Beloit Summer Biomedical Research Scholars Program

The Beloit College Biomedical Research Scholars Program opportunities for 2016.

The Beloit College Biomedical Research Scholars Program is an 8-week program of mentored laboratory research for current Beloit College students. Biomed Scholars will receive a stipend, must enroll in one unit of Biology 392: Independent Research in Biology, and pay summer tuition for this course. Scholars may contract with the college for room and board. The stipend has been calculated to cover these costs.  The program will run during June and July.

To apply, students should:

  • submit an application using the Beloit Summer Scholar common application.
  • request two reference reports from faculty members or work supervisors; at least one report must be from a Beloit College faculty member. Potential mentors are eligible to submit recommendations.
  • email an unofficial transcript from the Portal to Sarah Arnsmeier, Academic Program Coordinator for the Science Center,

Applications are due on March 21st, 2016. Awards will be made within 2-3 weeks of the application due date.

2016 Projects

Principal Investigators: Rachel Bergstrom
Focus Areas:
Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 6 – July 29)
Description: In addition to the propagation of electrical signals required for efficient synaptic transmission, the axon provides a highway for the transport of cell surface receptor signals from the synapse back to the neuron cell body and nucleus. The interruption of these signals has been observed in several neurodegenerative diseases. This project will focus on an in vitro model to address the question of cell surface receptor signaling in neurodegeneration, axonal maintenance, and neuronal survival. The students will work together to employ multiple techniques, including tissue culture, fluorescence microscopy, and western blotting, to investigate the role of specific growth factor signal trafficking in neuron survival and neurodegeneration.

Principal Investigator: Amy Briggs
Focus Area: Biology
Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 6 – July 29)
Description: As sessile organisms without circulating cells, plants must equip every cell with the ability to respond to abiotic and biotic stresses, such as drought and pathogen infection. My lab mainly uses the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study how plants protect themselves from such stresses. Summer research projects may include: using bioinformatics to analyze Arabidopsis' transcriptional responses to pathogen infection, screening natural variants of Arabidopsis for drought and salt tolerance, and investigating the drought tolerance and pathogen susceptibility of the subsistence tuber, cocoyam (Xanthosoma and Colocasia genuses). Preferred prerequisites: BIOL 247 and BIOL 289.

Principal Investigator: Tawnya Cary
Focus Area: Biology
Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 6 – July 29)
Description: One of the leading hypotheses in amphibian declines proposes that exposure to environmental pollutants leads to suppressed immune responses. Therefore, when immunosuppressed individuals are exposed to a pathogen, the individual is unable to fight off the pathogen, leading to illness. Previous research has shown that one line of defense, antimicrobial skin peptides (AMPs), are important in protecting frogs against viruses, and that exposure to some environmental pollutants lowers the amount of secreted AMPs. However, it is unclear as to how low AMP levels can drop and still maintain the capacity to fight off viruses. To investigate this question, students will work with me to field-collect frogs from areas with a known gradient of pollutant concentrations (e.g., waters downstream of a waste-water effluent or agricultural field). Frogs will be sampled, non-invasively, for AMP levels and visually screened for any indication of viral infection. We will then determine whether any correlations exist between the concentration of pollutants, the AMP levels in frogs, and/or appearance of viral infection in frogs.

Principal Investigator: Theodore Gries
Focus Area: Biochemistry
Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 6 – July 29)
Description: African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness) results from the transmission of the parasite Trypanosoma brucei to humans through the bite of the tsetse fly. The parasite migrates into the central nervous system causing changes in behavior (including sleep cycles) and eventually death. Fully understanding druggable targets against the T. brucei parasite is a critical step in developing new therapies against the trypanosomiasis disease. The enzyme 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase has been suggested to be a druggable target for this disease system. 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase is initially structurally symmetrical but behaves in an asymmetrical manner. Previous work in the Gries lab has suggested that the asymmetry results from substrate binding (e.g., 6-phosphogluconate) but not from redox cofactor binding (e.g., NADP+). The goal of the current research project is to substantiate this asymmetry model by completing a thermodynamic assessment of substrate and redox cofactor binding to 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase. The conversion from a symmetrical enzyme to an asymmetrical enzyme should present a measurable thermodynamic effect when the substrate binds but not when the redox cofactor binds.

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Johnson
Focus Area: Biology
Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 6 – July 29)
Description: Horses that are overweight or obese, a rapidly increasing population, have an elevated risk for metabolic and endocrine disorders, such as insulin resistance.  In horses, insulin resistance is closely associated with the onset of laminitis, a serious vascular ailment involving changes in the hoof  that cause severe lameness and loss of use, sometimes requiring euthanasia.  Laminitis is most often observed in horses seasonally, with greatest occurrence in the spring. My laboratory assess if and how the onset of insulin resistance in horses differs throughout the year.  During the summer, undergraduate research students will conduct field collections, analyze blood samples from a yearlong collection, and conduct statistical analysis of data.  The results of this study will inform the development of more effective methods of assessing risk factors of laminitis, ensuring that preventative measures can be taken before the onset of painful lameness and possibly the need for euthanasia. Applicant should have completed at least three biology and two chemistry courses.