Undergraduate Research Projects


Learn more about participating in Research. Find Research Projects emphasizing: Developmental & Cellular Biology Evolution & Ecology
Organismal Biology & Physiology Environmental & Applied Biology Gamification / Pedagogical

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Gamifying Biology
This project is available for students who are interested in taking on an undergraduate research project (BISC 498 or BISC 499) under the pedagogical research category. Project Description: I am looking for 4-6 students to work collaboratively on a project aimed at the gamification of a BISC course. The project will be divided into several sections that will somewhat vary depending on the skills and interests students bring to the project. We will begin with a literature search on the topic of the use of games in education, followed by a rationale (benefits/drawbacks) for using a game platform in a course. We will then select Bisc 202 or Bisc 333 and determine what format the game should take, which learning outcomes are best suited for this purpose, how mastery of the outcomes can be rewarded in the game, and how achievement in the game can be connected to course credit. There is a variety of models or forms this can take - we will examine several and collaboratively select one. We will work on outlining the steps needed to develop the game and will finish up with a proposal and/or storyboards, again depending on the skills and interests of project participants, and the direction the group wants to take. Skills you will develop or improve: Reading the pedagogical literature Teamwork skills Personal management, organization, meeting deadlines etc. Collaborative writing of rational, report, and/or proposal Not a straight A student? Who cares? I am looking for a variety of students, who are looking to develop skills and use some creativity. If you are enthusiastic, hardworking, reliable and willing to explore some unknown territory, that is good enough for me.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick
 kathleef@sfu.ca
Mating Ecology of Mosquitoes   Need Volunteer
My research focuses on the mating ecology of mosquitoes, specifically mating swarms. Mating behaviour is a poorly understood aspect of mosquito biology, with the mechanisms behind mating swarm formation relatively unknown. My project will examine the importance of various cues, such as wing acoustics, in attracting individuals towards mating swarms. Volunteering duties will consist mainly of mosquito colony maintenance. This includes sorting mosquito pupae from the larvae, washing trays and cups and providing mosquitoes with sugar water. The time commitment is flexible; I am looking for a volunteer to come in at least once per week. Tasks usually take around 3 hours for an inexperienced volunteer to complete. As you gain experience, the tasks can be completed much faster.
Elton Ko
 eltonk@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Factors influencing maternal investment during mammalian pregnancy
Prenatal development determines health throughout life, and the placenta plays a critical role in supplying the fetus with nutrients and oxygen. Carefully regulated interactions between the placenta and the lining of the mother’s uterus are crucial to normal placental development and a healthy pregnancy. I am interested in both the molecular basis and the evolution of these interactions. In a related project, I am studying the effects of pregnancy and lactation on the maternal skeleton. Research opportunities are available in my lab involving a variety of molecular techniques, as well as analyses of publicly-available data.
Julian Christians
 julian_christians@sfu.ca
 website
Spider rearing   Need Volunteer
We rear spiderlings (Steatoda grossa) to adulthood. Workload would be ~1-4h/week (you can choose). Worktimes are highly flexible as work has to be done 1x/week (any day, any time, can vary from week to week - to your convinience). Spiders are fed with Drosophila or Blowflies. If you are interested, please feel free to meet up with me, and after an intro session you can decide if you want to commit. Don't hesitate to shoot an email if you are interested!
Andreas Fischer
 afischer@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Foraging, communication, and management of fire ants   Need Volunteer
Looking for volunteers or 497w/498/499 students who are interested in learning about ants, pest management, and interspecies communication. I'm looking at how ants forage and communicate with each other about nearby resources. I am also looking at how to apply this for management of pest species like fire (as well as carpenter and garden) ants. I have multiple projects that you could work on, with food bait, chemical communication, and lethal agents. Volunteers will be able to help with colony maintenance, collections, and experiments based on availability and interest. Workload would depend on availability and what experiments are occurring but if you have at least 2-3 hours per week that would be awesome! If anyone is interested or if you have any questions please send me an email and we can talk about potential work!
Jaime Chalissery
 jchaliss@sfu.ca
 website
Seeking Volunteer
Foraging, communication, and management of fire ants
Looking for volunteers or 497w/498/499 students who are interested in learning about ants, pest management, and interspecies communication. I'm looking at how ants forage and communicate with each other about nearby resources. I am also looking at how to apply this for management of pest species like fire (as well as carpenter and garden) ants. I have multiple projects that you could work on, with food bait, chemical communication, and lethal agents. Volunteers will be able to help with colony maintenance, collections, and experiments based on availability and interest. Workload would depend on availability and what experiments are occurring but if you have at least 2-3 hours per week that would be awesome! If anyone is interested or if you have any questions please send me an email and we can talk about potential work!
Jaime Chalissery
 jchaliss@sfu.ca
 website
Silencing of Blueberry Scorch Virus
Students can be involved at multiple levels (ISS, 498/9, volunteer), and in parts of the project. Blueberry Scorch Virus has spread rapidly in Europe and North America in the past two decades. Infection results in lower yield and often also plant death. There is currently no treatment. Here we will test how well a novel method, known as spray-induced gene silencing, works in reducing the virus titer and disease symptoms of plants. Methods to be used:Gene and plant cloning, purification of double-stranded RNA from E. coli cultures, RNA purification from plants, real-time quantitative PCR, basic statistics to analyze results. Qualifications: GPA >3.0, course in molecular genetics. Plant Physiology and Genetic courses are also useful.
Jim Mattsson
 jmattsso@sfu.ca
How plants affect the resistance of the Cabbage Looper moth to viral infection   Need Volunteer
I'm working on insect-plant interactions. Right now, I’m essentially looking at how different plant diets will affect caterpillar (Cabbage Looper) resistance to virus. I’m looking for students who are interested in plant chemical ecology, the biological control of insects, or just insects in general! Workload will be up to 5 hrs a week depending on what needs to be done (but hours can be flexible depending on availability of the student). Tasks include feeding caterpillars, weighing of different life stages, and helping with infection experiments. I’d need help at least 2 or 3 times a week, for the majority of the Spring semester. Let me know if you’re interested!
Kevin Colmenares
 kcolmena@sfu.ca
 website
Seeking Volunteer
Disease transmission, evolution and mixed pathogen infections
We are looking for students to do research on how different pathogens interact in both spring and summer 2019 - this would involve insect and plant rearing and lab and semi-field assays with Insect pathogens. We welcome volunteers but are also looking for students to carry out their own research in 49X or ISS projects which could lead to publications.
Jenny Cory
 jsc21@sfu.ca
Western tent caterpillar ecology
We are looking for a student for Summer 2019 to be involved in field sampling the western tent caterpillar and also other field experiments in the lab. We are particularly interested in how disease affects insect dynamics and how pathogens interact with both host paint and the microbiota around them. Ideally the student would apply for an NSERC USRA (Due Jan 15th 2019) - which I can help you prepare. Students interested in other projects such as ISS or 49X and also volunteers are also welcome. Please contact me for further information.
Jenny Cory
 jsc21@sfu.ca
Antigenic and Immunic Responses to HIV and Influenza Viruses   Need Volunteer
The Pantophlet lab is seeking enthusiastic, detail-oriented and highly self-motivated undergraduate volunteers, BISC 498/499 students or USRA students for Fall 2018 or Spring 2019 to participate in and contribute to CIHR-funded research focused on understanding antigenic and immunogenic presentations impacting the ontogeny of anti-carbohydrate and CD4-binding site-specific neutralizing antibodies to HIV-1 and broadly neutralizing antibodies to influenza. Interested students should send an email directly to Dr. Ralph Pantophlet (rpantophlet@sfu.ca). The email must include a brief statement of intent, a current academic transcript and an academic CV detailing lab skills plus any notable academic and non-academic achievements. Prospective applicants should be in very good academic standing (Volunteers: cGPA>3.0; 498/499 or USRA: cGPA>3.5) and be able to commit at least 10 hrs/week to the lab.
Ralph Pantophlet
 rpantophlet@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Interspecies Pheromone Communication   Need Volunteer
Looking for someone who is interested in pheromone communication across species. Opportunity for independent research experience with as much guidance as you like. Field research is underway testing small mammal response to our candidate pheromones. Current sites are in Langley with more on the way all around the SFU Burnaby campus. There is a laboratory bioassay component as well if a student is interested and driven! Both field and laboratory research make for a well-rounded experience. One experiment is focused on testing cats' response, possibly making a new cat toy, although opportunities here are limited.
Elana Varner
 evarner@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Laskeek Bay
If you’re a third or fourth year biology undergraduate at Simon Fraser University and want some hands-on conservation experience, think about applying to the internship program on Haida Gwaii. You could obtain the opportunity for a field studies internship with the Laskeek Bay Conservancy Society on Haida Gwaii. After a week with their office in Queen Charlotte, you’ll live for a month on East Limestone Island in Laskeek Bay and help with field work, such as avian and marine mammal surveys, and maintenance work such as pulling invasive species and doing beach cleanups. You’ll be a member of an enthusiastic team, gain new skills, and spend time in a beautiful environment with seabirds and other local creatures. You may also be able gain some academic credit by using some of your field time to complete an undergraduate research course, working with Prof. Ron Ydenberg. If this experience sounds good to you, visit the Laskeek Bay Conservancy Society website for details http://www.laskeekbay.org. At SFU you can contact the Biology undergrad advisor Emelia Kirkwood (Emelia_kirkwood@sfu.ca), or Ron Ydenberg (ydenberg@sfu.ca).
Ron Ydenberg
 ydenberg@sfu.ca
How do organisms obtain information about foraging payoffs in their environment?
Foraging animals constantly make decisions about whether to stay where they are or move to a new foraging patch. Animals should forage in patches where they can get the highest payoff, but how do they gain information about the payoffs available in their environment? To explore this question, we are seeking a 298/498 student to undertake experiments on the foraging decisions of wild Steller’s jays feeding on peanuts in trays.
Ron Ydenberg, Tom Flower
 ydenberg@sfu.ca, tflower@sfu.ca
 website
Competition between ravens and crows in Metro Vancouver
Ravens have become a common site in Metro Vancouver, but little is known about how they affect the urban environment. Observations suggest that ravens compete with crows for resources and ravens have even been observed predating crow eggs and chicks. The presence of ravens may therefore have important consequences for crow distribution and behaviour, with further consequences for crow prey species. We are looking for a student or students to undertake a BISC498 project investigating the distribution of breeding raven pairs within Metro Vancouver and the consequences for crow distribution and nesting success in proximity to raven breeding territories. Additionally, we would seek to obtain some simple information on crow foraging behaviour within the city, specifically what proportion of their diet they gain from eating European chafer beetles. Together this work explores intraguild competition between predatory species and the potential consequences for interactions across trophic levels.
Ron Ydenberg, Tom Flower
 ydenberg@sfu.ca, tflower@sfu.ca
 website
Evolutionary conservation of amphibians   Need Volunteer
I am searching for volunteers to collate datasets to ask various questions regarding amphibian conservation, evolution, and ecology at a global-scale. Tentative projects could include: 1) patterns of rediscovery of 'Lazarus' amphibians, 2) age and range size relationships in amphibians, and 3) intrinsic and extrinsic correlates of diversification in anurans. Projects will largely involve collecting and curating data from large public datasets, the primary and secondary literature, and remote sensing/GIS data. In the spring, opportunities will arise for field and laboratory work. Students that are looking to develop fundamental research skills, as well as technical skills in statistics or GIS are encouraged to contact me.
Dan Greenberg
 dgreenbe@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Evolutionary biology and genetics of human cognition and psychology
We determine the roles of trade-offs, genomic conflicts, and Darwinian selection in the evolution of human psychological adaptation and cognitive-psychological architecture. To do so, we analyze human cognition using empirical tests, in healthy individuals, that connect genetic, epigenetic and endocrine variation with psychological phenotypes. The research involves a combination of DNA, endocrine, and psychological data collection. We also supervise other research projects that involve evolutionary-medical questions.
Bernard Crespi
 crespi@sfu.ca
 website
Trade-offs between growth and survival in sockeye salmon spawning migrations   Need Volunteer
The Moore lab is looking for undergraduate volunteers interested in helping photograph sockeye salmon scales collected in a long-term population monitoring program. Volunteers will be asked to organize and photograph an extensive scale collection, and make measurements of scale annuli for growth analysis. Data from scale collections will be used to examine how salmon balance trade offs between growth and survival when initiating spawning migrations, and will explore the evidence for size dependent survival of smolts. Depending on the success of the volunteer, the project may include opportunities for ongoing participation in research. If interested please contact me at watlas@sfu.ca with the words "salmon volunteer" in the subject line.
Will Atlas
 watlas@sfu.ca

Seeking Volunteer
Birds, bats and beetles: investigating the role of habitat, prey availability and competition on the bat community in Ontario
Are you interested in animal ecology and conservation? We are looking for an undergraduate student interested in pursuing an ISS (Honours) project investigating interactions between bats and a bird, the whip-poor-will, within a nocturnal aerial insectivore community facing a variety of conservation threats. Project requires analysis of ultrasonic and acoustic recordings, basic statistics and good writing skills.
Philina English & David Green
 penglish@sfu.ca
 website
Macroevolution and Conservation
Our lab is busy applying phylogenetics to conservation, particularly in the context of the EDGE program administered out of the London Zoo. So, we are building phylogenetic trees, looking for data on conservation status, and also looking at how ecologically-interesting traits evolve on those trees. If you are interested and know lots about a taxonomic group, or want to learn, let us know.
Arne Mooers
 amooers@sfu.ca
 website
Pollination ecology
The pollination environment is expected to affect the evolution of floral traits. Lack of pollinators can lead to pollen limitation (reduced seed production) or may select for the ability to self-pollinate, via changes in floral morphology. Pollinators may be uncommon (or pollinator diversity may be lower) in fragmented or disturbed habitats, so we expect selection for selfing ability in the most disturbed areas. Research in the lab includes field work on pollinator diversity and plant mating systems in the Garry Oak Ecosystem on Vancouver Island and in the shrub-steppe of the South Okanagan (in spring and summer) and lab work on selection on the timing of selfing in plants (anytime), and there are frequently positions for ISS, 498, and NSERC USRA students in the lab.
Elizabeth Elle
 eelle@sfu.ca
 website
Vision in aquatic animals
Vision is of fundamental importance in the lives of many animals. We are interested in cellular specializations and physiological mechanisms that determine the ability of animals to detect and process the colour and polarization of light, as well as the ecological functions of such visual capabilities in nature. Our research ranges from identifying cellular mechanisms that control visual pigment protein (opsin) expression in photoreceptors of the vertebrate retina to ecological investigations of ultraviolet and polarization sensitivity in aquatic animals. A variety of research projects are available for Bisc 498 or ISS projects, or for graduate studies (specially if you can obtain a major graduate fellowship, e.g., from NSERC or CIHR).
Inigo Novales Flamarique
 inigo@sfu.ca
Photo taxis/tropism in plants and slime molds.
Both plant and slime molds (Dictyostelium discoideum) exhibit positive phototropism or phototaxis. In plants it’s the tip that grows by elongation and cell division and in the slime molds it is the multicellular slug that towards the light source. Individual cells in these species do not orient and move (elongate) towards the light, rather it is the combined interaction of many semi-attached cells that leads to this bending towards the light. The mechanism responsible is that cells that are further away from the light source move/elongate faster than the cells that are closer. Since the cells are attached to each other the result is a bending of the tip or the front of the slug. When the tip points towards the light, both sides sense the same light intensity, the differential movement halts, and the tip/slug moves straight forward. In our lab we want to explore the similarities between Dictyostelium phototaxis and Arabidopsis phototropism. Are there common genes involved. The project will involve, growing Dictyostelium cells and Arabidopsis plants and then taking time laps movies of slug movements and tip bending under directional light. We then will compare the results with results for mutants in phototaxis or phototrophism. This project is in collaboration with Sherryl Bisgrove email: sbisgrov@sfu.ca http://www.sfu.ca/biology/faculty/bisgrove
Eirikur Palsson
 epalsson@sfu.ca
 website
Immune responses in vectors
Insects transmit parasites to humans that cause significant diseases. Some diseases cause significant mortality (malaria kills 2-3 million people/year). Our research addresses how these vectors recognize and kill these parasites, or allow them to develop and get transmitted. This included recognizing the parasite as non-self and then turning on aspects if its immune responses. Projects are available to identify immune genes, express proteins, kill parasites or pathogens, all while working with a great fun loving bunch of researchers!
Carl Lowenberger
 clowenbe@sfu.ca
 website
Examining mitochondrial dynamics in healthy cells and in human disease processes.
Mitochondria are usually described as the "powerhouses" of cells, however they also play other pivotal roles in the life and death processes of eukaryotic cells. They display great variation in number, shape and location inside different cell types, appearing as large reticular networks in some cells and as small, punctate, autonomous organelles in others. Mitochondria are also highly dynamic organelles, they can undergo fission, fusion and can be rapidly transported around cells. In my lab we study the mechanisms of these processes in living cells. In addition we study the role of "mitochondrial dynamics" in disease processes, particularly in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Stroke. Student projects are available in my lab to study the basic mechanisms of regulating mitochondria dynamics, and to examine how changes in mitochondrial dynamics are involved in neurodegenerative diseases. Students in my lab will employ techniques including molecular biology (amplification and purification of DNA vectors, construction of mammalian expression vectors), cell culture (tissue culture techniques for various cell types, aseptic technique, transfection of astrocytes/neurons with expression vectors) and fluorescence microscopy (live-cell image acquisition, real-time perfusion experiments, image analysis).
Gordon Rintoul
 gordon_rintoul@sfu.ca
 website
Axon guidance in C. elegans
Neuronal circuits are the fundamental functional units in the brain. They are established during embryonic development. One central aspect of neuronal circuit formation is the directed outgrowth of neuronal processes (axons and dendrites). They have to navigate precisely towards their target areas where they establish synaptic connections with target cells to eventually form neuronal circuits. Our lab studies the genetic and molecular basis of this navigation process using C. elegans as a model organism. Projects for undergraduate students in my lab revolve around this topic as well. You will get a chance to learn to work with C. elegans, one of the major genetic model organisms. You will learn genetic, molecular biology and microscopic techniques. Current projects include: - Generation of mutants in selected genes with a suspected role in axon guidance - RNAi screens to identify novel genes with a potential role in axon guidance - Characterization of existing mutants for potential axon guidance phenotypes - Mapping of mutations isolated in genetic screens
Harald Hutter
 hutter@sfu.ca
 website
 

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