University of Chicago Undergraduates Gain Professional Research Experience at MBL

By Raleigh McElvery

Isa Alvarez received the 2016 McCarter Family Metcalf Fellow Award, which is presented to a high-achieving University of Chicago student to help defray the costs associated with his or her research internship.

Isa Alvarez received the 2016 McCarter Family Metcalf Fellow Award, which is presented to a high-achieving University of Chicago student to help defray the costs associated with his or her research internship. Her mentor at MBL is David Mark Welch of the Bay Paul Center.

Ten undergraduates from the University of Chicago are gaining substantive, project-based, and professional research experience at the MBL this summer through the MBL/Jeff Metcalf Summer for Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) Program.

The goal of this 12-week program is to immerse undergraduates in scientific research by training with leading scientists who are at the MBL during the summer.

“The Metcalf SURF Program is an outstanding example of the MBL/UChicago partnership, which promotes opportunities for research and educational advancement,” says Rae Nishi, Director of Education at the MBL.

Students begin by proposing a project, and are paired with an MBL scientist whose expertise parallels their own curiosities and career goals. In an effort to create a comprehensive research experience, MBL mentors guide students toward successful project completion, providing hands-on training either in the field or at the lab bench.

The Program is enriched by weekly brown-bag lunches with summer MBL scientists, networking opportunities with other undergraduates on campus, and evening seminars, as well as a variety of cultural and social activities. Additional workshops are also offered to assist in professional development. The summer culminates in a symposium, allowing students to present their projects to peers and the MBL community, prior to submission of a final paper.

This year’s Metcalf SURF students are interested in a variety of research areas, including microbiology, neurodegeneration, oceanography, ecology, and more. The 2016 participants are:

UChicago undergraduate Michael Sloyan, left, with his Metcalf SURF mentor, MBL Whitman Center scientist John Oakey of University of Wyoming.

UChicago undergraduate Michael Sloyan, left, with his Metcalf SURF mentor, MBL Whitman Center scientist John Oakey of University of Wyoming.

Alexandra Sjaarda

“Species Analysis of Micron-Scale Biogeography of the Human Oral Microbiome”

Mentor: Jessica Mark Welch, Bay Paul Center

Isa Alvarez

“Sea Star Associated Densovirus (SSaDV) and the Microbiome”

Mentor: David Mark Welch, Bay Paul Center

Molly Bennett

“Visualizing and Interpreting the Spatial Organization of Subgingival Plaque through Spectral Imaging Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH)”

Mentor: Jessica Mark Welch, Bay Paul Center

Nikita Mehta

“Investigating the Effects of Amyloid Beta (AB) on Mitochondrial Function and Long Term Potentiation in Hippocampal Neurons and Mouse Models of Alzheimer’s Disease”

Mentor: Elizabeth Jonas, Whitman Center

Tynan Bowyer

“Changing Marsh Landscape over Decades of Rising Sea Level”

Mentor: Ivan Valiela, Ecosystems Center

David Vishny

“Marine Microbial Ecology and the “Plastisphere”:  Community Assembly, Competition and Growth”

Mentor: Linda Amaral Zettler, Bay Paul Center

Michael Sloyan

“Artificial Microfluidic Droplet Interfaces as Functional Mimics of the Cytoskeletal Cortex”

Mentor: John Oakey, Whitman Center

Olivia Cattau

“Analyzing the Metrics of Rapid Neural Polyphenism in Cephalopod Molluscs”

Mentor: Roger Hanlon, Bell Center

Vishok Srikanth

“In Vitro Studies of Eukaryotic Ribozyme-Associated Mobile Genetic Elements”

Mentor: Irina Arkhipova, Bay Paul Center

Petry Byl

“Assessing Microbial Coordination over Time and Space in Siders Pond: Insights into Microbial Metabolic Networks that Drive Earth’s Biogeochemical Cycles”

Mentors: Julie Huber, Bay Paul Center / Joe Vallino, Ecosystems Center