Mentor Sites

At some sites, you will spend most days working closely with a faculty mentor. At other sites, you will work in labs with teams of researchers, and you will develop closer relationships with graduate student mentors. You will experience the excitement of discovery resulting from hard work and careful attention in research and creative activities.

** Please note that most sites host a small group of students, but there may be some that host only one.

Click on the department tabs below to see the available sites!

ALLIED HEALTH (AH)

AH1

Title: Exploring Ways Technology Can Help People Live Healthier Lives

Mentors: Dr. Sherry Pagoto, Director of UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media and Professor, Allied Health Sciences, and UConn Institute for Collaborations in Health, Interventions, and Policy Research Staff and Faculty

Description: The UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media is devoted to exploring ways technology can be leveraged to help people live healthier lives. Students will work with researchers who are developing and testing mobile apps and online social communities to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In research funded by the NIH, we have developed 3 mobile apps focused on weight management and are currently conducting studies in which we counsel patients on health behavior change using online social network platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, they will also assist investigators as they tackle skin cancer prevention by developing social media campaigns that educate young people about the harms of tanning beds.

ART

ART1

Title: Puppet Arts

Mentors: Bart Roccoberton, Director, Puppet Arts, and a Puppet Arts student, TBA

Description: Are you a Dancer? Sculptor? Cartoonist? Writer? Mechanical Engineer? Musician? Actor? Painter? Theatrical Designer? Storyteller? Do you feel limited by choosing only one creative expression? Would you rather see your sculpture move, or create characters for your story, or dance in a way that the human form cannot realize, or develop a mechanism that will cause an audience to react with joy or sadness, compassion, or fear? The Puppet Arts are the crossroads of all creative expression. Are you familiar with the puppets seen on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, and Spiderman II? Wonder how they were designed and made? Look no further! Many were designed and made by the alumni of the Puppet Arts program at UConn, which is directed by Bart Roccoberton. If you choose this site, you will have the opportunity to work in the puppet labs and studios to design, build, and perform with several types of puppets, which you will take home after the program is finished! The Puppet Arts program is unique—UConn is the only university in the country that offers three different degrees in the art of puppetry. Graduates of the program go on to perform in and design for theaters around the world; perform for, build for, and manage internationally recognized TV programs and film; teach children; and direct prominent schools and museums. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to explore a career in the creative and varied world of puppetry!

Watch Bart Roccoberton’s UConn Talk on youtube!

BIOLOGY (BIO)

BIO1

Title: How and Why Organisms Evolve In So Many Beautiful Forms

Mentors: Lauren Stanley (graduate student) and Yaowu Yuan (PI), Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Description: The Yuan lab is primarily interested in how and why organisms evolve so many beautiful forms in nature. We study flower diversification as a representation of the general problem of phenotypic evolution. The specific questions we ask include: What are the genes underlying the dazzling variation of flower color and shape? How do these gene products (e.g., transcription factors, enzymes, signaling proteins) regulate the production, transportation, modification, and degradation of pigments to generate floral color patterns? How do they regulate the division, elongation, and polarization of cells to make flower shapes? How does evolution tinker with these genes to generate different phenotypes among species? What is the adaptive significance of the diverse floral forms? How do flowers with different color patterns and shapes interact with different pollinators? What role do these interactions play in adaptation, reproductive isolation, and speciation? Students will work with researchers as they use a highly integrative approach to address these questions, including computational analysis of genomic and transcriptomic data, molecular biology experiments in the wet lab, genetic crosses and mutagenesis in the greenhouse, and ecological interrogations in the field. For more details please see our website: https://monkeyflower.uconn.edu/

CHEMISTRY (CHEM)

CHEM1

Title: Chemistry 100: Cutting-Edge Equation for Biological Nanomaterials

Mentors: Challa Kumar, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and senior students in lab

Description: At this site you will receive state-of-the-art training in Green and Sustainable Nanomaterials derived from proteins, lipids or carbohydrates. Our environment is being polluted with synthetic polymers and plastics which do not degrade over hundreds of years and thus, they are accumulating on the planet.  For example, five artificial islands are located on our great oceans which consist of about 110 million tons of synthetic polymers and they occupy a total area equivalent to that of the state of Texas.  The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch' is an example. How do we prevent the growth of these islands or even remediate their harmful effects?  To address this serious, but less known, environmental problem we are making new materials from natural substances that are fully functional, but would also degrade when released into the environment. For example, we prepared protein-based supercapactiors that outperform commercial supercapacitors, but are not harmful to the environment as they are made of natural proteins.  We also made white-emitting phosphors from ordinary proteins for applications of the lighting industry. LED bulbs coated with these phosphors emit warm white light, and these coatings are degraded when discarded into the environment.  Along these lines, we have prepared biological sensors using proteins and ordinary paper for diagnostic applications.  These sensors also degrade quickly, once released into the environment.  

This lab is dedicated to making high-end materials that are fully functional for high-tech applications, but are not dangerous or toxic to the environment. Our research team will provide you with hands-on training in the preparation and characterization of these protein-based nano materials.  You will be working on projects at the cutting edge of nanoscience. If you love chemistry and are curious to learn more about these advanced environmentally-friendly projects, we invite you to our high-tech laboratories to assist our research team in these exciting nanoscience discoveries.

CHEM2

Title: Mechanistic Inorganic Chemistry

Mentors: Dr. Alfredo Angeles-Boza, Assistant Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

Description: The increasing emission of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, has received considerable attention due to its serious environmental consequences. An obvious solution is the capture and storage of the CO2 produced in the industrial processes. A more attractive approach is to combine the capture of CO2 with its use as a renewable and environmentally friendly resource. For example, CO2 can be converted to C1 feedstock for liquid fuels. With this objective in mind, we have recently begun to explore rhenium complexes as (pre)catalysts for the reduction of CO2 to CO. The YSSS student working on this project will synthesize and characterize heterocyclic ligands and rhenium complexes. The student will also explore the catalytic activity of the synthesized complexes.

Our group is also interested in studying the mechanisms by which host defense peptides use metal ions to enhance their antimicrobial activities. By learning how these important effectors of the immune system interact will lead us to the design of new antibiotics. The YSSS student working on this project will synthesize peptides or peptide mimics and perform biochemical and biophysical assays to determine their antimicrobial activities.  For additional information about the research at the Angeles-Boza lab, please visit the website at: https://angeles-boza.chemistry.uconn.edu/

CHEM3

Title: Functional Stimuli Responsive Adaptive Polymer Materials Research in the Kasi Group

Mentor: Prof. Rajeswari Kasi, Polymer Program, Institute of Materials Science

Description: Liquid crystals (LC) are states of matter with properties between those of conventional liquids and conventional crystalline solids. These small molecules have flow properties similar to liquids but are arranged with some molecular order similar to crystalline solids. These molecules show "phase" and "temperature-dependent" properties which yields optical materials. Furthermore, LCs respond to electrical and magnetic fields that are important for technological developments including optoelectronic devices, liquid crystal displays and lasers.  Liquid crystals are essential in biology including formation of the all-important lipid layers which hold cells together. 

Research in the Kasi group is focused on synthesis of small molecule LC and liquid crystalline polymers (LCP), wherein the liquid crystal is covalently attached within a polymer matrix.  These new materials also respond to electrical and magnetic fields and show an optical response. We use this "responsive" feature in the creation of new adaptive materials including soft actuators, soft robotic materials, drug delivery devices and sensors. 

In collaboration with graduate students and the professor, high school students in the group will be trained to synthesize simple LCs  by traditional organic and polymer chemical methods and explore their properties with focus on thermochromic and piezochromic features. Using these studies as the background, the student (s) will develop a simple sensing platform to produce a visible readout. 

DIGITAL MEDIA AND DESIGN (DMD)

DMD1

Title: Greenhouse Studios Scholarly Communication Design

Mentors: Faculty: Tom Scheinfeldt, Associate Professor of Digital Media and Design, Lead Mentors: Sarah Lippincott and Wes Hamrick

Coordinator: Sara Sikes

Description: Greenhouse Studios is a research lab for the humanities. Our team of scholars, students, technologists, and librarians are exploring creative new ways to design and deliver research, with a focus on digital media. We are currently working on a number of projects, including a virtual reality model of a historical event and a choose-your-own adventure graphic novel. Depending on their individual interests and skills, program participants will be assigned to one of our project teams and will gain experience in graphic and web design, audio-video editing, virtual reality, or another area of digital media production.   

For more information: Greenhouse Studios

EDUCATION (EDU)

ED1

Title: Igniting a SPARK: Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn 

Mentors: Dr. Catherine A. Little, Professor, Educational Psychology, Anne Roberts, graduate student

Description: Are you interested in a possible career in the field of education? In this site, you will have the opportunity to work with young students in a classroom setting and also to learn more about education as a profession and an area of research. You will spend your mornings with students in grades K-2 who are attending a summer enrichment program focused on mathematics and mathematical discourse. You will work with classroom teachers and other educational professionals to challenge and engage these diverse, active learners. Part of this work will involve facilitating activities with small groups of students and discussing lesson plans and assessments with the teachers. When you return to campus each day, you will work with your mentor to discuss your experiences and questions in a seminar-like atmosphere and explore the kinds of questions that researchers in education study. In addition, you will examine the rationale behind different instructional methods and explore approaches such as makerspace problem-based learning activities (3D printing, robotics, etc.) with a focus on how these can be used to promote student learning at different levels of development.

ENGINEERING – CHEMICAL & BIOMOLECULAR (ENG-CB)

ENG-CB1

Title: Using Microemulsion to Control Growth of Drug Crystals

Mentors: Mu-Ping Nieh, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Ms. Farnoosh Saeedinejad

Description: Oil and water are immiscible. However, some molecules, which contains both hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups as part of their molecular structure (also known as “surfactants”), can be used to homogenize the two immiscible phases, forming submicron-sized structures in oil/water systems. The homogenous phase (judged by appearance) are called “microemulsion”, which contains water-rich and oil-rich domains with the surfactants sitting at the interfaces. This research site aims to apply the system of microemulsion to control the size and shape of drug crystals which significantly affect the efficacy drugs. Students will be provided with the hands-on experience of making microemulsion and the controlling of drug crystals. In addition, they will perform advanced experimental techniques (e.g., dynamic light scattering, use of polarized optical microscope. Furthermore, they will learn about surfactants and the kinetics of crystallinity.

ENG-CB2

Title: Creation of New Materials

Mentors: Luyi Sun, Associate Professor and Castleman Professor in Engineering Innovation, Andrew Smith, Adam LaChance, Songshan Zeng, Sonia Chavez, Brandon Williams

Description: We are a group of materials scientists/engineers who are interested in creating new materials for various applications (and having fun...). Our research covers a wide range of materials, including polymeric materials, ceramics and glasses, and composites. One of our main goals is to design materials with unique structure (down to nano- and molecular-scale) for specific applications, such as packaging, energy, catalysis, etc. In most cases, the structural design and control are the keys to the high performance of these materials. For additional information about the research at this lab, please visit https://wp.luyi-sun.uconn.edu/.

ENG-CB3

Title: Air Pollution Monitoring in Connecticut

Mentor: Dr. Kristina Wagstrom, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Description:Student will have the opportunity to participate in two air pollution monitoring projects this summer. The first project is measuring the transport of fertilizer and pesticides from conventional UConn Farmland to the Spring Valley Student Farm. The Spring Valley Student Farm practices organic farming methods. The second project is working to estimate how air pollutants are transported from the air to land and water through rain using monitoring throughout the state.

ENGINEERING – ELECTRICAL & COMPUTER (ENG-EC)

ENG-EC1

Title: Advanced Power Electronics and Drives Laboratory (APEDL)

Mentors: Dr. Ali Bazzi, Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Advisor), and Arshiah Yusuf Mirza

Description: The Advanced Power Electronics and Drives Laboratory (APEDL) will introduce students to the basics of electricity and magnetism. Working in the lab will assist in bridging the connection between textbook concepts and the electrical engineering involved in everyday lives in household and industrial applications.

Sequentially planned experiments involve hands-on experience with measuring instruments, electrical and electronic components and their analysis. After the getting familiarized with the concepts, we move on to understand solar panels and build a project using PV Solar panel.

The following areas will be investigated at APEDL:

  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Electrical and electronics components
  • Measuring instruments
  • Batteries
  • Solar energy
  • PV solar panels

ENG-EC2

Title: Electronics: Sensors and Optical Audio Links 

Mentors: Ahmet Teber, Hasan Talukder (mentors); Dr. Ali Gokirmak, Associate Professor, and Dr. Helene Silva, Associate Professor, Nanoelectronics Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (PIs)

Description: Electronics are everywhere—from lighting to energy generation, distribution, and storage, to transportation, communications, medical devices, and computing. It is difficult to imagine our lives today without electronics. In this laboratory, you will design and build sensor circuits and an optical audio link, fun electronic systems that sense and transmit audio signals through an optical signal. At this site you will learn about sound and mechanical, optical and electrical signals. You will get hands-on experience in different aspects of electronics, including an electrical circuit, a semiconductor laser, a photodetector, and a speaker.

Students will construct a sensor circuit to sense (a) dark or (b) temperature (body temperature) on their board, perform measurements and analysis. Each circuit will turn on an LED and either (i) buzz or (ii) blink another LED.

ENG-EC3

Title: Electronics: Sensors and Optical Audio Links 

Mentors: Ahmet Teber, Hasan Talukder (mentors); Dr. Ali Gokirmak, Associate Professor, and Dr. Helene Silva, Associate Professor, Nanoelectronics Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (PIs)

Description: Electronics are everywhere—from lighting to energy generation, distribution, and storage, to transportation, communications, medical devices, and computing. It is difficult to imagine our lives today without electronics. In this laboratory, you will design and build sensor circuits and an optical audio link, fun electronic systems that sense and transmit audio signals through an optical signal. At this site you will learn about sound and mechanical, optical and electrical signals. You will get hands-on experience in different aspects of electronics, including an electrical circuit, a semiconductor laser, a photodetector, and a speaker.

Students will construct 2-way laser communication circuits on their boards, perform measurements and analysis. Each circuit will take input from an audio device (i.e. phone) and a microphone and transmit the signal using a laser pointer to a minimum of 50 feet, and receive signal using a photodiode, amplify and play using a passive speaker (adjustable volume)

HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND FAMILY STUDIES (HDFS)

HDFS1

Title: Speak Up, Stand Up: How to Help Stop Bullying and Discrimination.

Mentors: Dr. Alaina Brenick, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies; Samantha E. Lawrence, B.A., and senior students in the lab.

Description: Have you or your friends ever been bullied or been treated unfairly because of who you are? How did you feel? Maybe you wondered why it was happening or wished that you knew how to make it stop. These are the kinds of things we research in our lab.

We scientifically analyze individuals’ experiences of being bullied, discriminated against, or excluded because they are different. Working in our lab, you’ll learn skills like searching for scholarly literature, helping prepare grant applications, and analyzing data. Over the summer, you’ll be a part of our exciting research projects exploring:

  • The ways immigrant youth experience bullying and how others perceive bullying that targets immigrant students in their schools,
  • Effective ways to reduce prejudice and discrimination among youth growing up in political conflict, and
  • The range of negative experiences that LGBT youth face in schools and how communities can work to reduce LGBT mistreatment.

This is your opportunity to be a part of our research team and help make schools and communities safer and more welcoming for youth of all backgrounds.

KINESIOLOGY (KINE)

Kinesiology

These positions are devoted to providing students exposure to high-level research, advocacy and education initiatives related to the mission of the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI). The mission of the Korey Stringer Institute is to provide research, education, advocacy and consultation to maximize performance, optimize safety and prevent sudden death for the athlete, warfighter and laborer. Individuals will be provided full immersion into the daily operations of an active research lab; assisting with field studies, epidemiological investigations, surveys and laboratory protocols focused on preventing sudden death in sport and enhancing sport safety.

Research Experience Description:

Students in these positions will assist faculty in research efforts within the laboratory or other research-specific environment. Research activities may include:

- Attend training sessions (CITI, bloodborne pathogens training, CPR/AED etc)

- Assist collection of biological samples (e.g. urine, sweat, saliva, blood)

- Prepare and maintain research materials and environment

- Operate and maintain basic lab equipment

- Take accurate measurements

- Code/plot and analyze data within guidelines

- Keep detailed records

- Organize, analyze, and communicate data

- Perform miscellaneous duties as directed

Students Must:

- Be able to operate a computer and other basic research equipment (e.g., timer, weight scale etc)

- Have excellent communication skills

- Be able to collect data in a hot environment (~100°F - 105°F with 40% relative humidity)

KINE1

Title: Heat Tolerance Test to Determine Success in Warm Weather Road Race

Mentors: Rebecca Stearns, Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Kinesiology Chief Operating Officer, Korey Stringer Institute

Description: Students will work with researchers to examine the validity of a heat tolerance test to determine its ability to identify runners at risk for a heat illness at the Falmouth Road Race.

KINE2

Title:  Investigation of a Novel Hydration Status Monitor

Mentors: Doug Casa, Professor, Kinesiology

Description: Students will work with researchers to determine the accuracy of a wearable hydration status monitor that is worn during exercise in the heat.

KINE3

Title:  Impact of a Unique Cooling Towel on Exercise Performance

Mentors: Robert Huggins, Assistant Research Professor, Kinesiology

Description: Students will work with researchers to determine the impact of  advanced technology cooling towels on physiological outcomes and performance for athletes exercising in the heat.

MOLECULAR AND CELL BIOLOGY (MCB)

MCB1

Title: Comparative Genomics: Gene Transfer Between Microbes

Mentors: J. Peter Gogarten, Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology, Artemis "Dyanna" Louyakis, Postdoctoral fellow, and the Research Team

Please note: Background experience or coursework in computer programming is helpful but not necessary.

Description: In recent years, our understanding of microbial evolution has undergone a major revision. Genomes are no longer seen as slowly changing information repositories, but have been revealed to be changing rapidly through gene duplications, deletions, rearrangements, and the acquisition of genes from unrelated organisms. Over 30,000 sequenced bacterial genomes are publicly available and many more are being sequenced at accelerating speed thanks to major advancements in sequencing technology. Comparison of genomes from closely related organisms allows us to detect recently acquired genes; databank searches often allow us to determine the likely donors of these genes; and compositional statistics and inspection of the genes' neighborhood may provide clues regarding the transfer mechanism. Participants in this site will learn how to compare and analyze genomes and metagenomes with the aim of detecting transferred genes and molecular parasites. This work will involve analyzing genomes and gene families using analytical tools that are already established and available as web-based applications, along with simple scripts and programs

MCB2

Title: Exploring Genomes

Mentors: PI: Dr. Rachel O'Neill, Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology, Lead Mentor: Zachary Duda, Ph.D. student.

Description: Ever wonder how much information is really sitting in each of your cell’s DNA? Or how scientists can actually tap into that information and mine it for markers for diseases or even simple phenotypes, such as hair color? Modern genomics has been growing over the last twenty years into a field that spans biology, genetics, computer science, chemistry, physics, data management and even digital visualization. In our lab, we use genomics techniques to unravel the information coded in the human genome, as well as the genomes of many other species. In this summer project we will be working on the genomes of macropodid marsupials, consisting of many species of wallabies and kangaroos. This species group is an informative model for molecular evolution studies as the 65 different macropod species have evolved very rapidly and recently. Many species can also reproduce to produce macropod hybrids, although the hybrids are typically infertile and suffer from chromosome defects, especially in the "black hole" of the chromosome, the centromere. In this project, you will use many different techniques, such as extraction of nucleic acids from different wallaby species, isolating important centromere sequences using PCR, as well as gene cloning and sequencing. We will also visualize the location of these sequences on wallaby chromosomes using fluorescence techniques. After completing this project, you will have learned basic and advanced molecular biology techniques using an exciting and nontraditional model system.

MCB3

Title: Microbiome Research in the Graf Lab

Mentors:  Faculty: Dr. Joerg Graf, Professor, Department of Molecular & Cell Biology. Lead Mentors: Dr. Jeremiah Marden, Postdoctoral Fellow,  Meredith Mistretta, Graduate Student, and other members of the Graf lab.

Description: The microbiome are all of the bacteria found in an environment like the mouth or intestine. We are interested in understanding how the microbiome influences the health of animals. When the microbiome changes in composition, it can lead to a change in the health of the animal. Bacteria can enter a community or prevent other bacteria from entering by killing other bacteria. One important mechanism for this is called the “Type 6 Secretion System”, T6SS. The T6SS kills bacteria by injecting toxins into them. Interestingly, the T6SS can also affect animals. In this project, the student researchers will determine how many different bacteria are killed by the T6SS. In addition, students will test if the T6SS is important to kill wax moth larvae. Mutants lacking different toxins will be used to determine, which if toxin is responsible for the killing.

A wide range of techniques including aseptic technique, spread plating, media preparation, killing assays, LD 50, PCR and DNA sequencing will be used.

See the Graf Lab at http://joerggraflab.com

NUTRITIONAL SCIENCES (NUTR)

NUTR1

Title: Molecular Nutrition and Cholesterol Metabolism

Mentors: Dr. Christopher Blesso, Assistant Professor, Nutritional Science, and Courtney Millar, B.S., Graduate Assistant, Nutritional Science

Description: The research in our lab focuses on the prevention and treatment of obesity and obesity-related chronic disease. More specifically, we seek to understand the mechanisms of health and disease and study the molecular actions of various compounds naturally occurring in foods. For example, one class of naturally occurring compounds that we study are sphingolipids. We currently have research projects investigating the effects of sphingolipid supplementation in mice on cholesterol metabolism, with a special interest in atherosclerosis. Previous research has shown that sphingolipids influence lipid absorption and it is thought that one type of dietary sphingolipid, sphingomyelin, may potentially offer protection from the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We mainly work with cell and mouse models; however, we hope to incorporate human trials in future years. Students in our lab could potentially gain experience in cell culture, working with mice (after receiving animal training), biochemical assays, gene expression analysis using real-time qRT-PCR, and more. A general interest in nutrition or biochemistry is recommended.

PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENCES (PHARMSCI)

PHARMSCI1

Title: Prepare Pharmaceutical Formulations by Yourselves! 

Mentors: Dr. Diane J. Burgess, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmaceutics) and senior students in the lab.

Please note: Background experience or coursework in chemistry, physics and biology is recommended for participation in this site.  

Description: I believe every one of us has the experience of taking pharmaceutical formulations, or getting vaccinated to ward off diseases. Some of you may also have the experience of failing to taking certain pharmaceutical products because it is too bitter, or it gives you some uncomfortable feelings like pain or irritation. Have you ever thought about the sciences and technologies behind these formulations? You may wonder how the scientists prepare and evaluate their safety and efficacy one of such formulations. All these are what pharmaceutics is about: designing and preparing safe, efficacious and good patient compliant pharmaceutical formulations to treat diseases and improve the quality of people’s lives. In this project, the participants will learn how to design, prepare and evaluate a drug formulation. Different type of formulations including microspheres, thermosensitive gels, liposomes, and suspensions, will be offered for the participant to learn and understand. Following the formulation preparation, evaluation including physicochemical properties and in vitro drug release testing of the prepared formulations will be performed. Through this program, the participants will: 1) get some hands-on experiences in preparation of pharmaceutical products; 2) understand the factors that need to be considered in the formulation design; and 3) learn how to ensure the quality of a pharmaceutical product by testing some key aspects of the formulation. 

PHARMSCI2

Title: Working with Nanoparticles 

Mentors: Dr. Xiuling Lu and graduate students, Andre Beringhs and Wei-Chung Luo

Description: Dr. Lu’s research involves the use of nanoparticle-based formulations to deliver therapeutic and diagnostic agents. These are primarily applied in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Students have the opportunity to take part in important research, and will learn how to prepare different kinds of nanoparticles for drug delivery. The focus of the period is to prepare and characterize drug loaded nanoparticles. If time allows, students will proceed to freeze dry nanoparticles for better storage. For more information on the work Dr. Lu and her team are doing, please visit Lu Research Lab

PHARMSCI3

Title: Stabilization of Drugs through Freeze-Drying Technology

Mentors: Shreya S. Kulkarni (graduate student) and Robin H. Bogner, Professor, Pharmaceutical Science

Description: Our lab’s research is focused on stabilizing biotechnology-derived drugs using freeze-drying technology. Many promising biotech drugs would not have made it to the patient without the development of a stabilizing technology. Freeze-drying is the industry standard for stabilizing therapeutic proteins by transforming a solution into a stable solid that can be safely shipped and stored, before being injected into a patient.  Some examples of FDA approved freeze-dried drug products on the market are Herceptin®, Remicade®, Xolair®, Cosentyx®, Raptiva®, Ilaris® etc. These drug products are used to treat a variety of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and cancer. You will work with researchers on optimizing the freeze drying process so that it is more efficient and helps in preserving the stability of the drug. 

We have two lab scale freeze dryers and a MicroFD (for processing smaller batches) freeze dryer. While the lab scale freeze dryers can be used for freeze drying around 600 drug containing vials, the MicroFD can freeze dry 19 vials. We also have other state of the art equipment for characterizing the freeze-dried solid to ensure that it has the necessary quality.

PHARMSCI4

Title: Why is Having a Healthy Liver Important For Sustaining Life?

Mentors: Ajay Donepudi (postdoctoral fellow) and José E. Manautou (Professor and Interim Department Head, Pharmaceutical Sciences)

Description: Our laboratory work focuses on understanding how the interaction of chemicals alters the functioning of the human liver, with an emphasis on how a damaged liver can repair itself. The liver is interesting in comparison to other organs. You can damage the liver, and if the damage is not overwhelming, with time it repairs itself and it appears normal. Our laboratory is trying to study aspects of this repair process. Our research work has been built over the years studying the drug acetaminophen, known commercially as Tylenol, which is safe when taken in recommended doses, but can produce toxic byproducts in the liver when consumed in higher quantities. Abuse of the drug can occur when patients take the suggested dosage and then use another over-the-counter medications that also includes acetaminophen, unknowingly raising the potential for toxicity.

The use of acetaminophen at doses above therapeutic values can lead to the development of tolerance against acetaminophen poisoning. To better understand the factors that drive this adaptive response, we have employed genomics approaches, allowing us to identify genes associated with this adaptation acetaminophen toxicity. We have also investigated whether changes in the expression and function of specialized proteins in the liver known as drug transporters contribute to the development of tolerance to APAP hepatotoxicity. We are currently studying the transport protein multi-drug resistant protein 4 (Mrp4) and its contribution to: a). drug toxicity tolerance, b). liver tissue regeneration, and c). a pathological condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

*This line of research is ideal for students interested in pharmacy, toxicology, medicine, organ physiology and pathology.

PHARMACY PRACTICE (PHPR)

PHPR1

Title: Do You Know All That Your Pharmacist Could Do To Improve How Medicines Are Used?  

Mentors: Dr. Nate Rickles, Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice, and pharmacy students working in Dr. Rickles’ research group.

Description: Do you think patients, pharmacists, and other health professionals should be talking to one another about managing illnesses and treatments?  You would be surprised to learn these communications are not consistent and often do not occur at all in situations that they are needed and could impact patient care.  A team at the UConn School of Pharmacy led by Dr. Nate Rickles works on several projects to explore ways to improve and extend medication-related communications between different populations of patients, pharmacists in the community, and prescribers across different types of medical practices.  Examples of present projects are explorations involving pharmacist roles in the prescription opioid crisis, use of medical marijuana, administration of medications to individuals with mental illness, and exercise health promotion in older adults.  We are also developing computer-based agents to help individuals make over-the-counter medication choices.  If you have an interest in a career in healthcare, working with our team on existing and new projects could help orient you to the common challenges and exciting rewards of caring for patients and trying to improve their treatment outcomes.  We also have significant learning opportunities for you to participate in a variety of research endeavors that include conducting literature searches, data collection, data entry, data analysis; assisting in grant proposals and early development of new projects; and, helping to review manuscripts for publication.   

PHYSICS (PHYS)

PHYS1

Title: Construct a Superconducting Levitation Train Track!

Mentors: Dr. Jason Hancock, Assistant Professor of Physics, Donal Sheets, Erin Curry, Sahan Handunkanda. 

Description: Room-temperature superconductivity is the holy grail of materials physics, enabling advanced technology in quantum computation, quantum electronics, magnetic levitation, and in this project, an application to physics education. This experimentally-challenging project will permit students the opportunity to design and construct a magnetic track suitable for demonstrations in the classroom of energy conservation, superconducting flux pinning, and the flux expulsion effect known as the Meissner effect. A small vehicle containing high-temperature superconducting material is cooled to the low temperatures of liquid nitrogen and made to run on the track designed by the student. 

PHYS2

Title: 3D Printed Crystal Lattices that Move!

Mentors: Dr. Jason Hancock, Assistant Professor of Physics, Donal Sheets, Erin Curry, Sahan Handunkanda. 

Description: Solid materials often form in repetitive structures called crystal lattices. The time-dependent deformations of these periodic structures are very important in determining material strength, the speed of sound, and thermal properties. In some cases, the even simple structures can give strange results which we struggle to understand, such as negative thermal expansion, or a material’s unusual tendency to shrink when heated. In this project, working with faculty guidance, students will use a special 3D printer that can extrude mixtures of rigid and flexible material in the same build, and explore specific selected crystals which are known to have unusual properties. Our goal with this approach is to create structures with flexible linkages designed specifically to emulate the microscopic interactions in the material and permit us to visualize the atomic-scale interactions underlying unusual lattice behavior. Enjoy working with students and some 3D printing and exposure to contemporary science!

PHYS3

Title: Sound Waves in Ferrofluids!

Mentors: Dr. Jason Hancock, Assistant Professor of Physics, Donal Sheets, Erin Curry, Sahan Handunkanda.

Description: The most transformational changes in technology with real social impact almost inevitably arise from the discovery of new materials as they often give us new means to manipulate energy. In this project, students will create and explore an unusual form of matter called a ferrofluid, which can be described as a magnetic liquid. Ferrofluids respond strangely to magnetic fields, including wild changes in shape and stiffness. Students will build a cell to contain ferrofluid and perform experiments related to the propagation of sound, exploring the effects of magnetism on sound in this unusual substance. Comparison to hydrodynamic theory models will be explored under faculty supervision.

PHYSIOLOGY & NEUROBIOLOGY (PHNE)

PHNE1

Title: Ovarian Cancer and Human Ovulation Research with the Help of Fruit Flies 

Mentors: Jianjun Sun, Assistant Professor, Physiology and Neurobiology, Elizabeth Knapp, PhD student (Lead Mentor)

Description: Research in the laboratory focuses on reproductive physiology. Our lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms regulating ovulation, mostly because when this process dysfunctions it can result in a range of problems from female infertility to ovarian cancer. Instead of using mammals to research our questions concerning ovulation we turn to a simpler model system: the fruit fly. Our lab has shown that fruit flies surprisingly have a fairly similar process of ovulation to mammals, yet they are much easier and quicker to manipulate genetically. For more information about our exciting research, please visit our lab’s website at https://sunlab.pnb.uconn.edu/

PSYCHOLOGY (PSYC)

PSYC1

Title: Memories Make the Person…But How Do We Make the Memory? —Memory Formation & the Brain

Mentors: Dr. Etan Markus, Professor, Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience) and senior students in the lab

Description: We go through life experiencing many different things: happy and sad events, people, places, food, and smells, just to name a few. Days or even years later, we can bring these experiences back to life as memories. In our laboratory we study how experiences are preserved in the brain. We focus on a brain structure (the hippocampus) that, when damaged, prevents the formation of new memories and disrupts navigation. If you select this mentorship site, you will join a team of UConn doctoral and undergraduate students researching how the hippocampus is involved in changing brain circuitry. You will learn to train rats on mazes. Participants will also be encouraged to ask questions and sit in on any ongoing research, regardless of the specific mentorship project they will be working on. We are currently conducting experiments examining social learning; the activity of hippocampal neurons during behavior and how these cells respond to new information. This is an ideal experience for those interested in careers in medicine, biology, or psychology.

Please note: Participation in this site requires handling of live laboratory animals. Instruction in proper handling techniques will be provided.

PSYC2

Title: Put Down That Donut: How Self-Regulation Processes Relate to Behavior Change

Mentors: Dr. Blair T. Johnson, Distinguished Professor, Psychology; and Post-Doctoral Research Associates: Dr. Emily A. Hennessy; and Dr. Rebecca A. Acabchuk

Description: Every day individuals make health decisions – what to eat for breakfast, how much to exercise, whether or not to take their medication – that ultimately impact how healthy they feel and whether they develop a more chronic condition like cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. If you select this mentorship site, you will join a team of UConn doctoral and undergraduate students researching how self-regulation is involved in health behavior change. We are currently conducting systematic review and meta-analytic research to examine existing health intervention studies and map pathways of change. Participants will be involved in reading and extracting data from the most rigorous research in the field. Participants will also be encouraged to ask questions and sit in on any ongoing research, regardless of the specific mentorship project they will be working on. This experience is ideal for those interested in careers in health psychology, psychology, and other social sciences

PSYC3

Title: Evaluating the Benefits of Mind-Body Interventions

Mentors: Dr. Blair T. Johnson, Distinguished Professor, Psychology; and Post-Doctoral Research Associates: Dr. Rebecca A. Acabchuk; Dr. Emily A. Hennessy 

Please note: Strong writing skills and experience with yoga/meditation are recommended for participation in this site.

Description: College life can be extremely stressful. Increasing numbers of college students report symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation is an ancient practice that has recently gained great popularity as a potential tool to assist with a variety of mental and physical health concerns facing society today. We are interested in determining if meditation can help college students’ self-manage stress, and if so, what tools are most useful for teaching students how to meditate. Separately, we also want to learn whether meditation and yoga may be helpful for relieving symptoms of concussion, and assisting with recovery from substance abuse. Work on these projects may consist of analyzing saliva samples for changes in stress and inflammation markers following a meditation intervention, analyzing data, or performing background research to contribute to these projects.