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 2023 Research Opportunities
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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)
House wren evolutionary ecology with Dr. Pirmin Nietlisbach, Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology
Since 1980, faculty at Illinois State University have been studying a house wren population in forests along the Mackinaw River. These small birds breed in nestboxes and are fairly tolerant of human researchers. The birds in our study area have been marked with numbered metal bands every year and samples for genetic analysis have been collected from many of them. All this makes them an ideal system to study a range of questions in evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology. Among other topics, our team currently researches the following questions. What determines if a bird goes on to raise a second brood after successfully raising its first clutch of young birds, and how does that influence the ability of these birds to adapt to climate change? How were these birds able to advance their average breeding time by about 5 days since 1980 and how does that affect their ability to adjust or adapt to future environmental changes? What components make a song of a male house wren particularly attractive to female house wrens, and what can we learn from that about the evolution of complex communication signals? How are these birds choosing their mates and how does that choice affect how they work together to feed and defend their offspring?
Students will learn more about several of these research projects. You will then accompany team members into the forest to observe and assist in data collection. For example, you will be able to observe tasks such as weighing or banding of nestling birds and you will help looking for adult house wrens and reading their color bands with binoculars. In the lab at Illinois State University, you will set up and analyze a genetic amplification reaction (PCR) to genetically determine the sex of young house wrens. Overall, you will learn about some typical methodologies used in bird research in the fields of ecology and evolution. (Minimum = 3 high school students, maximum = 9 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 = 4 high school students, maximum = 14 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 = 4 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
Nanometer Scale Materials Growth and Characterizations for Emerging Technologies with Dr. Mahua Biswas , Assistant Professor of Physics
Current research interest of Biswas group in the Physics Department at Illinois State University is on fabrication of nanometer scale materials for emerging technologies. My current research work patterning metal oxides and nitrides for applications such as Solar Cells (PSCs), light emitting diodes (LEDs), lasers and other electronic devices. My research laboratory is equipped with state of the art facilities for atomic layer deposition method, and a glove box with a very low level of O 2 and moisture for nanostructure deposition purpose, spin coater for nanometer scale thin film deposition of materials and other material processing tools such as centrifuge, high and low temperature furnaces. For the morphological and structural characterization of the nanostructures, we employ Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), optical spectroscopy techniques. We study the fundamental mechanism behind the nanomaterial formation and the nanomaterials properties using high resolution microscopy and spectroscopy techniques. The interested students will be able learn about these instruments and how these instruments are used for nanoscience and its applications. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 5 high school students)
Understanding Light and its Interaction with Matter with Dr. Uttam Manna, Associate Professor of Physics
Monitoring river bank change and sediment movement with Dr. Lisa Tranel, Associate Professor of Geology
When rivers flood, water moves sediments (silt, sand, gravel) along the valley floor. As water levels rise and velocity increases, erosion can also occur along the banks. Deposition of woody debris can also block water flow and influence where erosion occurs. The shape of the river channel and the size of the sediments in the river bed can help predict the efficiency of the river to move big or small material. Repeated observations along river banks allow for calculation of the volume of material that moves after significant flood events. Understanding the river’s transport potential during floods and the properties and stability of banks helps inform land owners about potential migration of the river channel and landslide or slump hazards along the river banks.
In this project, we will collect field observations in locations along the Mackinaw River where hillslopes and river banks are at risk for erosion and mass movements. We will collect three dimensional images of bank slopes to start monitoring potential change with flood events or seasons. We will survey the river channel width and slope and measure water flow velocity to understand river discharge and flow conditions specific to our study sites. We will also collect sediment size distributions from the active channels to evaluate the sediments that are transported and deposited during base level and bankfull flow. Some sediments will be collected and further sorted in the lab to define both small and large sediments in the river system. With these data, we will evaluate the stream power to understand how floods impact the river channel and banks during flood events. In the computer lab, we will look at lidar data and surficial geologic and soil maps to further evaluate the potential for erosion and landslides along the river’s path. We will also create and evaluate the three dimensional models of the river banks. Through this project, students will gain experience in field, lab and computing methods to understand important active surface processes in central Illinois relevant to geologic and environmental problems. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 6 high school students)
Data Management for Internet of Things (IoT) and Cube Sattelite (CubeSat) Applications with Dr. Elahe Javadi, Associate Professor, and Dr. Will Lewis, Assistant Professor, School of Information Technology
This Information Technology research academy will introduce students to two state-of-the-art data collection, processing, and management technologies: (1) Internet of Things (IoT) applications and (2) Cube Satellite (CubeSat) & software-based radio applications. Students will use biometric IoT devices and research data management (reliability, processing, quality) issues surrounding the IoT data management cycle. Students also experiment with a CubeSat ground station at ISU, examining data exchanges, and implications for future research in the intersection of Information Technology and space explorations. (Minimum = 8 high school students, maximum = 16 high school students)
Computational Neuroscience with Dr. Rosangela Follmann, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and Dr. Epa Rosa, Professor of Physics
Billions of neurons make up our brains where the emergence of synchronous behavior is one of the most fundamental questions in the field of neuroscience. In a system as complex as the human brain, synchronization of neuronal activity can be useful and necessary as during the sleep cycles and in consolidation of memory, but can also be problematic and undesirable as in disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Students will learn how to apply concepts from computer science, physics, math, and biology to understand how the brain operates, and will learn basics of Python coding to implement and simulate neurons’ behaviors. (Minimum = 2 high school students, maximum = 4 high school students)