Undergraduate Summer Research Program

Please note: Our Summer Research Program will be primarily for Marquette undergraduate students. We will not be hosting an NSF-REU program in 2021.

The deadline for applications for Summer 2021 is Monday, March 15th.

  • Program Information
  • Apply
  • FAQs
  • Summer Research Mentors
  • Past Student Research
  • Activities

Program Information

The Department of Biological Sciences at Marquette University will host a Summer Research Program The 8 week program will run from Monday, June 7 to July 30. Participants conduct independent research projects in faculty laboratories in the areas of microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, neurobiology, invertebrate/vertebrate physiology, and ecology. Students will work under the direct supervision of a faculty research mentor. Through "hands-on" experience, students will develop a realistic view of scientific research, its pace, its demands, and the thrill of discovery. Participating faculty mentors can be found under SRP Summer Research Mentors

Essential written and verbal communication skills will be developed through group lab meetings, weekly meetings with program mentors and participants, field trips, and a scientific poster symposium. Workshops on research ethics and graduate school admission will be offered. A variety of social activities will be interwoven throughout the summer including frequent ice cream socials, a picnic by Lake Michigan, and a Brewers game. 

Participation in the Summer Research Program is a full-time obligation: students may not enroll in classes or hold outside employment during the program.


Applicants should have completed their sophomore or junior year by the start of the program with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better. Minimum course requirements are the completion of a full year of college biology, and general chemistry with laboratories. One semester of calculus, organic chemistry and additional advanced work in biology are preferred, but not required. Students who graduate before December 2021 are not eligible.


How to apply:

Applications for Summer 2021 should be submitted on or before Monday, March 15th.   Click here to complete the online application.

  • To complete your application, you will need to identify 3 faculty members you would be interested in working with as yourSummer Research Mentor.
  • In a personal statement (500 words maximum), please describe:
    • (a) your motivation to pursue this research experience, including your long-term educational and career aspirations
    • (b) what area of biological research is the most exciting to you. This could include a topic in a class that you found compelling or an experimental method in a lab class that you enjoyed
    • (c) any prior training or research experience that may serve as a foundation for your research internship. Please note that prior research experience is not required for participation in this program.
  • In your application, you will need to identify two people who are willing to write reference letters for you. Please do not have your references send letters; we will contact them if letters are required.
  • You may also include a one to two page resume with your application.

What are the benefits of independent undergraduate research?

In order to be "science literate" in the 21st century, isn't it sufficient to read the textbooks and take the required classes? Textbooks necessarily give a condensed and sometimes distorted impression of how science is really done. Our undergraduate research programs offer a golden opportunity for you to find out what science and biology are really all about. You will join a research team investigating an important scientific problem. You will learn to critically read the scientific literature on your chosen research topic and to formulate hypotheses. You will learn to design and carry out experiments to test the validity of your hypotheses. In short, you will actually "do science."

The range of research topics available in the Biological Sciences is bewildering. How will I ever be able to make the choice that is best for me?

A good place to begin is with the departmental web page, which has descriptions of each faculty member's research. More important than the research topic, however, is the compatibility between student and mentor. Learning to do science: designing experiments, mastering good laboratory techniques, analyzing data and writing reports, are skills that can be applied to any area of science and to most aspects of your life. We have a formal process designed to bring together interested student researchers and potential research mentors for the summer research program through personal interviews. In addition, many students discover research opportunities by word-of-mouth or by informally approaching individual faculty.

If I participate in the summer research program, how much interaction will I have with my mentor? Won't he or she be away for most of the summer?

Most faculty in Biological Sciences work in their laboratories during the summer, advancing their research. Faculty members participating in the undergraduate summer research program personally guide students admitted to their laboratory. Becoming an integral part of an active research group is a most rewarding experience.

Do I have to wait until after my junior year to become involved in laboratory research?  

You need to have sophomore or junior standing to enroll in our summer research program.

What is the difference between the summer research program and a laboratory class? How can I be sure I won't be performing a dull, repetitive task? Since I am only a beginning researcher, what creative input will I have?

In the summer research program, you will be attempting a project where the outcome is unknown. You will get a taste of both the excitement and frustration of scientific research. Once immersed in the research project you will find that seemingly disparate concepts taught in several courses connect to produce a coherent picture for a research goal. If you are to advance your project, you must become a problem solver, and an independent learner. You will be guided in this effort by frequent discussions with your mentor and with the other members of the research group.

How does the summer research program work?

Application Process: Interested students fill out an application during the spring semester. After perusing the departmental web site, they list 3 faculty with whom they are interested in doing research. The participating faculty interview students, after which both the faculty and students rank their choices. Faculty are matched with interested students based on the rankings of both parties by a faculty committee.

Research Project:

Step 1: Designing the project. Usually the faculty mentor will have a project in mind that is of appropriate scope for undergraduate research. The faculty member will explain the background and assign some pertinent readings. In the beginning, the student will receive explicit suggestions on how to begin. The student will have increasing input in the design of experiments as the project evolves.

Step 2: Research. The student will be assigned space and resources in the research lab. They will be provided with protocols and advice as needed by more experienced members of the research group. Expect some surprises! The data obtained in original research often do not support the hypothesis. The most interesting aspect of science is trying to figure out what the data do mean, formulating new hypotheses, and designing the experiments to test them.

Step 3: Presentation of results. Students will present the results of their research at the end of the summer in both a poster session and a symposium featuring undergraduate research.

Related Activities: A number of activities are planned to enrich the summer research experience and advance the skills of the participants. These include a journal club, in which the students take turns presenting papers from the scientific literature to the group. There are also seminars and discussions with scientists at various levels, which afford an opportunity for the student to ask questions about careers in science and how best to enter them. Social activities include picnics, tailgate and Brewers game, bowling, and frequent ice cream socials. 

Stipend: Students selected to participate in our undergraduate summer research program receive a 10-week stipend.

Allison L. Abbott: Work in the Abbott lab focuses on the function of microRNA genes in elegans. Recent work has focused on the function of the mir-44 family in gamete formation and function and has identified a role for this family of microRNAs in the sperm to oocyte switch in hermaphrodites. Additionally, ongoing work is focused on identifying microRNAs expressed in the male and hermaphrodite germline. We will use the collections of nematodes from the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center housed at the University of Minnesota and the Caenorhabditis Natural Diversity Resource housed at Northwestern University to perform comparative functional analysis of microRNA genes in sperm specification.

Deanna Arble: The Arble laboratory uses preclinical animal models to study the neuronal links between sleep, circadian disruption, and metabolism with the long term goal of developing novel therapies for obesity, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Chelsea Cook: The Cook lab takes a holistic approach to understand social behavior. We aim to explain why and how collective behavior occurs at every level; from the collective, to individual behavior, to the physiology and genetics of the individual. Ecological context is critical for understanding social behaviors, so we also explore the environmental conditions that elicit many social behaviors, such as the need for food or a change in temperature. Honey bees are an excellent model system to explore questions about collective behavior. Honey bees perform many collective behaviors, including foraging and thermoregulation. Individual honey bees are incredibly smart and can be trained just like dogs! The mechanisms of behavior are well defined in honey bees, and the genome is well mapped. Finally, honey bee colonies exist in many different environments, which allows for us to understand the ecological importance of collective behaviors, and how information may be communicated as environmental conditions shift. 

Krassimira Hristova: Research in the Hristova lab addresses fundamental questions in microbial ecology of freshwater ecosystems and the link between impaired ecosystem services and human health. The research is based on key concepts and emerging trends in molecular and environmental microbiology to support research experiences in environmental toxicology, antimicrobial resistance, and biodegradation of pollutants. Recent projects include studying the impact of non-source pollution from agricultural practices on water quality and antibiotic resistance; understanding the impact of urban pollution on Lake Michigan nearshore ecosystem health; studying the mechanisms and interactions of heavy metals and engineered nanoparticles with eukaryotic cells; and evaluating the impact of recycled concrete materials on stream microbial communities and aquatic organisms. Data collection includes field data, environmental samples, and lab experimental data as well as metagenome sequencing and transcriptome data.

Nate Lemoine: Research in the Lemoine Lab uses theory, lab experiments, and field surveys to understand the consequences of global change on natural communities and ecosystems. Specifically, we use insect communities as model organisms to understand how rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns will affect trophic interactions. Recent research includes theoretical models of population dynamics and stability, laboratory experiments assessing how drought affects allelopathic interactions among plant species, field experiments examining the role of insects in nutrient cycling of semi-arid grasslands in the Western US, and ecophysiological consequences of drought. Our work uses numerous different methods, including geospatial analyses of existing data, laboratory experiments, field surveys, and working with museum collections.

Anita Manogaran: Protein misfolding is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Prion disease. In each of these diseases, a normal protein adopts an alternative but stable conformation that favors aggregation. Although there are genetic determinants that influence the formation of this alternative form, in the vast majority of patients the disease is caused by the sporadic misfolding of proteins. The focus of my lab is to understand the cellular mechanisms that underlie spontaneous protein misfolding associated with disease.

Chris Marshall: Research in the Marshall lab addresses two grand challenges in science: evolution of antimicrobial resistance and quantifying global biogeochemical cycling. In the first, we are interested in how diversity and metabolic changes in biofilms contribute to the alarming and expanding problem of antibiotic resistance. In the second, we study anaerobic metabolisms associated with biogeochemical cycles as a biotechnological and ecological source of innovation. Microbial ecology and evolution mediated by metabolic feedback lie at the core of each of these challenges. Insights into diversification, resilience, resource competition, and cooperation in one system (environment) can inform another (host). As part of our everyday workflow, we use culture collections (ATCC, USDA ARS Culture Collection) to deposit or acquire novel microorganisms, sequence genomes/metagenomes, and deposit sequences to the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA).

Michelle Mynlieff: Intracellular calcium concentration is crucial in controlling many aspects of neuronal function including regulation of neurotransmitter release and activation/inactivation of various genes and enzymes. One of the main sources of increasing calcium concentration is by influx through calcium channels that open in response to changes in voltage (voltage dependent calcium channels). Thus, modulation of calcium channels is a prime mechanism by which neurotransmitters can regulate neuronal function. The main interest in my laboratory is in the modulation of these channels. More specifically, the current research program is investigating the mechanisms and functional significance of GABAB receptor modulation of voltage dependent calcium channels in the hippocampal brain region.

Lisa Petrella: Work in the Petrella lab focuses on understanding how organisms respond to environmental changes and how those responses evolve. One of the main research projects in the lab is to understand the mechanisms that breakdown leading to sterility when organisms are exposed to elevated temperatures. Temperature sensitive sterility is conserved across many organisms from invertebrates to mammals. We study these processes using wild-type Caenorhabditis nematode natural isolates, including elegans, C. briggsae, and several other more newly described species. Our current research is analyzing the temperature thresholds of fertility for both different species and different isolates of the same species from around the world. We take advantage of extensive collections of nematodes from the Caenorhabditis Genetics Center housed at the University of Minnesota and the Caenorhabditis Natural Diversity Resource housed at NorthwesternUniversity.

Michael Schlappi: Research in the Schlappi lab primarily addresses the mechanisms of cold stress tolerance responses in rice and other plants. These mechanisms are investigated using genome wide association study (GWAS) mapping of cold tolerance quantitative trait loci (QTL), bi-parental QTL mapping, RNAseq-mediated gene expression profiling of the cold response, and functional genomics studies involving CRISPR-mediated gene knockout and parallel gene overexpression approaches for hypothesis testing. This rice research is collections based via DNA and RNA sequence depositions to public databases. As part of planned REU pilot projects, students will additionally collect specimens of wild rice near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and deposit them to the Wisconsin State Herbarium. Seeds of those plants will be maintained in the Schlappi lab, and REU students will determine whether the collected wild rice varieties are suitable for reintroduction into Milwaukee rivers.

Stefan Schnitzer: The main focus of the research in the Schnitzer lab is to determine the mechanisms that maintain plant species diversity and explain plant distributions along broad environmental gradients. The vast majority of this research is conducted in tropical forests, using lianas as a model to test these basic ecological research questions. Recent work includes determining the functional basis of liana resource competition, comparing multiple mechanisms that maintain liana species diversity and contrasting these mechanisms with those that maintain tree species diversity, testing a mechanistic hypothesis to explain liana distribution along a steep rainfall gradient, and testing whether lianas maintain tree species diversity.

Emily Sontag: The Sontag Lab utilizes microscopy and biochemistry techniques to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying cellular stress responses to misfolded proteins and their role in disease. Neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases), cancer, and even aging are all linked to protein misfolding. A major goal of the lab is to better understand how the cell responds to misfolded proteins, so that we can learn what goes wrong during disease and develop new therapeutic strategies to treat these disorders.

Martin St. Maurice: Work in my laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular basis for catalysis and allosteric regulation in an important group of metabolic enzymes: the biotin-dependent carboxylases. Dysfunction in these enzymes can lead to genetically inherited disorders that range from benign to severe. In addition, these enzymes offer important targets for the treatment of obesity and type-2 diabetes. The primary goal of my research program is to characterize the mechanism of allosteric control and the molecular basis for catalysis in biotin-dependent carboxylases using X-ray crystallography and steady-state kinetic analyses.

Jennifer Zaspel (MPM): Research in the Zaspel lab is focused on the evolution of communication systems and host associations in insects. The overarching goal of her program is to reconstruct the evolutionary history of feeding behaviors, mating strategies, and chemical defense. Our research uses metabolomic, genomic and transcriptomic approaches to reconstruct phylogenetic trees for species that feed on a broad range of hosts such as lichens, toxic plants, and vertebrate animals, clarifying origins of host specialization and chemical sequestration in different groups of insects. We also investigate the molecular and environmental mechanisms that influence host switching in insects that feed on blood and in some cases, vector human and animal diseases. The collections-based portion of Zaspel’s research involves revisionary systematics, specimen informatics, and advanced digitization of biological collections.

MCO4: a gene Necessary for Synthesis of the Peritrophic Matrix and Normal Larval Development in Drosophila melanogaster.
Kevin Aumiller, SUNY Fredonia. Mentor: Ed Blumenthal

Drop-Dead (drd) and Fatty Acid Transport Protein (Fatp) in Drosophila melanogaster.
Martha Avila-Zavala, Whittier College. Mentor: Ed Blumenthal

Detecting transitions between sex chromosome systems in bent-toed geckos, Cyrtodactylus.
Madison Blumer, Scripps College. Mentor: Tony Gamble

Purification of a Mutant Form of Human Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 6.
Ryan Burd, Marquette University. Mentor: Sophia Origanti

mir-44/45 regulation of the MAPK signaling pathway.
Matt Cavanaugh, Marquette University. Mentor: Allison Abbott

Effect of single post translational modification in large RPA complex.
Amorina Cruz, Alverno College. Mentor: Edwin Antony

Identification of genes and pathways regulated by the miR-44 family in C. elegans.
Kelly Enriquez, Marquette University. Mentor: Allison Abbott

Characterizing drd Expression in the Epidermal Cells of Drosophila melanogaster.
Nate Fischer, Marquette University. Mentor: Ed Blumenthal

Testing the ability of LIN-15B and LIN-35 to repress the opposite gene’s expression.
Carlos Gonzalez, Marquette University. Mentor: Lisa Petrella

Optimizing Visualization of Flagellar Proteins in Live Cells.
Gwen Jones, Normandale Community College. Mentor: Pinfen Yang

mir-52 is necessary for male fertility in C. elegans.
Madison Lucas, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Mentor: Allison Abbott

The Relationship Between ATG Genes and Prion Clearance.
Mitch Oddo, Marquette University. Mentor: Anita Manogaran

Hsp104 and Heat Stress--Implications for Disassembling Transthyretin Aggregation.
Jake Reilly, Marquette University. Mentor: Anita Manogaran

Low Mg2+ solution induces seizure-like activity in hippocampal slices from male and female neonatal rats.
Carlos Roman Santiago, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. Mentor: Michelle Mynlieff

Polarity of Rad52 Plays Fundamental Role in Assembly of the Homologous Recombination Protein Complex.
Emma Tillison, Marquette University. Mentor: Edwin Antony

Analysis of sex myoblast migration in mir-44/45 C. elegans mutants.
Julia Theiss, Scripps College. Mentor: Allison Abbott

Additional Sup35 Reduces DMSO Mediated Curing in Weak [PSI+].
Mariela Vega, CSU Sacramento. Mentor: Anita Manogaran

Patterns of apoptosis in embryonic Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) limbs differ between developmental stages.
Amelia Zietlow, Carthage College. Mentor: Tony Gamble

Optimizing transfection conditions to express eIF6 in mammary epithelial cells.
Lauren Klein, University of Notre Dame. Mentor: Sofia Origanti               

Summer Research Program Activities

While research is the number one attraction, the Marquette University summer research program provides many other activities for program participants:

  • research symposium

  • Outdoor social activities TBD!

Campus Map

Welcome to Milwaukee*

*Information reflects non-pandemic times!

There are many opportunities for planned and unplanned outings and excursion. Summertime in Milwaukee provides many opportunities for entertainment, with an almost continuous program of ethnic festivals, lakefront festivals (such as Summerfest), musical and theatre attractions, and outdoor activities, including sailing on Lake Michigan.

While you will be spending most of your time in the Wehr Life Sciences Building, all work and no play will make you dull and cranky. To prevent that, the Brew City offers a plethora of activities to keep you fresh and alive.

Milwaukee has all the things a big city has to offer (like the arts, major league sports, great restaurants and parks) with fewer of the hassles (like big city prices, crime, pollution and traffic).

Here are just some of the many things you can do in Milwaukee during the summer:

    • Indulge your cultured side at the nearby Milwaukee Art Museum (be sure to ask for the student discount) or check out the world's largest dinosaur skull at the Milwaukee Public Museum, just a few blocks from campus. Visit the S/V Denis Sullivan, a 137-foot replica of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner at Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin.
    • Hop on your bike and head for Lake Michigan's beaches (they're less than two miles from campus).
    • Hear some great bands at The Rave, Shank Hall, and Jazz in the Park. Or if you want to hear them all in one place, head to Summerfest -- the nation's largest outdoor music festival.
    • Go outside and play... in nearly 15,000 acres of parks including 89 miles of bikeways, 17 municipal golf courses and countless baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts.
    • Catch a Brewers game at the new Miller Park Baseball Stadium, two miles from campus.
    • Savor Milwaukee's more than 1,500 restaurants, from Mexican to Thai, Italian to German, cheeseburgers to Chinese.

When you're in Milwaukee, you've got the best of both worlds — a big city with a small town feel.

For more information about the Summer Research Program, contact:

Application Questions: Program Questions:

Ms. Deborah Weaver
Department of Biological Sciences
Wehr Life Sciences Building
Marquette University
PO Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Dr. Allison Abbott
Department of Biological Sciences
Summer Research Program Director
(414) 288-4422