Faculty Mentored Research

Undergraduate research fosters deep learning as the student engage collaboratively under the guidance of a faculty mentor to create and solve a research problem. See our faculty research mentors below. The LSAMP program will fund a number of research scholarships for students to carry out research for eight weeks during the summer session. Students who have successfully completed their research experience are encouraged to present their research findings during the Louis Stokes Midwest Center for Excellence annual conference and the IUSB Undergraduate Research Conference.

Dr. Andrew Schnabel
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Research area: Plant ecology and evolution.
Dr. Schnabel studies the ecology and evolution of plant populations and species.  His current research focuses on two projects.  First, he uses a combination of greenhouse experiments and studies of molecular genetic diversity to explore the reproductive ecology of two Hibiscus species from East Africa.  Second, he uses genome sequencing to help understand the phylogenetic history of Gleditsia and its closely related genera within the Umtiza clade of the Fabaceae.
Dr. Jerry Hinnefeld
Professor, Department of Physics
Research area: Experimental nuclear physics with interests in reactions with radioactive beams and reactions with astrophysical implications.
Dr. Deborah Marr
Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Research area: Plant disease ecology and evolution, and community ecology.
The first area of research is in disease spread and gene flow in a long-lived Alpine plant (Silene acaulis). This research will involve testing predictions from theoretical models by determining which pollinators carry the most S. acaulis pollen and M. violaceum fungal spores, track host demography and disease frequency in long-term study plots, and measure genetic diversity and estimate levels of gene flow on Pennsylvania Mountain and gene flow between surrounding mountains. The second area of research is comparing fungal communities that occur within native and non-native plants; studying Fusarium and other endophytic fungi associated with native and non-native plants.
Dr. Thomas Clark
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Research area: Comparative physiology, entomology, and insect physiology.
My work addresses the consequences of entry of psychotropic pharmaceuticals into the environment. I am particularly interested in drugs such as serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that alter serotonin levels. These drugs are appearing in waterways where they influence the animals in a number of ways. In insects, as in vertebrates such as mammals, serotonin is involved in regulation of multiple physiological processes, and also acts in the central nervous system to alter behavior. SSRIs alter appetite, feeding behaviors, and predator avoidance behaviors of aquatic invertebrates. Furthermore, these drugs are toxic, yet the toxicity is strongly pH dependent, with high toxicity in neutral and alkaline water and very low toxicity in acidic water, due to increased uptake of the drugs by animals in alkaline water. It is therefore likely that the effects of these drugs on behavior and appetite will occur at much lower concentrations in alkaline water. My research will continue to explore the effects of these and other drugs on behavior, appetite and feeding, and growth and reproduction of aquatic insects and other invertebrates.
Dr. Shahir Rizk
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Research area: Protein engineering.
Proteins are tiny machines that carryout all sorts of biological functions. Proteins adopt very precise 3D structures that enable them to carry out their functions. Mutations that disrupt protein structure in most cases result in proteins that are unable to perform their natural function, leading to disease. Our goal in the Rizk lab is to understand the structural basis of protein function; specifically, how to rescue the function of a mutant protein by forcing it to adopt its natural functional 3D structure (or conformation). We use protein-engineering tools to generate reagents based on antibody fragments that can precisely differentiate between different conformations of the same protein. We utilize a technique known as phage display, which allows the generation of engineered antibody fragments (Fabs), also known as synthetic antigen binders (sABs), with high affinity and specificity for a protein conformation. We have utilized this technique to generate a number of Fabs that can influence the function of proteins by influencing their structure. Importantly, our Fabs can be used to rescue the function of an enzyme involved in the development of brain tumors. Other work in the lab uses protein engineering with the goal of making nano-structures that can self-assembly in a reversible way. We also engineer proteins to act as biosensors for the detection of small molecules, such as herbicides and environmental pollutants, as well as biologically important molecules.
Dr. Grace Muna
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Research area: Electroanalysis and Chromatography. 
My research utilizes the unique properties of metal nanoparticles to develop sensitive and stable electroanalytical methods to detect priority environmental pollutants in environmental samples. This research involves modifying electrode surfaces with metal nanoparticles to tailor electrochemical reactions. For example, we have modified glassy carbon electrodes with nickel nanoparticles to catalyze the oxidation of steroid hormones. Steroid hormones are environmental pollutants that have been shown to cause feminization of male fish, even at very low concentrations. Another area of research is in developing stripping voltammetry analytical method to detect lead by modifying glassy carbon electrodes with bismuth nanoparticles. Traditionally electroanalysis of lead used mercury electrodes. Bismuth has ability to form alloys with different metals such as lead. Bismuth modified electrodes are a good alternative to mercury electrodes for trace metal analysis because they are environmentally friendly with low toxicity. The developed method will be used to determine lead in drinking water and soil.