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Summer Scholars Program

While there is a longstanding tradition of summer research in the department, the last two years have seen the genesis of the School of Humanities and Sciences Summer Scholar Program. Students in the Summer Scholar program come from all disciplines, from Biology to English. In addition to 8-10 weeks of full-time research, our Summer Scholars now engage in community activities that help them network and learn to communicate their research with people from the broad range of other disciplines. Each summer the Biology faculty mentor around eight students.

A Special Thank You

The full richness of experience we strive to provide each of our students is made possible by the families and friends who have made gifts to the department. We sincerely appreciate the support for students to gain research experiences and pursue academic goals that would otherwise have been beyond their reach. We are particularly pleased to acknowledge with gratitude the awards which provide ongoing assistance to the program:

  • Dr. James D. Albert ’78 and Bette Ann Sacks Albert ’80 Scholarship
  • The Bernard Family Fund for Undergraduate Research in Biology
  • Bertolini Endowment
  • The Jack and Flo Bernard Scholarship
  • Jason Dickens Book Fund
  • The George A. Gonzalez-Gallardo ‘79 Scholarship
  • Fred Kastenbaum PreHealth Award
  • Larry Metzger, M.S. ‘87, Memorial Scholarship
  • Thomas J. ‘02 & David C. ‘05 Metzger Undergraduate Research Fund

Melcher Lab

Peter’s lab has continued field and lab work on the ecophysiology of invasive plants in Puerto Rico (see Research Highlight), resulting most recently in Adriana Del Grosso (ENVS ‘18) and Sophia Pitti-Daly (‘19) presenting at the Northeast section of the American Society of Plant Biologists. Other research projects in the Melcher lab include studies aimed at understanding freezing and drought tolerance in plants with collaborators at the University of Vermont and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and they have just submitted their third major grant to NSF (fingers crossed!). Students in his lab have also contributed to collaborative research involved in understanding how plants regulate stomata with colleagues at Cornell University. And, recently, a peer-reviewed paper was published from his lab, with Adam Zelehowski (’17) and Robert Griffin-Nolan (‘13) as lead author, on understanding the role of green light in powering photosynthesis.

Inada Lab

Maki was granted tenure and promotion in spring 2016. The Inada lab is studying the regulation of gene expression in unicellular organisms, namely yeast. Currently, they are using high throughput mutagenesis methods to study the role of an unusual domain in the enzyme RNA polymerase on gene expression. In 2018, Jelani Williams (‘20), Lexi Burian (‘20), and Jared Barends (‘20) presented posters at ECSC, and Maki presented work at the RNA Society Meeting and at the Bermuda Principles Impact on Splicing Meeting. Last fall Maki was a coauthor on a paper in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on advances in lung precision medicine. Over last summer, Maki had a health setback with the reoccurance of lung cancer. However with amazingly targeted radiation therapy, she is on the road to recovery. What’s more, she’s on the road to Japan, where she is spending her sabbatical at the Riken Institute in Kobe learning exciting new single-cell RNA sequencing techniques.

Kanda Lab

As usual, Leann has several different projects going. In 2016 she published a paper on saw-whet owl movement with retired faculty member John Confer, and helped the Gondek
lab
on a paper on mouse microbiomes (see below). Last year, she and Amir Abdulhay (‘12) and Caity Erickson (‘12) published on the stability of dwarf hamster personalities
despite environmental enrichment. Leann has also just wrapped up a multi-year study on whether recreation trails affect wildlife movement (spoiler, they do). Current research
in the lab focuses on whether maternal stress shapes offspring personality, while field work includes using lawn flamingos to test if urban and rural wildlife have personality differences. Cara Hoefen (‘19), Emily Hutton (‘19), Chris Gallego Lazo (‘19), Cole Unmann (‘19) and Alaina White (‘20) presented posters on these latest projects at the Animal
Behavior Society conference in August 2018 in Milwaukee.

Hardwick Lab

The Hardwick lab continues their study of the effects of neuronal remodeling in the autonomic nervous system following myocardial infarction with the support of an NIH grant awarded in 2016. In 2015, Jean, Shannon Ryan (‘12), Emily Powers (‘15) and other collaborators published on the role of the hormone angiotensin II on cells in this system. Jean and Shannon are also coauthors with colleagues at East Tennessee State University and UCLA on a potential treatment to reduce symptoms after a myocardial infarction. Flora Tierney (’18) and Shannon Allen (’18) joined Jean to present work at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, Jean has been named a Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology; Dana Professorships are 5-year endowed appointments awarded to a select few Full Professors with outstanding teaching, research, and service who are leaders of Ithaca College. A great honor richly deserved!

Smith Lab

It’s been an exciting few years for slug glue and the Smith lab. Over the past several years Andy Smith and his students have identified several essential design features that make this glue so tough and sticky, producing a 2015 study with Alex Wilks (‘15), Holly Garbacz (‘15), Sarah Rabice (‘14) and Cailin Harro (‘17), a 2017 paper with Cassandra Papaleo (‘17), and a 2019 paper with Christopher Gallego Lazo (’19) and Kimberly Fung (’16). A research team at Harvard has designed a new medical adhesive based on the Smith lab’s findings. The new slug-inspired glue is dramatically stronger than any current medical adhesive. Andy was interviewed by media outlets such as the Washington Post, The Smithsonian Magazine, and PBS News Hour because of his contributions to the development of this glue. In addition he was interviewed on the podcast “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”. Rebecca Falconer (‘19) and Chris Gallego Lazo (‘19) presented at the 2019 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where their work also received international public press! The prominence for Andy and his lab isn’t just in the popular press, and Andy has been an invited speaker at several international professional conferences, including a keynote address at the Society for Experimental Biology in Sweden, and the keynote address for another international conference in Cambridge, UK.

Gondek Lab

Dave Gondek received tenure and promotion in spring of 2017, and has just returned from a fall sabbatical. His lab continues to examine the impacts of host-pathogen interactions of bacteria such as Chlamydia trachomatis and is focused on the role of cell death (apoptosis) in determining host specificity by the bacterial pathogen. Dave just received an NIH grant to support this work. Dave has also taken his first field research trip to Puerto Mosquito (Bioluminescent Bay) in Vieques, Puerto Rico, to begin a study on the bacteria and other microbes living there (see Research Highlight). In 2016, Dave published on how probiotics change the microbiome of mouse guts when recovering from antibiotics, with Leann Kanda and Hannah Grazul (‘16) as lead author. Dave and Leann have continued this project as a collaboration between Microbiology and Animal Behavior.

Lo Lab

Te-Wen Lo was recently granted tenure and promotion (Spring 2019). This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and enthusiasm of the Lo Lab members past and present. This is highlighted by numerous student authored publications (Lauren Skelly ‘16, Dallas Fonsceca ’18, JC Alexander ’18, Jason Webb ’19, and Emily Siniscalco ’19). In addition, the Lo Lab has actively presented their work annually at the Upstate New York C. elegans Meeting and at the ASBMB and International C. elegans Meetings. Current NIH funded research in the Lo Lab is focused on understanding how fibroblast growth factor signaling specificity has evolved.

Witherup Lab

Susan Witherup has continued her research projects surrounding Scaevola species (Fan Flowers) in Puerto Rico. The project is focused on describing the genetic diversity and pollination biology of the Caribbean native Scaevola plumieri (Inkberry). Research has involved using microsatellites to study genetic diversity and observing pollinator visitation, nectar content, and floral volatiles to study pollination biology. They are also interested in comparing these data to an invasive species in the same genus, Scaevola taccada. Susan’s students Lauren Ryan (’16), Adri Morales (’17), and Lauren Hodkinson (’18) traveled to Culebra and Vieques to make collections for microsatellite analyses. Collette Piasecki-Masters (’18) analyzed nectar composition and Ngawang Chime (’18) analyzed chloroplast genome data. Miranda Ella (’19) traveled to Culebra to study regeneration from hurricane Maria. Abby Wine (’20) and Maddy Trombley (’19) are continuing the genetic analyses. Mason Awe (’20) has begun an exploration into floral volatile profiles between the two species.

Miner Lab

Brooks Miner’s lab is now in its fourth year of research exploring how aquatic organisms have evolved to tolerate challenges in their environment, including UV radiation and thermal stress (both heat and cold). Lab members have presented their research at several scientific conferences, including the Ontario Ecology, Ethology and Evolution Colloquium: Cynthia Ulbing (’17) in 2017 (where she was awarded Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation), and Julia Muuse (’19) and Winona Platt (’20) in 2019. Most recently, Brooks traveled with four students to the national Evolution 2019 conference, where Alyssa Meta (’21), Katrina Webster (’21), and Sarah Cargill (’20) each presented research posters, and Sarah Scherbak (’20) gave a talk. The Miner Lab has also been active collecting Daphnia water fleas from ponds and lakes in NY and beyond, including a May 2018 collecting trip that took Brooks and Sarah Scherbak (’20) from Ithaca to central Michigan and back in only 5 days, with 14 bodies of water sampled and over 1200 miles driven (in one of IC’s hybrid sedans).

Cluett Lab

Ed Cluett’s focus on cholesterol trafficking within cells has been expanding. The Cluett lab has been investigating the role that cholesterol plays in the misfolding of amyloid precursor protein into the amyloid beta protein, whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Most recently, Claire Levitt (‘19) took her work on this exciting new area of research to the 2019 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Woods Lab

Ian Woods received tenure and promotion in the spring of 2017. In addition to ongoing work about the development and function of sensory neurons, Ian Woods and his lab has been recently pursuing exciting connections between these neurons and tissue regeneration. The Woods lab is particularly active in the Upstate New York Zebrafish Meetings. Victoria Wright (‘17) and Renee Felter-Rodriguez (‘17) presented at the 2017 meeting, and in 2018 Elizabeth Freilich (’18), Madison Chlebowski (’19), Taylor Yowan (‘19), Kevin Tran (‘18), and Nishat Rahman (‘19) each presented research. Elizabeth Freilich (’18) and Madison Chlebowski (’19) also joined the Hardwick lab at the Society for Neuroscience 2017 meeting; Lizzie’s work focused on the effect of the gene Cart3 on fin regeneration, and Mady’s research has explored the mechanisms of somatosensory nerve development.

Cortes Lab

Nanda’s lab studies population genetics of birds (microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA and genomics), mainly of Ravens and Neotropical Orioles. To better understand the speciation process, the students in her lab will also be working with song variation and morphometry between populations within species. Nanda has also begun a collaboration with Susan
Witherup to understand the status of birds, especially the Troupial, in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Although an ornithologist, Nanda contributed her genetic expertise
to a 2019 paper on population genetics in Shenandoah salamanders. This summer, Yanely Alonso (‘20), Ikraan Sheekh Nuur (‘22), Amelia Suter (’21), and Victoria Eastham (’20) joined Nanda for behind the scenes tours of the National Zoo, including exhibit houses and the genetics lab of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.