Professor Kate Follette. In my lab, we de-twinkle stars in order to hunt for baby planets. More specifically, we use sophisticated computational and image processing techniques to remove starlight from images of young stars taken with some of the world’s largest telescopes. Removing the starlight allows us to isolate light emitted directly by young planets, some of which are still in the process of growing into gas giant planets like Jupiter. Learn more about Professor Follette’s research on her website. Preference will be given to students who have ASTR 200 and/or ASTR 228.
Professor Connor Robinson. Dr. Robinson’s research is focused on accretion onto young, small stars with protoplanetary disks. The region of the disk near the star is partially ionized and thus can be disrupted by the strong magnetic field of the young star. The disrupted material is funneled along the stellar magnetic field lines until it strikes the star at supersonic speeds. This creates a hot spot on the star, which can be observed as excess emission above what we would normally expect for a non-accreting star. The amount of material accreted at a given time is variable, and by applying models and time-series-analysis techniques, we can learn about the driving forces behind this variability. More information about Dr. Robinson research can be found here. Preference will be given to students who have ASTR 200 and/or ASTR 228.
Professor Ethan Clotfelter's (Watch SURF video here) research is in the area of animal behavior. He is particularly interested in how animals respond to environmental challenges, and the physical mechanisms underlying behavior. For the 2021 SURF program, his students will be investigating aggressive and locomotor behavior in freshwater crayfish to address questions related to sexual selection and interspecific competition. Examples of work from this project, published with Amherst College students, can be found here and here. Learn more about Professor Clotfelter's overall research program here.
Professor Marc Edwards. (Watch SURF video here) The Edwards lab is interested in figuring out how cells move. We investigate the cellular systems that regulate the extension and retraction of the dynamic protrusions, which drive cellular movements. Cellular motility, among many functions, orchestrates the choreography involved in organismal development and the precision-guided movements of white blood cells to sites of infection. Abnormal migration sits at the core of the pathophysiology of metastatic cancer and several diseases. We study motility in the single-cell amoeba, Dictyostelium. We use a range of microscopy techniques in combination with computational and classical experimental approaches in our work. At least some high school biology would be helpful, no course requirements otherwise. Come be a part of the team. Course Requirements NONE
Professor Caroline Goutte (Watch SURF video here) studies Notch signaling, a conserved molecular mechanism of cell communication. We use genetic and molecular approaches on the C. elegans model system to decipher how the Notch signaling pathway is regulated. We use GFP-tagged reporters as indicators of cell induction and specification. Our current focus is on the gamma secretase complex and its pivotal role in Notch activation. Learn more about Professor Goutte's research here.
Professor Michael Hood’s research addresses the predictors of new disease emergence through pathogen transmission across host species. We are most interested in the genetic variation for innate resistance to disease, and how the prevalence of an endemic pathogen might affect the risk of infection by foreign pathogens. We use a tractable plant-fungus model system to address these fundamental questions in the ecology of infectious diseases. More information and links to recent publications can be found here. Course requirement: BIOL-181.
Professor Jeeyon Jeong. Iron is essential for nearly all organisms, but potentially cytotoxic. Therefore, iron homeostasis is tightly controlled. A key task in iron homeostasis is to safely allocate iron to specific organelles for usage or storage. Mitochondria are of particular interest for iron nutrition. Essential metabolic processes such as respiration that require iron occur in mitochondria, but mitochondria are susceptible to iron-induced oxidative damage. Despite the significance of iron in mitochondria, mitochondrial iron transport is not well-understood in plants. My lab aims to understand iron homeostasis by investigating the role of a mitochondrial ferroportin and advance our knowledge on iron transport in mitochondria. In the long term, elucidating the molecular mechanisms of plant iron homeostasis will offer insights to enhance plant growth and yield, and to develop strategies to enhance iron content of crops. Learn more about Professor Jeong's research here.
*Professor Sally Kim. Check out Prof. Kim's autocomplete video here. What do Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), neuronal synaptic proteins and a penny have in common? If you are curious, come join the Kim Lab. We are interested in understanding molecular mechanisms underlying how neurons communicate and what happens when these processes break down in disorders, such as ASD. Using an interdisciplinary approach of molecular, cellular, biochemical, and optical methods, we study how the connections between neurons (synapses) develop and mature in culture. This summer for the SURF program, you will learn some basic techniques in molecular neuroscience, read and discuss the relevant literature and help us address our ongoing questions about spine motility and structural plasticity, cellular correlates of learning and memory. All are welcome! No prior research experience or course requirements necessary - only excitement to learn, enthusiasm to work hard, and commitment to working collaboratively with others. Learn more about Professor Kim's research here.
Thea Kristensen. (Watch SURF video here) The goal of this project is to gather the information that will allow us to estimate population size and evaluate patterns of relatedness for black bears in Massachusetts. As a student involved in the project, the majority of your time will be spent in the field, collecting hair samples and re-setting the hair-collection corrals. Some time each week will be spent in the lab where you will extract DNA from the hair follicles and run PCRs for species and individual identification. Student projects may consider genetic structure, relatedness, patterns of trap success in relation to habitat characteristics, preliminary population estimates, etc. Depending on the project, students may gain additional skills with specific software including ArcGIS and program R. Course requirement: Biology 181. Required: Valid driver’s license
Professor Jill Miller. Research in Prof. Miller’s laboratory investigates the ecology and evolution of reproductive systems focusing on features that promote outcrossing between individuals. For example, the evolution of separate (as opposed to combined) sexes, the evolution of physiological mechanisms that prevent self-fertilization in hermaphrodites, and chromosomal differences that can constrain mating. Such traits are of profound importance in controlling mating outcomes in populations (e.g., which individuals are sexually and genetically compatible with each other), determining the level of genetic variation in individuals and populations and thus, ultimately, the evolutionary potential of populations. Depending on their interests, students can undertake studies in the greenhouse and learn several laboratory skills including DNA and RNA extraction, PCR amplification, cloning, electrophoresis, and DNA sequencing. No prior laboratory experience is necessary, but suggested coursework includes BIOL-181 and BIOL-191.
Professor Mona Orr. (Watch SURF video here) The Wu Orr lab loves small things! We're a bacterial physiology lab interested in how bacteria respond to environmental changes. Particularly, we are interested in how bacteria utilize very small proteins (~50 amino acids or shorter) to regulate the activity of larger protein complexes. The lab uses a combination of biochemistry and genetics techniques to characterize these small protein regulators. For the SURF program, students will first learn a few basic molecular biology and bacterial culturing skills, read and discuss scientific literature together, and work as a team to screen a mutant library of a small protein involved in antibiotic resistance in Esherichia coli. No prior research experience or courses required, just be excited about bacteria!
Professor Katerina Ragkousi. Project: the study of sea anemone embryonic development. We use genetics, imaging and cell biology approaches to investigate how sea anemone embryos develop a single polarized cell layer. Required courses: Bio 191. More information here!
*Professor John Roche. My lab is interested in the development and plasticity of neuronal synapses. We use Drosophila as a model organism and most frequently utilize the larval neuromuscular junction as a model for a developing synapse. This synapse uses glutamate as a neurotransmitter and thus it is structurally similar to the synapses in the human CNS. We utilize many genetic and molecular tools that are available with the Drosophila model system to make transgenic flies with altered expression of synaptic proteins. We then study how these alterations affect the development and function of the synapse using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology. Students should have completed Bio 191.
*Professor Josef Trapani's (Watch SURF video here) research explores sensory transduction and neuronal encoding of sensory information. Using the lateral-line system of the zebrafish, his lab studies these processes using molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy, and electrophysiology. Learn more about Professor Trapani's research here.
* Please note that Professors Kim, Roche and Trapani's research is also within the field of Neuroscience.
Professor Anthony Bishop (Watch SURF video here) studies the interface between organic chemistry and molecular biology. His research team uses a combination of chemical and biochemical approaches to examine two central biological processes: cellular signal transduction and protein synthesis. Learn more about Bishop's research here.
Professor Sandra Burkett: (Watch SURF video here) My research involves the synthesis of hybrid materials, which combine organic and inorganic components at the molecular and nanoscale level. These materials can combine the unique properties of the different constituents, such as the flexible or moldable character and the chemical functionality of polymers and the hardness or magnetic properties of minerals. Work in the lab involves synthesis of the inorganic and organic constituents as well as the use of numerous instrumental techniques for compositional and structural characterization at multiple length scales, with an emphasis on NMR techniques.
Professor Chris Durr. Research in the Durr group is centered around developing and understanding next-generation polymeric materials. This includes discovering new inorganic catalysts, as well as new techniques. One of the advantages of this research is that there is something to be found in it for every type of chemist. Whether you are interested in inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biological chemistry you will be able to contribute to these projects and learn something new along the way. Learn more here. Organic Chemistry is recommended but not required.
Professor David Hansen. (Watch SURF video here) The goal of the research ongoing in the lab is the preparation of self-assembling nanostructures of discrete size, a current challenge in the field of supramolecular chemistry. In particular, we are looking to exploit the hydrophobic effect--as nature does--to drive self-assembly in aqueous solution. The work involved in these efforts will entail organic synthesis of the derivatives under investigation and their analysis using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy. For more information, please visit the Hansen lab website, which includes a link to a video in which Professor Hansen provides an overview of the research ongoing in his group, here: https://www.amherst.edu/people/facstaff/dehansen/research_interests
Professor Sheila Jaswal. Our goal is to expand the study of protein folding, stability, and dynamics to previously inaccessible regions of the proteome by exploiting native-state hydrogen exchange mass spectrometry (HXMS). Visit the Jaswal lab website here
Professor Helen Leung (Watch SURF video here) studies intermolecular interactions due to van der Waals forces between nonchemically bonded molecules. Her research team employs a high resolution, pulsed molecular beam, Fourier transform microwave spectrometer to obtain the rotational spectrum of a complex that can then be analyzed to yield molecular information. Leung's researchers may collaborate with researchers in Mark Marshall's lab. Learn more about Professor Leung's research here.
Professor Mark Marshall (Watch SURF video here) studies the nature of intermolecular forces, and students conducting research in his lab seek to apply the detailed molecular information obtained from high-resolution spectroscopy to address questions concerning these forces. Recently he has been working towards the development of a new method of chiral analysis, called chiral tagging, that utilizes microwave spectroscopy to determine the structures of non-covalently bound complexes formed between an analyte and a molecular tag of known absolute stereochemistry. Marshall's researchers may collaborate with researchers in Helen Leung's lab. Learn more about Professor Marshall's research here.
Professor Jacob Olshansky. (Watch SURF video here) The Olshansky Lab is interested in understanding and harnessing photo-initiated charge and energy transfer in nanoscale systems, with a focus on nanoscale assemblies such as nanocrystal – organic molecule conjugates and peptide assemblies. This research has broad implications for technologies as diverse as artificial photosynthesis, bio-imaging, and quantum computation. Researchers in the lab will gain experience in an interdisciplinary set of techniques. They will split their time between synthesizing materials, performing photophysical measurements (e.g. fluorescence spectroscopy), and engaging in data analysis and computational modeling. Please visit https://olshanskylab.wordpress.amherst.edu/ for more information. CHEM 161 or 165 required.
Professor Scott Kaplan. I work towards evaluating memory management performance -- virtual memory, file system caching, memory allocators, and garbage collectors -- in real systems. We record what real programs do with their memory while they run, and then try new predictive algorithms for managing their memory space. We analyze whether our ideas significantly improve system performance.
Professor Will Rosenbaum. My research lies in the intersection of computer science and mathematics. I consider idealized models of computation. My goal is to understand the computational resources (e.g., time, memory, or communication) needed to solve computational tasks. The problems I study have motivations throughout the sciences, for example, stable matching theory in economics, packet routing in computer networks, and efficient graph algorithms for the analysis of big data. My research group will focus on understanding fundamental computational problems arising in the sciences through a mixture of computer simulation and theoretical results. While there are no formal prerequisites for the project, students should be comfortable programming in some language *or* familiar with basic proof techniques.
Professor Lee Spector. In my lab, we develop new artificial intelligence technologies using ideas from evolutionary biology. We use our new technologies for applications in many areas, aiming not only to solve problems but also to advance our understanding of intelligence and evolution. Specific projects for this year may include the development and testing of new selection and variation methods for genetic programming systems, general improvements to the software infrastructure for evolutionary computation, and applications of evolutionary computation to automatic programming, quantum computation, and climate change adaptation. The only requirement for students is that they be comfortable coding in some (any) programming language. That said, experience with Python and/or Clojure would be a plus, as would be any prior work in artificial intelligence or machine learning. Learn more about Professor Spector and his research here: https://www.amherst.edu/people/facstaff/lspector
Professor Rebecca Hewitt. (Watch SURF video here) The Hewitt lab studies community and ecosystem ecology of the boreal forest and tundra biomes as they respond to climate change. We are particularly focused on processes and dynamics belowground – plant roots, mycorrhizal fungi, and soil biogeochemistry – and how these affect ecosystem function across Arctic landscapes. We use field, greenhouse, and lab experiments and utilize techniques from molecular genetics, to plant ecophysiology, to biogeochemistry. For the 2021 SURF program, students will work with samples and data from a multi-year decomposition study in Alaska that was part of a global experiment (see https://www.teacomposition.org/)
Please note: Three other Environmental Studies Professors are listed in their primary department: Profs. Ethan Clotfelter & Jill Miller in Biology and Prof. Anna Martini in Geology.
Almost all of my research work requires a good amount of field study. While it is still uncertain what will be possible this coming summer, I am predicting that my laboratory will be up and running and local environments will be available for study. In particular, I am engaged in a community project with the town of Amherst on the restoration of the Fearing Brook (which crosses the campus along Route 9). Fearing Brook often has high bacterial counts and is a source of pollution to the Fort River. We will be charged with providing detailed hydrogeochemical evidence of the pre-restoration baseline parameters and will continue evaluating the process as the new floodplain is engineered this fall. The project will provide hands-on experience with environmental science, community engagement, and perhaps the opportunity to contribute to the restoration of a good swimming hole!
While each student in my lab will have a project that will be unique to them, I expect everyone to participate and assist in all fieldwork and learn all of the instrumentation in my laboratory. I look forward to talking to you about these prospects.
Professor Brittney Bailey. I develop and evaluate statistical methods for public health research. My work focuses on nested study designs, where research participants are either members of intact groups (e.g., communities, workplaces, schools), followed longitudinally, or placed into groups for the purpose of the study (e.g., therapy groups, training sessions, yoga classes). Traditional statistical methods break down in these settings, so we have to modify our approach to account for the relationships between measurements within each group. I consider methods for handling missing data as well as modeling approaches for binary outcomes from these nested designs. Poke around here to learn more about my work. Some experience (classroom or otherwise) in coding and/or statistics is preferred.
Professor Kat Correia. (Watch SURF video here) The goal of this project is to bring together an interdisciplinary group to collate the available evidence around racial disparities reported in the obstetrics & gynecology literature and to present this information in a data art collection. [For an example of a data art collection raising awareness around environmental issues, see: http://www.environmentalgraphiti.org/series.] Students involved in this project will review articles related to racial disparities in obstetrics & gynecology journals and create data art highlighting various results. Data art could be created in R and may include animated graphics, interactivity, and/or music; and/or could be created using other mediums. Desirable deliverables include a (basic) website to host the data art, and a proposal for a narrative review manuscript to the journal Human Reproduction Update.
I’m looking for an interdisciplinary group of two-three students. At least one student must have completed STAT231 (Data Science), and experience with coding is a plus for all students. However, students who are artistic and interested in racial disparity research, but have no coding or statistics experience, are still strongly encouraged to apply!
Professor Tanya Leise (Watch SURF video here) is an applied mathematician who studies the circadian clock that governs our daily internal rhythms. Her research team examines molecular and behavioral rhythms through differential equations modeling and time-frequency analysis of experimental data, with the goal of gaining insight about the underlying mechanisms that generate and regulate the internal clock. Learn more about Professor Leise's research here.
Professor Ryan McShane studies statistical aspects of head-to-head competition, which can include basketball, chess, cardinals electing the pope, pecking order among chickens, and dogs choosing between two kinds of food at a time. Through the advent of cameras and computer vision, many new avenues of research in head-to-head competition have been made available (although these advances probably won't help cardinals elect a pope). Video footage of sporting competitions can be programmatically analyzed to extract temporal information such as player position, player pose, and ball position. This data can be used to answer questions like, "how good is Steph Curry at shooting the basketball?", "what is the probability a goal will be scored given player position?", or "what does a good shot look like?". Students this summer will work with basketball player tracking data and attempt to push the boundaries of the extraction and analysis of this data in R. Requirement: STAT231. Preference will be given to those with additional programming experience in any language. Check out more information on Prof. McShane's research page here!
Professor Sally Kim. Check out Prof. Kim's autocomplete video here. What do Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), neuronal synaptic proteins and a penny have in common? If you are curious, come join the Kim Lab. We are interested in understanding molecular mechanisms underlying how neurons communicate and what happens when these processes break down in disorders, such as ASD. Using an interdisciplinary approach of molecular, cellular, biochemical, and optical methods, we study how the connections between neurons (synapses) develop and mature in culture. This summer for the SURF program, you will learn some basic techniques in molecular neuroscience, read and discuss the relevant literature and help us address our ongoing questions about spine motility and structural plasticity, cellular correlates of learning and memory. All are welcome! No prior research experience or course requirements necessary - only excitement to learn, enthusiasm to work hard, and commitment to working collaboratively with others. Learn more about Professor Kim's research here.
Professor John Roche. My lab is interested in the development and plasticity of neuronal synapses. We use Drosophila as a model organism and most frequently utilize the larval neuromuscular junction as a model for a developing synapse. This synapse uses glutamate as a neurotransmitter and thus it is structurally similar to the synapses in the human CNS. We utilize many genetic and molecular tools that are available with the Drosophila model system to make transgenic flies with altered expression of synaptic proteins. We then study how these alterations affect the development and function of the synapse using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology. Students should have completed Bio 191.
Professor Josef Trapani's (Watch SURF video here) research explores sensory transduction and neuronal encoding of sensory information. Using the lateral-line system of the zebrafish, his lab studies these processes using molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy, and electrophysiology. Learn more about Professor Trapani's research here.
Professor Ashley Carter: Are you interested in bio-nano-tech? fertility? epigenetics? biophysics? Then, come work in the collaborative and dynamic Carter lab. You'll first complete a training program in the lab where you will learn programming, molecular biology techniques, optics/microscopy, and data analysis. You'll also rotate through all the projects in the lab. Then, once you complete the training you will choose one of the projects. If you want to work with a fun group of people and do some amazing science then sign up! You should also contact Professor Carter by email for a lab tour. No experience necessary. We love first years. Learn more about Professor Carter's research here.
Professor Jonathan Friedman’s lab studies chemically synthesized magnetic materials to learn how their magnetic moments reverse direction and to explore their potential use as processing elements in quantum computers. Learn more about Professor Friedman's research here.
Professor David Hall. (Watch SURF video here) Come visit and work in the fascinating world of ultracold matter! Students will work on projects supporting the creation and manipulation of Bose-Einstein condensates at temperatures billionths of a degree above absolute zero. We will make use of and develop the experimental physicist's experimental toolbox, from electro-optical design and construction to data-taking and analysis. Learn more about Professor Hall's research here. Physics 117 or 124 is recommended.
Professor David Hanneke (Watch SURF video here) studies individual atoms, molecules, and sub-atomic particles to test fundamental physics principles and to develop detailed control techniques for quantum systems. His students use low-energy atomic-, molecular-, and optical-physics techniques for precision measurements and detailed control of quantum systems. Students have developed an atom trap, lasers, electronics, and computer control and data-acquisition systems. Learn more about Professor Hanneke's research here. Course requirements: PHYS-116/117 or 123/124 would be a good start on coursework.
Professor Larry Hunter. In the first project, they hope to make high-precision measurements of long-range spin-spin interactions (LRSSI) by using the Earth as a source of electron spin. This experiment is an outgrowth of an earlier search for a violation of Local Lorentz Invariance (LLI). In the new experiment, they will compare the relative precession frequencies of Hg and Cs magnetometers as a function of the orientation of an applied magnetic field with respect to fixed directions on the Earth’s surface. Using this approach and their old LLI apparatus they established bounds on LRSSI that were as much as a million times more sensitive than previous searches. In addition, they applied this method to extract bounds on velocity-dependent LRSSI that were largely inaccessible to earlier experiments. They have now realized a new “pump-then-probe” co-magnetometer using Cs and Hg that improves their sensitivity to LRSSI by more than an order of magnitude and reduces AC light shifts. At this level, the experiment should provide the most stringent test of several possible suggestions for physics beyond the standard model of particle physics.
They are presently completing the last of a series of measurements in thallium fluoride (TlF) that establish the viability of a cryogenic-beam experiment to measure the electric-dipole moment (EDM) of the Tl nucleus. Their favorable results have encouraged the launching of the new CeNTREX collaboration to realize this EDM experiment. They hope to achieve improved optical cycling in TlF and to use their cryogenic-beam apparatus to demonstrate optical forces and transverse cooling in TlF. The realization of transverse cooling could substantially improve the sensitivity of a second-generation TlF EDM measurement. Recent publications can be found here.
Professor Will Loinaz’s (Watch SURF video here) research is in theoretical elementary particle physics and related topics. He compares theoretical models of new physics beyond the Standard Model to data obtained from many types of experiments to see what sorts of new physics are favored or ruled out by experiments. In addition, he performs Monte Carlo simulations of simple quantum field theories and equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanical systems, and he looks at subtle and interesting mathematical features of very simple quantum mechanical systems. Learn more on Professor Loinaz's webpage.
Professor Liz Kneeland. My lab is interested in what psychological factors influence how individuals manage their unwanted emotions. I am also interested in how differences in how individuals regulate their emotions relate to levels of psychological distress. In particular, my research has used experimental, longitudinal, and daily diary designs to investigate how the beliefs that people have about their emotions then relate to emotion regulation and, ultimately, their mental health. This summer, we will be focusing on collecting daily diary data from adults who are experiencing elevated levels of psychological distress. Another study will also focus on stigma related to substance use disorders. In coordination with me, SURF students will help with participant recruitment, study preparation, data collection and analysis, and literature reviews. Course Requirements: Students need to have taken Introduction to Psychology (or AP Psychology in high school); those who have taken Abnormal Psychology are preferred.
Professor Julia McQuade. My lab examines biological and environmental factors that influence the emotional and social development of children. We have recently completed a follow-up study of adolescents and parents in which we measured how parents reacted to their adolescent's emotions during a conflict discussion. This summer, students working with me will be trained to reliably code these interactions. There will also be opportunities to examine the other data collected in this project, which included measures of parent stress, adversities related to COVID-19, and adolescent's psychopathology. Students will learn basic data analysis techniques and can explore hypotheses with the dataset. Please visit our lab website to learn more about the lab’s research. Course requirements: Students need to have taken Introduction to Psychology (or AP Psychology in high school); those who have taken Abnormal Psychology are preferred.
Professor Carrie Palmquist. (Watch SURF video here) My lab explores questions of how children learn from other people. We are particularly interested in how preschoolers determine who is a good source of information, and who should be avoided. Research assistants in my lab are involved in all aspects of data collection and processing: contacting families, running children through studies, and coding and analyzing data. This summer, we will be focused on two different projects (details can be found here). In coordination with me, SURF students will determine which project is best suited to their goals and interests. Course requirements: Students need to have taken Introduction to Psychology (or AP Psychology in high school); those who have taken Developmental Psychology are preferred.
Professor Rebecca Totten. (Watch SURF video here) My lab examines stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination from the perspective of the perceiver as well as the target. Recently, research in my lab has focused on predictors of anti-transgender attitudes. Transgender individuals often face high levels of violence, harassment, and discrimination. My research examines the factors or beliefs that lead to particularly negative attitudes toward transgender individuals, with the end goal of reducing prejudice. Research assistants in my lab are involved in all aspects of data collection and processing: study design and implementation, collecting, coding, and analyzing data, and write up of results. I highly prioritize helping undergraduate research assistants to reach their research goals (i.e. becoming more heavily involved in research, presenting at a conference, earning co-authorship on a paper, etc.). This summer we will be conducting several studies looking at the role of perceived deceptiveness in anti-transgender prejudice. Course requirements: Students need to have taken Introduction to Psychology (or AP Psychology in high school); those who have taken Social Psychology are strongly preferred.