Applying Scientific Knowledge (ASK) Program Example Projects

Department: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Project Title: Nitrogen cycling functional genes in eutrophic systems
Project Description:  We are looking to isolate DNA and RNA and amplify key functional genes associated with specific biogeochemical pathways (e.g. nirS for denitrification, the reduction of NO3 to N2 under anoxic conditions). Students would learn DNA and RNA extraction, PCR amplification, gel electrophoresis, cloning, and quantitative PCR.

Department: Chemistry
Project Title: Cytotoxicity of Redox Active N-Heterocyclic Carbene Annulated Gold Complexes
Project Description: Several [(NHC)Au]+ complexes have been reported for anticancer activity. They exploit either metal-based reactivity with the selenoenzyme Thioredoxin Reductase (TrxR) and/or mitochondrial swelling induced by their delocalized lipophilic cation (DLC) behavior to show anticancer effects. In certain cases, these complexes have proven to be more cytotoxic than cisplatin in a human urothelial cancer cell line, a prostate carcinoma cell line, and a breast carcinoma cell line. In this project, we will investigate the intrinsic antineoplastic properties of redox active ligands with the known anticancer effects of NHC-gold complexes.

Department: Biological Sciences
Project Title: Temperature-dependence of central CO2 chemosensitivity in black racer snakes
Project Description: Typically when animals' body temperature falls, their blood becomes more alkaline; however black racers maintain their arterial pH constant across a wide range of body temperatures.  I want to know why they follow such an unusual strategy and how they know what their arterial pH is.  We record motor neuron output that would go to breathing muscles in the in vitro brainstem from racers and we record membrane potentials and action potential firing rates of central chemosensitive neurons from brainstem slices under varying temperature and CO2   conditions.

Department: Physics
Project Title: Undergraduate Research in Astronomy Observation
Project Description: ASK students will design and propose an astronomy observation of a physical phenomenon during the spring term and will apply for telescope time in the fall. The observation proposal format will be agreed upon between the faculty and student team. Its motivation and rationale must be based on a well-developed literature-based argument.