Past Research Projects

Past Projects

Research Projects by RET participants

The following are examples of research projects that RET participants may be involved with during the program. This is not intended to be a complete list. Projects vary from year to year depending on participant interest and faculty availability.

Past Projects

Dr. Madan Bhattacharyya Lab

Engineering of soybean for synthesis of pyrrolnitrin to improve resistance against Fusarium virguliforme that causes SDS in soybean: We will transfer the construct to Agrobacterium rhizogenes, which will be used to generate composite soybean plants that are chimera of transgenic roots and non-transgenic shoots. During the summer, we will mostly work on the inoculation of soybean seedlings, generation, and characterization of composite plants by both molecular analysis (DNA, RNA, protein) and evaluation of resistance against F. virguliforme.

Dr. Michelle Soupir Lab

The goal of this study is to assess the impacts of integrating livestock systems into corn/soybean ratations and informing design of woodchip dioreactors to treat multiple contaminants. This will be achieved through a multi-scale study designed to address the following objectives: i) Quantify the impact of hydraulic residence time, tempurature, and limestone amendment on the removal of nitrate, phosphorous, and bacteria by woodchip bioreactors ii) assess the impacts of poultry litter and swine manure application on soy yield and water quality

Dr. Raj Raman

The REU participant will be looking into perennial groundcover research.

Dr. Gustavo MacIntosh

Our lab focuses on the following questions: 1) How do eukaryotic cells recycle ribosomes? 2) What are the molecular bases of compatible and incompatible interactions between plants and insects? 

Dr. Olga Zabotina

Our labs works on the analysis of cotton polysaccharides as the tool to improve the fiber quality.  

Dr. George Kraus Lab

The aim of this project is to explore the transformations of TAL, a pyrone produced through biocatalysis. The teacher will help to design new transformations of TAL and will learn practical organic chemistry laboratory techniques. Their goal will be to expand the TAL platform and hopefully synthesize a specialty chemical. The teacher will participate in twice-weekly group meetings.

Dr. Javier Vela Lab

Perovskite-based solar cells have high power conversion efficiencies that increased from 4% to 15% in the last four years (they are expected to reach 20% in 2014-2015). Perovskites provide wide absorption profiles, high absorption coefficients and long carrier diffusion lengths at relatively low cost. However, there problems that restrict the commercial application of these materials: Perovskites are sensitive to humidity and decompose when exposed to moisture. In order to improve their stability, the solar cell device could be sealed by polymers, or blended with hydrophobic polymers

Dr. Young-Jin Lee

The RET Participant will be participating in mass spectrometry imaging of isotope-labeled plat metabolites.  

Dr. Eric Cochran Lab

The teacher/undergraduate pair will be charged with the investigation of a potential hard segment, e.g., L-lactic acid or acrylated isosorbide. The teacher will learn new synthetic chemistry skills, and achieve an appreciation of the challenges and dedication required to successfully master a polymer synthesis. The teacher will learn about thermal and rheological analyses used to characterize the properties (glass transition and crystallization) of a “hard segment”. In the final weeks of the internship the pair will design the chemical steps needed to integrate the hard segment polymer into poly(soybean oil) chain architecture to yield a thermoplastic elastomer.

Dr. Jean-Philippe Tessonnier Lab

The teacher will have the opportunity to synthesize carbon-based heterogeneous catalysts bearing desired Brønsted acid or base functionalities and he/she will test them for significant carbohydrate isomerization and dehydration reactions. In this project, the participant will learn about the effect of temperature and pH on the chemistry of sugars. Specifically, he/she will co-carbonize carbohydrates and desired organic molecular active sites at 200-300 °C in hot pressurized water; the obtained carbon-based nanocatalysts will be tested for the low temperature (< 150 °C) conversion of biomass-derived glucose to renewable chemicals in liquid water.

Dr. Shauna Hallmark Lab

The objectives of this research is to i) evaluate driver behavior at mainline and stop-controlled approaches for intersections with and without ICWS ii) develop an assessment of the traffic volume range and limits where the system is nearly continuously activated and is likely to lose its effectiveness

Dr. Amy Toth Lab

This project focuses on the epigenetic effects of maternal behavior on developing offspring. To do this we will be behaviorally manipulating wasp nests, and quantifying gene expression of adult wasps that experienced our treatment as developing larvae. The RET will assist us in setting up the experiement, which will be conducted both in the lab and in the field. He will also help collect behavioral data of wasps interacting with larvae on the nest. If we collect samples for gene expression analysis before the end of the teachers time, we may also have him/her assist in qRT-PCR.

Dr. Jeanne Serb

This project focuses on how biological diversity originates and is maintained through the interactions of multiple levels of biological organization, particularly how selection influences the creation and recreation of specific phenotypes, such as eyes.  The RET participants will learn about genetic processes that drive the conversion of a non-visual structure to an eye and how it is important to understanding how organisms can re-purpose genetic material to give rise to a new organ and adapt to changing environments.  

Dr. Dean Adams

The RET participant will be engaging in digital biology and use of photogrammetry for developing 3D digital models of biological organisms.  

Dr. Nicole Valenzuela

The RET participant will be exploring the climate change effects on turtle sex determination

Dr. Steven Hall

The RET participant will be focusing on understanding organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling patterns across terrestrial and wetland ecosystems.  Our lab is particularly interested in better understanding how biotic/abiotic interactions among microbes, plants, and minerals affect the stabilization, transformation, and losses of organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus. 

Dr. Matthew Hufford

The RET will be participating in field, laboratory and computational research to explore the evolution and genetics of maize during domestication and adaptation across various environments.  

Dr. Martin Spalding Lab

This work will center around developing TALENs. This is the latest in engineered nuclease mediated recombination technology. The teacher will learn what recombination is, why it is useful, how to induce it, how to control it in a living cell, what a TALEN is and how to engineer these proteins. The goal is to design a TALEN pair, assemble parts from a library to form a complete TALEN pair and then test for activity in a yeast based assay. This work will support on-going research in the lab that is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of TALEN technology in soybean.

Dr. Yanhai Yin

Our lab studies hormonal regulation of plant growth and drought responses by a genetics approach.  

Dr. Sarah Anderson

Our lab studies how genetic variation among maize varieties influences gene expression and downstream phenotypes of crop plants.  This year we are experimenting to understand how nitrogen stress leads to variation in root growth angle, influencing plant growth and yields.  We also use many computational tools to understand the genomic differences underlying these traits.

Dr. Dior Kelley

Our lab studies hormone regulated plant growth and development, genetics and genomics.  

Dr. Shuizhang Fei 

The REU participant will focus on research to identify and develop perennial groundcovers for maize production in the field in the Sorenson Farm west of Ames, IA.  The goal is to identify the best perennial groundcover species/cultivar that will result in minimal or no grain yield reduction while providing ecological services.  We will also investigate soil moisture and nutrient status in conventional maize production and PGC-based maize production systems. 

Dr. Ludovico Cademartiri Lab

The teacher will participate in the development of a plant growth platform that allows for the growth of root systems in controlled droplets. The structural and chemical characteristics of these droplets can be controlled. He/she will work with us to improve the design of the setup in order to allow for the growth of plants for periods longer than 1 week, thereby avoiding excessive evaporation of the droplets and consequent deleterious accumulation of nutrient concentrations.

Dr. Mark Wright Lab

The research project will consist of gaining experience in a thermochemical laboratory. The project will focus on converting lignocellulosic biomass into fuels and chemicals via a process called fast pyrolysis. We will operate a lab-scale pyrolysis reactor to convert biomass, such as red oak, into a liquid (bio-oil), solid (biochar), and gas product. These products will be analyzed in our lab to understand their chemical and elemental composition. The mentee will gain an understanding of the process and broader significance of pyrolysis. Along with this understanding, the mentee will get hands on experience with the operation of lab-scale reactors and analytical equipment.

Dr. James Michael

The Multiphase Reacting Flow Laboratory uses optical and spectroscopic techniques to investigate energy harnessing systems, including liquid sprays, detonation, and other propulsion systems.  Our work is multidisciplinary – combining physics (optics), chemistry, and engineering approaches to understand the underlying mechanisms as energy (temperature) moves through these systems.  

Dr. Roger Wise

The RET participant will be looking at host and pathogen signaling in cereal fungal interactions.

Dr. Alicia Carriquiry

Our research focuses on building a statistically sound and scientifically solid foundation for analyzing and interpreting forensic evidence and improving quantitative literacy among forensic practitioners, legal professionals, and other stakeholders through educational opportunities. 

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