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Faculty-student research during Summer and Fall 2010

From the research lab of Professor Valerie Banschbach

From Emily Ogilvy ('12):  This past summer I researched the ant diversity in the burned versus the unburned sandplain forest in Vermont with Professor Banschbach. I wanted to find out if the ant communities differed in a burned area vs. an unburned area and what role ants play in the succession of the forest. Using the ant specimens collected from the General Biology classes from 2008, Professor Banschbach and I keyed out the ants to genus and species. After looking at over 700 specimens my results suggested that the burn sandplain forest was more diverse. This fall I am continuing my research by looking at the ants collected from 2006 and 2007.

From the research lab of Professor Donna Bozzone and Professor Doug Green

  Jason Berglund worked with Professors Bozzone and Green this summer  and was joined by Lucas Schultz in Fall

From Jason Berglund ('11): This summer focused upon the study of the effects of South Asian spices, such as tea or cloves, upon common cariogenic and probiotic bacteria. The goal is to elucidate any connection between what we eat and if there is a reason for why we eat it--all from an evolutionary biology perspective.

From Anna Gauthier ('11): The overall goal of my research is to explore the tempo and mode of virulence change under various conditions to determine the mechanisms involved with how virulence evolves over time. This summer, I began to develop a working system using bacteria and bacteriophage so that I would be able to produce reliable and replicable results throughout my continued research during the school year.

From Chelsea Myers ('11): My summer research consisted of learning new techniques in order to study the effect of hand sanitizer on bacterial mortality and resistance. My summer certainly concluded that hand sanitizer is generally effective. My studies will continue this year to concentrate on growing and quantifying resistant bacteria through generations of being subjected to sanitizer treatments.

From the research lab of Professor Mac Lippert: 

  Sarah Williams from Prof. Lubkowitz' lab and Kaitlyn Begins from Prof. Lippert's lab

Three students worked with Mac Lippert on projects related to the effects of transcription on mutagenesis in yeast.  Previous work has shown that elevated transcription level through a gene is associated with increased mutation rate at that gene locus.  Each student worked on their own project.  Since DNA is double stranded, but only one strand of each gene is transcribed, Kaitlyn Begins explored whether transcription of the other DNA strand also increased mutation rate.  Kaitlyn reports that, �The summer research experience was an amazing opportunity that I hope many students are able to have in the future.  My results yielded some interesting results that aren't yet fully understood.  I'll be continuing my research this semester on a slightly different question that arose from my results from both prior summer research projects.� 

A second student, Meghann Palermo, explored whether transcription influenced chromosomal rearrangements, which is when the end of a chromosome is deleted or when two chromosomes fuse together.  Meghann reports that, �Summer research is a great experience!  You get to learn several valuable lab techniques such as planning out experiments, running PCR reactions, and learning how to make gels.  Furthermore, summer research gives you the opportunity to practice the data analysis skills you learn in your biology classes.  I still need to perform some statistical evaluations before I can make any conclusions.  I am hoping to continue the research project this year, but am unable to do so until the spring!� 

A third student Ryan Gannon explored whether a specific type of mutation occurred under high-transcription conditions.  Ryan reports that, �When a cell undergoes transcription, the double helical structure of DNA is briefly open resulting in a non-transcribed strand that is at risk for mutation.  Cytosine, the most unstable of the four DNA bases, can deaminate into uracil on the non-transcribed strand during transcription.  To say that summer research is a rewarding experience is an understatement. It's awesome to have the responsibility of conducting original research and work along with the biology faculty and other students also performing research.  I will be continuing the same research with Professor Lippert in the fall.�

From the research lab of Professor Mark Lubkowitz

Mike McDonough is testing the hypothesis that Norway Maples are colonized by different mycorrhizael fungi than other maples.  The goal is to determine if Norway Maples form different symbiotic relationships with fungi than native maples and if this has contributed to their success as an invasive species.  Sara Williams is in the process of characterizing genes responsible for acquitting nutrients in epiphytes, or air plants-plants that do not root in the soil- to understand how these organisms scavenge rain water for their nutritional needs.  Jake Withee is cloning genes known to be involved in plant carnivory from close non-carnivorous relatives to determine if the evolution of this trait is primarily caused by how a gene is used as opposed to acquiring a new function.  Allen Hubbard is in the process of identifying genes that are involved in moving nutrients in the rice seed during germination.   Specifically, Allen is trying to identify genes that move small proteins from storage reserves to the embryo during germination.  

  The Macroinvertebrate crew in Snipe Island Brook in Richmond

From the research lab of Professor Declan McCabe

Summer 2010 saw room 315 Cheray bustling with the activities of Saint Michael's College students and off-campus guests as they converted the teaching space to become The Macroinvertebrate Lab (fondly known as The Bug Lab).  Students working with Declan McCabe this summer included: Yeseira Lazz� (Universidad Metropolitana '11), Bridget Levine (Saint Michael's College '12), Janel Roberge (Saint Michael's College '12), Tyler Gillingham (Saint Michael's College '11), Erin Hayes-Pontius (University of Vermont '11), Ram�n Pe�a (Universidad Metropolitana '11); Natalia Santiago Merced (Universidad Metropolitana '13).  The team included three returning students (Bridget, Erin, and Tyler) who played leadership roles and helped train the incoming students.  The team divided their time between field work and lab work in support of the Vermont EPSCoR Streams Project, and individual student-faculty research projects.  Most of the work involved sampling and identifying macroinvertebrates both for research projects and outreach to high school teams from Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Puerto Rico.  During early July, Macroinvertebrate Lab team members were actively involved in training the high school teams to conduct their own research in streams near their own schools.

Water samples were sent for analysis for phosphorus, suspended solids, and coliform bacteria.  Margaret Ecker (Saint Michael's College '12) was among the students working in the water analysis lab at UVM on related research projects and also providing water quality data for the Streams Project.  All of chemical, biological and physical habitat variables were complimented by land-use data generated using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) layers that utilize satellite imagery and aerial photographs.

An immediate outcome of the summer work has been an expansion of the set of macroinvertebrate web sites tailored to specific stream sites being sampled by partner highschools.  All of the students involved in the project are actively involved in preparing posters for a spring symposium.  The year-round research team includes Erin and Bridget who earned internship funding for the academic year to continue their projects.  They have been joined by Scott Ritter (UVM �11).

From the research lab of Professor Adam Weaver -

Kristen Cowens and Amanda Willette spent the summer examining specific facets of the circulatory anatomy and nervous system physiology in leeches. Together with Professor Weaver, Kristen and Amanda set up a neurobiology lab in which they collected video footage of the blood circulation in a juvenile leech, recorded neuronal activity, and prepared animals for future anatomical studies. They also discussed their research and the characteristics of leeches with a group of K-6 students at the Schoolhouse Learning Center in South Burlington.

Two biology students also did summer research with faculty in our Chemistry Department.

Marie Agan worked with Professor Alayne Schroll on organic synthesis of FMOC selenocystine and then adding a protecting group (2.4.6- trimethoxybenzlyalcohol) to the very reactive nucleophilic selenium on the amino acid.  Once protected, the derivative can be used to insert selenocysteine into polypeptides such as enzymes like glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme used in cancer research and drug discovery.  Derrick Cumberbatch worked with Professor Shane Lamos and used isotopic variants of a nitrogen-containing compound called cholamine to do multiplex analysis on carboxylic acids in biological systems.  These chemical variants have the potential to be very powerful diagnostic tools in the future.



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