Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) Directory

The FRAP Directory allows students to identify UCSB faculty who are looking for undergraduate students to participate in their research projects or creative activities. Please use the links below to find opportunities by discipline. Students, if your desired discipline is not listed, please contact the Undergraduate Research Initiatives office at 805-893-3090 or urca@ltsc.ucsb.edu for assistance. Faculty, if you would like to post your research or creative activity opportunity, please complete the online submission form.

Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology

Daniel Morse

Location:
3155, Marine Biote
805-893-3157

Research Project

Biophotonics: Join an exciting interdisciplinary project at the frontiers of biology, chemistry, physics and materials engineering, focused on discovery of the underlying mechanisms by which living organisms harness light for camouflage, communication and energy in the underwater world, and translation of these mechanisms for advances in new materials and breakthrough technologies. We're discovering how specific genes and proteins in marine molluscs ranging from squids to giant clams produce nanostructures that control the wavelength (color) and intensity of light they reflect for stealth, signaling and enhanced photosynthesis, and working with colleagues in local industry to translate these findings for practical advances in new photonic and infrared technologies. Opportunities to participate at each of these levels, from the DNA and protein levels, analyses of the biomolecular nanostructures, optical and photonic analyses, and development and characterization of new materials and photonic, IR and photovoltaic devices. Undergraduates who have participated in this project previously have benefitted from the individualized mentoring provided, and gone on to advanced studies in some of the best graduate programs in the country, and to rewarding careers in research and industry.

Undergraduate Contribution

Opportunities to participate at each of these levels, from the DNA and protein levels, analyses of the biomolecular nanostructures, optical and photonic analyses, and development and characterization of new materials and photonic, IR and photovoltaic devices. Undergraduates who have participated in this project previously have benefitted from the individualized mentoring provided, and gone on to advanced studies in some of the best graduate programs in the country, and to rewarding careers in research and industry.

Requirements

(1) Passionate curiosity about the still unknown molecular, cellular, energetic and physical mechanisms of life and its evolution, its adaptations to light and to life in the oceans, and/or a deep interest in learning from the unique advantages evolved by living systems to guide the development of new routes to advanced materials and technologies; (2) Sufficient time for research as described above (minimum of ca. 20 hrs/week; 2 or more consecutive quarters); (3) academic focus and sufficient preparation in some area congruent with this research (in either biology, biochem., physics, chemistry, materials, energy, engineering, etc.; some demonstration of appropriate skill or prior experience; strong GPA.

Eduardo Orias

Location:
2139 Bio II
(805) 893-3024

Research Project

Mating type (sex) determination (MTD) in the unicellular eukaryote, Tetrahymena pigmentosa, which has three mating types, had been thought to involve three alleles at the mat locus, which show hierarchical dominance in heterozygotes. The recent elucidation of the stochastic mechanism of MTD in a related species, Tetrahymena thermophila, makes the previous hypothesis of T. pigmentosa MTD untenable. Rather than hierarchical dominance, previous results are now best interpreted as a case of hierarchical, directed allele-specific DNA loss in the somatic nucleus of heterozygotes, i.e., an example of programmed gene editing. This project aims to experimentally test this new hypothesis.

Undergraduate Contribution

Using PCR amplification, the student will test for the presence of each allele of the mat locus in the somatic nucleus of T. pigmentosa heterozygotes that express only the “dominant” allele. As a control, exceptional progeny that express both mating types in the somatic nucleus will be shown, by a similar test, to possess both alleles. If these experiments give the predicted results, the student will next determine at what stage, after fertilization, the “loser” allele is lost from the somatic nucleus. This will be done by testing cell lines at defined intervals after fertilization. Every quarter the student will present a quarterly progress report to my research group in the form of an oral, PowerPoint-illustrated presentation at one of our weekly lab meetings. The student will also present his/her work at the yearly UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

Requirements

Course: MCDB 101A, 101B
Cumulative GPA: At least 3.0
Skills: Word-processing, spread sheets, PowerPoint, calculating dilutions
Availability: at least 15 hr per week, including some 3-4-hr blocks of time

Location:
Biology II 2139
(805) 893-3024

Research Project

The project aims to increase our understanding of the developmentally-programmed gene editing mechanism involved in mating type determination in the 7-sexed (mating types) model unicellular eukaryote, Tetrahymena thermophila. Our previous work showed that during differentiation of the expressed somatic nucleus, one randomly selected mating type gene pair is completely assembled by site-specific joining of noncontiguous germline DNA segments, while the rest are excised as DNA circles. We wish to understand how the process is organized.

Undergraduate Contribution

The student will do time course experiments concentrated the period when the somatic nucleus is differentiating. At each sampling time, the DNA of completed gene pairs will be detected by long range PCR amplification. The specificity of completed gene pairs will be detected by treating the amplified DNA with discriminating restriction enzymes. The timing of appearance of various circular excision products will be distinguished by using pairs of PCR primers specific for each type of circle. Every quarter the student will present a quarterly progress report to my research group in the form of an oral, PowerPoint-illustrated presentation at one of our weekly lab meetings. The student will also present his/her work at the yearly UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

Requirements

Course: MCDB 101A

GPA: At least 3.0

Skills: Word-processing, spread sheets, PowerPoint, calculating dilutions

Availability: at least 15 hr per week, including some 3-4-hr blocks of time

Location:
Biology II 2139
(805) 893-3024

Research Project

This project aims to understand the mechanism of one type of massive, developmentally-programmed genome editing in the model unicellular eukaryote, Tetrahymena thermophila. During differentiation of the somatic nucleus, the 5 chromosomes inherited from the germline nucleus are fragmented into ~200 “minichromosomes” by cutting at a 15-bp “chromosome breakage sequence” (Cbs). We aim to identify the endonuclease that cuts the Cbs and the molecule (RNA or protein) that guides it to the Cbs.

Undergraduate Contribution

A lethal mutation at position 4 of Cbs 1L-16 is known to create a restriction site absent from the wild type Cbs. Viable revertants occur at low frequency (~1 in 10E-5 progeny). The student will screen such revertants to find those in which the mutation occurred at some other gene (such as the desired Cbs endonuclease gene) which now allows cutting the mutant Cbs. The work will involve screening viable mutants of independent origin to identify those in which the Cbs retains the mutant restriction site. The student will design appropriate PCR primers, PCR-amplify the Cbs region, perform gel electrophoresis and validate PCR product by cloning and sequencing. Every quarter the student will present a quarterly progress report to my research group as an oral, PowerPoint-illustrated presentation at one of our weekly lab meetings. The student will also present his/her work at the yearly UCSB Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

Requirements

Course: MCDB 101A

GPA: At least 3.0 Skills:

Word-processing, spread sheets, PowerPoint, calculating dilutions

Availability: at least 15 hr per week, including some 3-4-hr blocks of time

Julie Simpson

Location:
3129 Bio II
805-893-5770

Research Project

"Dissecting a fly behavior sequence with light" 
We seek to understand how motor sequences are coordinated by neural circuits in the brain, and we use fruit fly grooming as a model. This behavior is a flexible sequence controlled by changing sensory stimuli acting on an internal suppression hierarchy that sets the priority of different body parts for cleaning. We use genetic screens, functional imaging, and quantitative behavioral analysis to decipher how these factors are integrated into ordered actions by specific neurons.

Undergraduate Contribution

1. Build a system/instrument for delivering focused light to fly bristles for competition experiments
2. Streamline custom software and image data management process for automatic analysis of fly grooming behavior
3. Screen for specific neurons that disrupt the grooming sequence
4. Dream up something better to try (compelling proposal required)

Requirements

STRONG preference will be given to students with computer programming experience (esp. MatLab, LabView, or C) and practical electronics or engineering skills.
Upper division biology or science classes with >B grades, lab coursework and/or research experience are desirable. 
Intention and ability to commit significant time to lab work is essential.
 
Send application by email with unofficial transcript and description of what project interests you and why.

Douglas Thrower

Location:
LSB 2318
893-5964

Research Project

Microtubules are components of the internal skeleton of eukaryotic cells. Because of their role in cell division and cell migration, microtubules are targeted a number of anti-cancer drugs. Although most of these drugs suppress the growing and shortening "dynamic instability" behavior of microtubules, their exact mechanisms of action are currently unknown. Our goal is to measure the ability of different microtubule-targeted drugs to alter the structure of microtubules both in living cells and in a cell-free system. Such structural alterations are believed to regulate the dynamics of microtubules.

Undergraduate Contribution

Previous undergraduates have helped to develop an immunofluorescent assay that has made it possible to use a conformation-specific antibody to probe the structure of microtubules. Other undergrads have maintained stocks of growing monkey and human cells and have carried out preliminary studies of the effects of several different drugs on the structure of microtubules in living cells. The latter includes dosing cells with appropriate concentrations of drugs, treatment of cells with antibody-based fluorescent probes, imaging cells on a confocal microscope, and measurement/analysis of microscopic images. Current efforts by an undergraduate student under supervision of a graduate student are aimed at developing a cell free assay to determine the requirement for additional proteins in drug-induced changes in microtubule structure.

Requirements

Undergraduate participants in this study are expected to have completed introductory biology courses, MCDB 1A, 1B, 1AL, 1BL, and EEMB 2. Students should have basic laboratory skills including making dilutions, preparing laboratory reagents, use of serological and micropipetting devices "pipetmen". Previous experience with light microscopy is desirable but not essential.

Thomas Weimbs

Location:
United States

Research Project

A major focus of this laboratory is the investigation of molecular mechanisms underlying polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and related renal diseases. Research in the Weimbs Laboratory has already led to a better understanding of aberrantly regulated signaling mechanisms in PKD and suggested possile new strategies for disease treatment. The Laboratory is aiming to discover new basic mechanisms of epithelial cell function and kidney physiology. The training of future scientists at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate level is another important mission of the Weimbs Laboratory.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergrad research positions are for volunteers who are highly motivated and committed to learn experimental techniques, become intellectually highly involved and ultimately are able to help a senior member of the lab with their experiments, or even carry on research projects independently. In the beginning, it is more of a burden for a senior lab member to teach the undergrad student. But if a student is very good he/she can become a valuable member of the team and contribute to our research progress. Someone who is highly motivated should be able to come to the lab in between and after their classwork or on weekends for at least about 10 hours/week. The person should be very strong academically so that the lab work does not negatively impact the class work performance. A talented and motivated student should be able to quickly learn experimental techniques and start to do experiments with less and less supervision until they can be done, for the most part, independently. Undergraduate researchers typically want to go on to graduate school after graduation. An excellent letter of reference commenting on their outstanding undergrad research activity is invaluable for admission into a competitive graduate program. Such undergrad research experience is expected by graduate admission committees at all top tier universities. There are several summer research fellowships available to undergraduate students. Successful undergrad researchers in the Weimbs lab are strongly encouraged to apply for these fellowships and will then be invited to spend the summer doing full-time research in the lab.

Requirements

Email your CV and unofficial transcript to weimbs@lifesci.ucsb.edu. Please state why you are interested to work in the Weimbs lab.

Location:
United States

Research Project

A major focus of this laboratory is the investigation of molecular mechanisms underlying polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and related renal diseases. Research in the Weimbs Laboratory has already led to a better understanding of aberrantly regulated signaling mechanisms in PKD and suggested possile new strategies for disease treatment. The Laboratory is aiming to discover new basic mechanisms of epithelial cell function and kidney physiology. The training of future scientists at the postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate level is another important mission of the Weimbs Laboratory.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergrad research positions are for volunteers who are highly motivated and committed to learn experimental techniques, become intellectually highly involved and ultimately are able to help a senior member of the lab with their experiments, or even carry on research projects independently. In the beginning, it is more of a burden for a senior lab member to teach the undergrad student. But if a student is very good he/she can become a valuable member of the team and contribute to our research progress. Someone who is highly motivated should be able to come to the lab in between and after their classwork or on weekends for at least about 10 hours/week. The person should be very strong academically so that the lab work does not negatively impact the class work performance. A talented and motivated student should be able to quickly learn experimental techniques and start to do experiments with less and less supervision until they can be done, for the most part, independently. Undergraduate researchers typically want to go on to graduate school after graduation. An excellent letter of reference commenting on their outstanding undergrad research activity is invaluable for admission into a competitive graduate program. Such undergrad research experience is expected by graduate admission committees at all top tier universities. There are several summer research fellowships available to undergraduate students. Successful undergrad researchers in the Weimbs lab are strongly encouraged to apply for these fellowships and will then be invited to spend the summer doing full-time research in the lab.

Requirements

Email your CV and unofficial transcript to weimbs@lifesci.ucsb.edu. Please state why you are interested to work in the Weimbs lab.

Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, Psychological and Brain Sciences

Michael Goard

Location:
5131 Bio II

Research Project

For this project, we are training mice to perform specific cognitive tasks so that we can study neural activity during behavior. For example, in one task, we are teaching mice to navigate through a virtual maze using a joystick. We then measure neural activity before and after they learn a new maze route to better understand the neural basis of learning in the neocortex.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduate researchers will contribute to animal training sessions. There will also be an opportunity to participate in lab meetings and other lab activities.

Requirements

3.5 GPA or higher

Have taken an introductory neuroscience course (MCDB 151, Psych 111 or equivalent)

Comfortable working with animals (no previous experience necessary)

Basic fluency with MATLAB program language

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