Research Opportunities

Summer 2021 research opportunities posted on December 18, 2020. Summer 2022 opportunities will be posted by December 6, 2021.
  • Humaira Gowher, Associate Professor

    Effect of Oct4 interaction on histone demethylation activity of Lsd1 at stem cell enhancers

    Based on our previously published work showing the inhibition of Lsd1 histone demethylation activity by Oct4, in this study we will determine the region of Oct4 that interacts with Lsd1 and impacts its activity. The student will clone, express, and purify truncated variants of Oct4 in the bacterial expression system and perform histone methylation assays with Lsd1 in presence of the truncated proteins. This study will give an insight into the mechanism by which Oct4 inhibits Lsd1 activity while binding to DNA at stem cell enhancers.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July

    Ann Kirchmaier, Associate Professor

    Impact of Metabolism on Epigenetics

    Undergraduate Research Opportunity in Epigenetics. The student will conduct primary hypothesis-based research, learn to design experiments, and interpret results. The student will utilize genetic, biochemical, or nutritional strategies to assess functions of evolutionarily conserved metabolic enzymes and how their metabolic intermediates influence gene expression using the budding yeast model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Gordon McNickle, Plant ecology assistant


    McNickle Lab - We are looking for a student to help process laboratory samples related to plant community ecology and forest ecology. We seek to understand patterns of plant species diversity in natural systems. Depending on the student's class schedule this could include fieldwork in forests near campus, or work in the laboratory either with samples or computer. We have a diverse lab and are welcoming of all people. You can learn more about who we are, and what we do at our lab webpage!

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Joe Ogas, Professor

    Genetic analysis of epigenetic pathways

    The student investigator will use a genetic approach to explore relationships between conserved epigenetic pathways using plants as a model system. The student will generate combinatorial mutants and assess the developmental and molecular phenotype of the resulting plants to test current models of how chromatin-based differentiation occurs. This project will involve isolation of genomic DNA, PCR, electrophoresis, and sterile technique as well as some combination of characterization of developmental phenotypes and assessment of RNA transcript levels and DNA damage. This project will prominently feature experimental design, data analysis, and hypothesis testing..

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Jonathan (Alex) Pasternak, Assistant Professor

    Molecular Physiology of PRRSV2 Responce

    Our lab studies host response to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Virus in the late gestation fetus and weaned pig. The scope of this summer’s project will depend on the COVID related restriction at the time but students can expect to be involved in a combination of laboratory techniques (RNA extraction, qPCR, protein quantification, histology, and microscopy) and animal work (necropsy, sample processing, husbandry). Students interested in the position are encouraged to contact Dr. Pasternak directly.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Laura Ingwell, Assistant Professor

    Pest Management in High Tunnel Cucumber Production

    My research program is focused on managing insect pests that attack food crops, particularly in what are considered protected environments. This includes greenhouse production and crop production in high tunnels, a large structure covered in plastic with moveable walls to vent the environment. I currently have opportunities for students to look at cucumber production, susceptibility to two-spotted spider mite pests, and using organic and biological strategies to manage this pest. Student researchers will also gain experience in translating their knowledge into Extension materials for growers to utilize.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Scott McAdam, Assistant Professor

    Investigating leaf anatomy and stomatal responses in ferns

    We seek to identify the key traits that drive co-ordination between hydraulic supply and demand in land plants, a trade-off that is essential for plant growth on land. This project will focus on whether there is a link between hydraulic supply and demand in one of the most productive families of ferns on the planet, the Marsileaceae. These results will have important implications for understanding how this group of ferns came to rival angiosperms in terms of high leaf productivity. This project will involve anatomical measurements of leaves and stems across species as well as measurements of key leaf hydraulic traits including stomatal responses.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • Vaneet Aggarwal, Associate Professor

    Applications of Reinforcement Learning

    In this project, we will explore different applications of Reinforcement Learning for gameplay.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Vaneet Aggarwal, Associate Professor

    RL in Blockchain

    We aim to come up with efficient blockchain protocols aiming at improved throughputs and reduced latency.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Christopher Williams, Assistant Professor

    Research in Reinforced Concrete Structures

    The research is focused on the design and behavior of reinforced concrete structures. The opportunity will provide a student with exposure to hands-on research activities within a large structural testing lab. The student should be willing to help fabricate large reinforced concrete specimens and/or testing hardware. The need may also arise for reviewing data or other computer work.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • A.J. Schwichtenberg, Associate Prof.

    Sleep, Health, and the Home (SHH Study)

    The goal of this study is to evaluate potential mechanisms between toddler sleep patterns and obesity risk (as indexed by elevated adiposity, toddlers stress, and family risk factors). There are three areas of sleep associated with elevated risk for obesity - short sleep duration, high sleep variability, and high levels of sleep fragmentation. This research study aims to examine within the context of toddler stress and familial risk: (1) explore which toddler sleep behaviors are associated with obesity risk, and (2) delineate the concurrent pathways between family sleep-related behaviors, toddler stress, and obesity risk. Students working on this project will assist with data coding, entry, and analyses. Tasks may include reading studies, prepping infant/toddler sleep sensors, scoring sleep data, preparing Sleep and Health in the Home (SHH) kits.

    This experience will occur: June and July

    Chelsea Song, Assistant Professor

    Recruitment and Selection

    We conduct research on a variety of topics related to personnel selection (hiring practices), which include: 1) Enhancing diversity in the workplace (adverse impact) 2) Individual differences and person-job fit - Longitudinal development of personality and vocational interests - How certain cognitive and non-cognitive individual differences are related to the performance and satisfaction in the workplace These topics aim to answer questions revolving around personnel selection (e.g., hiring, promotion) such as what predicts workplace outcome (e.g., personality, vocational interests), how to measure them (e.g., psychometrics), and how to make decisions (e.g., diversity in hiring, multiple-objective optimization). Our undergraduate research assistants will take part in a variety of hands-on research experiences and training, which include: - Literature review - Data management - Data analysis - Writing and presentation of research projects Research assistants in my lab will have the opportunity to learn R and RStudio (programming language/statistical software) to conduct data analysis with real-world workplace data. Skill in R (and RStudio) is seen as prominent in graduate school applications and by I-O psychology positions in data-driven companies (e.g., Google, Facebook).

    This experience will occur: June, July, and August

    Alvin Kao, Assistant Professor

    The acute effects of physical activity on brain, cognition, and academic skills in children

    The Physical Activity and NeuroCognitive Health (PANCH) lab is conducting a research project to investigate how a single bout of exercise influences children’s cognition. Specifically, this project compares the efficacy of high-intensity interval exercise versus traditional aerobic exercise in enhancing children’s brain function and performance during computerized cognitive tasks as well as an academic achievement test. The goal of this project is to determine the best practice method to integrate exercise into children’s daily life such as school days to boost their cognitive function that is fundamental for learning. Our lab utilizes a multidisciplinary approach combining kinesiology, psychology, and neuroscience to better understand how we can use exercise as a strategy to optimize childhood cognitive function. Students will have opportunities to learn skills, including but not limited to: (1) administer exercise/resting metabolic test (i.e., VO2max), (2) assess cognitive function and brain activities using an electroencephalogram (EEG) system and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), (3) deliver different modes of exercise interventions, (4) perform data reduction and statistical analysis, (5) present research findings in research conferences, (6) recruit and interact with child participants and their parents, and (7) collaborate with a group of research personnel.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Erin Hennes, Assistant Professor

    Social Cognition of Social Justice Lab

    Research in the Social Cognition of Social Justice (SCSJ) laboratory focuses on cognitive and motivational biases in information processing and person perception, particularly in the context of contemporary social issues such as environmental sustainability and racial and gender inequality. New students in the lab will primarily collect data and conduct literature reviews. Additional responsibilities, such as data cleaning, data analysis, stimulus design, and programming will be available for advanced students. Students will receive mentorship in pursuing their own career goals, as well as have the opportunity to receive additional training on topics such as data analysis, study design, and presentational skills. Outstanding students may have the opportunity to apply for paid positions and/or to develop new research as part of an honor’s thesis or independent research project in future semesters.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Erin Hennes, Assistant Professor

    The SuperPower Project

    Research in the SuperPower laboratory focuses on the development of new methods for supporting scientific best practices, with a focus on sample size determination. Lab members are engaged in a number of research projects related to statistical software development, data simulation, meta-analysis, machine learning, and human-computer interaction. Research assistants are not required to have previous knowledge of power analysis or other statistical methods, but it is essential that they demonstrate interest in quantitative methods and willingness to familiarize themselves with the research area. New students in the lab will primarily assist with tasks such as programming in R, conducting literature reviews, meta-analysis coding, or user-centered design. Additional responsibilities, such as software interface development and machine learning analyses will be available for advanced students. Students will receive mentorship in pursuing their own career goals. Outstanding students may have the opportunity to apply for paid positions and/or to develop new research as part of an honor’s thesis or independent research project in future semesters.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Jorge Banda, Assistant Professor

    Youth Sports and Physical Activity

    Dr. Banda’s research focuses on developing and evaluating community-based interventions to decrease sedentary behavior, increase physical activity, and prevent and treat obesity in children. His research takes place in out-of-school team sports programs. Students will assist with the development, implementation, and evaluation of coach-training interventions on child physical activity and health. This includes assisting with intervention delivery and data collection.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Kristine Marceau, Assistant Professor

    Biobehavioral Development Lab

    The Biobehavioral Development Laboratory at Purdue University is recruiting undergraduate research assistants. Students will become an integral component of a research lab dedicated to understanding how genetic influences, prenatal environments, hormones, and family environments together shape children’s and adolescents’ behavior. With Dr. Kristine Marceau, students will receive training in basic human genetics, the stress response and neuroendocrine changes at puberty, and how the family environment both before and after birth can work together with and even change biological influences. There are also opportunities for student-led research within the scope of the lab aims. Duties may include: reading research articles and writing summaries of findings, creating graphical descriptions of research findings or research-based information, basic statistical description of data, data collection, and basic management. Professional Development Opportunities may include: research experience for your vita or resume, data for the Purdue Undergraduate Research and Poster Symposium, graduate application mentoring, a letter of recommendation for graduate school, and joining team presentations at national and international conferences (e.g., Society for Research in Child Development), and training in data analysis and manuscript preparation. Students may receive HDFS or PSY 390 or BIOL 294 or 494 research credits (3 credits, HDFS preferred) for their time or may volunteer. Preference will be given to students who can commit to at least one calendar year. Paid summer positions may be available. Please send a cover letter and your current vita/resume to Dr. Marceau at 

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Melissa Robertson, Assistant Professor

    Research with the Relationships and Work Lab!

    Our lab focuses on enhancing the quality of relationships between workers and important people in their lives (e.g., mentors, family members) to advance career outcomes. The lab experience is designed to provide students with hands-on experience with the research process in order to prepare them for graduate training. Research assistants have the opportunity to conduct research using a variety of research designs, gain experience in software used for research, learn and perform quantitative analyses, and read and analyze published academic articles.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Nasreen Lalani, Assistant Professor

    Access to Palliative Care in Rural Indiana

    Title: Understanding Palliative care needs and experiences among rural communities in Indiana, USA PI: Nasreen Lalani, PhD, MScN, RN, Assistant Professor, Purdue University Background: In Indiana, an estimated 6.3 million people are living with one or more chronic illnesses. A large proportion of these chronically ill population reside in rural regions represent the agricultural workforce, consequently, suffer huge socio-economic and caregiving. Rural communities demonstrate unique palliative care needs, values, and preferences. Caregiving for a chronically or seriously ill family member is often experienced differently as families and communities have closer ties and that they often possess unique customs, cultural values, and traditions. Barriers to access palliative care services may result in unmet healthcare needs and goals of care, lack of autonomy and decision making, increased healthcare costs, caregiving burden, and spiritual distress among rural patients and families. Purpose: The study aims to identify perceived barriers and facilitators in accessing palliative care services and resources for improving palliative care services to enhance the wellbeing and quality of life of people in the rural communities of Indiana. The study has been funded by AgSEED grant, Purdue University, Indiana, USA. Theoretical Framework: Penchansky and Thomas theory of access will be used. The theory incorporates and addresses five specific concepts of fit; accessibility, availability, acceptability, affordability, and adequacy. This model of access has been used widely in different contexts. Method: Using a community-based participative approach, qualitative interviews will be collected from family caregivers, healthcare providers, and stakeholders in the palliative care settings including clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices. A purposive sample of (n=35) participants will be obtained from the rural Carroll County in Indiana. A semi-structured individual in-depth interview guide will be used to collect the data. The interview guide will be formulated using Penchansky & Thomas (1981) framework and relevant palliative care literature and experts. A thematic analysis approach will be used to analyze the data. The study will be done in collaboration with the Indiana Rural Health Association, Purdue Extension, and Purdue Nurse Managed Clinics. Results and Conclusion: Findings will inform us about the palliative care experiences, needs, and preferences of people in rural communities. The study will help us in developing potential strategies to improve palliative care services for the wellbeing of rural communities.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Sarah Karalunas, Assistant Professor

    Neurophysiology of Emotion in ADHD

    Increasing numbers of children and adults are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), yet its diagnosis is controversial and new treatments are needed. The iCAN lab uses a multi-method approach that combines behavioral ratings, cognitive tests, and physiological measures to understand the basic processes contributing to ADHD. We are especially interested in the unique differences between individuals in their abilities to regulate attention and emotions. Our current project examines the relationship between attention regulation and emotion regulation in children ages 7-10. Students in the lab will be trained in a variety of tasks ranging from recruitment and screening of children and families; data entry; cognitive and neurophysiological data collection procedures; and data cleaning and processing.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Sean Lane, Assistant Professor

    Factors Impacting Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Efficacy

    This project consists of a meta-analysis of existing published studies for treatments of alcohol use disorder, specifically the drug naltrexone and cognitive behavioral therapy. Research assistants will code analytic results from randomized controlled trial experiments of treatment efficacy and participate in the design and implementation of a rubric for optimal reporting of analyses and results for empirical studies.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

    Zoe Taylor, Associate Professor

    Latino Migrant Farmworker Project

    The Latino Migrant Farmworker Project aims to assess the wellbeing and health of Latino youth from migrant farmworker families. Research assistants will be part of a team that collects data with youth and their families. This could involve survey data, qualitative interviews, and assisting with behavioral tasks that youth will be asked to complete. Research assistants may also gain experience in other lab tasks such as entering and cleaning data, creating codebooks, etc. Students who are bilingual in both English and Spanish are especially welcome. This is an interdisciplinary project in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the Department of Public Health.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • Catherine Searle, Assistant Professor

    Disease ecology

    The Searle lab studies the ecology of infectious disease in freshwater systems. We use a combination of lab experiments and field surveys to understand patterns of disease in zooplankton (Daphnia) and amphibians. Students will work closely with the Searle lab’s technician and/or graduate students to help with ongoing projects and potentially complete their own, independent projects. Exact projects will be determined based on the interests of the student and the timing of the student’s classes.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • GuangJun Zhang, Associate Professor

    Undergraduate Researcher

    Our research is focusing on human cancer driver gene discovery and vertebrate embryogenesis using zebrafish models. We use a variety of tools such as CRISPR and transposon-based transgenesis for our research. Students will not only gain some experience with modern molecular and cellular biology but also learn the zebrafish model for studying human diseases.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • Jason Ware, Undergraduate Researcher

    HONR 19990

    This internship will provide an opportunity to be an undergraduate teaching assistant for an introductory research planning course. Course Title: Introduction to Research Planning Course Description: In this course, you will take an idea and blow it up. You will blow it up to better understand its elements and its connections to various ways of creating knowledge. Then you will take the resultant pieces and use them to construct a research plan that’s inclusive of at least two forms of inquiry. The primary learning objective is that you are able to create a research proposal from some idea, observation, or problem that interests you so that you can implement the plan as you launch your undergraduate academic journey. Your time in this 5-week online course will revolve around your idea and your exploration of creative ways to do something with it.

    This experience will occur: July and August

  • Matthew Lanham, Clinical Assistant Professor

    Interfacing Prescriptive Analytics and Predictive Analytics

    Data Analytics can be broken into three areas: descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics. Many organizations today are successfully using descriptive and predictive analytics within their organizational decision processes but are still missing opportunities to employ prescriptive analyses within their daily workflow to assess alternative scenarios more thoroughly or assess risk better. This research opportunity will provide you an opportunity to explore cases where the academic research has interfaced or extended predictive models into prescriptive actions using various analytical methods. The student will use (or learn to use) Excel Frontline Solvers (see to help design and run some practical case studies that will be targeted for a professional audience. Students that really enjoyed and excelled in MGMT 306 Management Science and also have an interest in data mining, predictive analytics, and simulation will find this research opportunity a worthwhile experience to add to their analytics portfolio.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • JJ Sadler, Undergraduate Research - Research Assistant

    Research Assistant, Undergraduate Research

    The Research Assistant for the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is responsible for assisting with evaluation research on undergraduate research experience (URE) activities, the OUR office, and the assessment of participants involved with URE activities across campus. Responsibilities: 1. Work closely with the research team to collect and analyze assessment data. 2. Conduct basic and intermediate statistical analyses. 3. Assist in researching UREs and related topics, and prepare reports of findings. 4. Other duties to be assigned by the Director, in addition to assisting with general office tasks. Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities: 1. Experience carrying out qualitative and quantitative analyses with data sets from education, psychology, communication, or other behavioral science research or assessment 2. Excellent oral and written communication skills 3. Initiative, creativity, flexibility, and ability to work both independently and as part of a multi‐disciplinary team.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

  • Bill Hutzel, Professor

    Biowall Research

    The Biowall is a plant-based air filter for improving air quality in residential spaces. Research is underway in a lab and in a nearby research home to evaluate plants and control strategies that optimize air cleaning and aesthetics (e.g. appearance).

    This experience will occur: May, June, and July

    Anne Lucietto, Assistant Professor

    Study of Differences and Perceptions of STEM Students

    As an engineering technology and STEM education researcher, I have a number of projects that require basic review, and comparisons using a spreadsheet or similar method. The work is basic but provides us with a better understanding of the differences and perceptions of STEM students in various fields and in some work comparisons to their colleagues in engineering. The data is already gathered, but help is needed to graph, and review averages, etc. The results of this research will appear in a variety of journal papers, based upon the participation of the undergraduate student they will be given credit for their work in these documents.

    This experience will occur: May, June, July, and August

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