Past URE Students


CIHMID Undergraduate Research Experience Students


Summer 2019

Ashlyn Amsden, CIHMID URE student 2019

Ashlyn Amsden, “Life history trade-offs in Drosophila melanogaster”

     Department of Entomology, Brian Lazzaro

Female Drosophila melanogaster are more susceptible to bacterial infection after mating. Previous studies have shown that the male seminal fluid protein, Sex Peptide, suppresses the female immune response by stimulating production of Juvenile Hormone (JH). JH is required for the incorporation of yolk proteins into complete oogenesis. For my project, I tested the hypothesis that limiting investment in reproduction would allow females to mount a stronger immune response to infection.



Thomas Chu, CIHMID URE student 2019

Thomas Chu, “Investigating hyphal fusion as a mechanism for horizontal transmission of fungal endosymbiotic bacteria

     Plant Pathology and Plant Microbe Biology, Teresa Pawlowska

Heritable endobacteria of fungi challenge the traditional models of bacterial evolution developed from observations of insect endosymbionts. Candidatus Moeniiplasma glomeromycotorum (CaMg) is a heritable endosymbiont of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Though horizonal transmission of CaMg has never been observed in AMF, it has been inferred through comparative phylogenetic analyses. These analyses suggest that CaMg transmission is predominantly vertical, in common with insect endosymbionts. However, there is also evidence for occasional host-switching events and bacterial recombination, which is indicative of horizontal transmission. My project will determine how commonly CaMg may be horizontally transmitted.


Brianna Johnson, CIHMID URE student 2019

Brianna Johnson, “Uncovering a secondary function of shikimate kinases in Vibrio cholerae and other Gram-negative bacteria

     Department of Microbiology, Tobias Dörr

The cell wall is a structure found in all free-living bacteria that provides shape and stability to the organism. Maintenance of this structure is vital to survivial, yet it is incompletely understood. My project seeks to identify the role of a gene, aroK, in cell wall maintenance.




Sungmin Ko, CIHMID URE student 2019

Sungmin Ko, “The effect of gut microbiota on avian developmental temperature priming”

     Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Maren Vitousek

Gut microbiota may play a role in temperature priming during development by mobilizing and diverting energy to tissues in thermoregulation. For my project, we manipulated developmental termperature and microbiota of wild Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) chicks in order to determine how these interact during development.



Mercedes Lewandrowski, CIHMID URE student 2019

Mercedes Lewandrowski, “Assessing the error rate of mammalian orthoreovirus across strains”

     Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, John S.L. Parker

The introduction of random mutations during the copying of an organism’s genetic material is key to its evolution. Viruses have high mutation rates in comparison to cellular organisms, and this aspect of their life cycle helps to generate a genetically diverse progeny. For my project, I used high-throughput sequencing to compare the mutational rate of two strains of mammalian orthoreovirus, a dsRNA virus with a segmented genome.



Olivia Piscano, CIHMID URE student 2019

Olivia Piscano, “Immune response effects of sex peptide receptor expression in female Drosophila

     Department of Entomology, Brian Lazzaro

Previous studies have shown that reproductive efforts in female Drosophila melanogaster weaken their immune response. Mated females are more likely to die from infection, have higher bacterial loads, and produce fewer AMPs than virgins. My project will test the hypothesis that the receptor of SP (SPR) is necessary to induce suppression of the female post-mating immune response.



Sophie Reynolds, CIHMID URE student 2019

Sophie Reynolds, “Potential off target effect of GSK219 implicated in TLR7 and TLR9 signaling pathways in macrophages”

     Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Cynthia Leifer

Toll-like receptors initiate host protective as well as pathological inflammation as an immunological response to various foreign stimuli. Dysregulation of TLR signaling and associated cytokine secretion in macrophages promotes chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease. My research seeks to understand the role of the transient receptor potential vanilin (TRPV) 4, as well as other TRP channels, in TLR regulation.



Alejandro Schmieder, CIHMID URE student 2019

Alejandro Schmieder, “Understanding morphology and phylogeny in Epulopiscium spp. C and J morphotypes”

     Department of Microbiology, Esther Angert

Epulopiscium spp., and related bacteria known as ‘epulos’, are large, highly polyploid heterotrophs that are morphologically diverse. Additionally, epulos are gut symbionts of surgeonfish and likely influence the digestion of their surgeonfish hosts. Certain surgeonfish host distinct groups of these giant bacteria, and while some Epulopiscium spp. are well-characterized (e.g., the A and B morphotypes), there are several morpohologies that we can better understand. For instance. the Cs and Js are fascinating because of their sporulation abilities, reproductive strategies, and morphological diversity; however, the C and J morphotypes are challenging to collect and, thus, little data has been generated on their morphology or genetic information. This research seeks to better understand the diversity of the C and J morphotypes found in surgeonfish hosts Naso lituratus and Naso unicornis.


CIHMID URE 2018 Participants

Diana Balint, Brito Lab

“I study the dynamics of horizontal gene transfer within the human microbiome. I am particularly interested in the genetic interactions between the human immune system and the microbiota.”


Alexander Chong, Song Lab

“I am working on a S. typhimurium strain that produces typhoid toxin, which is typically produced by S. typhi. The purpose of this project is to create a strain in which typhoid toxin secretion and trafficking mechanisms can be observed in vivo, since S. typhi is a human-restricted pathogen.”


Sayyed Hussain, Lazzaro Lab

“I’m studying the effects of sexual reproduction on the immunocompetence of fruit flies.”


Danica Lee, Vitousek Lab

“I am studying the links between diversity in the gut microbiome, corticosterone levels, and social connectivity in free-lining tree swallow.”


Malia Mackey, Whittaker Lab

“My research will investigate the mechanism of Ebola’s activation inside the human cell.”


Miranda Martinez, Buchon Lab

“I am testing to see how certain genes influence progenitor cells within the intestines, using Drosophila metanogastor as the model organism.”


Stephanie Ojilere, Ivanek Lab

“My research project consists of using environment sampling to monitor nosocomial bacterial infections in health care facilities.”


Hannah Pambianchi, Whittaker Lab

“My research focuses on determining the genomic mutations in feline coronavirus that can cause the relatively benign, enteric form of the virus to become lethal, resulting feline infectious peritonitis.”


Srinand Paruthiyil, Helmann Lab

“I am investigating mechanisms of iron homeostasis in Bacillus subtilis.”


Evaniya Shakya, Pawlowska Lab

“I am a junior majoring in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. My project focuses on the co-evolution between the pathogenic fungus Rhizopus and the endosymbiotic bateria Burkholderia. I use fungal markers to study the co-evolution between them.”


John Tawil, Hendry Lab

“I am working to understand the genetic casis of virulence among common bacterial pathogens that infect and kill agricultural pest insects like aphids.”


Emma Williams, McArt Lab

“I am testing the potential synergism between fungicides and insecticides and the impact of those interactions on bees.”


Jason Yeung, Vitousek Lab

“I am working on a project that studies how gut microbiome diversity affects stress and social behavior in local tree swallows here in Ithaca.”


Freya Zhang, Douglas Lab

“I am investigating the essential amino acid production from bacterial symbionts associated with xylem-feeding insects.”