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Student Research

WISE RP Summer Research Scholarships

The WISE RP offers scholarships annualy to WISE RP students seeking to participate in research or internships for the Spring/Summer terms from any college. Recipients have a research/internship commitment of at least 30 hours per week for 10 weeks. The scholarship offers financial support for students to work and live in Ann Arbor over the summer. 

2019 Summer Research Scholars

Andra Campbell

Major: Biochemistry

Project Description: I am continuing my UROP project studying monarch butterflies. Specifically we are studying the genetic basis for migration in monarch butterflies because in monarch butterflies migration is not a learned behavior. We are looking at the correlation between diapause (reproductive pause) and directionality in a fall migrant monarch with the possibility that a single pathway controls both traits. This research helps with the understanding of the evolution of migration as very little is known about it as it is a very complex phenotype to develop evolutionarily. A side project will to be to develop a long range tracker to put on monarch butterflies for future experiments. This project will involve collaboration with engineering departments to develop a tracker that is able to transmit a large enough signal to track but is also small enough to fit on a monarch butterfly.

Summer Goals: I hope to explore what life as a full time researcher entails to help decide whether it is something I want to pursue in the future. I also hope to explore my scientific interests while helping make progress on the project. I'd also like to learn new scientific techniques and data analysis. Lastly, I'd like to start to get an answer to the question posed in my project as I am very excited to see what results because the topic is very interesting to me.

Lesley Escobar

Major: Chemisty

Project Description: Electroorganic chemistry describes an alternative to traditional synthetic methods that uses electric currents instead of toxic and costly chemical reagents to accomplish small molecular transformations. This process is a possible greener alternative for alcohol oxidation. The use of TEMPO (2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidinyl-N-oxyl), will act as an electrocatalyst for alcohol oxidation. Using the copper catalyst azide-alkyne cycloaddtion (CuAAC) or “click” chemistry we are able to covalently attach TEMPO to glassy carbon electrodes (GCE). These electrodes can then be used to electrochemically convert alcohols to aldehydes and nitriles.

Summer Goals: The initial goal of this project is to develop an efficient way to convert alcohols to aldehydes using TEMPO modified GCEs. Then we will focus our efforts on the nitrilation of benzaldehyde using the same electrodes. We will then investigate combining the two transformations in a single reaction vessel. Ultimately, we intend to use glassy carbon electrodes (GCE) covalently modified with TEMPO to convert alcohols and aldehydes to nitriles in a simple, green, one-pot procedure.

Sydney Jones

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Project Description: Many of the leading causes of blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy, cause vision loss due to the formation of new blood vessels. Early detection of diseases in the eye is a pivotal step for doctors as they try to determine specific treatment for a specific patient’s needs. The development of novel imaging system has enabled complex imaging to analyze various areas of the eye in depth, such as different blood vessels and layers of the eye. With the use of imaging systems such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Photoacoustic Microscopy (PAM), these systems have allowed researchers to study larger animals, such as rabbits, and gain groundbreaking images from these systems. This is imperative because the larger the eye is, the more that results can resemble that of a human eye. The purpose of this study is to use noninvasive methods (OCT and PAM) to analyze retinal vessels in the eye, and these images can be used to see cellular markers for onsite of an eye disease.

Summer Goals: Using this technique, we can find that our multimodal imaging system can visualize both anatomy including the retinal layers along with early detection of neovascularization through PAM. These results suggest that this real-time multimodal molecular imaging has significant potential to improve the care of patients with eye diseases, which is in line with our goals.

2018 Summer Research Scholars

Taryn Hayes

Taryn Hayes

Major: Neuroscience

Project Description: The goal of our research project is to investigate mechanisms of obesity-induced immune system activation and myelopoiesis in children and adolescents. Our study hopes to gain a better understanding of the specific inflammatory procresses that occur in overweight and obese children with type one and type two diabetes.

Summer Goals: I hope to gain some more knowledge in a lab setting. I have obtained all of my lab techniques from classes, so I am excited to gain new outside knowledge. In addition, I would like to gain more experience in a clinical setting before I attend medical school in the future. Finally, I hope that the results of our research project contributes to the prevention and treatment of diabetes and obesity.

Ariel Roy

Ariel Roy

Major: Environmental Engineering

Project Description: My research project centers on antibiotic resistance in wastewater treatment. Currently, there is some concern in environmental engineering circles that the way that we treat wastewater is promoting the genesis of antibiotic resistant microorganisms. However, the scientific research available on this effect is limited. My research project aims to quantify the amount of antibiotic resistance found in wastewater at different steps of treatment, as well as possibly track and analyze specific stretches of DNA associated with antibiotic resistance through the water sanitation process.

Summer Goals: My goals for my research experience are essentially to learn as much as I can and to be as helpful as possible in furthering the project that I'll be working on. I want to expand and improve my knowledge of microbiology and lab techniques. I also want to use this opportunity to better understand what a life in environmental engineering research would look like for me, to determine if I want to pursue a career in research.

Emma Schmidt

Emma Schmidt

Major: Public Health Sciences

Project Description: I will be joining the Bay Area Women's Center team as a Prevention Education Intern. My primary responsibilities will include becoming trained to answer phone calls from a crisis line, researching methods of intervention and prevention of violence and abuse, creating educational presentations on sexual safety and healthy relationships, and scheduling meetings to present my findings to the community. In the past, these presentations have been tailored and given to a plethora of different organizations and people in Bay County, ranging from interpersonal violence solutions for local businesses, to healthy relationships for middle school students. Specialty trainings, such as “Cut it Out,” have been given to employees and professionals working at salons, enabling them to recognize the warning signs of domestic and sexual abuse and refer their clients to safe resources. Furthermore, “Happy Bear” is a program for children from the ages of 4 to 7 that teaches kids the difference between good and bad touches, empowering them to learn and communicate about their boundaries. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for, help, and educate the people in my hometown, leading to a safer and more knowledgeable community.

Summer Goals: There are many different paths that can be taken in the field of public health. One of the goals I have for my internship is to decide if I would like to continue doing community education and prevention in my future career. Another goal I have is to educate and help the women and children in my community as much as I can.

Paden Graham

Paden Graham

Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Project Description: My research this summer will allow me to expand upon my UROP experience. I will be looking at the effects that sepsis has on the immune systems of mice by doing hands on experiments.

Summer Goals: I hope to gain a more complete understanding on the field of research while learning how to follow new procedures and use advanced equipment.

Noella Holmer

Noella Holmer

Major: Cellular and Molecular Biology

Project Description: The purpose of this research project is to investigate the gene expression of certain fruit fly neurons that affect the development of areas of the brain that signal mating and courtship. The project focuses on various enhancers, sections of DNA that increase the probability of a gene being expressed. In this case, I will be focusing on a gene called fruitless that aids in the mating process of fruit flies. The project first involves having two genetically different fruit flies mate. This will be done with many genetic variants. Their progeny’s brains are then dissected and immunostained. Immunostaining uses different antibodies to bind and stain to certain proteins in the brain, resulting in these sections fluorescing a specific color. The brains are analyzed with a confocal microscope that detects this fluorescence to create a series of images that show the brain’s layers. The presence of certain colors demonstrates where specific genes are being expressed within the brain and potentially their function.

Summer Goals: My main goal for this experience is to gain a better understanding of what a research position entails and how research is conducted. I see this summer project as an opportunity to not only gain experience, but also a chance to determine if this is a career path that I would enjoy pursuing. I hope to learn new lab techniques this summer to form a foundation of skills that will be applicable to further research endeavors. I also hope to learn different ways to problem solve and brainstorm new ideas, as much of research is being able to try different methods and make necessary alterations as needed. As I do not know much about neurobiology, another goal of mine is to increase my knowledge and expertise on the subject. In regards to the project itself, my goal is to analyze thirty different fly crosses and determine if their gene expression is driving certain developmental aspects of the brain.

Jillian Genova

Jillian Genova

Major: Chemistry

Project Description: The Keane Lab investigates the structure of noncoding RNAs in order to help us further understand the functions that they play in biology. I am joining a new project that focuses on the characterization of pre-micro RNA structure by untiling physical techniques such as NMR spectroscopy.

Summer Goals: Through this experience, I hope to develop my interest in research and my engagement in the scientific community. With this opportunity I am able to explore an exciting and interdisciplinary area of research. I look forward to understanding the investigative processes of research as well as develop essential technical laboratory skill.

Ana Timoficiuc

Ana Timoficiuc

Major: Aerospacing Engineering

Project Description: I will be working on outreach throughout the summer, as well as one of the following: programming robots to mimic landing on an asteroid, or adding temperature sensors to include heat considerations in the control of a gyroscopically controlled cart. However, the research lab I am a part of also gives me the opportunity to explore other projects that include graduate student research on the effectiveness of batteries in the aviation industry (and the improving of them) and tinkering with kids toys so that your mind can control what happens when you tell it to levitate an object, among other exciting projects.

Summer Goals: It was January when I realized many people around me had started finalizing their summer plans. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where to start until I saw the research award application from WISE. I had no experience with what research in the real world was–my main source of research “knowledge” coming from movies and on-occasion articles I’d read–but I knew I wanted to find out. I intend this research experience to be enveloped by a sea of growth: I want to discover what research means to me, what I value in the work I aspire to pursue, and how I manage my independence in the bounds set by my research and the summer scene of Ann Arbor. I also anticipate the Harry Potter-themed outreach I will be a part of as I will get more experience in the planning and importance of such events, and the valuable practice of working alongside professors and my professional peers.

2017 Summer Research Scholars

Hope Norris

Hope Norris

Elaine R. Feldman Scholar

Major: Neuroscience & Gender and Health, Class of 2020

This summer I volunteered in Dr. Sari van Anders’ social neuroendocrinology research lab. The lab’s research focuses on examining hormones and intimacy in social contexts, particularly concerning pair bonds in connection with the social modulation of testosterone.The main study that was running was for a senior student’s honors thesis. It was a series of interviews about how individuals may use a new diagram for depicting their sexualities and gender identities. I helped transcribe the interviews for that project, which was an extremely rewarding task because I learned a valuable qualitative research skill as well as listened to people’s life stories. It amazed me that participants were able to trust the researchers enough to share such personal experiences.With this study, I was involved with putting up posters to recruit for the study, setting up the testing environment, running participants through the study, and processing the hormone samples that the participants provided. It was an incredible experience to be able to help with so much of a research study, as I learned a lot about research practices, ethics, and problem solving when events didn’t go according to plan.Thanks to my experiences in the van Anders lab this summer, I’ve decided to pursue a senior honors thesis of my own when I am entering my senior year. I believe that the resources I have used during my research experience will not only benefit my research in the future, but will also benefit me during the rest of my time here at Michigan. 

Anna Li Aguirre

Anna Li Aguirre

Elaine R. Feldman Scholar

Major: Chemistry, Class of 2019

I have dreamt of being a scientist for longer than I can remember. From getting science kits every holiday and going to science camps whenever I get the chance, I can't get enough of it.When I declared chemistry major, I knew I wanted to be in a chemistry lab. This year, I joined an inorganic, organometallic chemistry lab where I design catalysts to functionalize different bonds that weren’t accessible beforehand. Being in charge of my own project, with guidance, of course, has been probably one of the mostfulfilling things I have done so far. It has been very stressful but also extremely rewarding.The Elaine R. Feldman Scholarship let me continue my research over the summer. This summer, not only have I been able to do and find what I really love, but I also got to learn a ton about grad school. I always had assumed I’d be getting my PhD, but now I know that it is really what I want to do. I've learned how to be a better individual. Research has taught me to be more focused and to not be afraid to ask questions. Research is my solace and my happy place where I know I can succeed. 

Lindsay Rasmussen

Lindsay Rasmussen

WISE RP Alumni Scholar

Major: Environmental Engineering, Class of 2019

I am very excited that I was able to stay over the summer, continue my research and build stronger connections. I would not have been able to afford living in Ann Arbor on my own, so I am extremely thankful!The research that I have been doing is for sustainable shrimp cultivation. Currently, shrimp farms release large amounts of ammonia which cause algal blooms. Our shrimp are in a recirculating tank, which reuses the same water. In order for the shrimp to survive (as they cannot live in large amounts of ammonia), the water goes through a bio-filter. In the future, I am hoping to take a closer look at the shrimp themselves and see what we can do to make cultivating them more efficient.Not only have I learned what goes into a research project, but I have also been introduced to many people in my area of interest. I am getting a major in environmental engineering and a minor in earth science, so this is a perfect fit for me.

WISE RP Students in UROP

Emily Rassel

Major: Aerospace Engineering

Project Title: Laboratory Astrophysics: Target Gas Fill System

Project description and Main Duties: In order to perform high-energy-density target testing in September 2018 at the OMEGA laser facility with more than one gas inside the targets, a new pressurized gas fill system needed to be built. The objective of this research project was to design, build, and test an easily portable system that could withstand 150 psi (over 10 atmospheres) of pressure, allow the mixing of gasses within the target by having two gas lines, and contain storage.

Two things learned so far: I learned that in order to be successful, you need to ask questions and understand what was tried in the past. It keeps you from making the same mistakes as someone else and can help you develop new ideas. In addition, I have learned the basics of high-energy-density testing and feel more prepared to tackle my classes next year.

Most excited about: I am extremely excited to design a system which hasn't been tried before in this lab; I am given the opportunity to create something new and learn the fundamentals of the design-build-test engineering process.

Elizabeth Woelmer

Major: Biology

Project Name: Mechanisms of Genetic Adaption in Streptococcus pneumoniae

Project Description and Main Duties: Streptococcus pneumoniae is a highly adaptable human pathogen that survives in the presence of antibiotics by taking in new DNA fragments. My project is determining molecular pathways involved in this adaption. I am going to make deletion mutants in the bacteria and determine the phenotypes of the mutants. My main duties are performing and interpreting laboratory experiments such as PCR, western blots, DNA cloning, and microscopy.

Two Things Learned So Far: Two things I've learned so far are how to perform and interpret PCR results from gel images and how to perform other lab techniques for microbiology.

Most excited about: I am most excited about the opportunity to learn laboratory techniques for working with bacteria. This experience would help me gain important skills that I can apply to my academics, especially when exploring courses in microbiology. I find it really exciting how antibiotic resistance is changing medical approaches to infectious disease.

Ashley Sin

Ashley Sin

Major: Chemical Engineering, Class of 2020

Project Title: Development of a Targeted Metabolomics Method for Polyamine Analysis

"As part of UROP, I looked for clinical laboratory research that involved chemical techniques and I luckily found this project that applied liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. I worked as a research assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Stefanie Wernisch and my project was called “Development of a Targeted Metabolomics Method for Polyamine Analysis”. Polyamines are organic compounds essential for normal cell function and the difference in polyamine levels in diabetic and non-diabetic patients can give more insight to the role of these compounds in end stage renal disease. We focused on investigating the effectiveness of derivatization on analyzing these compounds using reversed-phase liquid chromatography.  Doing research my freshman year was such a positive experience and has given me a clearer idea of what being involved in research meant. I discovered that I enjoy working in the lab and in the future, I definitely want to be involved in scientific research. While working surrounded by esteemed faculty and graduate students, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed but this experience has taught me to be confident in my work and remember that I can contribute important findings. Doing research has also taught me that an experiment does not always yield perfect results on the first try, but instead requires multiple trials and rethinking to reach proper and insightful conclusions."

Meike Stoldt

Meike Stoldt

Major: Biochemsitry, Class of 2019

Project Title: Reconstructive Techniques in Craniosynostosis

"Hello! My name is Meike and I am a rising junior studying Biochemistry and German at U of M. My research journey began toward the end of my freshman year, when I realized that after a year of trying out a multitude of organizations on campus, I still hadn’t found one that gave me this true sense of purpose I so longed for. I decided to apply to the undergraduate research opportunities program (UROP) for my sophomore year - and I have never regretted my decision.

My research group is composed of six highly motivated UROP students and led by the craniofacial surgery fellow at Mott's Children's Hospital. With this group, I had the amazing opportunutiy to shadow in the clinic and became interested in Pierre Robin Sequence, a complex medical condition. PRS is characterized by the triad of micrognathia (small mandible), glossoptosis (posterior displacement of the tongue), and airway obstruction in neonates. The fact that this condition is a sequence (one anomaly leads to the next) and not a syndrome (usually has a genetic basis), makes the patient population very diverse and choosing the most effective treatment option is difficult. Obstruction ranges from mild to severe, each case with different treatments. In infants , it is not always perfectly clear if an obstruction is mild or severe, so the goal of my project was to identify variables that predict whether a child needs a surgical intervention as opposed to non-invasive treatment.

Throughout the entire research process, I definitely realized that I was spending my time working on something impactful, which I personally found very fulfilling. Along the way I learned that clinical research is messy in its own way (maybe not breaking glassware, but having so many confounding variables that one cannot control), and that research is not always about having an “Aha” moment every few days. It’s a lot of work, which taught me to be diligent and remain focused. But as I expected, I found that it is all worth it, because one is truly making a positive difference in the lives of others. I take away from this experience a longing for more, and I’ve also started considering a career in research along with wanting to go to medical school and becoming a physician. I guess I’ll just have to see where life takes me!"

Shannon Wood

Shannon Wood

Major: Biomolecular Science/Gender & Health, Class of 2019

Project Title: Cardiopulmonary Bypass: A novel strategy to minimize systematic inflammatory response syndrome in a porcine model

I joined the Extracorporeal Life Support Research Laboratory, commonly known as the ECMO lab, my freshmen year through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). My project was “Cardiopulmonary Bypass: A novel strategy to minimize systematic inflammatory response syndrome in a porcine model.” The purpose of this study is to prevent systematic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) after cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) surgery, which develops in 20% of patients. SIRS is caused by the activation of white blood cells (WBC) when the blood enters the heart lung machine. We took a leukocyte modulator and placed it in the CPB circuit after the blood circulated through the heart-lung machine to help lower WBC activation, mitigate capillary leakage, and preserve hemodynamic stability, in hopes of a decreased SIRS response.

Before ECMO, I knew I wanted to become a pediatrician. Becoming a surgeon was only something I thought about every now and again, but quickly dismissed because it just seemed way to scary. For the first couple experiments, I watched, listened, and learned what was going on. The third or fourth experiment, at the end of November, I scrubbed in on the prep since it was a sterile surgery on a pig, for the first time. Within an hour or so, Dr. Rojas called me to the top of the table to hold the heart up, so he could work around it. I went to the top of the table and held a beating heart in my hand for the next little bit. That was the first time I held a working heart and since then I have held other various organs. Whatever fear I had of becoming a surgeon was gone and since that day, my plan to become a pediatric surgeon has not changed. Walking out of the lab that day, I finally understood why everyone said “do not be afraid to try something new.”

I joined the Michigan Center for Hand Outcomes and Innovative Research (M-CHOIR) the summer after my freshmen year by emailing the head of the lab. As a volunteer, I enter data, create patient powerpoints, transcribe and code interviews, and assist various lab members with their projects. The lab has been very welcoming and inclusive. Within a month of being there, I was learning what goes into a research project from the initial idea to the final paper. I did not know much about qualitative research, before joining this lab. However, now that I have spent the last year submerged in it, I find it highly interesting to look at the reasons why an individual selected one treatment option over the other and seeing how an individual’s thought process changes before, during, and after an injury. The biggest lesson I have learned through research is to fully embrace every task given, no matter how small or big it may be, because there is always something to learn from it. A lot of time, the amount of effort put into the task will determine how much is gained through the task.  

Ellen Cealey

Ellen Cealey

Major: Neuroscience, Class of 2017

Project Title: Immunopathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

"Before even enrolling at Michigan, I knew I wanted to participate in undergraduate research.  I spent the summer before my freshman year in a clinical research experience at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, which only pushed me more towards research.  That same summer, I applied and was accepted to the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) here and found my research experience through that program.  I continued this research throughout undergrad, enrolling in the Research Scholars Program my second year, participating in research for academic credit my third and final year, and am now employed as a research assistant in the lab. The project I started working on is entitled, “Immunopathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis.” This project entailed conducting gene and protein analysis to examine the role of fucosyltransferase 1 in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease with no cure.  In addition to this project, our lab has been working on other autoimmune diseases, such as scleroderma, to evaluate the disease onset.

My participation in research has impacted my undergraduate education.  In classes, I often encountered situations in which I had deeper knowledge of a subject than would be covered by the professor, which allowed me to contribute more fully to discussion.  Research also helped me gain the skills and some of the experience I need to become a physician.  But first and foremost, my research experience has taught me how to communicate with those I work with and how to problem solve when things don’t go as planned."