Specific ISRA opportunities will be canceled if enrollment minimums are not met. Should this occur, students will be given the chance to move to an opportunity with open seats or have their money refunded.
Summer 2024 Research Opportunities
Below are the research opportunities for ISRA 2024!
Investigating stress resistance in pathogens with Dr. Jan Dahl, Assistant Professor of Microbiology
Antibiotics are crucial medicines used for treating bacterial infections in humans and animals. Antibiotics were discovered as secondary metabolites secreted by microbes to suppress and nullify the growth of competing microorganisms. Without antibiotics, a common infection could potentially be life threatening. Unfortunately, due to antibiotic misuse, bacteria have gradually gained resistance to all major classes of antibiotics, while the discovery of new antibiotics has declined significantly.
To mitigate this crisis, research efforts are being focused on identifying novel antibiotics through screening of bioactive secondary metabolites produced by soil microbes. More than half (60%) of currently used antibiotics were derived from Actinomycetota soil bacteria alone! Considering that a single gram of soil can harbor up to 1,000,000 species of bacteria, soil microbiota could potentially be a treasure trove of antibiotic synthesizing microbes. During the Illinois Summer Research Academy, we will use a variety of biochemical and microbiological techniques to isolate and screen for bioactive metabolite synthesizing microbes.
In addition, you will also investigate the responses of bacteria against hypochlorous acid, a key player in the mammalian host defense against invading pathogens. You will use a broad range of genetic, biochemical, and microbiological methods to study bacterial responses to HOCl. Our goal is to identify the genes that confer resistance to HOCl in bacteria and hence against the host immune response. (Minimum = 8 high school students, maximum = 12 high school students)
Bacteria: From Single Cells to Large-Scale Communities with Dr. Kyle Floyd, Assistant Professor of Microbiology
Since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek first observed and described bacteria in 1677, it has been believed that bacteria primarily live a solitary single cellular life-style. However, today we recognize that most bacterial species possess the ability to develop and thrive within multicellular communities, known as biofilms. This communal life-style provides a level of protection to the bacteria, which can enhance their survival. In the case of pathogenic bacteria, biofilm formation can play a vital role during host infection. The Floyd Lab at ISU studies the dynamics of how bacteria attach to surfaces to initiate the process of biofilm community formation. During this research opportunity, students will learn about the impacts of biofilm formation on bacterial life-styles, as well as bacterial interactions with human. Further, students will learn hands-on techniques for growing and isolating different types of bacteria, visualizing bacteria under the microscope, and methods for the development and observation of biofilm communities. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 20 high school students)
House wren evolutionary ecology with Dr. Pirmin Nietlisbach, Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Genetics
Description of Dr. Nietlisbach's research will be updated soon. Please note, it is tentative whether or not Dr. Nietlisbach will particpate in ISRA 2024 as he is waiting for confirmation on another scheduled program. If you are interested in participating in this research, please fill out the registration accordingly. If Dr. Nietlisbach's program is cancelled, you will be moved to your second choice research lab.
Computational Chemistry with Dr. George Barnes, Professor of Chemistry
Chemists are interested in determining how chemical reactions take place, which is called a reaction mechanism . Computer simulations are one means of determining a reaction mechanism . These simulations allow researchers to visualize chemistry by " watching" reactions occur . The Barnes group focuses on reactions that take place within high-energy collision systems . Our work has highlighted that proton motion and non-covalent complexes play a crucial role in the dynamics and the overall products formed during dissociation events. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 4 high school students)
Biochemistry with Dr. Marjorie A. Jones, Professor of Biochemistry
Students will learn to grow Leishmania tarentolae, a one-celled organism, which is a pathogen for reptiles but not humans, so it can safely be used as a model system. Students will learn how to grow cells using sterile technique and measure cell growth using several enzyme assays. Students will also help perform spectroscopy assays to measure how additions of various compounds affect the cells. The long-term goal of this research is to propose new pharmaceutical drugs to treat human Leishmania diseases, which infect more than 20–25 million people worldwide and for which there are few good treatments. (Minimum = 6 high school students, maximum = 18 high school students)
Application of Computational Modeling to Solve Chemistry Problems with Dr. Bhaskar Chilukuri, Assistant Professor of Physical Chemistry
Conventional knowledge tells you that research in chemistry often involves studying and creating matter through laboratory experiments. However, NOT all properties/behavior of matter can be understood by experiments alone. In the Chilukuri lab, we use advanced computational modeling methods in tandem with experiments to study the fundamental behavior of matter for applications in fields like electronics, sensors, catalysis, and functional material development. During ISRA experience, students will be introduced to experimental and computational modeling techniques to study the properties of various organic and metal-organic species. With guidance and training, each participant will be preparing various chemical solutions, characterizing them with state-of-the-art instruments, run simulations on the respective chemical models using molecular modeling codes and analyze/compare the results from experiments and computations. The goal is to introduce students to computational chemistry and its application to solve experimental problems. Students will work in groups of two and at the end of the week present their work to their peers. (Minimum = 3 high school students, maximum = 6 high school students)
Typical molecular structure (left) and its corresponding electrostatic potential map (right). The map provides information about the electronic charge of the molecule (red- electron rich, blue-elect
Construction Materials Technology
Recycling of waste materials and industrial by-products for making Green Concrete with Dr. Pranshoo Solanki , Professor of Construction Management
Concrete is one of the most common construction materials in the world. To make concrete you need cement, which is the chemical binder, sand, stone, and water. However, cement manufacturing emits 8% of the planet' s carbon dioxide, which makes it a major contributor to worldwide greenhouse emissions. Further, natural resources such as sand and stone are limited. Therefore, in this hands-on opportunity, students will engage in research to design their Green Concrete ™ using waste materials and industrial by-products (e.g., fly ash, plastic fibers, glass, shredded tire, recycled aggregates, blast furnace slag, etc.). Students will learn all the steps of the project from design to manufacturing and testing. Each student will also build a laboratory scale sample and find a real-world application for their Green Concrete, based on the experiments. Overall, students will learn how construction materials can be made more environmentally friendly. (Minimum = 1 high school students, maximum = 8 high school students)
Nanometer Scale Materials Growth and Characterizations for Emerging Technologies with Dr. Mahua Biswas, Assistant Professor of Physics
The research and developments of nanomaterials have made great strides in recent years. Nanomaterials have revolutionized the way technology is used in modern society and are showing promise for emerging technologies. With their unique properties, these materials have enabled numerous applications that could not be imagined before. Their small size and high surface area can lead to enhanced optical, electrical, and mechanical properties. Nanopatterning of materials is an emerging field with a wide range of applications. It has been used in various fields, such as electronics, optics, photonics, energy, and biomedical engineering. In our laboratory, we perform growth and patterning of different materials such as polymers and inorganic materials (e.g., aluminum oxide, silicon oxide, aluminum nitride) using a modified atomic layer deposition method. We study the grown nanometer scale materials using scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray electron spectroscopy, optical spectroscopy, and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. While working in my group, the students will be able to work with several state-of-the-art nanomaterial fabrication instruments, will become familiar with the characterization procedures of these materials, and will get insight into how modern devices use nanomaterials for improved performances. (Minimum = 8 high school students, maximum = 12 high school students)
Understanding Light and its Interaction with Matter with Dr. Uttam Manna, Associate Professor of Physics
Perhaps you are aware that white light is a mixture of seven colors - the rainbow colors! Have you ever wondered what makes the color of light different from one another? Do you know that how light interacts with different matters (such as glass, water, air, etc.) depend on the color of the light? As part of this ISRA opportunity, I will introduce you to our current research and the tools and techniques that are used to probe how light interacts with matter. Apart from fundamental aspects of light-matter interactions, I will introduce you to the concept of metamaterials which can bend light around an object and lead to novel nanophotonic devices, such as invisibility cloaks, super lens, etc. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 12 high school students)
Actuarial Science with Dr. Xing Wang, Assistant Professor of Actuarial Science
This project will provide valuable insights into the complex world of catastrophe risk and insurance. It will guide students to underscore the critical role of advanced modeling techniques and technology in risk assessment, the need for adaptive insurance solutions in the face of climate change, and the potential for innovation to drive improvements in the insurance industry. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of how insurers can better protect individuals, businesses, and communities from the financial devastation caused by catastrophic events. (Minimum = 4 high school students, maximum = 10 high school students)