Science and Research Office

Joan Toohey
Director
Olin-Rice 271
651-696-6027


Rebecca Hoye
Chemistry Professor
Olin-Rice 390
651-696-6252


Liz Jansen
Biology Professor
Olin-Rice 220
651-696-6247

Faculty Descriptions

Biology

Faculty Name: Professor Lin Aanonsen

Department: Biology

Title of Research:  Elucidating the role of neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) in spinal processing of persistent pain in a mouse model of peripheral inflammation. 

Description:  Research in my lab is focused on the spinal molecular mechanisms underlying persistent/chronic pain in a model of peripheral inflammation in mice.  Student collaborators are engaged in all aspects of the research, which encompasses behavioral to molecular studies. One of my research projects involves investigating the function a type of neural cell adhesion molecule, called PSA-NCAM, in the spinal processing of persistent pain.  We use pharmacological tools as well as immunohistochemical and Western blot techniques to determine the spinal distribution and changes in proteins and other molecules that interact with PSA-NCAM.  We employ knockdown studies using spinally administered siRNA directed at the enzymes that polysialyate NCAM, in order to better elucidate the role that PSA-NCAM plays in the induction of persistent pain.  Ultimately, my hope is that some of our research findings may help lead to novel therapeutic approaches to the treatment and/or prevention of chronic pain in humans and other animals. 

Professor Aanonsen will not be taking students in her lab for the summer of 2016.


Faculty Name: Professor Sarah Boyer

Department: Biology

Title of Research: Biodiversity and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals

Description: I am interested in the diversity, evolution, and biogeography of invertebrate animals.  My work is driven by questions such as: How many species are there?  How are they related?  How can we explain their distribution in space and diversification through time?

 This year, I will am hoping to hire three students from May 31 through July 22.  I am planning to hire three students for two different projects.

  1. Diversity and Reproductive Behavior of Daddy Long-Legs.  Currently, there is no authoritative list of the species of daddy long-legs that live in Minnesota, and we will do our best to rectify this situation.  We will work with both museum collections and our own specimens collected from Ordway (Macalester’s field station) and other sites.  We will take an integrative approach to identifying species – some of which may be undescribed – using anatomy and molecular data.  In addition, we will work on generating data on the reproductive behaviors of a subset of the species that we find.  I hope to hire two students to work on this project.
  2. Systematics and Biogeography of Australian Arachnids.  Students in my lab have been working for several years to understand the evolutionary history of tiny daddy long-legs (known as mite harvestmen) from the Australian Wet Tropics.  The student who is hired to work on this project will serve as a technician who will organize specimens, generate DNA sequence data, and help with data analysis.  This job is appropriate for a meticulous student who is looking for their first research experience.

Students should have completed Biology 270: Biodiversity and Evolution before working in my lab.  If you’re interested, please contact me directly in addition to applying for positions electronically. 


Faculty Name: Professor Devavani Chatterjea

Department: Biology/Community and Global Health

Title of Research: The Intersection of Allergies and Chronic Pain

Description: In recent years, epidemiologists have repeatedly discovered associations between chronic pain incidence and a history of allergic diseases.  Both chronic pain and allergic/inflammatory diseases such as asthma are growing global health concerns and as such the cellular/molecular intersections between these pathological processes need to be better understood to develop effective methods of treatment and prevention.  Our lab uses pre-clinical animal models to dissect the contributions of histamine producing mast cells in the cross-talk between the immune and nervous systems in allergies and pain.  Our recent published work in this area can be accessed here.  Current projects in the lab include investigation into allergic reactions induced by a common cosmetic preservative, the interaction between immune responses to allergic exposures in the skin and airway and possible contributions to painful sensitivity to touch.  In collaboration with Dr. Randy Daughters’ lab, we are also investigating how progenitor cells in epithelial tissues at organism/environment interfaces respond to accumulation of mast cells and other immune cells following an allergic reaction. Our laboratory runs on a strong model of peer-to-peer mentoring, regular data discussions, and teamwork.   Students work closely with me and with each other to learn techniques (animal handling, surgery, injections, sensitivity assays, tissue processing, tissue culture, cytokine and histamine ELISAs, real time quantitative PCR, statistical analysis, neutrophil activity), optimize assays, design experiments and analyze findings. Intensive reading/discussion of relevant literature, working lab meetings and journal clubs are an important part of our summer activities. Summer projects are often the basis for academic year research and/or honors projects. The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases funds our work. I expect that students joining the lab for the summer will apply for stipends through various funding mechanisms on campus; materials and supplies will be largely provided through my research grant.

  • If interested in a position in my lab in Summer 2016, please make an appointment to speak with me before submitting your application. I will not be able to consider applications from students if I have not met with them.  
  • You must have completed cell biology, genetics and the cell/gen laboratory courses. Immunology coursework is helpful but not required. Prior research experience and/or a “research in” class in biology is a plus. Experience working with mice is also useful.
  • The typical research schedule is May 20-July 31 with some flexibility of dates possible

Faculty Name: Professor Randy Daughters

Department: Biology

Title of Research: Control Of Tissue Regeneration By Stem Cells After Injury Or Disease. 

Description: Project 1) Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) Model System Of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC).

ARVC is a disorder caused by mutations in desmosomal proteins that lead to abnormalities primarily in right ventricular cardiomyocytes (CM). The recent development of iPSC technology has paved the way for generation of patient specific pluripotent stem cell lines for in-vitro modeling of ARVC. Pairing iPSC’s with new gene editing technology, such as CRISPR-Cas9, has allowed our lab to begin elucidating mechanistic insights of ARVC pathology as well as the possibility for gene correction. Students working on this project have used advanced cell and molecular based techniques to generate ARVC patient specific mutations in the Plakoglobin gene (Jup) of mouse iPS cell lines, to differentiate these iPSC lines to right and left ventricle heart cells in-vitro, and characterize phenotypic differences in these derived cell populations by confocal microscopy and gene expression analysis.

Project 2) Lung Epithelium Regeneration After Immune Sensitization.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic disease characterized by the progressive scarring of lung tissue making it increasingly harder to transport oxygen. Recent evidence supports the involvement of immune system cells (mast cells) in tissue healing and remodeling due to the large range of pro-inflammatory and growth promoting mediators. Students working on this project investigate how mast cells might mediate proliferation of lung stem cells (basal cells) in the lung epithelial layer after immune challenge by exposure to a respirable allergen.

 Students working on either project learn advanced skills in cell and molecular biology including confocal microscopy, cell culture techniques, RNA isolation and analysis, immunocytochemistry, flow cytometry, and tissue processing.

Students interested in either research project should contact me first to discuss if you meet the requirements necessary to be successful in the lab. Schedules for summer research are somewhat flexible but cover ten weeks generally ranging from the end of May to the first week in August. For summer 2016, I anticipate working with 3-4 students depending on successful funding. Students who are accepted into the lab will be required to apply for funding through the Minnesota Regenerative Medicine Undergraduate Research Internship Program (MURIP) and through Macalester institutional based sources listed on the main SRO website. Go to the MURIP site for more information or contact Randy Daughters at 


Faculty Name: Professors Mark Davis, Jerald Dosch and Michael Anderson

Department: Biology

Title of Research: Ecology at Ordway:  An Integrated Summer of Experiential Learning
Research Projects:  
1)  Population dynamics and community effects of garlic mustard at the Ordway Field Station
2) To what extent is the Ordway oak forest sequestering carbon?
3) Is raccoon predation of nests creating population sinks of ovenbirds in forest fragments?

Description: Project 1.  In summer 2010, we (Mark Davis, Mike Anderson, Jerald Dosch, and Mac students) began a long-term study of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a non-native species that  lives in the oak forest at Ordway.  We will continue this study this coming summer.  In summer 2016 we will continue the ongoing monitoring of garlic mustard and other species to document the dynamics of its establishment and spread and also to try to discern the extent to which garlic mustard is affecting other plants. 

Project 2.  In the 2010-2011 academic year we identified and tagged over 600 trees at Ordway.  We have been monitoring these trees ever since in an effort to understand how abiotic factors such as slope and aspect might impact tree growth.  This project is part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded “big data” collaborative research network called EREN (Ecological Research as Education Network; http://erenweb.org/).  In summer 2016 we will re-measure the DBH of all trees, calculate their growth as change in DBH and increase in biomass, monitor carbon sequestration, and track mortality.  We will try to determine whether or not these measures of growth and mortality are correlated with biotic and abiotic site characteristics.  Once again our Ordway data will be entered in an online database for comparison with data from across the continent.

Project 3.  In summer 2012, we conducted a pilot study on nest predation and discovered that predation of artificial ground nests in the Ordway forest experienced very high predation rates, with raccoons being the likely primary predator.  In summer 2013, we conducted a much more extensive study to document predation rates of ground nests of the Ovenbird at four different sites in Dakota County.   The results again showed that raccoons were responsible for most of the predation and that proximity to residential areas was associated with higher predation rates, while proximity to industrial sites were associated with lower predation rates.  However, the small number of sites prevents any decisive conclusions.   We are still considering whether we will continue with this project in summer 2016.  If we do, we plan to GIS/radio-collar three raccoons in order to document their movements and calculate their home ranges.

Additional information or requirements
This opportunity will engage students in a collaborative learning community engaged in research, education, public outreach and natural resource management in roughly equal portions.  We would like to hire three or four students for an integrated summer of experiential learning involving hands-on ecological research, natural resources land management and teaching children using Ordway as a classroom for outdoor environmental education.  1-2 spots will be reserved for students without previous scientific research experience.

 This research and the related activities will be conducted at Macalester’s Ordway Field Station, located 17 miles from campus in Inver Grove Heights.  Student researchers will be housed on site at Ordway.  (Living communally at Ordway is a requirement.)  The students will be part of a summer Ordway research community consisting of three to four students, two faculty members (Dosch and Davis) and a staff member (Mike Anderson).  All students will be living on site at no charge (students must purchase their own food).

Research will likely begin on Wednesday, May 11th and end on Tuesday, July 12th (9 weeks). If you are planning to study abroad during the spring, let us know in your application and whether you will be able to begin on May 11th. Students need to be able to work up to 8 hours in a hilly and forested landscape, sometimes under adverse conditions, e.g., heat, rain, and bugs. Students must have taken Ecology.  We would like one or more students to have taken a GIS course. Outdoor Environmental Education would also be very helpful.

For answers to additional questions, contact Jerald Dosch, Mike Anderson or Mark Davis.  If you think you are interested in one of these positions we strongly encourage you to speak with one of us as soon as possible.

 


Faculty Name: Professor Dan Hornbach and Professor Kelly MacGregor

Department: Biology, Environmental Studies and Geology

Title of Research: Response of Native Mussels to Changing River Conditions: Flume Experiments at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

Description: Many freshwater mussel populations in Minnesota have dramatically declined or disappeared due to over-harvesting, widespread habitat destruction, pollution, land-use change, and/or the introduction of exotic species. For example, in the Minnesota River, where mussel diversity was once equal to that of the St. Croix, nearly half of the mussel fauna has been lost and in the past 50 years. In addition, about 20 species have been lost from the Upper Mississippi River basin during the same time period. The loss of freshwater mussels has consequences for both water quality and habitat. Mussels filter phytoplankton and other suspended material from the water column.  The physical presence of both living mussels and their spent shells stabilizes sediment, creating habitat for other benthic life including fish, amphibians, insect larvae, and algae.  Large aggregations of mussels can improve water clarity and enhance bed stability, decreasing sediment re-suspension during high flows and reducing downstream transport of target contaminants such as excess nutrients, suspended solids, and bacteria.  Because of the multitude of factors responsible for mussel population decline, there is a need to understand the interactions among mussels, riverbed habitat and water quality.

 As part of a three-year grant, our research this summer will be lead by our collaborator Dr. Jessica Kozarek at the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL). It will focus on flume-based experiments that look at the physical response of mussels to changing fluvial conditions, including suspended sediment concentrations and flow velocities.  The work will involve research at the Outdoor Stream Lab (OSL) and/or an indoor recirculating flume at SAFL, located across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge. Research will be collaborative with students from other institutions. Students should be comfortable doing physical labor, be prepared to work long days outdoors, and enthusiastic about the intersection of hydrology, mussel ecology, and river system health. Interested students should contact Dan Hornbach (hornbach@mac) or Kelly MacGregor (macgregor@mac) but will apply directly to Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). 

The research begins the first week of June and ends in mid-August (12 weeks). To apply students should email a resume and cover letter (detailing interest in the position and in research in general) to  Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). The application deadline is Feb 15th.


Faculty Name: Professor Mary Montgomery

Department: Biology

Title of Research: Post-Transcription Regulation of Maternal mRNAs

Description: My lab is looking at post-transcriptional regulation of developmentally important genes in the genetic model organismC. elegans. Genes are expressed maternally but the encoded proteins are not synthesized until after fertilization and then only in a subset of the cells of the early embryo. This asymmetric distribution of protein activity is what causes different cells to adopt different fates. The ultimate goal of this research project is to define the mechanisms responsible for asymmetric protein activity in the early embryo that lead to cell fate specification of the somatic and germline lineages. Such mechanisms must involve regulation of maternally provided mRNAs that control their localization, translation, and stability. To aid in uncovering these mechanisms, we are using CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing to tag genes so that we can visualize asymmetric protein localization in the early embryo. We also use Cas9 to delete or alter potential regulatory sequences in the 3’UTR of these genes, such as predicted miRNA-binding sites. Disruption of key regulatory sequences should result in disruption of protein localization, and ultimately, function. Together these data will provide insight into how maternal RNAs are regulated in the early embryo to give rise to different cell fates.

Professor Montgomery will accept two students in her lab, contingent on funding from Macalester. 


Faculty Name: Professor Marcos Ortega

Department: Biology

Title of Research: Structure and Biochemical Studies of Viral Assembly

Description: Research in my lab focuses on how double-stranded DNA viruses initiate replication using a bacterial virus as a model system.  Double-stranded DNA viruses utilize an enzyme called terminase to package viral DNA into a viral capsid shell.  This process is called DNA packaging and it begins the viral replication process.  My lab seeks to understand how DNA packaging occurs by studying this process at the molecular level utilizing X-ray crystallography, biophysics, and biochemical techniques.  Results will elucidate how DNA packaging occurs in the double-stranded DNA viruses, including the eukaryotic Adenovirus and Epstein-Barr Virus, which can cause cell transformation and cancer.  Research in my lab will focus on three areas:

  1. Cloning, expression, and purification of viral proteins involved in DNA packaging. 
  2. Crystal screening, data collection, and model building to solve structures of proteins involved in DNA packaging
  3. Biochemical and biophysical characterization of proteins involved in DNA packaging.  The studies will include DNA binding studies and enzymatic assays to characterize protein function.

I will be taking three to four students depending on funding.  Please arrange a meeting with me prior to applying for work in my lab.  I seek students who are self-motivated and not afraid to fail. 


Faculty Name: Professor Kristi Curry Rogers

Department: Biology and Geology

Title of Research: Growth in Living and Fossil Vertebrates

Description: My research is centered upon the dynamic intersection between living and extinct organisms, and includes projects that are focused on the evolution and biology of extinct dinosaurs, and upon understanding the record of life history provided by bone tissue. I utilize bone tissue as a tool to develop qualitative and quantitative views of growth rates, longevity, life history strategy, and microstructural character evolution in both living and extinct dinosaurs. 

Kristi Curry Rogers will be on sabbatical through Summer 2016 and will not accept applications this year.  Stay tuned for 2017!

Chemistry

Faculty Name: Professor Ron Brisbois

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research: Organic Synthesis and Synthetic Methodology

Description: Of the many functions chemistry performs in its role as the central science, deliberate synthesis of difficult to obtain naturally occurring compounds and intentional creation of new materials are arguably the most broadly important. In my lab, students have been key contributors to (a) the development of new synthetic methods, (b) total synthesis of small molecules for chemical genetics studies in Arabidopsis thaliana (in collaboration with Paul Overvoorde), (c) synthesis and characterization of cyclopentadienyl-Co-cyclobutadienyl (CpCoCb) derived cyclophanes and dehydroannulenes, (d) design of ligands for constructing supramolecular self-assemblies, chiral catalyst candidates, and fluorophores as potential dyes and/or light-emitting materials, and (e) development of synthetic methodologies (currently) focused on 1,2,3-triazole synthesis. Typically, students enter my lab after their second year, after having CHEM 211-212. The exact start date of summer research has yet to be determined, although typically we start after graduation but before the end of May. Please feel welcome to schedule an appointment if you would like to discuss research in more detail.


Faculty Name: Professor Dennis Cao

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research: Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Organic Compounds and Materials

Description: The Cao research group seeks to synthesize novel organic compounds that can be incorporated into functional materials. These molecules are often electrochemically active and can be stimulated to either donate or accept electrons, making them potential candidates for organic electronic applications. Most projects are initially fundamental in nature before they transition into applied research. The group is currently focused on two main research areas: 1) leveraging alkyne metathesis to produce porous 2D and 3D “alkyne-expanded” hydrocarbon compounds that are valuable for gas adsorption and molecular encapsulation applications and 2) targeting the synthesis of novel electron deficient compounds because of their predicted tendency to stabilize unpaired radical electrons.

 Students will become well-versed in synthetic organic chemistry, learning techniques to handle air-sensitive, low-temperature, and high-temperature reactions. Additionally, students will have opportunities to be exposed to a variety of experimental and theoretical characterization techniques both on campus and at the University of Minnesota.

Typically, students will have taken organic chemistry. Students interested in my research should schedule a meeting with me to talk about research and have further discussions of relevant scientific papers with me. I am planning to have a summer 2016 research group of up to six students, of which up to two will be continuing students. Summer research will begin shortly after graduation and last ten weeks.


Faculty Name: Professor Paul Fischer

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research: Organometallic Synthesis Research

Description: The Fischer research group synthesizes organometallic complexes (substances with metal-carbon bonds) that exhibit interesting reactivity for organic chemistry applications.  Target molecules are extremely reactive and require handling under inert argon gas; specialized laboratory techniques for exclusion of air and moisture must be mastered to conduct the work. This research requires meticulous attention to detail due to the sensitivity of the complexes. Group members regularly use IR and NMR spectroscopy, and are exposed to X-ray crystallographic methods completed at the University of Minnesota. Research projects in the Fischer laboratory are principally designed to prepare students for graduate study/careers in inorganic and organic chemistry. Specific projects for summer 2016 will be devised during the spring semester, but research that targets new group VI (Cr, Mo, W) and group VII (Re) complexes are planned. An objective for summer 2016 is to prepare extremely electron-rich complexes that will be potent p-bases for the dearomatization of aromatic ligands.

Prof. Fischer plans to lead a summer 2016 research group of three (or possibly four) students. His current research students are graduating in Spring 2016 so three or four research assistant spots are open. Please schedule an appointment with Prof. Fischer to learn more about his research program before applying via the ESRA page. The National Science Foundation will fund at least three student research stipends for summer 2016.

Recent graduates who worked in the Fischer laboratory are currently in inorganic and organometallic chemistry graduate programs at MIT, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and Emory University.


Faculty Name: Professor Keith Kuwata

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research: Computational Modeling of Reactive Intermediates in Oxidation Reactions

Description: The reactions of hydrocarbons with oxidants in the lower atmosphere have a significant impact on human health and global climate change.  However, these reactions are extremely complicated.  In many cases only a small fraction of the final products are known, and even when product distributions are known, the mechanisms leading to product formation are poorly understood.  Identifying and characterizing hydrocarbon oxidation reactive intermediates like carbonyl oxides, dioxiranes, and peroxides are at the heart of constructing valid atmospheric chemistry mechanisms.  However, these intermediates, when formed in the atmosphere, contain tens of kilocalories of energy per mole, which enable them to isomerize and decompose faster than they can be measured experimentally.  Students in my computational laboratory play an essential role in providing insights that experiment cannot provide.  My students use computers to apply the equations of quantum mechanics to carbonyl oxides and other short-lived intermediates.  Calculations generate both quantitative and qualitative insight.  Prior training in computer programming or quantum mechanics is not required.  What is required is an ability to think about the conformational preferences and reactivity of molecules.

This coming summer, we are also interested in using quantum mechanics to model the reactivity of nucleophilic carbon (such as that found in alkylmetal compounds) with peroxides.  This reaction category, proposed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln organic chemist Patrick H. Dussault, could prove to be a powerful alternative pathway to ether formation.  Professor Dussault and I have National Science Foundation funding to support a joint experimental-theoretical collaboration.  I am interested in a student working to help interpret Dussault’s intriguing experimental results.

Students should have completed the second semester of Organic Chemistry (Chem 212) before starting work in my lab. Students typically work for ten weeks.  Each student will be required to present his or her research at the Midwest Undergraduate Computational Chemistry Conference.  The next meeting will be at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late July. I seek to hire one or two students this summer who will work either on the atmospheric chemistry project or the Dussault ether project.


Faculty Name: Professor Katy Splan

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research: Research in Bioinorganic Chemistry

Description: The field of bioinorganic chemistry studies the role of metal ions and metal-containing compounds in biology and medicine. My research interests center on metal ion homeostasis and toxicity. For example, metals such as copper, zinc, and iron are functional in many biological processes and are essential for life, but at high concentrations display significant toxicity.  Students in my lab have studied the interaction of copper ions with native zinc-binding proteins to delineate the impact of copper ions on zinc-metalloprotein function. 

Professor Splan is on sabbatical and will not be taking students in her lab for the summer of 2016.


Faculty Name: Professor Tom Varberg

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research:  Molecular Spectroscopy of Transition Metal Free Radicals

Description: The Varberg research group uses near-infrared and visible lasers to explore the electronic structure of small, gas-phase molecules that contain a transition metal atom. Such molecules are free radicals, with unpaired electrons that produce interesting and challenging spectra to record and analyze. We are particularly interested in understanding the bonding and electronic structure of these systems. Recent work in my group has focused on the molecules TaO, TaH and AuS with a particular emphasis on how the unpaired electrons interact with the nuclear spins. Student co-authored publications describing this work can be found on the board outside my research lab (OR365). This coming summer we will likely be continuing work on the spectra of AuS and/or TaH. The technology we utilize is state of the art, and students in my group will learn much about modern signal acquisition, spectral assignment, data fitting, and the operation of modern lasers. These skills are transferable to different areas within chemical physics and physical chemistry. The work is basic research (in contrast with applied research) with a goal of understanding the fundamental properties of molecules. Generally speaking, students who work in my group should be those who enjoy the mathematical/physical side of the chemistry discipline.

For the 2016 summer, I will be hiring at most two new research students. Preference is given to chemistry majors. Availability of stipends for the position(s) are dependent on a pending grant application with the National Science Foundation, which I am scheduled to receive a funding decision on by March 30, 2016. For more information, you should talk to Prof. Varberg. In your application, you should describe your career goals beyond Macalester and indicate how a summer research experience in physical chemistry/chemical physics supports them.

The dates of employment will be May 16 – July 22, 2016 (ten weeks). We get started right after Commencement.

Faculty Name: Professor Leah Witus

Department: Chemistry

Title of Research:  Developing Protein-Mimetic Materials

Description: Proteins are nature’s molecular machines, carrying out nearly all the functions in the cell. Using proteins outside of their natural context is regarded as a powerful way to harness their unique capabilities to solve unmet challenges in therapeutics, catalysis and environmental remediation. However, proteins have limited stability and are difficult to synthesize in the laboratory. To address these issues, chemists are interested in designing and synthesizing protein-mimetic analogues that have similar properties. Such protein-mimetics can expand on the functions found in biological proteins by including non-natural side chains in order to access a wider structural diversity than is found in nature. Students working on this project will develop solid-phase chemical synthesis techniques to create protein-mimetic materials. During the course of this research students will learn solid phase peptide synthesis, reaction optimization, and multiple characterization techniques.

The positions available will be filled through the Macalester-HHMI Young Researcher Program, but I am happy to meet with anyone to talk about this area of research or other opportunities!

Environmental Studies

Faculty Name: Professor Louisa Bradtmiller

Department: Environmental Studies

Title of Research: Paleoclimate and Oceanography Research Using Deep Sea Sediments

Description: Prof. Bradtmiller's recent research includes the use of uranium-series isotopes in the reconstruction of glacial ocean circulation rates, and in the characterization of those same isotopes in modern seawater and sediments. She is also involved in ongoing research into ocean biogeochemistry and nutrient cycling, with a focus on the transfer of carbon between the ocean and atmosphere during periods of past climate change.

Professor Bradtmiller will not be accepting students in her lab for the summer of 2016.


Faculty Name: Professor Dan Hornbach and Professor Kelly MacGregor

Department: Environmental Studies and Biology and Geology

Title of Research: Response of Native Mussels to Changing River Conditions: Flume Experiments at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

Description: Many freshwater mussel populations in Minnesota have dramatically declined or disappeared due to over-harvesting, widespread habitat destruction, pollution, land-use change, and/or the introduction of exotic species. For example, in the Minnesota River, where mussel diversity was once equal to that of the St. Croix, nearly half of the mussel fauna has been lost and in the past 50 years. In addition, about 20 species have been lost from the Upper Mississippi River basin during the same time period. The loss of freshwater mussels has consequences for both water quality and habitat. Mussels filter phytoplankton and other suspended material from the water column.  The physical presence of both living mussels and their spent shells stabilizes sediment, creating habitat for other benthic life including fish, amphibians, insect larvae, and algae.  Large aggregations of mussels can improve water clarity and enhance bed stability, decreasing sediment re-suspension during high flows and reducing downstream transport of target contaminants such as excess nutrients, suspended solids, and bacteria.  Because of the multitude of factors responsible for mussel population decline, there is a need to understand the interactions among mussels, riverbed habitat and water quality.

 As part of a three-year grant, our research this summer will be lead by our collaborator Dr. Jessica Kozarek at the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL). It will focus on flume-based experiments that look at the physical response of mussels to changing fluvial conditions, including suspended sediment concentrations and flow velocities.  The work will involve research at the Outdoor Stream Lab (OSL) and/or an indoor recirculating flume at SAFL, located across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge. Research will be collaborative with students from other institutions. Students should be comfortable doing physical labor, be prepared to work long days outdoors, and enthusiastic about the intersection of hydrology, mussel ecology, and river system health.  Interested students should contact Dan Hornbach (hornbach@mac) or Kelly MacGregor (macgregor@mac) but will apply directly to Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). 

The research begins the first week of June and ends in mid-August (12 weeks). To apply students should email a resume and cover letter (detailing interest in the position and in research in general) to  Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). The application deadline is Feb 15th.


Faculty Name: Professor Christie Manning

Department: Environmental Studies/Psychology

Title of Research: 

Description: Professor Manning's research and teaching explore the cognitive, social and situational factors that influence people’s behavioral and lifestyle choices and how these choices positively or negatively impact natural systems.  She is particularly interested in people’s cognitive and emotional response to information about climate change.

Professor Manning will not be accepting students for research positions in the summer of 2016.


Faculty Name: Professor Roopali Phadke

Department: Environmental Studies

Title of Research: 

Description: Professor Phadke's research and teaching is at the nexus of environmental studies, international development and science and technology studies.  Her current research focuses on private and public development of water and energy resources.

Professor Phadke will not be accepting students for research positions in the summer of 2016.

Geology

Faculty Name: Professor Alan Chapman

Department: Geology

Title of Research: Tectonics, Structural Geology, Petrology, Field Geology, Lab Work

Description: I apply a combination of structural, petrologic, geochemical and isotopic techniques to understand the formation and deformation of continental material at convergent margins.  In summer of 2016, I plan to do 1) one month of work in Big Sur, CA working on the timing of tectonic and rock forming events in the region; 2) two weeks of work in the Klamath Mountains mapping a tectonically out of place rock unit; and 3) lab work at Washington State University (> one month), the University of Arizona (~1 week), and Rice University (~2 weeks).  A total of six students have already been identified for this work; I may accept an additional 1-2 exceptional candidates.  This research is funded by NSF and the Keck Consortium.  

Faculty Name: Professor Kelly MacGregor and Professor Dan Hornbach

Department: Geology, Biology and Environmental Studies

Title of Research: Response of Native Mussels to Changing River Conditions: Flume Experiments at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory

Description: Many freshwater mussel populations in Minnesota have dramatically declined or disappeared due to over-harvesting, widespread habitat destruction, pollution, land-use change, and/or the introduction of exotic species. For example, in the Minnesota River, where mussel diversity was once equal to that of the St. Croix, nearly half of the mussel fauna has been lost and in the past 50 years. In addition, about 20 species have been lost from the Upper Mississippi River basin during the same time period. The loss of freshwater mussels has consequences for both water quality and habitat. Mussels filter phytoplankton and other suspended material from the water column.  The physical presence of both living mussels and their spent shells stabilizes sediment, creating habitat for other benthic life including fish, amphibians, insect larvae, and algae.  Large aggregations of mussels can improve water clarity and enhance bed stability, decreasing sediment re-suspension during high flows and reducing downstream transport of target contaminants such as excess nutrients, suspended solids, and bacteria.  Because of the multitude of factors responsible for mussel population decline, there is a need to understand the interactions among mussels, riverbed habitat and water quality.

 As part of a three-year grant, our research this summer will be lead by our collaborator Dr. Jessica Kozarek at the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL). It will focus on flume-based experiments that look at the physical response of mussels to changing fluvial conditions, including suspended sediment concentrations and flow velocities.  The work will involve research at the Outdoor Stream Lab (OSL) and/or an indoor recirculating flume at SAFL, located across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge. Research will be collaborative with students from other institutions. Students should be comfortable doing physical labor, be prepared to work long days outdoors, and enthusiastic about the intersection of hydrology, mussel ecology, and river system health.  Interested students should contact Dan Hornbach (hornbach@mac) or Kelly MacGregor (macgregor@mac) but will apply directly to Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). 

The research begins the first week of June and ends in mid-August (12 weeks). To apply students should email a resume and cover letter (detailing interest in the position and in research in general) to  Dr. Jessica Kozarek (jkozarek@umn.edu). The application deadline is Feb 15th.


Faculty Name: Professor Kristi Curry Rogers

Department: Biology and Geology

Title of Research: Growth in Living and Fossil Vertebrates

Description: My research is centered upon the dynamic intersection between living and extinct organisms, and includes projects that are focused on the evolution and biology of extinct dinosaurs, and upon understanding the record of life history provided by bone tissue. I utilize bone tissue as a tool to develop qualitative and quantitative views of growth rates, longevity, life history strategy, and microstructural character evolution in both living and extinct dinosaurs. 

Kristi Curry Rogers will be on sabbatical through Summer 2016 and will not accept applications this year.  Stay tuned for 2017!


Faculty Name: Professor Ray Rogers

Department: Geology

Title of Research: Sedimentary Geology, Vertebrate Taphonomy, Paleoecology of Dinosaurs

Description: My research interests focus on sedimentary geology and vertebrate taphonomy. I am most interested in the reconstruction of ancient terrestrial ecosystems (especially those that were home to dinosaurs). I spend much of my research time exploring the taphonomy of dinosaur-bearing beds in central Montana and regions farther afield (e.g., Madagascar, Argentina). My students and I are currently studying how vertebrate skeletal debris accumulates to concentrated levels in ancient (and modern) rivers and lakes. I typically work with 3-5 student researchers during the academic year and summer months.  My research is presently funded by a variety of federal grants (NSF, BLM).

Ray Rogers will be on sabbatical through Summer 2016 and will not accept applications this year.  Stay tuned for 2017!

Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Faculty Name: Professor Susan Fox

Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Title of Research: Adaptive Robot Navigation: Building Robots That Learn

Description: Robot technology is increasingly present in our everyday lives, from robot vacuum cleaners to cars that can parallel park themselves, to cars that drive themselves. Successful robot systems need to exhibit robust behavior: to be predictable and reliable over time. My current research has focused on image processing to support the robot localization, which is the process of determining where the robot is in the world The robot lab has several different robots, writing programs that can be used with any of the robots is a current goal.

Students interested in working with me should come talk with me prior to submitting an application.  Students should have completed Comp 124 at least; preferably Comp 221 as well. Experience with artificial intelligence is NOT required; training in the tools used to program the robots will be a part of any research collaboration.  For Summer 2016 I am open to shorter research time frames, and am looking for students who can be self-motivated if I am absent. Students and I will need to submit a request for funding to the SFSR (Student-Faculty Summer Research) fund at Macalester.


Faculty Name: Professor Shilad Senn

Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Title of Research: Visualizing the Universe of Information

Description: Search engines such as Google give us incredible capabilities to answer specific questions (How many people live Minnesota?). However, computers are far worse at helping us explore (Which Mac alumni should I network with?). This project builds map-based visualizations of information spaces (such as Mac's alumni network) that enable people to quickly understand the high-level structure of the space (in which fields do Mac's alumni land?) and "zoom in" to answer specific questions (which Mac alums have careers related to GIS?). 

Our team of four to six summer researchers will develop the algorithms and visualizations for this system. We will use create neural networks mined from Wikipedia that model hundreds of millions of words, phrases, and concepts across hundreds of different languages. We will pair these algorithms with web-based visualizations inspired by sites such as Google Maps. Our system will empower people to explore information spaces like musical artists, Macalester alumni, and Wikipedia articles.

All students must have completed COMP 124. Additional helpful skills include studio art / design, geography / GIS, linear algebra, and machine learning. This project is a collaboration with Prof. Brent Hecht (UMN) and we will regularly visit his lab at the University of MN.


Faculty Name: Professor Libby Shoop

Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Title of Research: Parallel Computing Techniques

Description: Professor Libby Shoop conducts  research pertaining to parallel computing techniques, especially those that can be used in Computer Science Education.  She and her research students work with interesting hardware and build sophisticated computer systems for use in courses here at Macalester and other colleges and universities.  

Professor Shoop will not be accepting student applications for the summer of 2016.


Faculty Name: Professors Chad Higdon-Topaz and Professor Lori Ziegelmeier

Department: Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science

Title of Research: Pattern-Forming Natural Systems

Description: Research in our group is inspired by the appearance of beautiful, organized patterns across the natural world. Specifically, we study pattern-forming systems in biology and chemistry. Potential projects include topological data analysis of biological aggregations (such as bird flocks, fish schools, and insect swarms), machine learning applied to rules for biological motion, and more.

Professor Higdon-Topaz is waiting to for funding decisions. Check back in January for an update.

Physics and Astronomy

Faculty Name: Professor Sean Bartz

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Title of Research: Holographic Nuclear Theory

Description: I study the strong nuclear force, which holds the nucleus together. Fundamentally, nuclear matter consists of quarks, bound together by gluons, into a variety of particles besides the familiar protons and neutrons. Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) is the fundamental theory of this force, but the force grows at low energies, rendering traditional calculational techniques useless. 

I work on a model, inspired by string theory, which suggests to translate this strongly-coupled particle theory in regular 4-dimensional space into a weakly-coupled gravitational theory in 5 dimensions. Because of this extra dimension, the model is given the playful name of "holographic QCD." Though still incomplete, this model has been successful in calculating the energy states of certain common particles made of quarks called mesons.
My ongoing research consists of two projects:
1.) Completing the analysis of the meson sector. I have already published results for three of the four types of light mesons. One type remains to be analyzed, and the analysis is more difficult because they mix with "glueballs," hypothetical particles made only of gluons. This analysis requires the solution of a set of coupled differential equations through numerical and analytical techniques.
2.) Analyzing the quark-gluon plasma. At high temperatures and densities, such as those seen in heavy ion collisions, the quarks and gluons that make up nuclear matter become deconfined from their particles and form a new phase of matter that behaves as a fluid. The techniques of holographic QCD are applicable to this state of matter as well, and I am beginning to apply my model to this area. This area of research is more exploratory at the current time.

Faculty Name: Professor John Cannon

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Title of Research: Galaxy Evolution

Description: Professor Cannon and his students perform detailed observational studies of galaxies. During the summer of 2016, Cannon’s research group will work on data acquired for the Survey of HI in Extremely Low-mass Dwarfs (SHIELD) and for the  Lyman Alpha Reference Survey (LARS).  

  • Students are strongly encouraged to talk with Professor Cannon before applying
  • Most students are declared physics majors with an astronomy emphasis, and have taken astronomy courses at the 400 level
  • Starting and ending dates are set by mutual agreement between Cannon and the researchers
  • Cannon’s research program is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Space Telescope Science Institute

Faculty Name: Professor James Doyle

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Title of Research: Thin Film Materials Science

Description: The general area of research is thin film materials science, with two main areas of focus.  One focus is semiconductor materials used in photovoltaic devices (solar cells).  We deposit the layers using plasma methods and the films typically have a thickness of < 1 micron.  The thin films are characterized by measuring their electrical optical properties to determine their suitability for solar cells.  In our approach we try to understand the details of the physics and chemistry that occurs during deposition and relate these details to the resulting film properties, so that an informed and systematic optimization can be carried out.  The second project in on plasma modification of biomaterials.  These are thin film or surfaces that must be in contact with human tissue and blood (for example, biomedical devices, heart valves, etc.)  Using plasma-based methods, we can deposit and/or modify the surfaces of these films, and then use various structural and chemical characterizations to assess their suitability as biomaterials.   Though mainly experimental, both projects have a theoretical and computational component as well.  The research is multidisciplinary, using ideas and methods from condensed matter physics, plasma physics,  and gas phase and surface chemistry, and biophysics.   


Faculty Name: Professor James Heyman

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Title of Research: Ultrafast Spectroscopy of Electronic Materials

Description:  My research probes the electronic properties of graphene and other materials on sub-picosecond timescales using femtosecond laser spectroscopy.  We can study how materials will behave in future high speed electronic devices with time-resolved optical measurements. I plan to hire two to four students this summer.  Ongoing projects for in my lab include (1) fabrication and characterization of graphene samples, (2) femtosecond time-resolved conductivity measurements at Macalester, and (3) and time-resolved mid-infrared spectroscopy at the University of Minnesota. I usually take on students who have completed Modern (PHYS-331) and Lab Instrumentation (PHYS-348).  Please contact me if you are interested in working in my lab next summer.


Faculty Name: Professor Tonnis ter Veldhuis

Department: Physics and Astronomy

Title of Research: Theoretical Particle Physics

Description: My interests include the physics of the Higgs boson, the elusive particle predicted to exists by the Standard model and currently being hunted for at the world's most powerful particle accelerators, and the physics of dark matter, the stuff recent observations indicate to be the dominant component of matter in our universe. I also study supersymmetric extensions of the Standard Model, scenarios in which our Universe is embedded in a higher dimensional space-time, and mechanisms of dynamical symmetry breaking.

Professor ter Veldhuis is on sabbatical and will not be accepting students for the summer of 2016.