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The following research projects are offered for the GWC intership by faculty mentors.
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Our team focuses on making discoveries in grape and wine chemistry. We combine engineering, analytical chemistry, and the science of smell and aroma. Our laboratory specializes in simultaneous chemical and sensory analysis that we have successfully used in real-like problems, e.g., measuring gaseous emissions in the field and solving livestock odor problem. Equipped with the knowledge and experience in brancing several fields of engineering and science we focus on another real problem, i.e., how to help the develoment of nascent grape-growing and wine-making industry in northern U.S.
This project focuses on testing different plant essential oils as insecticides or as synergists for conventional insecticides. Much of our testing is on two species of mosquitoes, the dengue fever/yellow fever mosquito and a malaria mosquito. After a specific oil is identified as having potency, we then isolate the individual terpenes in that oil and test them each to determine which terpenes in that oil are responsible for the bioactivity, i.e., insecticidal or synergistic activity. Our overall approach is designed to reveal which parts of the terpene molecules are most important for its bioactivity. We also hope to improve mosquito control through this "green chemistry" project.
My lab studies the molecular genetic pathways that control plant form by isolating mutants, identifying their underlying genes and defining functions for these genes. We have mutants that affect leaf development, flowering time, fertilization and tassel/ear morphology in maize (corn). Several options exist for 8-week summer projects which include but are not limited to (1) mapping new mutations to chromosomal location, (2) phenotypic and molecular analysis of new mutants, (3) expression analysis of mutants and (4) isolating new mutations in important genes of interest.
This is a research project on how plants protect themselves from adverse environmental conditions, and relates to the interest of the lab on the impact of global warming on natural and agricultural plant populations. The research deals with molecular mechanisms on how plants respond and adapt to temperature stress. While plants seem to be passive, they do, indeed, respond to environmental conditions by turning on genes that protect themselves from the adverse conditions. The work involves molecular biology (the turning on and off of plant genes) conducted with model plants, Arabidopsis, Brachypodium and/or corn. The project will involve laboratory work and possibly field work, depending on the intern's interests.
The student intern will have the opportunity to become involved in various aspects of our lab's protein biochemistry pipeline for HIV vaccine development. The pipeline includes protein design, engineering and expression of recombinant proteins in bacteria or mammalian cell lines, protein and DNA purification, vaccine preparation, immunization of animals (usually rabbits), and subsequent isolation of neutralizing antibodies from these immunized animals. The subsequent analysis and evaluation of immune responses generated by various antigens and vaccine delivery platforms will allow the intern to gain valuable insight into the challenges of modern vaccine design against rapidly evolving pathogenic organisms, especially viruses.
Dietary prevention of cancer has been a long standing interest in the Birt laboratory. Most recently research has focused on the prevention of colon cancer using cell culture and animal models that reflect particular genetic changes that are important in human colon cancer development. Ongoing studies are assessing slowly digested maize starches for their potential in colon cancer prevention. We have determined that a high amylose starch complexed with lipids was effective in preventing early colon lesions and in blocking the expression of genes that are critical in colon cancer development in rats. We have determined that cooking this starch is necessary for its efficacy in the prevention of colon pre-neoplasia and we have studied maize starches from corn breed to have high digestion resistance. We are currently studying additional high amylose starches complexed with lipids to further identify starches that have the best efficacy in colon cancer prevention. We have recently begun studies with mice using these starches.
How will we provide enough food for all the people on earth in a few decades? My research group studys sustainable methods to use naturally existing biodiversity in chickens to produce offspring that are innately more efficient and resistant to the negative effects of disease and heat stress. The intern will use contemporary molecular biology techniques to analyze genes and their relationship with important traits in chickens. The outcomes of the overall project are safe and wholesome food for humans, improved humna nutrition, improved animal health and productivity, and reduced impact on the environment.
We are developing novel technologies for treatment of air pollutants from highly complexed sources (i.e., swine operations) using bio-based materials that are readily available on the market. This aims at testing the effectiveness of one promising treatment based on soybean peroxidase (SBP) for swine manure treatment and mitigation of odorous VOCs, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and greenhouse gas emissions in pilot and real (farm) scale. This project is sponsored by the National Pork Board and is conducted in collaboration with U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Students will have the opportunity to determine the chemical composition of animal products such as pork chops and milk. More specifically, students will learn how to determine total lipid (fat) and dry matter content of animal-derived foods. Moreover, students will assist with determination of long-chain fatty acid composition of foods. In addition, students will interact with other ongoing projects in a nutritional biochemistry-oriented laboratory
Bees are humans' best friend in the insect world. They provide us with useful hive products as well as invaluable pollination services. However, bees have declining and suffering from many health problems. In this project, we will survey honey bee colonies for the presence of several viruses that are of concern for bee health. We will then select bees from colonies that are uninfected with viruses and artifically infect the bees with specific viruses or mixes of viruses. At the same time, we will challenge bees with different diets, some of which are nutritionally poor due to a lack of diversity in pollen sources. We will then examine how bees respond to viral infection when they are on poor or rich diets. We will examine bee mortality, behavior, and gene expression. This project will be important for understanding how virus and nutritional stress can affect bee health.
The Mre11 protein, along with Rad50, forms a four-subunit complex that is involved in the primary step of DNA double-stranded break (DSB) repair. DSBs are the most drastic form of DNA damage and if incorrectly repaired they can lead to rearrangements of chromosomal DNA, cellular dysfunction, and development of cancer. The Mre11 protein is a nuclease (i.e., a DNA degrading enzyme) that requires the presence of divalent metal cations in its active site for proper enzymatic activity. The affinity of the Mre11 for these metals and the type of metals that may be used for activity are not known. The goal of this project is to determine the relative affinities for a variety of potential metal cations and characterize the activity of Mre11 with these cations. The intern will gain experience in protein expression and purification, molecular biology techniques, and a variety of biochemical and enzymatic assays.
Environmental temperatures experienced during embryonic development permanently determine offspring sex (known as TSD) in several major groups of vertebrate animals. Why this important trait is determined almost solely by the environment is not well understood. Research on short-lived species of fish and lizards with TSD finds that certain temperatures are better for males and other temperatures are better for females, but it is not clear if this pattern holds for long-lived species with TSD. The student will help collect eggs from turtle nests, incubate eggs at different temperatures in the lab, rear offspring in the field, and monitor fitness-related traits.
Wasps may not be known for being the friendliest of creatures, but they have been studied a great deal because of their social behavior. Paper wasps - those creatures that build little nests underneath the eaves of buildings - are social animals that live in family groups of 5-50 wasps. This means we can mark each individual on the nest, differentiate between queen and workers, and observe their behavior and interactions throughout their lives . We are interested in the interactions between the queen and the larvae on the nest. We hypothesize that when the queen drums her antennae on the nest near a larva, she sends a signal to that larva to develop into a worker (e.g., the genes that are used to develop into queens may be "turned off"). Later in the season, the queen drums on the nest less often, and most of the larvae instead develop into queens (e.g., the genes to develop into queens may be "turned on"). We will manipulate wasp nests by setting up computerized devices to simulate this drumming later in the season, to see if indeed we can keep wasp "queen" genes from being turned on in the developing larvae. After the larvae experience this artificial drumming, we will monitor the behavior and gene expression of the adults to see if they are more queen or worker like. This project will be important for understanding how maternal (i.e., queen) interactions with offspring early on can affect gene expression and behavior in adults.
Paleosols are old, usually buried, soils that contain important information about past climates and vegetation. Many Quaternary paleosols are laterally extensive, readily correlated with one another, and indicative of periods of regional climatic or geomorphic stability. Organic matter (OM) in paleosols may have a large impact on the ability of sediments to resist erosion, thus impacting landscape evolution. Unfortunately, the mechanisms, products, and impacts of processes that stabilize soil OM in paleosols are poorly understood. Stabilization of soil OM is a topic of great international interest, and much of the current debate about the role that soil carbon plays in global carbon cycles centers on how organic carbon can be stored for long periods in soils and sediments. The objectives of our project are (1) to identify mechanisms of organic carbon stabilization in paleosols over thousands of years, and (2) to improve ways to reconstruct the kinds of vegetation that grew on soils in the Midwest over the last several thousand years. We will sample paleosols in Kansas and Nebraska and then chemically analyze the organic matter in the samples. From the collected samples, organic compounds will be extracted, and we will study the components that are most difficult to degrade (lipids, lignin, protein, and charcoal) by using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and differential thermal gravimetry, coupling these analyses with 13C/12C stable isotope analyses and other conventional approaches to OM characterization.
Bio-oil, obtained from fast pyrolysis, is considered to be a promising renewable energy that might replace petroleum to improve the sustainability, national security, domestic economy and diversity of transportation fuels.
The Lee group is developing an analytical technique based on high-resolution mass spectrometry to understand complex bio-oils in molecular details. Utilizing high-resolution mass spectrometry, we are characterizing complex bio-oils that are not amenable with traditional tools, such as GC-MS, NMR, or FT-IR. We are pioneers in this field; published the first paper in petroleomic analysis of bio-oils, presented several works in ASMS conference, and worked on various ionization methods and biomass feedstock. This study is now further expanded to understand the pyrolysis kinetics and catalytic upgrading. / / Students through this program will learn topnotch mass spectrometry technology, chemical processes involved in the production of bio-oils, and how analytical chemistry can help in developing sustainable technology.
Soybean is one of the world's most valuable crops and the U.S. is the world leader of soybean production. The total U.S. soybean crop value was over $38.9 billion and U.S. exports of soybean and soya-products were over $23 billion in 2010. Soybean suffers yield suppression from various biotic stresses. In 2010, 14.4% of total yield valued $5.59 billion was suppressed from pathogenic diseases caused by microbes and nematodes. Soybean sudden death syndrome (SDS) is a major threat to soybean production in the U.S. The estimated soybean yield suppression from SDS in 2010 was 2.1% total yield valued at $0.82 billion. Our long-term goal is to create SDS resistant soybean cultivars for enhancing profitability of soybean growers and securing sustainable supply of soybean for the 21st century.
There are several research objectives of this project. The interns will be able to work under the direct supervision of Ms. Jordan Baumbach and Dr. Mitcheline Ngaki for any of the following research topics.
(1) suppress SDS pathogen's growth through RNA interference,
(2) express an effector protein under regulation of a F. virguliforme-infection inducible promoter.
Through the proposed research onjectives the interns will be able to gain knowledge in the area of molecular biology plant pathology, genetics and plant biotechnologies.
Feed costs account for a significant portion of input costs in dairy production. These costs could be reduced by identifying and selecting cows that are efficient at converting feed to milk. My research group monitors individual feed intake of Holstein cows at the Iowa State University Dairy in order to identify genetic and biological differences between cows with high and low feed efficiency. Students involved in this project will investigate genomic data to identify and evaluate candidate genes that may contribute to differences in feed efficiency among cows.
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