Biology Research

Motivated students in the Department of Biology often find opportunities to work directly with their professors on research projects. Gain valuable skills and experience while building your resume for your career and applications for graduate and professional school!  

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM (UROP)

UROP allows undergraduate students to earn stipends of up to $500 per funding cycle while completing research with their faculty. 

Learn more about the UROP application process.

SUMMER UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH EXPERIENCE (SURE)

Similar to UROP, SURE provides an outlet for undergraduate students to take part in hands-on research with their professors while earning a stipend over the spring & summer semesters. 

Learn more about SURE

Recent Biology Research

BEFORE AND AFTER HAMILTON DAM REMOVAL ON THE FLINT RIVER

Lead by Dr. Heather Dawson, this project aims to research the river and stream bank morphology, as well as the biological diversity and their contaminant load adjacent to campus. This research project aims to highlight the health of the river by determining the diversity of fish species and their abundance, as well as the diversity of aquatic insect species that serve as indicators of the health of the ecosystem. 

Keep up with the Flint River Ecology Study on the official site!

Undergraduate Students 

Samantha Blouir, Danny Victor, Bryan Miesen, Sloan Hummel, Nicole Blankertz, Codi Green

Graduate Student

Kelsey Sikon (non-student)

AGE AND GROWTH ESTIMATES FOR SEA LAMPREY IN THE GREAT LAKES: STATUS AND FUTURE DIRECTION

Lead by Dr. Heather Dawson, this research project aims to review the research on measuring the age and growth of Great Lakes sea lamprey populations, and provide future directions for improving them. Measuring productivity and recruitment in invasive sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) populations across the Great Lakes requires accurate assessments of sea lamprey age, growth, and survival. 

Undergraduate Students

Samantha Blouir

Graduate Students 

Courtney Higgins, Kelsey Sikon (non-student)

   

MICROENVIRONMENTAL STRESS:  TRIGGER FOR METASTASIS?

Lead by Dr. Joe Sucic. Cells within a tumor are subject to a variety of stressful conditions, such as acidic pH, low oxygen levels (hypoxia) and, perhaps, elevated temperature, all of which are the result of the high metabolic activity of the cells.  We have hypothesized that these stressful conditions could be a trigger for metastasis—they essentially cause cells to look for a “new home” with better conditions.  To investigate this hypothesis, we have been examining if stressful conditions can induce and/or enhance metastatic behavior in cultured breast cancer cells.  For this experimentation, we expose the cells to a variety of stressful conditions and examine for 1) cell invasiveness, 2) the expression of key proteins that mediate metastasis, and 3) the expression of key miRNAs that mediate metastasis.  This project could provide insight into the cause of metastasis and potentially establish molecular targets for therapeutic intervention. 

Undergraduate Students

Mohamed Elaswad, Kevin O’Connor, Holly Attebury, Madison Wicker

Graduate Student

Brandi Kaaykati

GENETIC ANALYSIS OF SMALL MAMMALS IN NORTHERN LOWER MICHIGAN

Lead by Dr. Jo Sucic in collaboration with Dr. Jill Witt, we are using molecular genetic analysis to examine the health of several populations of small mammals in northern lower Michigan.  This project is a great example of the synergy that can exist between molecular biology and wildlife biology!  Dr. Witt’s wildlife students set up “hair snares” in northern lower Michigan, and hairs that are collected are used for DNA extraction.  Mitochondrial DNA analysis allows us to identify the species that left the hair; analysis of nuclear sequences called microsatellites, which are the sequences used in DNA fingerprinting, allows us to identify individual animals and to examine the genetic health of the population.   This project could help inform decisions on wildlife management in northern Michigan. 

Undergraduate Student 

Hayden Norris

Graduate Student

Dominika Mazzola

GENETIC VARIATION AND PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE

Lead by Dr. Joe Sucic in collaboration with Dr. Allon Goldberg of the Department of Physical Therapy.

One of the major advances to come from the analysis of the human genome is the role of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in a wide variety of disease and other conditions.  We are doing analysis of SNPs in a number of genes, including those encoding Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) and Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), and examining if the presence of specific SNPs correlates with an array of physical performance abilities (i.e., balance, strength, etc.) in elderly physical therapy patients.   The examination of the physical therapy patients is done by Dr. Goldberg and his assistants.  The patients provide a saliva sample, from which students in my lab extract DNA and do the SNP analysis.  This work could inform physical therapy regimens for patients based upon their genotype.

Undergraduate Student 

Georgina Brown

Graduate Students

Wendy Yahr

Larry Kuipers

EVOLUTIONARY RELATIONSHIPS OF MARINE FISHES

Lead by Dr. Kevin Tang. 

Undergraduate Students 

Hima Bindu Durumutla 
Jade Henckel 
Kyle Mayer 
Katarina Pretty 

The Porch Project

The Porch Project is a community-engaged research project in partnership with Megan Heyza and the Eastside Improvement Association of Flint. Our combined goals of neighborhood beautification, landscaping enhancements, porch repairs, increasing neighbor engagement and outdoor relationship building, and pollinator conservation come together in this project where UM-Flint students in the Tonietto Lab plant gardens in front yards. We provide residents with garden designs using native plants or non-native ornamental plants typically used in formal front yard landscaping, and return once a month to observe which garden type better supports our native pollinators.

To learn more about #ThePorchProject, including volunteering and other ways to get involved, please check out www.theporchproject.org

Undergraduate Students

Megan Cate (class of 2020)

Shelby Lane (class of 2020)

Samantha Blouir (class of 2022)

Collaborators

Megan Heyza and the Eastside Improvement Association of Flint

TESTING THE EFFECTS OF PHYLOGENETIC DIVERSITY ON RESTORATION OUTCOMES IN TALLGRASS PRAIRIE

Lead by Dr. Rebecca Tonietto, The Prairie Plot Experiment at the Morton Arboretum is a broad-scale investigation into the dimensions of diversity used as metrics in prairie restoration. While many restoration plans incorporate diversity targets, we tend to use taxonomic diversity (how many species do we have and how evenly are they represented) as opposed to functional diversity (what types of species are present based on their traits) or phylogenetic diversity (what proportion of prairie plants from an evolutionary perspective are represented and how closely are they related). 

The Prairie Plot Experiment contains over 120 native species planted in treatment plots of low, medium, and high functional x low or high phylogenetic diversity; allowing us to tease apart the impact of evolutionary distinct planting arrays.

Undergraduate Students

Amanda Zuelke (class of 2019), Shelby Lane (class of 2020), Blake Pagnier (class of 2020), Samantha Blouir (class of 2022)

Collaborators

Andrew Hipp (Morton Arboretum), Dan Larkin (University of Minnesota), Rebecca Barak (Chicago Botanic Garden), Mary-Claire Glasenhardt (Morton Arboretum)

FOR-MAR RESTORATION

For-Mar Nature Preserve in Burton, MI is a gem in Genesee County! Just a 5 min drive from UM-Flint campus, For-Mar is already the site of many UM-Flint Wildlife courses' favorite field trips. Located near the back of the 383 acre preserve is a meadow undergoing habitat restoration, to remove invasive and non-native plants. Students from the Tonietto Lab monitor the flowering plants and wild bees at the site in partnership with For-Mar naturalists and Teresa Yoder-Nowak.

Undergraduate Students

Megan Cate (class of 2020), Shelby Lane (class of 2020), Blake Pagnier (class of 2020), Samantha Blouir (class of 2022), Danny Victor (class of 2020)

Collaborators

Nicole Ferguson (For-Mar Nature Preserve), Brian VanPatten (For-Mar Nature Preserve), Teresa Yoder-Nowak (UM-Flint).