Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) Directory

The FRAP Directory allows students to identify UCSB faculty who are looking for undergraduate students to participate in their research projects or creative activities. Please use the links below to find opportunities by discipline. Students, if your desired discipline is not listed, please contact the Undergraduate Research Initiatives office at 805-893-3090 or urca@ltsc.ucsb.edu for assistance. Faculty, if you would like to post your research or creative activity opportunity, please complete the online submission form.

Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology

Rolf Christoffersen

Location:
Bio II, Rm 3125
893-3500

Research Project

The chemical analysis of volatiles produced during yeast fermentation of grape must to produce wine aromas and flavors. We are using small scale laboratory fermentation to model the process used in production wineries. The goal is to determine environmental and yeast genetic factors that contribute the production of fine wines.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduate students will set up fermentation experiments, collect liquid and volatile samples, analyze them by various chemical assays including gas chromatography, HPLC, and other laboratory assays.

Requirements

Upper division biology or chemistry major. Students who have take one or two upper division laboratory courses are preferred.

Ruth Finkelstein

Location:
2127 Bio II
893-4800

Research Project

We study mechanisms of signal transduction in response to abscisic acid (ABA), a hormone that affects many important features of plant growth including embryo development, dormancy, stress tolerance, and senescence. We are using a genetic approach by studying mutants of Arabidopsis with altered sensitivity to ABA. We have cloned several transcription factors and several proteins of unknown biochemical function involved in ABA response and are currently investigating their regulation, interactions, and mechanism of action in the ABA- and stress-signaling network.

Undergraduate Contribution

Students participating in this project build recombinant DNA expression and reporter constructs, then analyze their function in yeast or plants; these techniques are directly transferable to studies of many other organisms. Students participating in this project analyze gene expression by RNA analyses and reporter activity, protein accumulation by Western blots and expression of fusion proteins, and test the effects of altered expression on growth, stress tolerance and gene expression of mutant or transgenic plants. Many undergrads have contributed to peer-reviewed publications.

Requirements

Motivation and interest in scientific research. Course prerequisites: Introductory Biology (MCDB 1AB), Genetics (MCDB 101AB or EEMB129, may be taken concurrently).

Kathy Foltz

Location:
3156 Marine Biotech
893-4774

Research Project

A main research question in our group centers on how eggs are activated at the time of fertilization. We use several marine invertebrates as model systems to address this process, which is highly conserved across all multicellular species, including mammals. Some of our projects focus on specific proteins and signaling pathways, others are more discovery-based.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates can contribute in several ways. First, students can learn how to evaluate large, information-rich data sets and search public databases as we compile and annotate the thousands of proteins that undergo changes in phosphorylation state or exhibit dynamic interaction complexing in the first few minutes post fertilization. Students can also assist in validation and characterization of candidate proteins. Finally, we are initiating a transcriptome assessment using deep sequencing in order to gain even further insight into the changes occurring in the egg to embryo transition and students will participate directly in mRNA isolation, library construction, and sequence analyses. All undergraduates in the lab assist with husbandry of marine invertebrates in seawater aquaria, learn to collect gametes, and to set and culture embryos.

Requirements

Students should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and be passionate about investigating biological phenomena, viewing this as an opportunity to immerse in the process of science. There are no specific course requirements, though a strong background in genetics, cell biology and developmental biology is desirable. Familiarity with computers is helpful and any experience with RNA isolation and library construction is a plus. A minimum time commitment of 15 hr per week is required.

Claudia Gottstein

Location:
6313 Bio II

Research Project

The longterm goal of the project is i) to investigate differences in surface marker expression of cancer stem cells compared to normal stem cells and mature cancer cells, ii) to correlate these differences to other cellular phenotypes and iii) to exploit these differences therapeutically. We work with antibody phage display libraries to isolate specific antibodies to breast cancer stem cells, and we investigate the surface expression patterns on cytospins and tissues of breast cancer cells and normal cells.

Undergraduate Contribution

A subproject is to stain breast cancer tissues and normal tissues with candidate antibodies for breast cancer stem cells. This entails sectioning of frozen tissues, and immunofluorescent staining of these tissues, as well as microscopic analysis of the sections. There is a possibility to also assist in protein expression and cell culture later in the project, depending on the general project results.

Requirements

Experience in tissue sectioning and handling is a plus but not required. Please submit CV, transcripts, cover letter and the contact information of one reference. GPA reqs for MCDB199.

David Low

Location:
3306 LSB
893-5597

Research Project

Analysis of contact-dependent growth inhibition between bacterial cells. Genetic screens and selections for CDI-resistant mutants.

Undergraduate Contribution

Set up and carry out genetics screens and selections for contact-dependent growth inhibition. Investigate pathways by which CDI toxins are delivered and kill target bacterial cells.

Requirements

Prefer student has taken MCDB 101A with a B or better and have some lab experience, 10-20 hrs/wk school year, need to be free in summer to work, full-time, with support likely. Looking for motivated, self-starter, research-oriented students.

Zach Ma

Location:
3119 LSB
893-4745

Research Project

Research in our group focuses on the unconventional functions of histone H3 lysine 4 methyltransferase complexes (H3K4MTs), an epigenetic machinery which methylates histone H3 lysine 4 in the nucleus.  In particular we are investigating the surprising roles of H3K4MT subunits in cell division, ciliary function and infection/immunity. H3K4 methylation is a hallmark of active transcription. Mutation and misregulation of H3K4MT subunits is directly linked to cancers, life span/aging, immunity, diabetes, mental retardation, and stem cell differentiation. Current literature almost exclusively focuses on the relationship between H3K4MT complexes and transcription; however, whether these proteins have any cytoplasmic functions is little known. Discovering these non-transcriptional activities is key to clarifying the association of H3K4MTs with pathophysiological events.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates will typically spend the first one or two quarters being trained in basic molecular, cellular and biochemical skills. Then the undergraduate will contribute to the research in one of the three areas mentioned above (cell division, ciliary function or infection and immunity). The undergraduates will be placed in teams of 3-4 people and will each work individually towards a common goal. 

Requirements

There are no specific course requirements, although a strong passion in research is required. Most projects will require a minimum time commitment of 10hrs per week.

Craig Montell

Location:
LSB 2109
805-893-3634

Research Project

A central question in neurobiology is how animal behavior and decision making is controlled by the environment. Using molecular genetic, electrophysiological, biochemical and cell biological approaches in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Our laboratory is defining the receptors and ion channels that sense the outside world, and impact on decisions ranging from food selection to choosing the ideal thermal landscape, mate selection and others. One of the key sensory receptors that we are characterizing are TRP channels, which in one animal or another responds to virtually all types of sensory inputs and impacts on a wide range of behaviors. We are also deciphering polymodal sensory roles of rhodopsins, gustatory receptors and ionotropic receptors, and defining the behaviors that they control.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates will typically work with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. Students will learn a variety of modern lab techniques including animal behavior, genetics, molecular cloning, immuno-histochemistry, confocal microscopy. The undergraduates will be carefully trained on how to design, perform, troubleshoot and interpret experiments.

Requirements

Undergraduates should be sophomores or above and have a 3.3 or above overall GPA. Students should commit a minimum of 10 hours per week for one year. Students with a background in genetics and lab experiences are preferred.

Denise Montell

Location:
3127 Bio II
893-3633

Research Project

We study how cells build and maintain normal adult tissues, which includes matintenance of stem cells, patterning the fates of stem cell daughters, epithelial morphogenesis and motility and how cells make life and death decisions. We use state-of-the-art microscopy and imaging, genetics and molecular and cell biology. We study the Drosophila ovary and mammalian tissue culture cells. We collaborate with laboratories around the world with expertise in mathematics, engineering, tissue engineering, mouse genetics, etc.

Undergraduate Contribution

Undergraduates can contribute by working one-on-one with a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. Students will learn a variety of techniques in modern biomedical science such as molecular cloning, antibody staining, confocal microscopy, genetics, and tissue culture. Undergraduates will participate in all aspects of the project including experimental design, technical execution, trouble shooting, interpretation of results and formulating next steps.

Requirements

Undergraduate students should be sophomores or above and should have a 3.5 overall GPA and 3.5 science GPA as well as some laboratory experience. Students should be able to commit to at least 10 hours per week for one year. Summer participation is encouraged. A strong foundation in basic principles of biology is necessary. Prior or concurrent coursework in cell biology and genetics is a plus.

Daniel Morse

Location:
3155, Marine Biote
805-893-3157

Research Project

Biophotonics: Join an exciting interdisciplinary project at the frontiers of biology, chemistry, physics and materials engineering, focused on discovery of the underlying mechanisms by which living organisms harness light for camouflage, communication and energy in the underwater world, and translation of these mechanisms for advances in new materials and breakthrough technologies. We're discovering how specific genes and proteins in marine molluscs ranging from squids to giant clams produce nanostructures that control the wavelength (color) and intensity of light they reflect for stealth, signaling and enhanced photosynthesis, and working with colleagues in local industry to translate these findings for practical advances in new photonic and infrared technologies. Opportunities to participate at each of these levels, from the DNA and protein levels, analyses of the biomolecular nanostructures, optical and photonic analyses, and development and characterization of new materials and photonic, IR and photovoltaic devices. Undergraduates who have participated in this project previously have benefitted from the individualized mentoring provided, and gone on to advanced studies in some of the best graduate programs in the country, and to rewarding careers in research and industry.

Undergraduate Contribution

Opportunities to participate at each of these levels, from the DNA and protein levels, analyses of the biomolecular nanostructures, optical and photonic analyses, and development and characterization of new materials and photonic, IR and photovoltaic devices. Undergraduates who have participated in this project previously have benefitted from the individualized mentoring provided, and gone on to advanced studies in some of the best graduate programs in the country, and to rewarding careers in research and industry.

Requirements

(1) Passionate curiosity about the still unknown molecular, cellular, energetic and physical mechanisms of life and its evolution, its adaptations to light and to life in the oceans, and/or a deep interest in learning from the unique advantages evolved by living systems to guide the development of new routes to advanced materials and technologies; (2) Sufficient time for research as described above (minimum of ca. 20 hrs/week; 2 or more consecutive quarters); (3) academic focus and sufficient preparation in some area congruent with this research (in either biology, biochem., physics, chemistry, materials, energy, engineering, etc.; some demonstration of appropriate skill or prior experience; strong GPA.

Eduardo Orias

Location:
Bio 2, 1123
3024

Research Project

This project aims to understand “chromosome unscrambling”, a phenomenon in the microbial eukaryote Tetrahymena recently discovered in our lab. Certain genes were naturally split by translocation to different chromosome locations in the germline genome, and were thus functionally disabled. These genes are accurately and efficiently restored (unscrambled), during differentiation of the somatic genome, by programmed homologous recombination at a shared repeat in each half of the split gene. We propose to do original research to investigate the molecular basis of this phenomenon by experimentally modifying or deleting elements of the process.

Undergraduate Contribution

The student will carry out the research by deleting one of the repeats to test our prediction that both repeats are required for the unscrambling process. Two cell lines with deletions of the same repeat will be crossed to one another and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification tests will be done to determine if unscrambling worked or was disabled. The work will involve,, in addition to PCR amplification, designing DNA constructs to delete the repeat, designing PCR primers, gel electrophoresis, cloning and sequencing PCR products, restriction enzyme digestion, introducing the deletion constructs into the germline genome by DNA transformation, crossing cell lines and characterizing progeny phenotypes. The student will present a quarterly progress report in the form of an oral, PowerPoint-illustrated presentation at one of our weekly lab meetings.

Requirements

Course: MCDB 101A;
GPA: At least 3.0;
Skills: Word-processing, spread sheets, PowerPoint, calculating dilutions
Availability: 15 hr per week, including some 3-4 hr blocks of time between classes

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