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Education & Outreach Undergraduate students

“Applying for the SURF program through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research was a great decision. It is such an enriching program, filled with unforgettable memories, scientific exposure, and an abundance of experience. I would recommend the program to any undergraduate student.” Drew Canfield Roger  Williams  University

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) 2013


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Priscilla Ahn / Rhode Island School of Design Visualization and imaging of marine plankton Mentor: Dr. Neal Overstrom Major: Cognitive neuroscience / furniture design Career path: Installation artist Expected graduation: Spring 2017 SURF project goal: We are exploring different methods of scientific imagery and visualization in an attempt to generate interest in and empathy for the marine zooplankton and phytoplankton found off the Rhode Island coast. Through a combination of new technology and the study of visual design and aesthetics, we hope to convey the beauty, diversity, and importance of these overlooked microorganisms that fuel marine ecosystems across the world. We expect to produce a successful and fully-realized art/science hybrid installation in the Nature Lab gallery space that will showcase the process, source materials, and results of our research on plankton and different modes of visualization. Why SURF?: Although I had switched concentrations to cognitive neuroscience, I still had an interest in biology and observation of the natural world, particularly under the context of environmentalism. Detached from the aquatic landscape, the ocean was intangible compared to terrestrial life. The SURF program was a gateway into understanding something so alien, beautiful, and important. The SURF experience: This was an eye opening experience to the wonders beyond our naked eye. It has been a fascinating intellectual exercise approaching marine plankton using both scientific and artistic processes. As a research fellow, I became familiar with maintaining an independent vision in harmony with a greater collaborative goal. Memorable research moment: During one of the photography sessions, I was capturing a collection of veligers in dark field under a stereomicroscope. The sight was reminiscent of the Hubble Deep Field of 1995. It was a beautiful and humbling experience that simultaneously enriched my research and my life.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Emmanuel Asiedu / Rhode Island College Expressing muscle in the notochord of Ciona intestinalis embryos Mentor: Dr. Thomas Meedel Major: Biology Career path: Pediatric cardiologist Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: Myogenic Regulatory Factors (MRFs) are transcription factors that regulate muscle development in animals.With this, the main goal of this summer is to be able to express muscle in the notochord of Ciona and to see if an alanine-threonine dipeptide bond, also referred to as the myogenic code, is conserved through other vertebrates. Why SURF?: I hope to be able to participate in biomedical research later on in my career in order to relay to my patients the new research being done about various conditions as well as the findings. This way, patients can have even greater confidence in my treatment methods. Participating in the SURF program is a great first step in my lifelong goal. The SURF experience: Research provides a dierent way of thinking. This also will help me in other avenues of life and education, and, in turn, help me become a well-rounded individual. Memorable research moment: My ability to identify a restriction enzyme that was not functioning properly. When treating plasmids with the restriction enzymes Sall and Pstl, the plasmids appeared to not have fully cut indicating a faulty restriction enzyme. After performing individual digests with each enzyme individually as well as together, then running each sample and a DNA sample that was not treated with restriction enzyme on a gel, it was noted that the sample treated with Sall matched that of the sample digested with both restriction enzymes. The sample digested with Pstl matched that of the sample of DNA not digested, which led me to conclude the Pstl was the faulty restriction enzyme.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Nicolas Baird / Brown University Visualization and imaging of marine plankton

Mentor: Dr. Neal Overstrom Major: Science & society; visual art Career path: Field biologist / photojournalist Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: We are exploring different methods of scientific imagery and visualization in an attempt to generate interest in and empathy for the marine zooplankton and phytoplankton found off the Rhode Island coast. Through a combination of new technology and the study of visual design and aesthetics, we hope to convey the beauty, diversity, and importance of these often overlooked microorganisms that fuel marine ecosystems across the world. Why SURF?: I have studied biology and visual art in relative isolation, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to combine the two in a cohesive, structured way. SURF allows me to work through some of the difficulties of scientific visualization and the practical implications of designing projects that combine art and science in a mutually informative way. The SURF experience: My experience at the Nature Lab and with SURF has been nothing but positive. We were given a general research project to work with at the beginning of the summer, but we’ve been able to branch out and dive deeper into certain areas of plankton science and visualization that really interest us. This has given me 1) a chance to figure out what problems and topics intrigue me, and 2) a focused space to think about what I’d like to do after SURF and after I graduate. Memorable research moment: My 19th or 20th attempt at taking a picture of zooplankton under a stereoscopic microscope was pretty unspectacular. It was just a silhouette of a barnacle cyprid, but it was the first image I’d taken that clearly showed the details and structure of the organism I was trying to capture. I changed the light settings on the microscope and found that by manipulating the light, I was able to emphasize certain aspects of the cyprid and make it stand out powerfully from the background. It was a minor breakthrough, but I realized then that it was possible to make beautiful images informative, and informative images beautiful — it’s just a matter of careful and mindful experimentation, and lots of patience.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Emily Bishop / University of Rhode Island Comparing decomposition rates in Rhode Island salt marshes Mentor: Serena Moseman-Valtierra Major: Marine biology Career path: Marine ecologist Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Compare the rate at which common cord grass decomposes between field sites, as a way to compare the amounts of Nitrogen pollution at the sites. I expect the sites with higher Nitrogen concentrations — those which are more polluted — to have faster rates of decomposition. Why SURF?: I wanted to participate in the SURF program so that I could practice developing and carrying out an independent project as a novice scientist. The SURF experience: I’ve had an awesome time being able to control my own variables with my experiment, and planning trips to the field all by myself. It’s really taught me about being a researcher, and given me experience with working through challenges with the scientific method. Memorable research moment: My first day of field work, when I stepped too close to the water in a salt marsh and sunk down to my knee in mud. I almost lost my boot that day, and I have been weary of going to the edge of the marsh ever since!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Eimear Black / Bryant University

Microbial ecology of contaminated coastal sites Mentor: Dr. Chris Reid Major: Biology Career path: Medical/science research Expected graduation: May 2014 SURF project goal: We want to find out what pollutants and what level of pollutants appear in the Blackstone River, and if any antibiotic resistance is present. We are expecting to see some antibiotic resistant bacteria present. Why SURF?: The program oers good experience and interesting work, and it’s enjoyable. The SURF experience: My work with SURF this summer has been very fulfilling. I am learning a lot more science through the program. Memorable research moment: The best moment is when we achieve good results from our experiments.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Matthew Breseman / Salve Regina University Genome assembly and functional biology of algal blooms Mentor: Dr. JD Swanson Major: Biology Career path: Medical school Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Identify microsatellite markers in and to sequence the genomes of Ulva Compressa and Ulva Rigida. The two algae species exhibit algael blooms that have a negative environmental eect on the bay. Essentially we are trying to map the genetic code of two common forms of algae to better understand and possibly control what makes them bloom. I hope that the experiments that I run work and that I can begin to sequence the genome of Ulva Compressa and Ulva Rigida. As far as expected outcomes, I hope to find genes in the two forms of algae. Why SURF?: I wanted to take advantage of the awesome opportunities SURF has to oer and to gain experience performing research. The SURF experience: The SURF program has been extremely fun and I feel as though I am gaining precious research experience. Memorable research moment: The BioDiesel presentation.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Drew Canfield / Roger Williams University Ocean acidification: Effects on morphology and mineralogy in otoliths of larval reef fish Mentor: Dr. Andrew Rhyne Major: Mechanical engineering & marine biology (double major) Career path: Marine research facility construction & management Expected graduation: Spring 2016 SURF project goal: The project aims to understand the impact of the gradually decreasing pH of the ocean on otolith development in reef larval fishes due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Why SURF?: I decided to participate in the SURF program because of two main reasons. First, I’ve displayed and harbored an interest for marine biology since early childhood, and wish to pursue my dream of becoming a marine scientist. Second, the program serves as an opportunity to gain experience in the field as well as begin to network among other professionals in the field. The SURF experience: SURF has provided the means to observe and understand the typical protocol and procedure for conducting an experiment, more specifically rearing larval fish and working in a marine research facility. I’ve worked with many professional fishery scientists, chemists, aquarists, and marine biologists, and was immersed into their daily routines. This resulted in becoming familiar with the use of stereomicroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, dissection microscopy, micro dissections, scanning electron microscopy preparations, and other necessary tools and practices to complete research. Memorable research moment: In late July, I harvested my 34 larvae and transported them to the University of Massachusetts in Boston and began to complete micro dissections to remove the otoliths. The most memorable moment this summer was being able to successfully and quickly remove both the left and right sagittae otoliths of a larval fish, prepare them for scanning electron microscopy, and then use the electron microscope to complete scans and image the otoliths. It was an incredible experience.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Taylor Clement / University of Rhode Island Understanding the evolution of parasitism in red algae Mentor: Dr. Chris Lane Major: Marine Biology Career path: Researcher or professor Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Studying the relationships between 3 types of algae. The first is Ascophy!um nodosum, a type of brown algae that is commonly found in rocky intertidal zones. Ascophy!um commonly has a red algal epiphyte that often grows on it called Vertebrata lanosa. This relationship neither harms nor benefits Ascophy!um, and the Vertebrata does not require inhabitance on Ascophy!um for survival. This species, like many other species of red algae, is prone to parasitism by another red algae due to its pit plugs, which allow for easy access into the cell. The parasite is also a type of red algae, and forms characteristic cysts after taking over various cells along the thallus. We are looking at genetic differences and similarities in each of the species across R.I., as well as a few other locations around the world. We are hoping to figure out if there is any pattern behind the presence of the parasite and the epiphyte based on relation to each other, and are looking for trends between the epiphyte and Ascophy!um. Why SURF?: Applying for graduate school is very daunting, as the decision to spend a lot of time and money focusing on a fairly specific topic is obviously a serious commitment. I went into the program hoping to get a taste of what it would be like working in a lab with algae, since that is what I intended to study in grad school. The SURF experience: It is almost overwhelming to think about how much I have learned in the past month. I came into the lab with very minimal understanding of genetics, and through performing the tasks required to get DNA from the raw algae specimen to a tube where it can be sequenced, and asking many questions, I am gaining a fairly solid grip on the subject. I knew this would be a challenging lab to work in due to my lack of experience in this field, but everyone’s patience and willingness to explain the background behind everything they teach me has made it such a fulfilling experience. Memorable research moment: The first was seeing bands in my gel after amplifying my DNA through PCR. ! It is good to know that all the previous steps actually worked! My other favorite moment was going diving to collect algae. I am so thrilled to have had this opportunity. It’s fun waking up and being excited to go into work!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Dennis Conetta / University of Rhode Island Causes of long-term declines in fish populations on coral reefs Mentor: Dr. Graham Forrester Major: Marine biology and wildlife conservation biology Career path: Undecided Expected graduation: December 2014 SURF project goal: Compiling and analyzing data from the volunteer reef monitoring program, Reef Check, and comparing it to professionally monitored reef data in to see if volunteers can help the scientific community get a better grasp on the ever changing states of reefs throughout time. I expect that the data trends will be consistent in tracking benthic non mobile organisms (e.g. coral) in both data sets however; the fish counts will not always be reliable from the volunteer data set. Why SURF?: I heard about this amazing opportunity from one of my colleagues and she said it was a great way to get hands on experience and a better grasp on research so I thought that it would be the perfect fit. The SURF experience: I have been reading scientific papers, grouping, compiling, and analyzing data sets, and running statistical analysis on this summarized data. I have really learned to eectively show trends in data and how to compile it in such a way that anyone can look at it briefly and understand the overall message of it. Memorable research moment: When we ran the data and found that the trends were consistent with both Reef Check and professional data sets for hard coral cover declining over the past sixteen years. It was a step in the right direction to prove my predictions. However, we also are comparing many other variables so it was somewhat of a small victory.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Ed Crosier / Roger Williams University Fatty acid esterification and analysis Mentor: Dr. Lauren Rossi Major: Marine biology & chemistry Career path: Ph.D. Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: The goal of the research project is to optimize the reaction to convert a fatty acid to a methyl ester in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. A variety of different reagents and conditions will be tested, including microwave irradiation, to convert saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids to their corresponding methyl esters. Once the best method is found, fatty acid profiles of biological samples can be obtained. Why SURF?: I wanted to participate in the SURF program in order to gain more experience in the lab outside of pure academics, and be able to apply what I have learned. I also hope to find more of what my interests really are in research. The ability to work one-on-one with my professor is a valuable way to gain more experience with instruments and overall ability to work effectively in a lab setting. The SURF experience: The experience this summer has definitely been positive toward my ability to work in a lab. I enjoy coming in everyday to gain more experience and to come closer to meeting my research goals. I am much more confident in my abilities and also have learned to use many instruments that I had little or no experience with in the past. Most memorable research moment: The feeling of progressing and obtaining positive results on my research has given me more motivation to more forward and has made the whole process more enjoyable and memorable. I find exciting that the possible outcome of my research can be applied and can contribute to others in related fields. !


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Khushbu Desai / Providence College Influence of wind mixing on feeding by the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi Mentor: Dr. Jack Costello Major: Biology Career path: Physician Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: I am surveying scientific literature that concerns flexible propulsors. With this information, we have been working on compiling a database so that the literature and its main points are readily available for reference. Why SURF?: I wanted to get involved in more undergraduate research and get the opportunity to gain more lab skills. Because I plan on pursuing a career in medicine, I figured the SURF program was an excellent opportunity for research experience before the medical school application process picked up. The SURF experience: I have definitely gained skills in reading scientific literature. I have also learned so much about excel and compiling data eďŹƒciently. Working in Woods Hole has been amazing, as I have also gotten the opportunity to meet many others that have a passion for science.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Chelsea Duball / University of Rhode Island Macroalgal bloom ecology and genomics Mentor: Dr. Carol Thornber Major: Environmental Science & Management Career path: Graduate school; work for government or consulting firm Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: The findings and presence of algae species located at eight beach sites throughout Warwick, RI. This project focuses on the presence of Ulva at each site, distinguishing between the species of U. rigida and U. compressa. After gathering data from focal surveys, we will use this information to identify seasonal and ecological trends occurring within the area and at each specific site location. The expectation is that the Ulva species becomes more abundant in the summer months, during the warmer weather. Why SURF?: The SURF program is well known and highly reputable for integrated research. I wanted to participate in the program to build lab and field experience, and expand my toolkit of practices and my subjects of knowledge. As an environmental major, I enjoy learning about a variety of ecosystems and fields, so this competitive research experience was the perfect opportunity to do just that. This experience will boost my resume and add to my experience with research work to set me above other applicants. The SURF experience: I enjoy how SURF not only provides you with the opportunity to do your own research with a team, but also to provide you with an array of field trips that help inform on critical components of research. My experience in the lab and field has been something new to me. I have never learned anything about algae before and now after this experience I know I am capable of identifying several species as well as related practices to collecting, preserving and analyzing specimen. Memorable research moment: We were in the field hunting for a specific Ulva species, which is not easy to do with the naked eye. I specifically was looking for Ulva lactuca, but did not see it in the intertidal zone where it is commonly found. I looked farther out and saw a bloom floating. I wasn’t wearing waders, so I looked at the grad student I was working with and said, “I’m going in!” I pulled my shoes off and jumped in, dedicated and barefoot, knowing I had to get that bloom. The grad student thought I was crazy, but, hey, we got the algae!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Jessica Eason / Brown University Effects of copper on salt marsh invertebrates

Mentor: Dr. Serena Moseman-Valtierra Major: Marine Biology Career path: Study effects of marine neuro-toxins Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Copper is a rising problem in Narragansett Bay due to its role in the nitrogen cycle where it has the ability to convert nitrogen into a form that is either a pollutant or that is beneficial to the environment. My project looks at the effect of copper on the marine invertebrates, specifically mussels, in the Bay. I am looking at the effect that copper has on mussel embryo development. The more copper present in each treatment/site should result in an increase in underdeveloped mussel embryos. Why SURF?: The University of Rhode Island has a great marine biology program with professors who are passionate about marine life, and the SURF program provided me with the opportunity to do rigorous science with some of the world’s best marine biologists. The SURF experience: I have gotten the feel for what it would be like as a graduate student who is able to choose and develop his or her own project. So far, I have learned skills such as management of both time and resources that I expect will be beneficial both in my senior year of college and beyond graduation. Memorable research moment: Trying to spawn my mussels for three days straight with no luck. Although the experience was a bit frustrating, it was fun to play around with the mussels and get a better sense of their biology. So far, SURF has been a great experience and I look forward to presenting my final data.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Katharine Egan / University of Rhode Island Macroalgal bloom ecology and genomics Mentor: Dr. Carol Thornber Major: Marine biology Career path: Graduate school Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: This summer I am trying to understand the formation of macroalgae blooms in Greenwich Bay, Rhode Island. I am specifically looking at Ulva spp. which is a type of green algae that blooms rapidly in Greenwich Bay. Ulva spp. goes through a life cycle where they alternate between different ploidy levels. This means the amount of DNA changes during the life cycle of Ulva. The problem is that you cannot tell the difference between species that have less DNA or more DNA by just looking at it. It involves looking into the nucleus of Ulva itseld. This is where I use a machine called the flow cytometer to determine the amount of DNA in Ulva. Depending on the amount of DNA, this could show how fast or slow Ulva blooms in Greenwhich Bay. The end goal is to try and set up growth experiments and ecological experiments between the Ulva with more or less DNA. Why SURF?: SURF involves schools from across Rhode Island so I get to see research from labs in different schools, and I also like the idea of labs from different colleges coordinating their research. The SURF experience: I enjoy doing my research full time and I am making good progress. The lectures and workshops that SURF coordinates are an excellent idea and have been really helpful and informative. Memorable research moment: The moment where the flow cytometer was showing great results for the samples I had prepared the entire day before. It’s always great to see your method work. !


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Brigid Garrity / Providence College Shoulder Girdle Movement During Alligator Strides (A!igator mississippiensis) Mentor: Dr. David Baier Major: Biology Career path: Undecided Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: We are studying alligator forelimb locomotion. The goal of our research is to calculate movements of the vertebral column, scapulacoracoid, humerus, and interclavicle relative to one another and to determine how much each one influences stride using various computer programs as well as X-ray and light camera videos of A!igator mississippiensis walking on a treadmill or a trackway. We are currently thinking that interclavicle movement may play a role in alligator locomotion which would indicate some sort of rib movement that has yet to be found in any other vertebrates. Why SURF?: I was fortunate enough to have received an extra SURF grant from a student at PC who could not participate in the program. I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in the program this summer. The SURF experience: I have been enjoying the program this summer, and I especially enjoyed the lecture at the University of Rhode Island Bay Campus on bioinformatics. Memorable research moment: I have been working on this project since last summer, and we are finally working on quantifying our results, which is very rewarding.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Joseph Guerreiro / Rhode Island College Effects of nitrogen loading on mussel populations

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Mentor: Dr. Breea Govenar Major: Biology Career path: Academic research Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: Gathering data for a multi-year salt marsh study of the differences in mussel populations (such as mussel density, mussel size, and the overall health of the organisms) in relation to the amount of nutrients available to them. I also am looking at the interaction between the mussels and a form of seagrass called cordgrass, which mussels form very close relationship with, to see how the mussels are affected by this association. We expect to see at different Narragansett Bay sites differences in the density and size of the mussels. At sites that have more nutrient addition (via pollution), we expect to see, and have in the past seen, many more mussels Why SURF?: I wanted to participate in the SURF program because I enjoy doing research. I recently started doing undergraduate research under another professor at RIC, working with a bacterium. The SURF program gives me experience working in a different lab and learning some of the skills required of a field ecologist. The SURF experience: I have learned more about the different kinds of research that can be done within the field of biology. SURF has taught me how to manage a group of fellow students and work together to get the work done, and I learned more about managing time and being able to plan my work to meet the deadline and present results. The program has made me a more observant and better scientist. Most memorable research moment: My most memorable research moment was the first time I led a group of people out into the field to collect samples. It felt great to be out there knowing that our advisor had all the confidence in the team and I to get everything done right.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Cécile Harmange / Brown University Barcoding marine diatoms Mentor: Dr. Tatiana Rynearson Major: Undecided Career path: Doctor Expected graduation: Spring 2016 SURF project goal: Sequencing diatom DNA from samples collected by the team from previous cruises through PCR and poly-A gels. With this DNA, I will be able to mark each sample and create a phylogenetic tree using the distance in genetic differences. This tree will help us understand how the species T. gravida has evolved. We are trying to uncover how the species has evolved, and we don’t know where this project will lead. Why SURF?: Knowing that I am passionate in science, I think that I either want to do research or be a doctor after college. Having done a medical research internship at MGH in high school, I wanted to experience the university side of research, and from there I found the SURF program. The SURF experience: I have been learning many new techniques, as well as gaining an understanding on how to create experiments and think through questions asked by scientists. It’s interesting to see the process needed to slowly begin to uncover answers one by one. Memorable research moment: I am most proud of being able to go through an experiment without any help from my mentor, and then being able to analyze and understand the results. At first, my mentor helped me process the results and told me what they represented within the bigger goal of the process. I now understand whether an experiment was good or bad, and whether the results make sense. I hope to further develop my skills so that I can see the results and then design the next experiment that should follow up the results obtained. I am enjoying my time with SURF and look forward to learning a lot in the next few weeks!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Eric Hopf / Bryant University

Systems of trace metal transport, and bio-update in urban intertidal zones, Narragansett Bay Mentor: Dr. Julia Crowley Parmentier Major: Environmental science Career path: Environmental manager Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Find the concentration of certain metals at trace amounts within sediment. If we find that there are higher concentrations of metals than there should be, then we try to figure out the source of that metal by looking at the surrounding businesses that are currently there as well as in the past. I expect to find very high levels of lead and iron because of the preexisting industries that have been located around the banks of the Bay. I also expect to find a very high level of hydrocarbons because of the prominent smell of petroleum in many of the samples we collected. Why SURF?: I wanted to gain experience in the laboratory as well as being able to take control of a research project of my own and work independently. I also heard great things about the program and how competitive it was, so I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to grow as a scientist this summer. The SURF experience: This summer has been invaluable. Every day I learn more about what it takes to be successful in the lab. If I had to choose one aspect of the experience, it would be that I am now much more capable of thinking like a scientist because of the problems and obstacles that I am met with every day that requires critical thinking to overcome. Memorable research moment: When I had to stay until 12 a.m. to complete my Loss of Ignition (LOI) experiment. This experience drove home that fact that being a scientist is not a typical 9-5 job. You work until your research is done. And, if you love what you’re doing, then it won’t feel like work. When I had to stay for 16 hours that day, I didn’t feel like I was at work — just more excited to see the outcome of my experiment.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Allison Hubbard / Bryant University Effects of PAH mixtures on biodegradation of shoreline sediment in a changing climate Mentor: Dr. Dan McNally Major: Environmental science Career path: Invasive species management, conservation Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: We are looking at bacteria from soil samples on Prudence Island, in Narragansett Bay, in order to find a bacterium that eats oil/diesel. We hope to find the bacteria and be able to manipulate it into “eating” more diesel. Why SURF?: I wanted to participate in the SURF program for the opportunity to explore different areas of science, to enhance my learning experience, and to network. The SURF experience: My work with SURF this summer has been amazing. I am gaining valuable experience, I’ve enjoyed networking, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for learning. Memorable research moment: So far, the most memorable moment was when we finally found the right media to support bacterial growth. SURF has been one of the best experiences of my life!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Hannah Kerman / Brown University Zooplankton of Narragansett Bay Mentor: Dr. Casey Dunn Major: Biology Career path: Marine biologist or science journalist Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: We have been trying to gain a better understanding of what types of zooplankton can be found in the Narragansett Bay and the Rhode Island, Block Island sound area. Specifically, I have been searching for physical and biological factors that might point to the presence of siphonophores, a colonial jelly fish that the Dunn lab studies for its amazing development. My project has been to study the physical and biological factors that could lead to the presence of siphonophores off the coast of Rhode Island. We expected to see siphonophores in off the west shore of Block Island, a few miles out into the ocean. Why SURF?: I wanted to try my hand at fieldwork and to gain knowledge about the environment where I live. The SURF experience: The experience has been very interesting. It is a different kind of project because we had a lot of freedom to figure things out for ourselves, so my fellow undergraduate and I came to realize how much planning and literature research goes into every field attempt. Yet, we also were able to participate in the field research and to get a sense for how much trial and error goes into gathering useful samples. Memorable research moment: Coming home from Block Island after a day of collecting from a kayak and hearing very positive remarks from a grad student about the samples we took.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Peter Killian / University of Rhode Island Adaptability of subsurface rock-hosted marine organisms dwelling in rocks from the seafloor

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Mentor: Dr. Dawn Cardace Major: Biological sciences/Premed; Spanish Career path: Physician Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Microorganisms found in certain areas of water can survive in extreme conditions, living with very little carbon deposits in rocks with very non-acidic surroundings. There is a major importance in better understanding these microbes that are related to many living beings on Earth. With water samples taken from California drilling sites, these samples were given added nutrients to promote the growth of any microbes living within them. We hope to analyze the dierent groups found and categorize them based on their appearances and characteristics. Why SURF?: The SURF program is a competitive opportunity to test if I have the qualifications to be accepted into such a rewarding experience. I wanted to expand my knowledge in biology by trying something new and exciting. Every day in lab, I have learned something new. The SURF experience: This program has allowed me to explore a new field. My mentor has allowed me to try new things in lab, make plenty of mistakes, and support any idea that crosses my mind. Memorable research moment: Without a doubt, the autoclave process that took about three days to complete when it should have only taken about an hour or two. While my master’s student was away for a conference, there were specific tasks my lab partner and I were to complete. First on the list was to prepare an agar solution, which requires boiling water. When we tried to do this on a hot plate the first time, the beaker of water was sitting for almost an hour without boiling. We then turned up the heat so high that the beaker cracked. When we tried to do complete this process again, we adjusted the heat more carefully and after an entire day of not boiling, we came to find out that the hot plate itself was broken.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Kirston Barrett / Salve Regina University Marine climate change and effects of substrate diversity Mentor: Dr. Sarah Matarese Major: Biology; minors in chemistry and neuroscience Career path: Dentist Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: We are collecting data about the distribution and diversity of marine invertebrates along Newport neck. We collect data along the shoreline, while also collecting data from shallow and deep areas of the ocean. Our goal is to determine how the climate changing is affecting the marine invertebrates and their habitats. This is the third year of a five year study. There have been studies to show that the ocean levels are rising due to global warming. As the ocean rises, the substrate at the shoreline will change and this will greatly affect the marine populations inhabiting these areas. Therefore, I expect that at the end of the five-year study the populations found at each site along Newport neck will change dramatically. Why SURF?: I wanted to get involved in research at my university, but could not find the time during the school year. SURF is the perfect opportunity to get involved in research and be completely focused on it. The SURF experience: This summer has been an amazing experience. I enjoy every day of work, and the people that I am surrounded by. I have learned so many different skills. I feel as though I am more comfortable in a professional science setting. I would recommend this program to every science student. Memorable research moment: Going out on the Boston Whaler with my crew. I really enjoy being on the boat and pulling up the lobster traps to collect the marine creatures.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Josh Leitao / Roger Williams University Using Entamoeba to explore effects of climate change in marine and fresh water protists Mentor: Dr. Avelina Espinosa Major: Biology, chemistry Career path: BS in biology and chemistry; Ph.D. in biotechnology; pharmaceutical research scientist Expected graduation: Spring 2016 SURF project goal: the origin and evolution of the metabolic pathways of Entamoeba species that have evolved the ability to survive in different environments. The significance of my research is that little is known about the basic biology of marine and fresh water amoebozoans, including their complex behaviors and interactions, or even the effect of climate change. I am manipulating these microorganisms to observe chemical signaling at a unicellular level to observe the effect of environmental stresses that these microorganisms endure. Why SURF?: The program is an amazing scientific opportunity for me to increase my scientific knowledge, and laboratory skills to achieve my education and career goals. SURF will allow me to develop efficient research skills that can aid in the progression of obtaining a Ph.D in biotechnology. In the immediate future, it will help me to gain experience toward creating a senior thesis. The SURF experience: Not every experiment is going to have a positive result, but after the countless hours/days of manipulating a protocol; producing even the smallest amount of positive feedback can make any experiment worth while. Even though most of the experiments in my lab take more than 5 hours to complete, the positive results make up for that duration. During the course of this 10-week experience, I have loved this amazing opportunity to conduct research where I feel confident in my ability to conduct, and discuss science. Memorable research moment: When I started conducting the staining procedure for the amoeba strain Entamoeba moshkovshii snake. I was in lab from 7 pm to 1 am and I thought I was going to observe terrible results because it was my first time manipulating and working with amoeba in an experiment. The next day I took an image of my stained amoeba and I recorded positive results, which sparked my determination to persevere.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Helen Lord / Brown University

Structure-function analysis of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors Mentor: Dr. Eward Hawrot Major: Biology Career path: Research in neuroscience Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, and the effect that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have on the receptor. Neuronal nAChRs are ligand-gated, inwardly rectifying receptors that are made up of 2α and 3β subunits. These neuronal subunits contain a cysteine in the M1-M2 linker region at the pore of the receptor. It is hypothesized that this cys is the target for ROS in α3β4-containing and α4β2-containing neuronal nAChRs. The ROS create a conformational change in the nAChRs, causing the receptors to enter a prolonged inactivated state. The Cooper lab at McGill University substituted the cysteine for an alanine in the M1-M2 linker region of the α3 subunit to create a functional nAChR that does not inactivate in the presence of ROS. I am currently working to make a target vector with this substitution (and possibly create a knock-in mouse in the future) to see if I can prevent neuronal nAChRs from entering this prolonged inactivated state. Why SURF?: At this point, getting as much lab experience as possible will help me figure out what type of research specifically interests me and help me decide what I would like to focus on in graduate school. The SURF experience: Working here in the summer has given me a much better sense of what it is like to work in a lab fulltime and will certainly aid me in narrowing down my path to a career that I find fulfilling. Memorable research moment: I spent three months trying to get colonies from my e-coli transformations, and the moment that I finally found colonies was very exciting.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Stephanie Marvel / Salve Regina University Understanding mechanism of parasite survival Mentor: Dr. Alison Shakarian Major: Biology Career path: Veterinarian Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: We’re trying to find how differences in the gene expression of four species of the parasite Leishmania may affect pathogenesis of the disease leishmaniasis in humans. We should find some similarities and some differences in the gene sequences that give us some insight into why some species cause cutaneous leishmaniasis, why some cause visceral leishmaniasis, and why some are nonpathogenic to humans. Why SURF?: I wanted to gain some experience in the lab, learn new techniques and practice ones I had learned in class, and have the chance to learn about research projects going on in other labs. The SURF experience: My work with SURF this summer has been amazing. I am gaining valuable experience, I’ve enjoyed networking, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for learning. Memorable research moment: Obtaining conclusive results from a polyacrylamide gel was pretty memorable since it really showed how much progress we’d made in the research project.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Noe Mercado / Salve Regina University Genome assembly and functional biology of algal blooms Mentor: Dr. JD Swanson Major: Biology Career path: Lab technician/graduate school Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Determine the link between temperature fluctuation and macroalgal bloom formation in different sites around Rhode Island. The magnitude and duration of the blooms are predicted to increase as the climate changes, which will cause negative impacts on the overall stability of ecosystems. I want to find the genes that are responsible for the blooms so that massive bloom formations can be prevented. Why SURF?: I wanted to gain research experience during the summer without having to worry about my classes at the same time. I have been involved in the research since sophomore year; therefore, I wanted to continue my research during my final summer as an undergraduate student. The SURF experience: I have gained valuable experience in the lab and it has been enjoyable going out to the field and collecting Ulva samples. I have spent a large portion of the summer performing RNA extractions and Reverse Transcription to synthesize cDNA, which will be followed by qPCR. I will be able to analyze different genes that could be responsible for bloom formations after analyzing the qPCR results. SURF has been a great experience so far and I am thankful for the opportunity to continue my research and expand my knowledge. Everything I have learned thus far in the summer will help me succeed in the future. Memorable research moment: Going on the tour of the aquarium at Roger Williams University. It was interesting to observe the different species of marine organisms maintained in the aquarium and learning about the different experiments that the students were performing.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Jacqueline Mitchell / Roger Williams University Ocean acidification: Eects on morphology and mineralogy in otoliths of larval reef fish Mentor: Dr. Andrew Rhyne Major: Marine biology Career path: Undecided Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: To understand the eect varying pH levels have on otolith (a fish's ear bone) development. We expect that fish development will be correlated with pH. Why SURF?: I wanted to participate in the SURF program to gain research experience. The SURF experience: The SURF program has been a good experience and a good lesson in what it is like to be part of an ongoing research project.. Memorable research moment: Dissecting my first larval fish and successfully extracting the otoliths without breaking them.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013 Sara Moore / Rhode Island College

Effects of climate change in salt marsh food webs

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Mentor: Dr. Breea Govenar Major: Biology Career path: MD/PhD joint degree Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: The salt marshes of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay cycle greenhouse gases including nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane. This geochemical cycle responds to increased nutrients in the form of pollution from wastewater runoff and nitrogen based fertilizers. Our work involves characterizing the microbial community (i.e., bacteria and archaea) participating in this cycle. Geukensia demissa, also known as the ribbed mussel, is a dominant salt marsh invertebrate filter feeder. Because of its dietary habits, the ribbed mussel contains bacteria and archaea among which may produce greenhouse gases. My research focuses on identifying the microorganisms in the gut and digestive tract of the ribbed mussel to determine a relationship between the mussel, microorganisms and greenhouse gases. We hope to identify the microbial community within the stomach and intestinal tract of the ribbed mussel. Why SURF?: The summer offers an opportunity to completely indulge in research. I began this project in the fall of 2012 and continued through the SURF program for a chance to dedicate more time and energy to the project. I also looked forward to meeting other SURF students across Rhode Island. The SURF experience: I am learning what it is like to work full time in a laboratory. Since this is what I hope to do as a career, it is a great experience. Memorable research moment: Working with my mentor to determine the best way to go about starting a particular part of the project. We spread out resources and notebooks across a table and spent a morning determining the best approach. When our materials arrived, I worked independently in the lab to conduct the experiment. Though we did not get the results we hoped, we share ideas for the next steps. This experience was great because I was very involved and understood the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind the research.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Christina Ortiz / Salve Regina University Understanding mechanism of parasite survival Mentor: Dr. Allison Shakarian Major: Biology Career path: Physician Expected graduation: Spring 2015 SURF project goal: Analyzing the DNA of a parasite known as Leishmania to determine what genes cause the cells to display pathogenic traits. We compare the genes from pathogenic types to nonpathogenic types of Leishmania. We hope to find sequences in the pathogenic types that are not in non-pathogenic strains. Why SURF?: Having the chance to work on the research during the summer through SURF was very appealing because I could devote my time to research versus having classes to focus on during the school year. SURF also allows students to interact with other students from dierent colleges and learn about the research that other campuses are working on. SURF is a great way to stay interested in research. The field trips, presentations and other events show how doing research relates to much more outside of the lab. The SURF experience: This summer has been great in regard to productivity. I am able to come into the labs at Salve and learn new techniques in microbiology that will come in handy if I decide to continue with research as a career. I feel like I have grown, not only as a scientist, but also as one who can speak about her work. At Salve, we have Monday Morning meetings, where students present their work. These presentations have allowed me to practice for the SURF conference and have made me more comfortable in speaking about my research. Memorable research moment: Earlier in the summer, my research group was having trouble with getting results. My most memorable moment was sitting down with my team and looking at all the possibilities that could cause us to not get results. Figuring out how to test our procedure together was a cool moment.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Jill Pegnataro / Salve Regina University Modeling habitat selection by intertidal and near shore subtidal marine invertebrates and small fish in response to climate change Mentor: Dr. Sarah Matarese Major: Biology Career path: Field study research Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: My research focuses on the male to female ratio of the American lobster population in the Newport Neck region. This study hypothesized that there is a 1:1 ratio of males to females. There are eight near-shore lobster trap sites that were chosen along this location. Each week the traps are set and retrieved and the lobster carapace size and sex are recorded. If the data supports the hypothesis there will be an equal number of male to female lobsters. In the beginning of the summer, we expect there will be a skewed male to female sex ratio. Females will stay in deeper waters in the early summer and move to shallow warmer waters at the end of summer to spawn. It is hypothesized that the data collected at the end of the summer will better represent the American Lobster population in Newport. Why SURF?: I wanted to have a hands-on experience in a field study, specifically marine biology. It is a subject that I am very passionate about and the SURF program gave me an opportunity to get involved in local research. The SURF experience: The experience has been great. I really enjoy working as a team with the other interns and experiencing field study research. I have learned so much about the local marine species and I love being out on the water. This program also has helped me to become more confident when presenting to groups of people. Memorable research moment: When an eel had slipped out of my hands and landed in the boat. It took a moment for our group to compose ourselves before getting it back in the water. Eels do not like to be held.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Sarah Pierce / Community College of Rhode Island Eects of PAH mixtures on biodegradation of shoreline sediment in a changing climate Mentor: Dr. Dan McNally Major: Chemical technology and biotechnology Career path: Cancer treatment research Expected graduation: Fall 2014 SURF project goal: Identify bacteria that live in the contaminated sediment of Prudence Island, in Narragansett Bay, and find one that degrades the contamination. We hope to find bacteria that degrades PAHs. Why SURF?: I wanted to gain experience in research and connect with other individuals in the Rhode Island science community. The SURF experience: I have found the SURF experience this summer to be insightful and fulfilling. I feel as though I am gaining good experience in the science research field. Memorable research moment: The most memorable part of the research so far has been getting the samples on Prudence Island. In the beginning, I was finishing up my associate’s degree at the Community College of Rhode Island, not knowing what I would be doing afterward. During this time, through talking with my peers and professors, I decided to apply to Rhode Island College to study biochemistry. I hope to further my education even more and eventually work in research for cancer treatment.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Victoria Themuda / Rhode Island College Heat shock protein levels in marine invertebrates as responses to climate change Mentor: Dr. John Williams Major: Biochemistry Career path: Pharmacist Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Extract and analyze expression of heat shock protein 70 and heat shock protein 90 in salt marsh mussels, Geukensia demissa, from three dierent sites. Heat shock proteins are chaperone proteins that help fold and unfold denatured proteins. By observing their expression we can identify the stress that global warming has on aquatic life, in particular, Geukensia demissa. Why SURF?: I felt SURF was an excellent learning opportunity as well as a good way to take my theoretical understanding of protein extraction/purification and apply it to a practical use. The SURF experience: SURF has given me a lot of academic independence by learning from basic literature research in order to recreate the protocol for protein extraction/ purification. Not only has this helped me better understand the process of protein extraction/purification, but it also has given me a better academic self-esteem for the coming school year. And, I have gained insight into which field of science I would like to explore further, and grown into an independent, academically confident student. Memorable research moment: Collecting samples at the salt marshes and seeing the numerous spiders at each site (I do not like spiders at all, whatsoever), knowing that I needed to interact with them in order to collect samples. All in the name of science!


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Madison Van Orden / Salve Regina University The effect of climate change on marine organism diversity and abundance in Newport neck Mentor: Dr. Sarah Matarese Major: Biology Career path: Undecided Expected graduation: Spring 2014 SURF project goal: Researching the effect climate change will have on the subtidal species. I hope to be able to better understand the future problems that will arise due to the changing tide level and determine the effect it will have on species diversity and abundance. Specifically I will be looking at the diversity and abundance of species that are currently in the subtidal region along Newport Neck. I will then be correlating the lobster trap data of what is found in the subtidal zone with the substrate collection data to confirm that substrate has an impact on the species. Why SURF?: I’ve done research the past two summers at Salve and have always enjoyed doing research! The SURF experience: My experience has been great. I = enjoy working in the field every day and have become independent with my research. The best thing I’ve taken away so far has been the respect for the amount of hard work and physical labor that goes into field work. The physical demands of our research are significantly greater than I’ve had before working in a lab. Memorable research moment: There are so many memorable moments it’s hard to choose just one. The research team I work with every day has gotten so close from the highs of catching a lot in the lobster traps and getting great data from shore lining, to the lows of very creative language when we fall on the cliffs and get soaked in freezing cold water at 6 a.m. on the boat.


Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013

Dan Wilson / University of Rhode Island Single-molecule studies of cell membrane stability Mentor: Dr. Jason Dwyer Major: Chemistry, secondary education Career path: Graduate degree, chemistry or education; undecided Expected graduation: May 2014 SURF project goal: Strong and reliable cell membranes are necessary for the enduring survival of living organisms. Cell membranes are selectively permeable lipid bilayer-based walls that act as a pathway for transport of various chemicals from cell exterior to cell interior. The stability and other properties of the lipid bilayer, including its potential uses, are highly dependent on environmental conditions. Significant improvements in the reliable stability and understanding of aperture-suspended lipid bilayers and their interactions with environmental contaminants could result in useful applications of nanopore spectroscopy in both industrial and clinical settings. Why SURF?: I saw the SURF program as an interesting opportunity to provide original contributions to intensive research while also having access to professional growth opportunities not as easily accessible under normal circumstances. These workshops and field trips have allowed me to look further into my career path interests and refine my personal goals. The SURF experience: While laboratory research is not entirely new to me, I feel that my research methods and eďŹƒciency in the laboratory have improved. I am pleased with my new level of understanding of the spectroscopy instrumentation in our laboratory.

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Profile for RI NSF EPSCoR

SURF 2013  

Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) funds a 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (S...

SURF 2013  

Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) funds a 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (S...

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