Research Opportunities

Willamette University offers a number of opportunities for students to do research in addition to the standard curriculum.

Emma Coddington, Associate Professor of Biology
ecodding@willamette.edu, 503-370-6474


What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?My Content

Contribute to a broader understanding of how stress and love drive unconscious behaviors and contribute to decolonizing science

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

Analyzing electrophysiology data, run biophysics experiments (whole cell electrophysiology) writing articles, competing current imaging studies

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

Varies depending on project student chooses to engage in - sometimes its 80% hands on, other times its heavier on data analysis, reading papers, and writing

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

Surgery, tissue preparation, imaging, biophysics, and sometimes behavior

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Limited

  • What Field skills (if any) do students gain in your lab

Catch newts from wild populations once or twice a year

How many students work in your lab currently?

Three

David Craig, Professor of Biology
dpcraig@willamette.edu, 503-370-6333


What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?

I am interested in questions of individual movement ecology, parental behavior in fish-eating birds, and natural history of the Willamette Valley.

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

I am working on completing a project that uses crowd-sourced photography to understand bird migration. I am also working on building a global dataset of seabird data to develop a niche model of Caspian terns throughout their global distribution. I want to initiate a local field project on nuthatches and woodpeckers that rely on Oregon oaks.

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

I can work with interested students to design projects that are almost all field work, computer based, or some combination of their choosing.

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

Some of the tools that students will learn to use properly include binoculars, spotting scope, cameras, field-based audio recording, and the laser range-finder.

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Students will learn to use R and Excel.

  • What Field skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Animal and plant identification with special emphasis on birds, orienteering, and tree climbing are all field skills that the students will learn in my lab.

How many students work in your lab currently?

Four to six

Jason Duncan, Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chair
jduncan@willamette.edu, 503-370-6827


What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?

The long-term goal of my research program is to investigate how the cytoskeleton is regulated to support critical functions of the cell. Using a molecular genetics approach in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, we aim to

1) identify novel proteins that regulate the structure of microfilaments (MF’s) and microtubules (MT’s)
2) identify novel in vivo functions for regulators of MF and MT dynamics.

Our studies focus on the function of nervous system and oogenesis because tissues in these processes are acutely dependent on a specialized and highly regulated cytoskeleton.

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

Our current research focus is aimed at determining the in vivo function of the protein phosphatase Slingshot on the growth and maintenance of actin-rich intercellular ring canals of a developing egg chamber during oogenesis.

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

90% Bench Work/Data Collection, 10% Data Analysis

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

Students will learn to develop Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Genetics (including creation of Transgenic Organisms), Immunohistochemistry, and Microscopy (Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy) techniques.

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Basic Statistics and Quantitative Analysis of Image Data.

  • What Field skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

n/a

How many students work in your lab currently?

It varies, Three to Four per Semester

Rosa Leon Zayas, Assistant Professor of Biology
rleonzayas@willamette.edu, 503-370-6611


Rosa Leon-Zayas, Ocean Microbial Communities

What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?

I am interested in understanding how environmental factors affect the community composition and metabolic functioning of microbial communities.

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

We are working on describing the microbial communities associated with samples collected in the Tonga Trench, while also trying to developing protocols in order to better understand the genes associated with potential pharmaceuticals in coral reef samples. In addition, we are also working on visualizing ASGARD archaea via microscopy.

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

60% Computational, 30% Wet Lab, 10% Field Work

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

Students will learn to use Computational Biology Tools, Molecular Biology Tools, Sequencing Tools and perform Microscopy.

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Students will gain knowledge on navigating unix systems, as well as R studio. Students will also have the opportunity to develop microscopy skills.

How many students work in your lab currently?

Nine

Briana C Lindh, Continuing Professor; Senior Instructor
blindh@willamette.edu, 503-370-6507


Briana Lindh, Plant communities, including their pollinators

What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?

Understanding how human actions like prairie restoration, urbanization and climate warming change what is present in the landscape.

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

Collect another year of bee-plant interaction data and write a manuscript on bee community ecology.

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

30% field - 30% lab - 30% data analysis

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

DNA barcoding to identify bee species.

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Lots of stats in R, including ordinations and pollinator networks.

  • What Field skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Plant and bee identification.

How many students work in your lab currently?

Three

Melissa Marks, Associate Professor of Biology
memarks@willamette.edu, 503-370-6020


Melissa Marks, Caulobacter crescentus - Genetic and Physiological Basis of Evolutionarily Important Phenotypes

What is the general purpose of your conducted research?

  • What do you hope your research will accomplish broadly?

I hope to gain an understanding of how bacteria survive and thrive in nutrient poor, competitive environments.

What do you hope to get done within the next year or so?

We hope to identify the substrate(s) transported by two different TonB Dependent Receptors in Caulobacter.

How balanced is your research lab in terms of field work/hands-on component vs. computational aspect (ie. 50% of time spent by students collecting data and 50% of time working on processing data)?

50% Pre-lab Prep, 25% Benchwork/Data Collection, 25% Data Analysis

What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

  • What kind of equipment/protocols do students in your lab learn to use/perform?

Students will learn plenty fundamental bacteriological techniques (culturing cells, counting colonies), molecular biology techniques (RNA/DNA extraction, PCR, gel electrophoresis), microscopy (brightfield, phase contrast, and fluorescence, and occasional biochemical techniques (protein extraction and analysis).

  • What Stats/computational skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

Students will learn to utilize basic statistical techniques (t-test, ANOVA) and some curve fitting (analysis of exponential growth).

  • What Field skills (if any) do students gain in your lab?

We rarely go outside, except to take a break and play.

How many students work in your lab currently?

Two

Ask a Student

Who you're doing your research under and for how long?

I did research with professor Marks and I worked with her for about two months.

How do you think your research experience has helped you grow as a biologist?

My research experience helped me explore the different career paths I can take as a biologist. For example in my case I worked in a microbiology lab and it really helped me see what I can do as a microbiologist.

What skills did you learn that you might not have been able to in a regular academic setting, and how are these skills useful to you (or how do you expect they will be of use to you)?

One of the skills I picked up during my research was how to effectively read academic articles. The best thing about that skill was that it applies to all of my academic classes. 

Something interesting you learned from the lab!

An interesting thing I learned was that Caulobacter crescents in its wild form has a sticky film around it that attaches to it’s surroundings.

*optional* something nice about the professor you're working with...how do they make your research experience more enjoyable?

Professor Marks is just a great professor to work with because she’s very helpful explaining the procedures and the science behind whatever we’re doing.

Who you're doing your research under and for how long?

Fall 2018: Duncan
Spring 2019: Marks (tentative)

How you think your research experience has helped you grow as a biologist?

I have learned more about Drosophila as a study organism and have had the opportunity to apply what I have learned in BIOL 333 Gene Structure & Function and BIOL 350W Molecular Genetics. I've gained practice performing certain lab techniques and familiarity using equipment. Additionally, research has helped me to narrow down my interest within the field of biology.

What skills did you learn that you might not have been able to in a regular academic setting, and how are these skills useful to you (or how do you expect they will be of use to you)?

With practice, I've become able to more efficiently perform certain tasks. For example, I can more quickly identify and separate virginal female flies,and transferring flies into new vials has become easier. I have become more comfortable performing tasks; this exposure will be useful in future lab work.

Something interesting you learned from the lab!

Male Drosophila are distinguishable by their genital arch (females exhibit a more pointed abdomen), black coloration of the posterior abdomen, and the presence of sex combs on their front legs. These identifying characteristics can help to distinguish virginal females: presence of meconium (dark greenish spot in abdomen) and unexpanded wings.

*optional* something nice about the professor you're working with...how do they make your research experience more enjoyable?

Professor Duncan is both detail-oriented and flexible. Research requires precision and planning in order to be reputable and methodical, but it is also important for researchers to be adaptable, which are skills I am hoping to continue to develop.


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