Skip Navigation

Biomedical Scholars Program

The Beloit College Biomedical Research Scholars Program opportunities for 2018!

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 must contract with the college for room and board. The stipend has been calculated to cover these costs.  The program will run from June 4th to July 27th, 2018.

Applying

Applications are on March 26th, 2018. Awards will be made within 2-3 weeks of the application due date.

Descriptions of the available projects are given below. If you are interested in a project:

  1. Talk to the faculty mentor for the project to learn more about it.
  2. Apply for the project online.
  3. Request two reference reports from Beloit College faculty members.
  4. Send an unofficial transcript to Taylor Ajamian, ajamiant@beloit.edu.

If you have questions, please contact Rachel Bergstrom, bergstromr@beloit.edu (Biology). Alternatively, contact the faculty member associated with the project that you would like to work on.


2018 Projects

Effect of Agricultural Run-off on Amphibian Immune Response

  • Principal Investigator: Tawnya Cary, caryt@beloit.edu (Project #1)
  • Focus Areas: Biology
  • Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 4-July 27)
  • Prerequisite Courses: None.
  • Preferred Courses: None.
  • Number of Student Positions: 2

One of the leading hypotheses in global 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 pathogens, and that exposure to some environmental pollutants lowers the amount of secreted AMPs. In the Midwest, agricultural run-off is a major route of pollutant deposition into surface waters and includes inorganics like nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as, pesticides (e.g., glyphosate and atrazine).

In order to investigate whether these pollutants contribute to amphibian declines, we will conduct a laboratory exposure of Xenopus laevis frogs, and non-invasively, sample them for AMP levels following exposure. In addition, a complementary AMP sampling of field-collected, green frogs (Rana clamitans) from areas with a known gradient of pollutant concentrations (e.g., waters adjacent to an agricultural field) might be conducted. These frogs would be visually screened for any indication of viral infection, and any correlations between the concentration of pollutants, the AMP levels in frogs, and/or appearance of viral infection in frogs could be determined.

Amphibian Disease Susceptibility Following Exposure to a Pollutant

  • Principal Investigator: Tawnya Cary, caryt@beloit.edu (Project #2)
  • Focus Areas: Biology
  • Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 4-July 27)
  • Prerequisite Courses: None.
  • Preferred Courses: None.
  • Number of Student Positions: 1

One of the leading hypotheses in global 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 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB-126) suppressed immune responses in northern leopard frogs. To test whether or not this immune suppression would result in increased susceptibility to pathogens, I conducted a bioassay experiment in which some tadpoles were exposed to both PCB-126 and then challenged by a ranavirus, frog virus 3 (FV3), while a control group had no such exposure.

Whole animal samples have been collected from this study, but have not been processed. A variety of laboratory procedures including whole organism measures of susceptibility (e.g., growth, development, survival), and in vitro immune measures using spectrophotometry (e.g., antibody responses, hemolysis assay) and polymerase-chain reaction (e.g., cytokine expression, viral presence) could be conducted to characterize how the tadpoles responded to the pathogen following exposure to PCB-126.

The Role of Hormones and Obesity in Horse Lameness

  • Principal Investigator: Katie Johnson, johnsonkms@beloit.edu
  • Focus Areas: Biology
  • Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 4-July 27)
  • Prerequisite Courses: None.
  • Preferred Courses: Experience with Excel, R, and/or JMP is preferred, but not required.
  • Number of Student Positions: 2

Horses are popular pets, but unfortunately, many owners are forced to euthanize their horses when they develop painful chronic lameness. One of the most severe types of lameness in horses is laminitis, which occurs when blood vessels are damaged within the hoof. As opposed to lameness caused by a traumatic injury, hoof damage associated with laminitis is linked to obesity and changes in blood hormone levels, such as insulin.

The Johnson laboratory is working to determine if particular hormone levels could serve as early indicators of elevated risk for laminitis, which could then be used to initiate preventative measures to avoid lameness. During the summer of 2018, student researchers in the lab will collaborate to organize, analyze, and present a large dataset collected by previous research students. Therefore, it is likely that the majority of the work conducted this summer will be statistical analysis and graphing. Experience with Excel, R, and/or JMP is preferred, but not required.

Transcriptional Control of Innate Immunity in Plants

  • Principal Investigator: Amy Briggs, briggsa@beloit.edu
  • Focus Area: Biology
  • Project Duration: 8 weeks (June 4-July 27)
  • Prerequisite Courses: None.
  • Preferred Courses: BIOL 289: Genetics and BIOL 247: Biometrics strongly recommended but not required.
  • Number of Student Positions: 2

As sessile organisms without circulating cells, plants must equip every cell with the ability to respond to infection by pathogenic microbes. My lab mainly uses the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study how plants protect themselves from such infection. Summer research projects may include: using bioinformatics to analyze Arabidopsis' transcriptional responses to pathogen infection, and using quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) to answer questions about gene expression regulation in plants.

Potential projects may also focus on a second research topic: food microbiology. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are responsible for much of the food that we preserve by means of fermentation. Students projects include: identifying the genetic identity of LAB isolated from different foods fermented under different conditions, or using qPCR to track changes in LAB metabolic gene expression under different food preservation conditions.

 

 

To see more student research opportunities for Beloit College students, go to https://www.beloit.edu/biology/research/.