactions of plants with their biotic environment.
The McArt lab focuses on pollinator health. Undergraduates in the lab have previously studied how bees transmit pathogens at flowers, and how bees are co-exposed to pesticides and pathogens during crop pollination. Current research projects include: 1) Understanding how exposure to fungicides disrupts gut microbiota and influences bee health, 2) Understanding how bee and flower traits facilitate pathogen transmission, and 3) Understanding how temporal changes in plant-pollinator networks influences their susceptibility to epidemics.
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.