Undergraduate Summer Research Program

Please note: Our Summer Research Program will be for Marquette undergraduate students only. We are not accepting applicants from universities outside of Marquette.

The 2024 application is closed. 

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

Program Information

The Department of Biological Sciences will host a Summer Research Program in 2024. The 10-week program will run from June 3 - August 10, with a one-week break over the 4th of July.

Students will develop a deeper understanding of the pace, demands, and thrill of scientific research through independent projects, guided by faculty mentors. Participating faculty mentors can be found under the Summer Research Mentors tab.

Research areas include: microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, neurobiology, invertebrate/vertebrate physiology, and ecology.

Students in the SRP....

  • Develop essential written and verbal communication skills
  • Participate in group lab meetings and weekly meetings with program mentors.
  • Engage in workshops on research ethics and graduate school admission.
  • Enjoy a variety of social activities including frequent 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 minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Students who graduate before December 2024 are not eligible.

Minimum course requirements:

  • Two semesters of biology courses
  • General chemistry with laboratories
  • One semester of calculus, one semester of organic chemistry, and additional advanced coursework in biology are preferred but not required. 

How to apply:

The application for Summer 2024 is closed.

  • To complete your application, you will need to identify 3 faculty members you would be interested in working with as your Summer Research Mentor. Available faculty mentors are listed under the Summer Research Mentors tab.
  • Prepare a personal statement that you will include in your application. Please describe in 500 words or fewer:
    • (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.
  • You may also include a one to two page resume with your application.

What are the benefits of independent undergraduate research?

To be science literate in the 21st century, textbooks and classes are not enough. Our undergraduate research programs offer exemplary opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the process of scientific discovery. By joining a research team, you will learn to critically read scientific literature, to formulate hypotheses, and to design and carry out experiments to test the validity of your hypotheses. In short, you will experience firsthand what it means to do scientific research. 

How do I choose a research topic?

Start by reviewing the descriptions of each faculty member's research under the Summer Research Mentors tab. We have a formal process designed to match 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.

How much interaction will I have with my mentor? 

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. 

What are the requirements to participate in the SRP?  

Students must have completed their sophomore or junior year to enroll and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. 

Minimum course requirements:

  • One year biology courses
  • General chemistry with laboratories
  • One semester of calculus, organic chemistry and additional advanced work in biology are preferred, but not required. 

What is the difference between the summer research program and a laboratory class? What input will I have in the research process?

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?

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. Students will attempt to figure out what the data means, formulate new hypotheses, and design 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, including:

  • A journal club in which the students take turns presenting papers from the scientific literature to the group.
  • 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, a Brewers game, bowling, and frequent socials. 

Do I receive a stipend or funding during the SRP? 

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.

Edward M Blumenthal: Research in the Blumenthal lab focuses on the development and function of animal epithelia.  We use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system due to the many tools available for measuring and manipulating gene function and expression.  Specifically, our work focuses on the gene drop-dead, which is required for the normal function of the fly’s respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems as well as for the maintenance of brain integrity.  In one current research project, we are identifying other genes that interact with drop-dead in the production of functional eggs and sperm.  A second project investigates the neurodegeneration seen in drop-dead mutant flies, which we believe will provide insight into the mechanisms of some human neurodegenerative diseases.

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. 

Tony Gamble: Research in the Gamble lab examines the developmental and evolutionary processes that generate biological diversity. In particular, we focus on three complementary topics: 1) the evolution of sex chromosomes and sex determining mechanisms – using genomic and molecular genetic tools; 2) the evolution of novel morphologies related to locomotion – using genomic and developmental approaches; and 3) the spatial and historical aspects of species diversification – using tools from phylogenetics and biogeography. Studying these processes in a single model clade (lizards and snake) presents an unparalleled opportunity to understand the complex origins of biological diversity.

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.

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).

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.

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

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

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

Herbivores and Drought Influence Microbial Communities in Soil.  
Claire Kraft, Marquette University. Mentor: Nate Lemoine

Balancing the Level of Germaine Apoptosis is Important for Embryo Fitness at High Temperature in Caenorhabditis elegans. 
Hannah Lorenzen, Marquette University. Mentor: Lisa Petrella  

Effectiveness of BAC Disinfectant on Staphylococcus aureus Biofilm Developed on PVC Coupon Surface. 
Bennett Raasch, Marquette University. Mentor: Krassimira Hristova

Effects of prior environmental adaptation on the evolution of antibiotic resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 
Faizan Ahmed, Marquette University. Mentor: Chris Marshall 

Identifying Structural Differences Between Urea and Guanidine Carboxylases. 
Jordan Mewhorter. Mentor: Martin St. Maurice 

Who's Who: Quantifying Pathogens in Biofilms from the Built Environment within Marquette's Campus Using qPCR.
Elisabeth Soli, Marquette University. Mentor: Krassimira Hristova

Cloning and Expression of His-tagged Mitochondrial Ribosomal Protein Mrp7 (bL27). 
 Natalie Wideman, Marquette University. Mentor: Rosemary Stuart 

Do neurons involved in the regulation of body weight directly affect breathing?  
Dhruvaa K. Shroff, Marquette University. Mentor: Deanna Arble 

Moth & Butterfly Field Guides: Engaging Community in Natural History. 
Maggie Kemp, Marquette University. Mentor: Nate Lemoine  

Cloning of the MRPL-35 Gene under the control of the constitutive ADH1 promoter. 
Yesenia Gomez, Marquette University. Mentor: Rosemary Stuart 

Summer Research Program Activities

While research is the number one attraction, the Marquette University summer research program provides many other activities for program participants, including research seminars, journal clubs, and frequent social gatherings.

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.

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.

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:

Dr. Stacia Peiffer
Department of Biological Sciences
Summer Research Program Co-Director
(414) 288-7360