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Rocky Mountain Alliance for Minority Participation (RM-AMP)

UNC is a member of the Rocky Mountain Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program. We are members of the consortium of thirteen institutions of higher education working to increase the number of Black/African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, and Alaska Native students earning bachelor's degrees in STEM.

2024 Summer Research Opportunity

Participating in research is a great way to explore what it’s really like to be a scientist! Research and experience show us that active involvement in research connects you with key concepts in your learning and provides valuable experience. This summer, the RM AMP at UNC is collaborating with the Office of Undergraduate Research and the STEM-IEC to offer a paid  five week summer research experience.

The five-week program runs from May 28 through June 28, 2024, and includes a stipend of $2500. As a program participant you will collaborate with a graduate student or faculty member on an existing project--spending  20 hours a week gaining valuable research experience. Your mentor will collaborate with you to set norms for the research experience, establish weekly goals, and discuss the various elements of a research project such as background information, project design, data collection, and data analysis. By the end of the research experience, you will have done a lot of research, written an abstract, and be prepared to present about your experience at the Fall Undergraduate Research Symposium on campus. Each week, you will also meet with the other students on the Summer Experience program and with Dr. Andrea James who is coordinating the program.

Apply to join the 2024 Summer Research Experience 

How to Apply? Step One

Identify three specific research opportunities for the summer experience that interest you.  Check out the research mentors below.  We have included brief descriptions of their projects and some information about what a day of research might look like.

Cristina Barros. The project: My research is focused on the investigating why and under what contexts female Red-winged Blackbirds sing. I will be banding adult Red-winged Blackbirds, observing their natural singing behaviors, performing playback experiments, and monitoring nests to measure reproductive success. I am looking for a research assistant to assist me in performing this field research from May-July. I will provide training in general research methods such as bird banding, data collection, and data analysis. This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to get some hands-on experience in biology research. As a Latina, I am hoping to extend this opportunity to a student from an underrepresented background, and provide a sense of community.  What a research day would look like: On a typical day, we will wake up early and head to one of the field sites, and band birds, followed by focal watches and recording the songs the Red-winged Blackbirds are singing, or monitoring nests. On days we are not banding, our mornings will begin with performing playback trials. Usually we will be out in the field from 6am - 10am. After completing field work in the morning, we head to the lab at UNC and input any audio recordings or data we have collected. Days end around 2pm. 

Sara Dankwah. The Project: A key challenge to cancer treatment is the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapeutics; a mechanism known as multidrug resistance (MDR). MDR is known to be mediated by transmembrane proteins called ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) transporters. These transporters efflux and reduce the accumulation of drugs in cancer cells thus rendering chemotherapy inefficient. Interestingly, these same transporters protect stem cells in the body. Using a well-studied stem cell niche in Drosophila, our research is investigating how these ABC transporters maintain the germline stem cell population, shedding light on potential ways to improve cancer treatment. What a research day would look like: Our primary work is done in the Leatherman Lab at UNC.  We use a well-studied stem cell niche in the testis of Drosophila melanogaster as our model organism. Daily tasks can span from delving into research papers to grasp project backgrounds to performing gene knockdown and genetic crosses employing the GAL4-UAS system. Participants will learn how to perform tissue dissection and also employ immunofluorescent staining and microscopy to evaluate the impact of gene knockdown on diverse tissues within the stem cell niche. Participants will then learn to use the confocal microscope, analyze images, interpret data, and properly document findings.

Drs. Victoria Duncan and Susan Keenan. The Project: Curiosity is the first step toward change. Looking through an equity lens, the Equity Hub explores Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in higher education—as it applies to multiple experiences including first-generation in college, gender identity, race and ethnicity, and income.  What are we interested in?  Anything related to folks' experiences in college, as long as we are exploring the topic in an anti-deficit, culturally positive way. For the summer experience, you can determine the direction of your work.  What questions resonate with you?  What experiences would you like to explore?  Together we will develop a research question and identify the best approach to gather data. You might implement a survey, develop a short interview protocol, or gather information from other resources—it depends on your question! What a research day would look like: Research time is flexible, fitting in with your schedule and other responsibilities. You can work with us on campus or complete your work remotely.  We will have regular weekly check-ins and of course, be around for impromptu questions and conversations.

Tyra Goodluck. The Project: The corpus luteum (CL) is a temporary gland producing progesterone for early pregnancy. Uterine secretion of Prostaglandin F2a (PGF2a) induces CL regression in the case of no pregnancy. PGF2a reduces luteal blood flow causing hypoxia, impacting mitochondrial function and progesterone production. Prior research suggests fish meal supplementation protects against PGF2a's effects, but the mechanism is unknown. This research project aims to explore how omega-3 fatty acids from fish meal-supplemented cows' serum affect mitochondrial health during acute hypoxia in bovine luteal cells. What a research day would look like: In the Burns' Lab, our goal is to uncover the luteoprotective effects of fishmeal supplementation in cattle. Our daily routine kicks off at 8 am with plating a primary cell culture of luteal cells, significant for various experiments like confocal microscopy and flow cytometry that will be used throughout the week. These experiments involve staining cultured cells for mitochondria and lipid droplets, to further understand organelle morphologies under the influence of serum from corn-gluten or fish meal-supplemented cows. Confocal microscopy aids in understanding cellular changes during acute hypoxia, while flow cytometry reveals differences in luteal cell populations following treatment. After we finish setting up experiments or during down-time, we spend time reading primary literature, exploring topics about the bovine corpus luteum, lipid droplets, mitochondria, and omega-3 fatty acids, to further our understanding and pose questions about the intricate mechanisms behind fish meals' luteoprotective properties.

Mary Hall. The Project: The Buss Lab focuses on the synthesis of organic photocatalysts (PCs) that will ultimately enable "greener" synthetic lab work in both research and industrial settings. I am currently working on the synthesis and characterization of organic PCs that can be incorporated onto polymer backbones for simplified recovery. The goal is to develop a polymer supported photocatalyst that can be modified to fit the specific needs of a reaction by making methodical adjustments to a core PC. These catalysts will be energy efficient, improve atom economy, and will ultimately functionalize greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These PCs are designed to operate under mild conditions and their improved recyclability will bolster their commercial viability. What a research day would look like: This research would involve daily work in the lab. The student will acquire a range of organic synthesis skills ranging from setting up reactions to purification techniques and characterization of the product. Students will also have the opportunity to learn how to characterize the molecules synthesized using UV-vis spectroscopy, fluorescence, and NMR.

Dr. Andrea James. The Project: Tissue fusion is guided by multiple molecules outside and inside of the cell. We utilize the developing zebrafish eye to create 3D models of tissue fusion. Our previous work demonstrated that the eye closes in different areas at different times. This summer we are identifying which areas of eye are affected by inhibition of the actin cytoskeleton. We will utilize confocal microscopy of fluorescing zebrafish eyes to identify which areas of the eye are most effected in the presence of cytoskeletal inhibitors. These images will then be processed and analyzed for spatiotemporal changes in tissue fusion dynamics. These data will then be shared with the Engstrom lab in Physics to help create a computer model of 3D tissue fusion. What a research day would look like: The summer will have a general shift in what our days look like each week. In the beginning weeks we will focus on breeding and imaging the zebrafish in a variety of different inhibitor conditions. This would mean, one afternoon we set up the fish to breed. Day 2 we collect and screen for health. Day 3 we screen the embryos for which have green glowing eyes and prepare them for overnight imaging. Day 4 we add and remove the inhibitor while the fish remains under the scope. Day 5 we prepare the imaging movies for analysis.  In the first 2-3 weeks we will do ~2 movie collections each week while training on the imaging analysis in our down time.  As we move closer to the end of summer we will focus on completing out image analysis of all the summer movies. Much of our day could be split in the early morning to the later afternoon (so 9-11 and 2-5) leaving you available for classes during late morning, and early afternoons. Not all hours are required in the lab however this flexibility would not be available until the last 2 weeks of the program.

Rebecca Phelps. The Project: My current project involves investigating steroidogenesis in the corpus luteum (CL) of female cows. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex during stress. The Burns laboratory recently conducted a proteomic analysis on luteal tissue collected from cows supplemented with corn gluten meal or fish meal (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids). The enzymes that regulate biosynthesis of cortisol were present in luteal tissue and were greater in cows supplemented with fish meal. The objective of this project is to measure cortisol in luteal tissue collected from cows supplemented with corn gluten meal or fish meal.  What a research day would look like: The student will mostly be in the laboratory with an option to do field work if they choose. This is optional for the student and would require an animal care certification provided by Dr. Burns. The lab work will include learning how to set up serial dilutions, extracting hormones from luteal tissue, and following protocols when setting up an assay. Introductory labs skills such as pipetting, calculating volumes, and quality control will be introduced prior to any tissue extractions and assays. Once the assays are completed, the student will learn how to input, analyze, and represent the data graphically. 


How to Apply:  Step Two

 Prepare responses to the questions in the application. 

  • How will the summer research experience help you accomplish your career goals?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a scientist?  Please explain why or why not?

Your answers don’t need to be long (max~ 300 words) but they should give us an idea of who you are and why you want to participate in the program.

How to Apply:  Step Three

Complete the application



Have questions? Contact us at stem.iec@unco.edu