Smith College Department of Biological Sciences faculty members have research projects in which students can participate for credit through special studies (BIO 400). Special studies projects can be taken for between 1 and 5 credits, and can last a semester, a year or more.
If you are interested in any of the research projects listed, contact the faculty by e-mail to set up an appointment to discuss the projects.
- Use electrophysiological techniques and/or in-depth study of original literature to learn about the functions of nervous systems or muscle cells.
Neurodevelopmental Biology using the zebrafish model system.
- Project 1. Neuron-Glial interactions during commissure formation in the forebrain.
- Project 2. Neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation in the developing spinal cord.
- Project 3. Ecology and Development. Investigations into the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on fish embryogenesis.
These research directions involve a diversity of approaches that include but are not limited to an array of microscopy and imaging methods, mutant analysis, gene knockdown techniques, transgenesis and cell transplantation to study gene function in the live developing brain.
- Plant migration and climate change. This research involves various approaches to describing and predicting plant species dispersal and migration abilities in response to climate change. Field-based experiments, reviews of horticultural data on plant performance outside their native ranges, and range mapping using geographic information systems (GIS) are some of the opportunities available for undergraduate research projects.
- Plant community assembly. This research investigates the various factors influencing the development and diversity of forest plant communities in the Northeast, including a detailed focus on evolution of plant ecophysiological and life history traits controlling species' niche positions along key environmental gradients.
- In vitro engineering of novel antibiotics. This project seeks to develop new antimicrobila compounds, based on naturally occurring bacteriocins, that exhibit high activity and delay the appearance of resistance. This project is also concerned with exploring the relationship between phylogenetic conservation and functional versatility in a colicin model system.
- In vivo evolution of RNaseP RNA. We have developed a system that allows a single component of bacterial metabolism—the catalytic RNA moiety of RNaseP—to evolve de novo in an E. coli cell. This project examines the extent to which existing molecular components reflect globally or locally optimal solutions.
- Students interested in research in the broad area of experimental molecular evolution are welcome to contact me to discuss potential opportunities in my laboratory.
- Xenopus oocyte expression system. This research involves injecting ion channel RNA or DNA into Xenopus oocytes (frogs' eggs), and recording expressed ion channel currents and their modulation by general anesthetic agents.
- DNA microarray project. This research uses DNA microarrays (genes spotted on to glass slides) to screen for differential gene expression in control/anesthetic- or sedative-treated brain tissue.
- Investigation of invertebrate blood cell structure, motility, and phagocytic and bactericidal capacity using light and electron microscopy, cytochemistry and in vivo and in vitro assays.
- Examination of the structure and function (divalent cation accumulation?) of botryoidal tissue and chloragogen cells from two groups of Hirudineans.
- Mechanisms of production and utilization of hydrogen peroxide in diverse biological systems—from blood cells to plants to bombardier beetles.
- Research projects in a variety of areas having to do with reproduction in mammals, animal behavior, coat color and genetics. Come see me to discuss your interests and mine.
- Genome evolution in ciliates. Use molecular techniques to determine the DNA sequences involved in regulating chromosome rearrangements in single-celled ciliates.
- Conventional plant breeding for the introduction of new ornamentals and the micropropagation (i.e., tissue culture) of endangered and difficult to propagate species. Also offers two summer research internships in molecular plant systematics at Kew Gardens in London, England.
Computing for neuroscience research and teaching. Current projects include:
- Writing Macintosh software for data acquisition, display and processing of neural data
- Web authoring for teaching neuroscience
- Digital video editing using iMovie
Familiarity with the Mac and experience with programming, Web authoring or video are essential prerequisites because of the limited time available to complete a project.
- Health and Condition of Coral Reefs. This computer-based project uses a large dataset collected off San Salvador Island, Bahamas and Belize to assess the effects of large-scale natural (e.g., hurricane damage) and human (e.g., over-fishing) disturbances on coral and fish populations at these Caribbean sites.
- Coral Response to Environmental Disturbances. This project investigates the physiological response (production of protective compounds) of corals to such disturbances as UV radiation and thermal anomalies.
- Stress Proteins During Exercise: We study the mRNA and protein expression of several stress proteins, as well as signal transduction enzymes, that are induced following a repairable, damaging exercise in mice and humans. These proteins may function in the immediate repair of the damage and in the long-term adaptation of the muscles to exercise.
- Probing the effects of estrogen on the regulation of the stress proteins. Female mice exhibit a significantly different pattern of stress protein expression following downhill running than do males.
Contact for more information >
- Marine biological invasions: Participate in a project to identify high-risk pathways that transport nonindigenous marine species to New England.
- Biochemical systematics of dusky salamanders: using DNA sequencing and allozyme data to determine the species that inhabit the southern Appalachian Mountains in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.
- My laboratory focuses on research designed to elucidate the molecular biology of the parasites that cause elephantiasis and African river blindness. Most of our research relates in one way or another to the goal of eliminating these diseases that afflict 200 million people worldwide. We also study animal parasites that infect endangered wildlife.