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Sample Projects

The research project is central to the UROP experience; therefore, we offer a wide variety of research projects.  Admitted UROP students will have access to available projects after the Mandatory Enrollment Seminar in early September and may apply to projects listed under the discipline they selected in their application.  Students are encouraged to look broadly for projects and to keep an open mind when perusing the project listings.  Many of the projects are cross-listed and/or listed under more than one type of discipline.  One of the most important aspects students take into consideration when looking for a project is the types of skills to be gained overall and the work environment. Many students choose projects that they think will complement their academic interests, coursework and career aspirations.

All schools, colleges, and affiliated entities and units of the University of Michigan are active participants in UROP, thereby providing a wealth of research topics from which a student can choose.  In general, research topics can be found in the following areas:

Click on the disciplines below to see just a small sample of projects that were available to UROP students in the past. 

Arts and Humanities

Chinese Cultural History

I am beginning a new book project that sets out to compare various aspects of Chinese and English literary culture in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are many intriguing parallels between these two societies at this time that have not yet been adequately explored.  The research methodology involves careful reading of primary and secondary sources (in English and Chinese) relating to the topic.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Identify, locate, and summarize (in English) relevant scholarly articles in Chinese books and academic journals.


Reading Shakespeare's Non-dramatic Poetry

I have been commissioned by Cambridge University Press to write a book on Shakespeare's Non-dramatic poetry that would be available to undergraduates.  Working with an interested undergraduate could be a perfect way for me to register just what needs to be glossed for today's students.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  I would ask the student to read with me all of Shakespeare's nondramatic poetry (the Sonnets plus two narrative poems).  The student would primarily help me with library trips and with reading my accounts of Shakespeare's works.  It is my hope that this experience would help a student learn just what literary scholarship is about. I would ask the student to read with me all of Shakespeare's nondramatic poetry (the Sonnets plus two narrative poems). 


Passages in American Studies and Music

I am a cultural and intellectual historian who works on the twentieth-century US. I am currently writing a scholarly book entitled HEARING LOSS: THE DREAMLIFE OF MODERN JAZZ. This book involves original research and critical reflection on U.S. music, literature, film, and intellectual life, especially in the 1950-1970 period. The projects look at jazz music, fictional and non-fictional writings about jazz music, and cinematic reflections on the music life in that period. I am seeking a UROP research assistant. Research in archives and old periodicals is important to the project. In addition, I am also undertaking preliminary research on several other topics, including a study of US culture and film in the 1970s.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Students consult with the advising professor and then do research in campus libraries and collections and related resources of U-M. Students meet regularly with the advising professor to "process" the research, brainstorm new directions, and discuss methods and archives. Students will locate and retrieve (and often discuss) relevant sources in campus libraries, archives, the web, and so forth; photocopying or taking notes from said sources; retrieving books and materials from libraries; and related activities.


Latina Feminisms Archival Project

U.S. feminist historiography has tended to elide, diminish, or ignore the contributions of women of color to the theoretical formation of contemporary feminist thought. This is partially due to the fact that so much of what women of color have written has been lost to the archive, because women of color had minimal access to the mainstream publishing industry, and because so many of their texts were published by small independent presses. These texts do exist. However, in most cases they reside not in libraries, but in the personal/private archives of women who are still living. I have spent the last few years collecting some of these texts and am currently working on a multi-pronged research and archival recovery project that will bring them back into publication as an edited series with contextualizing introductions (written by me) as well as essays by and quotes from Chicana feminists.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  (1)Preparing two short manuscripts (The Chicana Feminist by Martha Cotera, Diosa y Hembra by Martha Cotera) and one long manuscript (Dorinda Moreno's collection, La Mujer en Pie de Lucha) for future publication. (2) Contacting activists and authors who contributed to Moreno's book. (3) Researching other out-of-print publications by Chicanas and Latinas.


Worlds of the Prison in Eastern Europe

Worlds of the Prison is a cross-cultural comparison of poems, fiction, and memoirs that represent life in large, open-air, but restricted spaces, such as concentration camps, prison camps, ghettos, and besieged cities. These spaces and the texts that discuss them have played a conspicuous role in the historical consciousness and modern literatures of Eastern and Central Europe, yet little scholarly attention has been paid to the features that connect these texts across national traditions or distinguish them from conventional prison literature. First-person prison-cell narratives generally describe the existential horrors of living in cramped isolation or awaiting execution; they are often meditations on the meaning of justice, and they draw very clear distinctions between the prison and the “outside.” Poems and stories about camps and ghettos, on the other hand, construct a terrifyingly plausible world-within-a-world. Here, the daily lives of captives are a strange imitation of the world on the other side of the wall or barbed-wire fence. Most of the research for this project will occur in the library. Literature about concentration camps and gulags has had an extremely rich and complicated reception, both in Eastern Europe and in the English-speaking world. At this stage of the project, a major goal will be to use library resources to reconstruct the critical reactions and polemics surrounding this literature.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  (1) to locate and retrieve articles and essays responding to key texts in popular and scholarly periodicals. The student will be asked to take an active role in prioritizing which areas of a text's reception history require the most urgent attention. (2) To locate maps, photographs, and other visual resources relevant to key events and locales. (3) To engage in an ongoing discussion of how literature and history intersect.


Affirming Diversity at the University of Michigan after Proposal 2

While researchers have documented the many benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education, the use of race-conscious policies such as affirmative action (or the consideration of race as a plus factor in admissions) to achieve a racially diverse student body has been a subject of controversy in our nation. After years of litigation, in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the practice in its landmark decision Grutter v. Bollinger.  Despite the decision, in 2006, voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, which amended the state’s constitution to prohibit affirmative action at public colleges and universities in the state.  This research project will explore the University of Michigan’s efforts to maintain a racially and ethnically diverse student body and faculty after Proposal 2 was implemented in the state. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will be asked to conduct an online search of past studies that have addressed the topic, to research various organizations on campus targeted toward improving racial and ethnic diversity within the student body and the faculty, and to conduct interviews.


Conflicting Contemporary Attitudes about Homosexuality

The premise of this research project is that within the U.S. population there are generational differences in awareness of and sensitivity to homosexuality. The project examines the ongoing culture war and evolution of attitudes about lesbians and gay men within contemporary U.S. society. The format is observation and discussion of relevant feature and documentary films. Rationalization for such a vehicle is Hollywood’s general portrayal of homosexuals as “one-dimensional characters, alien to the American dream,” prior to the 1980s. The journey to and beyond that turning point closely parallels societal behavior. A syllabus is available at ( Participants will include UROP students, elderly residents of a local assisted living facility dedicated to lifelong learning, and community-based older adult members of the UM Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: (1) attend 7:00p (usually Mon. & Tues.) film presentations and group discussions; (2)meet privately for at least one hour per week with at least one of the older participants to discuss relevant issues; (3)write one term paper per semester; (4)provide weekly e-mail updates of participation.


"As Built" Modeling with Real Time Videogrammetry

The objective of this project is to investigate the possibility of using real time videogrammetry to model buildings and the environment. The students involved will 1) Learn and test state-of-the-art close-range videogrammetry tools on the modeling of buildings and landscapes, 2) Monitor each step of the model generation process, and 3) Record the strengths and weaknesses encountered.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Assist Ph.D. students in a) testing the developed technology, b) modeling local buildings and landscapes, and c) keeping an accurate log of the process. Minimum Qualifications: Student needs to have experience programming in C++. Hours per week: 9

General Electric Turbojet Engine Combustor Experiment at Michigan to Reduce Nitric Oxide Pollutants from Commercial Aircraft Objectives and Methodology

GE Aircraft Engines has provided us with a combustor they will use in their new GE-90 jet engines; it produces low levels of nitric oxide pollutants to meet the FAA regulations. We have the ability to look inside the combustion zone and use laser light sheet flow visualization diagnostics to take photos. This information is used to develop even lower level pollutant levels.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Assist in running the GE jet engine combustor in our lab in the FXB building. Help to acquire data using commercial codes. Use MATLAB to plot the images in color pictures. Use MATLAB to analyze and compute the velocity field, temperature field. Assist in cutting new pieces to improve the combustor design. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: Desire to get hands dirty and do experimental work. Some MATLAB experience is preferred; new MATLAB tasks can be learned. Hours per Week: 9

Radiological Health Engineering Laboratory Objectives and Methodology

A new facility has been established which focuses on the measurement of small amounts of radiation in the environment and in laboratory samples. Unique, practical capabilities to solve actual industrial, medical, nuclear power, and national laboratory radiation safety challenges are to be developed through applied research. A variety of specific projects, relating to nuclear facility decommissioning, nuclear power plant emissions verification, geological research, radiotracer experiments, responses to radiological terrorist events, and the clean-up of contaminated environments are possible. Capabilities include alpha spectroscopy, portable and laboratory gamma and X-ray spectroscopy with HPGe and NaI, integrative and temporal radon and radon progeny measurement, and thermoluminescent dosimetry.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Student will assist in general with many of the projects ongoing in the laboratory. Among other tasks, this could include literature searches, data collection, and data analysis, building experimental rigs, writing or running software, organizing supplies and equipment, and testing equipment. Efforts will be made to assign each student or a team of students to a specific project relating to radiation measurements and radiation safety. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: Priority given to students seriously considering a major in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences or engineering physics. However, students in all areas of science, mathematics and engineering will be considered. Computer, writing, and experimental skills are considered important. Hours per Week: 8


Determination of Operational Limits and Stability Analysis of a Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition Engine Using 1-D Engine Cycle Simulation Objectives and Methodology

Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) combustion is under widespread investigation due to its potential for ultra low NOx and soot emissions, while maintaining high thermal efficiency. It accomplishes this by combining the best features of gasoline and diesel engines. Like gasoline engines it employs a relatively uniform mixture of fuel and air to reduce soot and particulates. Like the diesel engine it utilizes a high compression ratio to improve thermodynamic efficiency and employs autoignition to initiate combustion. One of the obstacles in the practical implementation of HCCI combustion in production engines is that HCCI can be used only in a relatively narrow speed and load range. The goal of this project is to investigate the behavior of an HCCI engine at the limits of its operational range and explore methods to extend these limits. Furthermore, the stability of the HCCI engine under thermal transients (load changes) will also be studied. The simulation tools that will be used in this project are GT-Power, a 1-D engine cycle simulation, and Matlab/Simulink.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The project will involve numerous parametric calculations and thorough post-processing of the results so that useful conclusions can be extracted. The software that will be used is GT-Power, a commercial 1-Dimensional engine cycle simulation, and Matlab/Simulink. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: The prospective student would benefit by prior experience with Matlab/Simulink and Excel; however she/he will be guided in the use of GT-Power. The prospective student will be expected to work independently on one of the Autolab computers and have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss her/his progress. Hours per Week: 9

Laboratory Astrophysics Objectives and Methodology

Our research group performs experiments to study, in the laboratory, physical mechanisms that matter for astrophysical phenomena including supernova explosions, supernova remnant evolution, and the collisions of shock waves with molecular clouds. We do these experiments at large laser facilities where we can create temperatures of millions of degrees and velocities of several hundred thousand miles per hour. Several UROP students join our group each year, where they help develop instrumentation for the experiments using our x-ray source, participate in building the microscopic targets we use for our studies, work on analyzing the data we obtain, and work on modeling the experiments. Some students stay with the group for several years; others leave after a year.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The primary task at first is to learn what you need to learn for your project. Whether this involves using computers to work with data, using x-rays in vacuum for measurements, or using high-precision tools to build targets, this takes time. Most students become productive only toward the end of the first semester. As a result, we only take on full-year students. It is typically in the second term that you would use your new skills and knowledge to actively. Minimum Qualifications of Student Assistant: We have a range of tasks for students; the only minimum qualification is admission to UM and a willingness to commit 6 to 9 hours per week. We hold an open house each September for interested students. If you think this project might be a good fit for you, contact the advisor and come to the open house. You will have a chance to see what we do and speak with past UROP students and other group members.

Environmental Studies

Impact of subglacial sediment on the chemistry of meltwater

The reaction of major elements derived from silicate weathering with CO2 in the world's oceans to form carbonate minerals is a critical step in long-term climate moderation. Major elements are delivered to the oceans primarily via rivers, where they transported either as dissolved species or within suspended material. The relative importance for climate moderation of riverine dissolved major ions vs. suspended material transport stems from the total major element flux and its climate dependence. Data in the literature suggest that, within uncertainty, global riverine dissolved major element flux is equal to suspended material major element flux. However, the suspended flux may be under-estimated because the suspended material may continue to react while in the transport path from source (watershed) to sink (oceans). We hope to characterize the relative importance of dissolved load versus suspended sediment load by measuring the strontium isotopic composition of the two chemical source pools. If the two possible chemical sources are significantly different in isotopic composition we will, in the future, be able to determine which one dominates the nutrient budget to watersheds and oceans.  The UROP students will learn chemistry laboratory and mass spectrometry techniques in order to dissolve suspended sediment, separate the elemental strontium and measure the isotopic composition. Samples were collected by UROP student Jessica Miles as part of her REU work in Svalbard.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The UROP students will work in a clean chemistry laboratory to dissolve, chemically separate elemental strontium using ion exchange techniques, then measure the isotopic composition of strontium by mass spectrometry in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Approximately 20 sediment samples will be analyzed over the course of the year of the project. This will involve using acid digestion techniques, centrifugation, mass spectrometry and data analysis. In completing these tasks, the student will have to: do background research on the sample collection locations, including using GIS, and parameters that may influence the resulting data, learn to use a sensitive piece of laboratory equipment, and subsequently gather and synthesize data. 


Detecting climate change in arctic freshwaters

The Arctic is a bellwether for change, and increasing temperatures will thaw ancient soils resulting in feedbacks that further reinforce climate change at global scales.   This is because the Arctic has tremendous stores of organic carbon in the permanently frozen (permafrost) layers of soil.  Once thawed, the organic carbon from permafrost soils dissolves in water and is exported to streams and lakes where microbes and sunlight turn it into CO2, a greenhouse gas.  Organic carbon from thawed permafrost soils has a characteristic chemical signature measured as a “fluorescent fingerprint”.  Detecting change in the fluorescent fingerprint of organic carbon in arctic streams and lakes over time can help define the potential feedbacks from a warming Arctic and thus prepare society for understanding what is to come.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students working on this project will analyze stream and lake water samples for the optical chemistry of organic carbon collected from arctic soils and freshwaters to determine if thawing permafrost has led to a change in the source of organic carbon in freshwaters over time. Students will be responsible for all steps associated with the optical analysis of organic carbon in freshwaters (cleaning and labeling glassware, running UV-Visible and fluorescence spectrophotometers, recording data).  Students will keep a laboratory notebook to record their lab work and use  Matlab and Microsoft Excel to manage, analyze, and plot their data.  They will carry out basic statistical calculations to of the data and write a report on their work and what it tells us about change in the Arctic.


Do invasive zebra species tune the invisible engine of the freshwater world?

We focus on impacts of the zebra mussel, a widespread and abundant invasive species, on freshwater bacterioplankton. How zebra mussels alter biological communities has been the focus of much study, but very little is known regarding impacts on bacterial communities. Bacteria are the most important processors of organic carbon originating from local phytoplankton populations and runoff from the surrounding land. The balance between the use of local and external sources influences whether lakes are net CO2 sinks or sources. Globally, most freshwater systems are net emitters of CO2, releasing a net amount of CO2 to the atmosphere of similar magnitude as the net uptake by the oceans. Zebra mussels can reduce phytoplankton populations by up to 80%, thus reducing the phytoplankton-derived carbon pool in the water while increasing organic carbon in the sediment. This study will focus on how water column and sediment bacterial communities are altered due to the presence of invasive zebra mussels. We will use environmental genomics methods and fluorescence microscopy to quantify impacts on bacterial communities.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

-       help in processing lake water samples to collect bacterial samples

-       measure the abundance and identifying bacteria in the samples using fluorescence microscopy

-       assist in extraction of DNA and generation and analysis of 16S sequencing libraries to determine bacterial community structure


Genetic Structure and Herbicide Resistance within the Common Morning Glory

Herbicide resistance in agricultural weeds has persisted to cost nearly 33 billion dollars annually. The number of species currently identified as being resistant to at least one herbicide globally consists of nearly 200 species and of these species, over 20 have displayed resistance to glyphosate (i.e. Roundup), which is concerning since its use is nearly universal. 

 Our study system, the common morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), has exhibited tolerance to glyphosate in previous studies in our lab, but has yet to be defined as being resistant to the herbicide. One major objective of this project is to determine whether the species is resistant through characterization of death from varying concentrations of RoundUp.  We are currently in the stages of collecting phenotype (flowering and growth data) across field populations sampled  10 years apart. We believe these measurements will shed light on (1) whether flowering has changed as a consequence of herbicide selection and (2) whether growth characteristics and plant physiology have changed as a result of changing selection pressures (for example drought or herbicide) across the 10 year period.

We are also interested in understanding the evolution of leaf shape within a few species of morning glory to give insight on genetic improvement in sweet potato, a related species to ornamental morning glories.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

1. Quantification of phenotypes (measuring leaf and flower shapes, size and color)

2. This will entail learning basic statistical methods in R or SAS.


Macroevolution of body shape in vertebrate animals: reptiles, birds, and more

The goals of this project are to understand the evolutionary causes that underlie the spectacular diversity of vertebrate animals. Vertebrate animals are especially noteworthy for their tremendous variation in body shape. Within reptiles, for example, many different groups have independently evolved limblessness (e.g., snakes and many different groups of lizards). Likewise, birds show a stunning range of variation in beak shape, which is in turn associated with use of different food resources (e.g., nectar, rodents, carrion, fruits, nuts). This project will test a set of hypotheses about how these diverse anatomical structures evolve. Using the vast biodiversity collections at the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology, the student will collect quantitative data on morphology and ecology from a range of vertebrate animals. The project will focus in particular on the evolution of body shape and how it relates to habitat use and feeding ecology in snakes and other reptiles. Data collection will include taking measurements from preserved museum specimens, from skeletons, and from radiographs (x-rays). Literature surveys will be conducted to create a database of prey types. Using these datasets, the student will then apply computer modeling techniques to order understand the process of morphological evolution.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will be responsible for collecting a range of data from preserved museum specimens (e.g., snakes, birds) and from the literature (e.g., published records of prey type for different snake species). This may include taking external measurements (e.g., to measure bill dimensions in birds) and taking skeletal measurements from radiographs. Students will learn how to apply evolutionary models to their data using the R statistical/programming software. 

Health Sciences

Small molecules to promote Epidermal growth factor receptor protein degradation

The overall goal of this project is to overcome drug resistance and develop new anti-cancer therapies.Somatic mutations in the EGFR kinase domain confer sensitivity to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), but a majority of patients become resistant to TKI’s due to de novo mutations (such as T790M). Preclinical studies have indicated that inhibition of HSP90 can degrade EGFR and reverse TKI resistance. While HSP90 inhibitors have displayed efficacy, their clinical use has been limited by ocular and liver toxicities. We and others have found that the stability of EGFR is regulated by 1) its direct interaction with HSP90 and 2) by EGFR- dimerization. We have identified that these interactions occur via the M5-loop of the kinase domain of EGFR. (Discussed in the Research Strategy section below). We hypothesized that an M5-loop mimetic will induce EGFR degradation by blocking its stabilizing interactions independent of TKI-resistant EGFR. To test this idea, we initially developed a substrate-site directed, protein-protein interaction (PPI) inhibitor peptide, Disruptin, which is effective against TKI-resistant cells and xenografts. Based on the Structural Activity Relationship (SAR) of Disruptin, we have discovered a class of small molecule PPI inhibitors that also inhibit EGFR interaction with HSP90 and block EGFR dimerization, induce EGFR degradation and kill TKI resistant lung cancer cells. We now seek to assess and improve upon the pharmaceutical properties of these new compounds. The goal of this proposal is to develop a novel substrate-site specific, small molecule that prevents the protein-protein interaction that occurs between EGFR and HSP90 and also between monomers of EGFR. The student will carry out assays related with studying differences in survival of various cancer and normal cell lines in response to lead small molecules. In addition, the student will study the effects of the lead small molecules on EGFR levels, EGFR-HSP90 interaction and EGFR homo and hetero dimerization.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The student will carry out cell culture, cell survival, immunoblotting, immuno precipitation, receptor dimerization assays and if interested can be a part of mice xenograft studies.


The effects of aging on arm and hand function

Most people perform daily tasks requiring coordinated arm and hand movement without thinking about how the movements should be made.  This ability to perform motor tasks automatically and accurately can, however, decline as we get older.  These age-related changes are often seen when the task requires careful control of muscular force, particularly in the hands, or when reaching movements are made from a standing position where balance as well as arm movements need to be coordinated.  In order to understand how aging affects the production of coordinated movement, The Motor Control Laboratory is conducting studies examining the performance of behavioral tasks in young and elderly individuals.  Research participants will be asked to complete a series of motor activities involving movements of one or both arms to visual targets, manipulation of objects, tactile discrimination, and the production of visually-guided hand grasp forces.  These studies will form the basis for future movement-based training rehabilitation studies.

Student research projects will be directly related to the above studies including data collection, analysis and interpretation of the findings.  By the end of the academic year, students will have a good understanding of all aspects of clinically-related behavioral research.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will work in a team setting including lab personnel, graduate students, and senior undergraduates.   Students will assist with all aspects of data collection including direct interaction with research participants. Pending skill levels, students may be given greater responsibility during the testing sessions, including the use of clinical assessment techniques.  Students will be involved with data analysis and will learn a variety of data presentation skills. 


Neuroimaging of Reward processing and Emotion regulation

Regulating emotion and processing reward in life is a fundamental behavior for survival. Our group in the Department of Psychiatry is interested in using brain imaging (fMRI) and genetics tool to investigate the mechanisms of these core processes and how stress further alters these functions. These results have further implications on the risk to develop mental health disorders later on. It will also set the stage to study patients suffering from depression, PTSD, and Bipolar Disorder. We will apply methods incorporating genetics (gene), eyetracking (behavior), and fMRI brain imaging techniques to address these questions.

Students with interests engaging in human studies or independent research on interesting datasets are welcome to join our group.  

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: New students will be assigned under senior members of the group to shadow on experiments, open source eyetracking system setup, experimental task programming, fMRI scanning, and different modalities of data analysis and basic programming. There will also be weekly journal clubs on relevant papers for background knowledge.


Developing OncoVaxKB, the cancer vaccine knowledge base

A knowledge base is a special kind of database that collects and organizes knowledge, so that the knowledge can be shared, searched and utilized. OncoVaxKB (Cancer Vaccine Knowledge Base) aims to collect current cancer vaccine information and organize the related knowledge in such a way that the questions from public or researcher can be easily answered or retrieved.

The aims of this project is:1) to collect information on preventive or therapeutic vaccines that are licensed or under research or clinical trials; 2) to store the  related knowledge in a relational database; 3) to implement a Semantic Mediawiki component to a web server for online access and information retrieve.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Student’s work will be focused on the first aim: to collect information on preventive or therapeutic vaccines that are licensed or under research or clinical trials.

Student will be responsible for: 1) reading biomedical literature and better understanding related cancer vaccines; 2) submitting extracted data from literature to the defined spreadsheet; 3) integrating current data into pre-developed Vaccine Ontology (VO); 4) integrating current data into pre-developed relational database Violin; 5)being trained to install and configure a relational database supported Semanticwiki on web server; 6) submitting collected data into established Mediawiki web site.


Embryonic Signaling Pathways in Stomach Cancer

Our research team is interested in understanding the functions of embryonic signaling pathways in cancer.  Reactivation of these pathways, which normally function primarily during development, is a common occurrence in many malignancies.  Much of the work in our lab is focused on the Hedgehog pathway, which plays a central role in the formation of a skin tumor called basal cell carcinoma, the most common cancer in humans.  Since deregulated Hedgehog signaling also appears to be involved in formation of tumors arising in various internal organs, studies in our lab are also exploring the role of the Hedgehog pathway in cancers arising in the stomach and central nervous system.  Our work relies heavily on genetically-engineered mouse models, since they provide powerful tools for the study of cancer development and progression.

Current projects are aimed at understanding how alterations in the Hedgehog pathway contribute to cancer initiation, progression, and maintenance; whether Hedgehog signaling exerts its growth- and tumor-promoting effects on stem cells, their transit-amplifying progeny, or differentiated cells; how the Hedgehog pathway influences the Wnt pathway and other signaling pathways, and the significance of this signaling crosstalk for tumor development; and whether targeting the Hedgehog pathway, and interacting pathways, could be useful in the treatment of certain cancers.

This UROP Project centers on the detailed analysis of stomach tumors that arise in a mouse model engineered to activate the Hedgehog pathway in stem cells.  A variety of experimental approaches will be taken to learn more about the initial stages of tumor development, expansion to form large tumor masses, and invasion.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The student will have hands-on experience with mouse models of cancer, including breeding, observation, and at the completion of the experiments, collecting appropriate tissues from euthanized animals.  The student will process tissues and prepare thin sections which will be placed on microscope slides for further analysis.  Various proteins will be identified in tissue sections using an antibody-based techniques called immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence, and the expression level of different RNA molecules may be examined using molecular techniques called in situ hybridization or real-time PCR.  Additional techniques which may be employed include preparation of tissue samples to identify proteins by a method called polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and western blotting.

Life Sciences

Manipulative moms: epigenetic manipulation of offspring development in crickets

Mothers often play favorites before their offspring are born. A mother can change the availability of vital supplies for her developing offspring: how much food and other resources a mother provides—before and after birth—can affect her offspring for their entire lives, and even influence how long they live. This type of manipulation is called nongenetic maternal effects and is part of the growing field of epigenetics.

This investigation focuses on whether varying hormone levels influence cricket offspring fitness--over multiple generations of offspring. Our hormone of interest is called “20E”; we study it in crickets, though it is used by nearly all invertebrate species. It is both important for development and highly variable between individuals of the same species, and this implies that there is a trade-off either in the production of the hormone (by the parents) or the use of the hormone (by the offspring). We have shown (partially through work of previous UROP students) that that this trade-off is measurable both (a) as the cause of a changed parental fitness or (b) as the effect of a change in offspring fitness.

The available student project will focus on (a) above, and answer the question, “Does variation the concentration of ecdysteroids provided to embryos reflect parent quality, age, attractiveness, or body size?” To answer this question, we are working to develop procedures that allow us to treat cricket eggs with varying levels of synthetic 20E, and track those individuals’ development and survival rates as they mature to adults. At the same time, we will also measure the quality, attractiveness, body size, and age of parents that produce eggs with similar levels of 20E as those that we have treated. Combining these two approaches will allow us to be certain that 20E is responsible for any changes we observe in offspring, and to discover whether parents are 'intentionally' varying 20E to help their offspring, or whether they are bystanders, with the amount of 20E they provide determined by environmental/genetic factors outside their control.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

Student tasks:

-       Assisting in caring for cricket colonies

-       Treating eggs with synthetic hormone

-       Checking incubators for hatchlings, providing hatchlings with food and water

-       Checking growing crickets for deaths

-       Measuring growth rate using computerized photographs

-       Keeping track of data in physical and digital lab notebooks

-       Attending lab meetings as often as schedule permits

-       Present either interesting data or lead discussion of a relevant primary literature publication in one lab meeting

Potential additional responsibilities:

-       Helping in sample workup for biochemical analysis

-       Discussion analysis methods

-       Discussing and interpreting analyzed data


Human stem cell derived 3D cardiac microtissues

Stem cell derived cardiac muscle presents great potential for patient specific disease models, for drug testing and for cardiac regeneration therapies. Current state of the art techniques generate embryonic like cardiac muscle that is not suitable for research models and therapies. There is a great need to define mechanisms to mature stem cell derived cardiac muscle so that it functions similarly to adult hearts. Therefore the goal of this project is to determine the effects of 3D culture conditions on human myocyte maturation.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

Students will work in a sterile culture room dedicated for human stem cell research. Students will also perform microscopy and use other biomedical engineering platforms to further develop 3D cardiac microtissues.


Cell Wall-targeting Nanoconjugates

Our research focuses on design, biophysical and biological evaluation of multifunctional nanoscale particles (“nanoconjugates”) for targeting and cell specific delivery of therapeutic agents. This nanoconjugate is built on a nanometer sized dendrimer polymer, and presents on its surface multiple copies of a ligand molecule for high avidity binding to a target bacterial cell, and also carries drug molecules as its therapeutic payload. Such rational design enables the nanoconjugate to recognize selectively a target cell and to release its attached drugs after attachment to the cell surface. The therapeutic drugs however need to be released from the nanocarrier in order to display its desired cytotoxic activity. The mechanism of release we are investigating is a photon-controlled mechanism by which antibacterial drugs can be freed by irradiation of long wavelength UV or near infrared light (980 nm). For this purpose, we are interested in the application of a photo-sensitive linker that can be used for covalent attachment of a drug molecule to the nanocarrier, but can be photochemically cleaved to release the drug.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will involve in the studies designed for receptor targeting specificity and controlled drug release. First we will employ surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy for determining the binding avidity of the nanoconjugate to a model cell surface. Second, we will perform light controlled release studies of drug-carrying nanoconjugates. These involve performing kinetic analysis of drug release using analytical instruments such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and UV-vis spectroscopy. This project fits well for sophomore or junior students majoring in Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering or (Bio)Chemistry. After completion of this UROP course, they will be offered to further pursue independent research projects by taking research classes in biochemistry, biophysical chemistry or internal medicine for seniors. Students who have strong skill set in math analysis (sigma plot, excel, matlab) are especially preferred.


Uncovering mechanism of MHC class I antigen presentation

Viruses and cancer cells are invisible to cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) until their constituent distinguishing proteins have been processed into short peptides and presented by MHC class I molecules (MHC I). Therefore, effective immune surveillance of intracellular pathogens critically depends on the recognition and presentation of these short antigenic peptides to the host immune system by MHC I on the cell surface. These MHC I proteins themselves depend to different extent on the cofactor tapasin for binding high affinity peptides of the right length and sequence. Experiments suggest that the binding of cofactor tapasin and peptide to MHC I is anti-cooperative therefore tapasin likely binds to empty MHC I molecules. However, to date there is no available crystal structure of empty MHC class I molecules or MHC I-tapasin complex. Therefore, molecular mechanism of how MHC I select their ligands and the way tapasin function influences this process is not well understood. Available crystal structures of peptide-bound MHC I allotypes, known to have differential tapasin dependence, show no structural differences among them. We hypothesize that structural differences of differential tapasin dependence may reside in the protein dynamics of each MHC I allotype. To better understand the molecular reasons for differential dependence on tapasin of MHC I allotropes we will perform molecular dynamics simulations of empty and peptide bound MHC class I allotypes that have varying degrees of tapasin dependence and thermostability. As a readout, we will record the root mean square fluctuations, center of mass distance between the peptide-presenting helices of MHC I, solvent accessible surface area and residue-residue cross-correlation maps during the course of the simulations. These analyses will reveal different dynamic signatures of MHC I allotypes depending on the nature of tapasin dependence. We will collaborate with colleagues at the U of M medical school to test our predictions. Together these studies will provide structural insights into tapasin-dependent stabilization of empty MHC I molecules and peptide loading for the initiation of the CTL response and thence the timely destruction of the virus and malignant cells.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

1. Learn to use molecular dynamics and visualization software packages like CHARMM, VMD and NAMD.

2. Perform simulations of complex biological systems and analyze data using Matlab, Mathematica or Xmgrace.

3. Present work in an informal or formal meetings.

4. Collaborate with experiment colleagues at U of M Medical School.

5. Write-up and summarize research findings in scholarly journal.

Natural Sciences

Global change and microbial communities in Michigan’s forests

Fossil fuels combustion has increased the amount of reactive nitrogenous compounds entering the atmosphere which are, in turn, deposited back on terrestrial ecosystems.  Nitrogen is an important component of living organisms; increasing rates of biologically available nitrogen have a variety of impacts on biota and ecosystems.  One way increasing rates of deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere have impacted Michigan’s northern hardwood forest ecosystems is by altering the process of decomposition.  Our research seeks to understand the mechanisms behind this observation by focusing on the fungal decomposer community.  This project will examine impacts of human activity on the biodiversity of fungi in Michigan’s forests.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will learn to extract DNA from environmental samples and to measure DNA quality and concentrations.  Students may also have the opportunity to assist with preparation and deployment of a field experiment and to learn other laboratory techniques used in microbial ecology.


3D modeling of the Riley Mammoth Site

Excavations in 2010 at the Riley Mammoth site, located west of Lansing, Michigan, yielded significant portions of an adult male mammoth skeleton that dates to more than 14,000 years before present. Analysis of material recovered from this site suggests that this mammoth was butchered by humans and that its remains were stored in the shallow waters of a pond for later recovery and use.  At present, this is the earliest evidence of human presence in Michigan.  To display the complex 3-dimensional relationships of material from this site and explain its significance, we plan to make 3D virtual models of individual mammoth bones and bone fragments.  We will then place these models within a 3D virtual environment, where spatial relationships can be explored and evaluated.  We aim for this modeling approach to 3D documentation of paleontological and archaeological sites to set a new standard for research in this area.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will learn to use a laser-scanning digitizer and associated software to make 3D models of bones and to generate a model of the entire site.  In addition, students will learn to produce interactive, web-accessible models of specimens, which will be useful in allowing remote examination of site materials.  This project would be ideal for students with interests in 3D graphics, mammalian skeletal anatomy, or analysis of paleontological or archaeological materials.


Evergreen Economies: Institutions, Industries, and Issues in the Green Economy

Green jobs” are arguably a unique window on, a lesser-explored aspect of, a potential indicator of success, and a way of anchoring the discourse of sustainability’s trilogy of equity, economic, and environmental  values.  Although there is an established literature around sustainability, there is little scholarship and actionable policies around the “green economy” despite a flurry of recent political rhetoric and a myriad of imagined opportunities for mutually-beneficial ends. This research project seeks to begin to bridge this gap. Specifically, research will draw on case study analysis of the emerging green economy movement across multiple metropolitan areas including: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, St. Louis, and Tampa. The research will focus on understanding new alliances between business and the environmental movement. Research will also look towards an understanding of the impact of local, regional, and state policies on creating opportunities in green jobs and in greening businesses.  The student will provide general research assistance around this research effort. Tasks may include literature reviews, identification and evaluation of policies, economic development analysis, and interviewing of stakeholders in case study areas. The project provides an opportunity to impact the emerging discussions around green jobs and green business as a local sustainability strategy.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: See above: literature reviews, identification and evaluation of policies, economic development analysis, and interviewing of stakeholders in case study areas.


Crystallization of Organic Compounds

To develop and apply methodology for finding novel modes of crystallization (polymorphs, solvates, cocrystals) for molecules including pharmaceuticals and energetic materials.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Conduct crystallization experiments and analyze the results by a series of sophisticated analytical techniques including Raman spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, microscopy, and thermal analysis.


Water cycling from land surface to atmosphere

To characterize hydrological exchanges between soils, vegetation, and the atmosphere on short (daily) timescales. Methods involve use of a cavity-ring down spectrometer to determine isotopic compositions of vapor, soil and vegetation. The project will include field and laboratory measurements, and may include design of field campaign for monitoring isotopic compositions within a canopy. The overall goal of the project is to understand the dominant fluxes of water within a system and to document variability over timescales from days to years.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: To assist in field and laboratory design and measurement of the isotopic composition of natural waters, vegetation, and soil. To analyze data sets using matlab or excel and generate figures.

Public Health

Immigration, Policy, and Health Study

This project is the work of a postdoctoral research fellow and doctoral candidate based at the Schools of Social Work and Public Health, respectively.  This project is ideal for students interested in social justice, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health inequities, advocacy and health, and qualitative methodologies.  The past decade has been characterized by an escalation of anti-immigrant sentiments and the implementation of restrictive immigration policies and intense immigration enforcement.  Meanwhile, communities are also developing policies to support residents affected by restrictive immigration policies.  The purpose of this research project is to examine Latinos’ experiences in this context, considering the influence of immigration policies and sentiments on families, social networks, community, work, advocacy, and school, as well as the implications of these experiences for the health of Latinos of all citizenship statuses.  Additionally, this project considers implications of such policies for other marginalized groups and broader communities.  This project involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing survey data and interviews with persons who obtain a Washtenaw County ID and for data collected for a study considering the health implications of immigration enforcement.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The undergraduate student will work closely with the postdoctoral researcher and doctoral candidate.  Tasks will include: transcribing in-depth interviews, assisting with qualitative data analysis, assisting with presentation of survey data, taking field notes at important community events, conducting targeted literature searches (when appropriate), and/or developing brief films to disseminate study findings.  The undergraduate student will receive training regarding the research topic, conducting research involving human subjects, conducting qualitative research, analyzing qualitative data, transcribing interviews, and creating and editing films.  There may be opportunities for the student to join the postdoctoral researcher or doctoral candidate for some fieldwork.  The project directors have extensive experience mentoring undergraduate students, and heavily focuses on the academic and personal development of the student.  Students may have the opportunity to co-author posters and presentations outside of UM.

A workspace for this project is available at the School of Social Work or School of Public Health.




Fathers Matter and Fathers and Sons

The Fathers Birth Outcomes Study (Fathers Matter) is a research project designed to examine successful birth outcomes in the African American community. This project will contribute to research examining reasons for inequalities in birth outcomes by considering the role of fathers during pregnancy. 

The Fathers Birth Outcomes Study involves conducting literature reviews and assisting with data analysis related to the stresses that African American mothers and fathers face about their relationships, people they turn to for support, thoughts about their roles as a mother or father, and their health behaviors. Fathers experiences with with pregnancy is a primary interest in this study. Similarly, data from a study with teenage fathers, their mothers, and the mothers of their babies also will be available for research exploration. Literature reviews, data analysis, and an opportunity to be exposed to the process of writing research proposals will be part of this process.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: As a member of the research team, the research assistant will have the opportunity to work on various studies of fathers across the life cycle. The student will be trained to interview respondents as we continue the data collection phase of the  Fathers and Sons intervention project. The student will assist in data entry and analysis and with reviewing literature and analysis of articles.  Additionally, the student will assist in developing presentations, outlining study findings, and she/he will help prepare for grant submissions.

The Fathers and Sons Project is another research study that the student will have an opportunity to work with. The Fathers and Sons Program uses a family-centered approach to program implementation focusing on parenting behaviors and cultural awareness of African American fathers as critical to influencing their sons’ risky health behaviors (preventing violent behaviors, early sexual initiation, and substance use).  The research assistant will have the opportunity to assist in conducting the program, collecting data by interviewing participants, entering data, and analyzing data. The same will be done with the comparison group program for the Fathers and Sons Physical Activity and Nutrition Component recently funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation in Flint, MI.  The Fathers and Sons Project, which includes working with community-based organizations, developing project-related documents, and assessing and analyzing the evaluation data, is a long-term research project with multiple components and far-reaching implications for adolescent health and well-being.


Impact of age and comorbidity on thyroid cancer decision making

The incidence of thyroid cancer is rising and its aggressiveness increases with age. Surgical intervention remains the standard of care, in accordance with recent management guidelines. Although age is not a contraindication to thyroid surgery, older patients with thyroid cancer do not always receive guideline concordant care. The proposed project has two main aims: 1) to determine patient barriers to surgical care for thyroid cancer and how they correlate with time from thyroid cancer diagnosis to referral to a high volume surgical center, and 2) to determine provider barriers to referring older thyroid cancer patients for surgical care. For the first aim we will conduct patient surveys to identify barriers to surgical care for thyroid cancer, including patient beliefs, social support system, transportation barriers, comorbidities, functional status and access to providers with expertise. For the second aim we will conduct provider surveys to determine factors influencing decision making in the referral for surgical care for thyroid cancer patients, including age and comorbidity, and also capturing provider knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about thyroid cancer management. We hypothesize that older patients confront unique barriers for referral for surgical treatment of thyroid cancer compared to younger adults.

The student will help to carry out the aims and goals of this study, being involved in all aspects.  Student will develop an understanding of research design, and implementation.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Student would assist with building tracking databases including using excel and RedCAP, enter data and run basic statistical analyses.  Student may also be asked to conduct literature reviews, help with survey design and serve as a liaison with multiple vendors.  Student would have the opportunity to shadow physicians in clinic if interested.


University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Project

Violent behavior is a serious and prevalent problem among urban adolescents, and has a large impact on the morbidity and mortality of this population. This project focuses on reducing violence and victimization among youth in a geographically defined area of Flint, Michigan. The student assigned to this project will aid in data collection that will help to understand the number of patients presenting with violence injuries at the Emergency Department during the study period, so that we will be able to compare the rates of youth violence in Flint neighborhoods over time. These data will allow for evaluation of the project.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The student will be expected to work at the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC).

The student assigned to this project will have the opportunity to conduct data collection through medical chart reviews. This task requires the student to scan ED tracking logs for specific individuals and code and record the data in a database.

Lastly, the student will have the opportunity to work with the study coordinator to conduct literature reviews and shadow the coordinator to understand how research is conducted.


Legacy Corps for Veterans or Active Military and their Families

Legacy Corps is a National Demonstration Project sponsored by AmeriCorps using volunteers to provide respite services to veterans or their families for a wide variety of problems associated with physical or mental health challenges as they integrate or cope with integration back into society after active duty.  The research project is an evaluation of the policy initiative and is set up as a longitudinal, nonequivalent comparison group design.  It is a multi-year project and involves interviewing the 540 volunteers that are recruited at least four times over a three year period, as well as interviewing the caregivers who receive the respite services and the dependent individuals who are cared for by the caregivers.  The study includes organizational measures for the sponsoring sites, health and well-being measures for the volunteers and the caregivers, civic engagement measures for the volunteers and stress and burden measures for the caregivers.  The comparison group includes more than 3000 volunteers and 800 caregivers from previous years of the study, and provides opportunity to compare the 18 sites in 11 states that are currently active on a yearly basis.  Students will coordinate the call-back interviews with caregivers and the long term followup interviews with volunteers 1 year after they leave the project.  Students will also participate in lit review searches and support for academic publications and yearly workshops that bring the sites together.  Students of nonprofit management, sociology, psychology, nursing and social work may especially benefit from experience in this type of evaluation research.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Interaction with participants through telephone interviews, interaction with site managers through telephone and skype interactions, literature reviews, data entry, variable definitions  and analysis, report and article preparation, focus group recording

Physical Sciences

Analyzing NASA space probe data to understand planetary space environments

Are you interested in our solar system, the Sun, or the planets?  Do NASA space probes, miniaturized instruments or space plasma physics sound sound like something you'd like to learn more about?  If so, read on.

We build and operate plasma mass spectrometers for NASA space missions such as ACE, MESSENGER, and Wind, as well as ESA's Solar Orbiter.  Data from these instruments is full of information about the supersonic solar wind plasma and its interaction with the magnetospheres of Earth and Mercury.  We use tools like Matlab and IDL to display and analyze this data, making use of some large software libraries and smaller codes that we write ourselves.  Beyond those challenges, we have to figure out what it all means.  Come do science with us and help solve the puzzles!

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

-       Learn basics of the the solar wind, the space environments of Mercury and Earth, as well as a little space plasma physics and particulars of plasma spectrometers.

-       Learn programming IDL (similar to Matlab) and its use in our data analysis.

-       Help find appropriate science questions and develop data analysis experiments.

-       Develop supporting IDL code to answer those questions and evaluate results.

-       Document methods and results clearly in Microsoft Powerpoint


High speed pulse-shape analysis of nuclear detector signals

Goal: Using high-speed VME-based pulse digitizers; look for pulse-shape information in digitized pulses from nuclear particle detectors including new types of neutron detectors that would permit identification of the incident particle. This would simplify the detector systems  needed for nuclear reaction studies. i.e. reactions related to nuclear astrophysics. Student will gain insight into techniques used in nuclear and high-energy particle physics experiments. 

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Assist in the design and execution of relative experiments and analysis of resulting experimental pulse data to identify particle signatures and extract nuclear reaction data. Design, build and test specialized electronics if feasible (eg if EECS student or otherwise qualified).


Carbon change in Santa Barbara Basin sediments during the last 200 years

The arrival of Europeans and subsequent agricultural and urban development has had a significant impact on the coastal environment of California. Records of organic carbon and carbonate concentrations in marine sediments of Santa Barbara Basin will be generated for the last 200 years. These records will be compared to both existing sediment geochemistry and instrumental records to determine the anthropogenic impact on the coastal marine environment.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Student will assist with sample preparation, weighing and encapsulating and running either the Elemental Analyzer or the Coulometer


Ordering of Multivariate Data

A sequence of numbers can be easily ordered. Such an ordering is very useful to define normal ranges of the measurements and to screen for outliers. Such an ordering is also routinely used to rank subjects. When the data involve several measurements per subject at the same time, how do we order them in a natural and useful way? In this project we will explore different ways to order multivariate data and use them in connection with specific applications.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: The student is expected to learn several existing methods of multivariate data ordering from the literature and implement them using a computer platform to perform a small comparative study.


Green Chemistry Project

This project is intended to produce materials that describe how the practices and methods developed by the Sustainable Labs program within the Office of Campus Sustainability  can be implemented at other peer institutions.

This program will encompass, but is not limited to, pollution prevention, green chemistry, reuse, recycle,energy and utilities and green purchasing to attain sustainable practices in teaching, research and production laboratories.

Students involved in this work will build a website, compile information, and prepare an interactive dossier containing the green chemistry practices already in place at UM. A report will be prepared with metrics to show the reduced impact on the environment through sustainable pollution prevention activities.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:

-       web development

-       technical writing

-       development of interactive media


Electronics for Kaon Experiment

We are working on a high energy physics experiment, KOTO, which will measure the decay properties of neutral kaons.  The experiment will be run at the JPARC laboratory in Japan.  When the kaons decay they leave a signature in the detector which is digitized.  We are building and testing the electronics for this experiment.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: We will require a basic understanding of the experiments goals and procedures.  We are looking for a student who can work with computers, test equipment and electronics designs.

Social Sciences

Parties and Pork: The politics of budgetary politics in Thailand and the Philippines

This project investigates the politics and political economy of budgetary politics in developing democracies, with a specific focus on Thailand and the Philippines. The study seeks to answer three questions. 1. How do political parties and institutions shape the budgetary process in Thailand and the Philippines? 2. What factors shape the mix of public goods and pork/patronage a government produces? 3. How do institutional changes affect budgetary processes and outcomes? The project will gather data on budgets and political bargaining (within the legislature, within the executive branch, and between the two branches) using qualitative methods.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Students will assist in gathering and analyzing budgetary data from Thailand and the Philippines and work on creating yearly political chronologies of the rough and tumble process of drafting and passing a budget. The intent will be to be able to put raw budgetary figures in some sort of political context. For example, in year X the government's budget for education spending was drastically cut, why? Who advocated this cut? Who opposed it?


The Birth of Media Propaganda in France: 1935-1940

To investigate the strategic uses of broadcasting by Nazis and Soviets to debilitate and divide French public opinion.  Project relies on use of historical documents (news articles, editorials, and broadcast transcripts) and communications and cultural theory.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Translate and analyze primary source historical documents.  Perform some library research.


Democracy: Ethnographic Approaches

I am writing articles on democracy in Ecuador to submit to a number of journals.  The articles focuses on the relationship between democracy promotion programs of international development agencies on the one hand and local municipal governments’ processes for citizen participation, on the other.  My field research in Ecuador has involved fieldnotes, interviews, collection of written materials such as organizational reports, brochures, etc. I hope to be doing more interviews with development agencies in Washington, DC. I am also submitting several funding proposals.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Literature review of Andean ethnography and development studies; research on democracy promotion programs of international development agencies, including searching websites, brochures, and other documentation; following of news reports of the current events through on-line Ecuadorian periodicals (this requires Spanish language ability); transcribing interviews .


Environmental Regulations on the U.S. Cement Industry

The United States Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of developing a comprehensive strategy to further reduce emissions of both criteria air pollutants and toxics from U.S. cement manufacturing. The cement industry is currently responsible for a significant percentage of industrial emissions. There is growing concern that emissions “leakage” will undermine the effectiveness of environmental regulation limiting emissions from domestic cement production. If the United States imposes regulations to emissions from its cement producers, it is possible that cement production (and thus emissions) will “leak out” to less stringently regulated facilities in Canada and Mexico.  The main objective of this project is to understand how recently implemented environmental regulations have affected patterns of investment, production, and pollution in the U.S. cement industry. In the past 15 years, the introduction of both “market-based” and more conventional “command-and-control” regulation of emissions from domestic cement production has exacerbated the asymmetry in regulatory stringency across Canada, the United States and Mexico. The structure of the domestic cement industry has also changed substantially over this period.  This project will explore relationships between regulatory incentives, industry structure, and industrial activity in the interest of identifying causal relationships between environmental regulation and outcomes of interest (such as emissions intensity).

Student Tasks and Responsibilities:  Identify potential sources of publicly available industry data.  Summarize data on investment, production, emissions, and imports in the U.S. cement industry. Conduct a preliminary survey of relevant literature.


Emotion Regulation as a Complex System

We are running a series of cross-cultural studies examining patterns of word acquisition in infants and toddlers. Specifically, we are interested in how children learn specific classes of words such as nouns, verbs, and people terms across English-, Korean-, and Chinese-speaking populations.

Parents and their infants will be recruited to visit our laboratory and asked to complete a vocabulary checklist as well as watch a short videotape (for example, of a person performing a simple action on a small toy). During the presentation of the video, the child may hear some words or sounds presented with the videos.  By videotaping children’s reactions and measuring how long they looks at each of these scenes, we can learn more about patterns of infant language development. By observing infants' looking behavior and preferences for particular videos in experimental settings, we will probe young word learners' abilities to map new words to objects, actions, and people, as well as their understanding of objects, actions, and people themselves. Observing infants from 6 to 24 months will enable us to begin characterizing a developmental trajectory for noun, verb, and person term acquisition. In addition, by comparing across US English-speaking and Chinese Mandarin-speaking children, we will be able to gain a more representative picture of the word acquisition process, on a cross-cultural level.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: Students will be involved in all aspects of the research -- from greeting parents and children as they come in to our lab, recruiting, coding looking behavior, running studies, and preparing audio and visual stimuli for the studies.  Students are also expected to attend weekly lab meetings.


Why Not Science? Career Choices of Americans

Recently both policy-makers and the scientific community have expressed concern that fewer American college students are choosing to pursue science majors, and an increasing share of U.S. scientists are immigrants.  This project explores reasons that American students choose not to pursue careers in science.  The researchers typically use large datasets from national surveys to test whether changes in Americans’ attitudes toward science, the prestige or pay of scientists, or other factors contributed to the decline in American participation in science.  The UROP student’s portion of the project, however, is different:  we will ask the student to help us to create our own small dataset, using cultural records.

Student Tasks and Responsibilities: We are looking for a UROP student to help test the hypothesis that American popular culture is less interested in science and scientists now than in the past.  Using historical newspaper and magazines, the student will have responsibility for identifying and recording information from stories that feature scientists.  Additionally, we wish to measure American scientists’ access to positions of power.  We will provide the student with a list of contemporary powerful Americans and will ask the student to use the internet and other sources to identify which of the individuals have a background in science.  The student may also help with other research topics as time permits.

Community-Engaged Research


Assisted Detroit African-American Muslim and African Muslim storytelling project with background work for new multi-media website and permanent public archive. 


Researched evidence-based addiction treatment practices to inform creation of a new program seeking to provide effective treatment for Flint residents with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. 


Conducted community outreach and gathered feedback in Northeast Detroit to inform strategic plan for a neighborhood “Main Street” economic revitalization initiative. 


Surveyed residents in Southwest Detroit to identify indoor air quality problems to aid organization’s environmental work and to inform City of Detroit Council 


Analyzed feedback from children in an after school learning program to identify strengths and weaknesses of in person and online versions of the program to inform creation of a successful hybrid (in person and remote) education program. 


Collected stories from community members about their experiences addressing health, social and economic problems stemming from the pandemic. The data will help to advise Washtenaw County policy decisions. 


Helped nonprofit strategize and plan community events to increase awareness and 

understanding of the “Clean Slate Bill” to enable individuals to expunge criminal records and get a second chance at integrating into the workforce and other opportunities.