Academic Resources

Summer Scholars Program

Biology Department

Updated for 2016

Department Website

Catalina Arango

Dr. Catalina Arango

Research in my lab uses the plant symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti as a model organism to study regulation of genes and cellular processes in bacteria. My research focuses on the regulation of carbon metabolism, specifically the phenomenon known as catabolite repression. One approach to our research is to understand which are the proteins that transmit the signal resulting in differential expression of certain genes. A different approach looks at the structure of gene promoters that are regulated by catabolite repression, and at the sequences that are critical for this regulation.

Dr. Shantanu Bhatt

Dr. Shantanu Bhatt

Enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) is one of the leading causes of infantile diarrhea in developing countries and contributes to significant morbidity and mortality. EPEC belongs to a family of pathogens that infect the intestinal tract and attach intimately to the host cell. Upon attachment the pathogen destroys cellular microvilli, which are organelles crucial for the absorption of fluids and nutrients. Destruction of the microvilli results in diarrhea. The genetic island called locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE) is essential for the ability of EPEC to cause diarrhea. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of the environmental cues and regulators that control the LEE holds the key to designing effective therapies to combat EPEC outbreaks. Our research is focussed on identifying such virulence factors. The research will enable students to harness concepts from physics, chemistry, and the diverse sub-disciplines of biology, including cells, genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology, and integrate them together towards addressing a socially and biologically relevant phenomenon.


Dr. Jonathan Fingerut

Research in my lab is currently following two different avenues: 1) The effect of surface roughness on the settlement of freshwater stream insect larvae. This work involves weekly field collections of larvae, their culture in the lab, and running assays on their settlement in an artificial laboratory stream. 2) An investigation of the ecophysiology of an invasive fruit fly. This work involves maintaining fly cultures and performing a number of types of assays on their behavior, reproduction and dispersal ecology, with an eye towards developing novel control methods.

Dr. Forster

Brian Forster

(Science Pedagogy) Students will be given the opportunity to develop and/or optimize laboratory protocols that will be used in the GEP Natural Science Instructional Laboratories. Successful lab activities will be used by Biology 165 or Environmental Science 106 students (lab-based GEP science classes for non-majors). There also exists the possibility of submitting the developed lab protocol for peer-reviewed publication. It is recommended that students interested in working on this should contact Dr. Brian Forster ( before completing an application to discuss what lab activities can be developed. Currently, we are interested in developing new labs on assessing water quality (for ENV) and nephron activity (for BIO). However, other lab activities that the applicant may be interested in developing can be developed as well.

Dr. Grogan

Dr. Eileen Grogan

Laboratory and Field Studies of a Paleozoic Marine Bay
The opportunity exists for one or two undergraduate students to participate in a longstanding field research program dedicated to the collection and study of fossils from the 318 million-year- old Bear Gulch Limestone Deposit of Montana. Successful students will learn about the fauna and flora (biology, ecology, taxonomy, taphonomy) of a Paleozoic bay through study of the relevant literature, examination of lab specimens, and by engaging in team-based field excavations in a remote region out west. During this process, the student will see and or discover fossil forms which are entirely new to science. He/she will gain experience in field science and team-based excavation practicies. Qualified candidates must have prior field or significant camping experience, the physical stamina required for manual excavation, and must interview with Dr. Grogan prior to submitting an application for a position on the expedition team.

julia lee

Dr. Julia Lee-Soety

My lab uses baker's yeast as a model organism to understand maintenance of chromosome ends. Telomere stability is crucial for eukaryotic cells with linear chromosomes. We are examining how an RNA processing protein, Npl3, is important in this maintenance which have implications in cell aging and cancer. Various molecular biology techniques are used in the lab.

edwin li

Dr. Edwin Li

My research area focuses on understanding the physical and chemical principles governing the interaction of membrane proteins.  These interactions are measured in model membranes (liposomes), bacterial membranes and eukaryotic membranes using molecular biology and biophysical techniques.  The goal is to gain structural and quantitative information regarding the effects of disease-causing mutations in receptor tyrosine kinases, which are membrane receptors that regulate cell growth, differentiation, and mobility.

One project is focused on the interaction of transmembrane helices (transmembrane domains of membrane proteins). For this project, the student will learn basic molecular biology (cloning) and microbiology (working with bacteria) skills.

Another project is a collaboration with Dr. Nelson. This involves a fluorescence-microscopy technique called Forster Resonance Energy Transfer. For this, the student will also learn how to grow and maintain mammalian cell cultures and nematodes (C. elegans).


Dr. Scott McRobert

Animal Behavior - we study factors that impact aggregation behavior in fish.

Dr. Matthew Nelson

Dr. Matthew Nelson

Dr. Nelson’s research is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular nature of complex behaviors, such as sleep. To accomplish this, his lab studies the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, a microscopic roundworm, whose sleep behaviors are controlled by similar genes and neurochemistry underlying human sleep. C.elegans is easily maintained in the lab and genetically tractable, making this a powerful system for identifying new pathways regulating sleep and other behaviors. His lab uses a combination of techniques common in the following disciplines: Molecular Biology, Genetics and Animal Behavior.

Dr. King Smith

Dr. Christina King Smith

Dr. King-Smith’s research focuses on understanding mechanisms of intracellular organelle transport in eukaryotic cells. As a model system, her lab uses retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells from the eyes of fish. Fish RPE cells contain numerous melanin pigment granules (melanosomes) that undergo massive migrations within the cells in response to light. RPE cells can be isolated and cultured in vitro, allowing study of the cytoskeletal mechanisms that mediate melanosome motility. Summer research projects will focus on characterizing the regulation of pigment granule transport and other aspects of motility in RPE cells. Skills to be learned will include SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting, immunoprecipitation, fluorescence microscopy, and RPE cell isolation, among other techniques.

Students who wish to be considered for SSP research should plan on doing volunteer research during the spring 2016 semester.