Other On-Campus Opportunities

Many organizations on-campus offer students the opportunity to engage in research activities in addition to the programs supported by the Office of Undergraduate Research.

FWS Research Assistant - Project Descriptions

Rae Anderson, Ph.D. - Department of Physics and Biophysics

Creating multifunctional renewable biomaterials from DNA

     The Anderson lab is designing and characterizing DNA-based materials that can serve to combat growing synthetic material production and consumable waste around the world. Students working on this exciting interdisciplinary project will become proficient in wide-ranging techniques from biology, optics, materials science, physics and engineering, and get a true sense of life as a scientific researcher. 

      Students will first learn to produce DNA materials by taking advantage of rapid bacterial cell replication to produce large quantities of DNA starting with a single cell. Students will then design different DNA materials by altering the properties of the DNA (i.e. length, shape, and concentration) they are producing. Finally, students will characterize the mechanical properties of the DNA materials - determining how elastic and viscous they are. The Anderson lab specializes in using fluorescence microscopy and laser tweezers to investigate the microscale mechanical properties of soft biomaterials. Students will use these techniques to apply microscopic strains to DNA materials and measure the resistive force the DNA exerts. Students will also image DNA molecules in the material to track how they are deformed. 

Anthony Bell, Ph.D. - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The student will be assigned to a project that focuses on developing nucleic acid inhibitors against the DNA-binding cytokine, High Mobility Group B1 (HMGB1). The student will be tasked with expressing and purifying the protein, HMGB1. The student will also be tasked with using spectroscopy [UVVis and Circular Dichroism (CD)] and electrophoresis techniques to characterize the nucleic acids that will be directed against HMGB1. The student will operate first in the capacity as a basic researcher and secondarily as a technician. With respect to operating as a researcher, the FWS student will be expected to attend/present their findings at lab group meetings and local and
regional meetings/symposia. I will provide the FSW student requisite relevant literature to provide background. The FWS will also be responsible for searching PubMed and other relevant databases to obtain additional reading materials. With respect to logistics, the beginning of each week will be more focused on basic research. I will meet with the FSW to set their schedule for experiments. The end of the week will be more focused on fulfilling technical assignments such as reagent and buffer preparation that all members of the lab will use in the upcoming week.

Jessica Bell, Ph.D. - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The J.K. and J.E. Bell laboratory studies structure function relationships in proteins.  We use two model systems, an enzyme, malate dehydrogenase (MDH), and a ubiquitous, small protein of unknown function, Suppressor of IKKepsilon (SIKE).  On the MDH projects, computational, kinetic, and biophysical approaches explore catalytic function, allosteric regulation, and subunit communication in wild type and mutant MDH isoforms derived from watermelon glyoxysomes, humans, and Plasmodium falciparum.  On the SIKE projects, research is focused on developing assays and biological tools to interrogate SIKE function in vitro through biophysical techniques and in vivo in cell-based assays and colocalization experiments.  Students working on the MDH and/or SIKE projects will learn molecular biology techniques, protein chemistry, advanced instrumentation, and data analyses.  Students will be expected to maintain an accurate laboratory notebook, post results to the group’s electronic laboratory notebook, present results weekly in group meeting, and participate in journal club.  Opportunities and support to present at regional and national meetings are available as projects develop.

Lauren Benz, Ph.D. - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Metal organic frameworks are high surface area nanoporous materials capable of gas storage.  This exciting new class of materials is of interest in a number of other energy-relevant and environmentally-relevant applications.  For example, a German team recently travelled around the world in a van powered by natural gas, and was able to go 1500 miles on one tank of gas because the gas tank was lined with MOFs.  The trip resulted in a Guinness Book World Record! The Benz lab studies the surface chemistry and reactivity of metal organic frameworks using a number of techniques, in particular, through the use of photoelectron spectroscopy.  Our findings have contributed to the general understanding of the surface chemistry of metal organic frameworks.  Students majoring in chemistry and or biochemistry, with a background or concurrent enrollment in general chemistry, would be qualified for this research. Student researchers in the Benz lab typically spend a significant amount of time working with various instrumentation to collect data, followed by data analysis using a variety of software programs.  Some time is occasionally dedicated to sample preparation, including basic synthesis and film preparation.

Kate Boersma, Ph.D. - Department of Biology

Desert streams and rivers are challenging places for aquatic organisms to live - some stop flowing and become small pools during the summer, while others dry completely. My lab studies desert aquatic invertebrates, such as dragonflies and aquatic beetles, and the amazing adaptations they use to survive their harsh environment. We are seeking a research assistant to work on two parts of this research program: using microscopes to process invertebrate samples in the lab, and taking care of live animals in our aquarium. Opportunities will also be available to participate in field sampling at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. No prior research experience is necessary - we will teach all of the skills needed for the position. We do require someone with an interest in the life sciences, an enthusiasm to learn, and a willingness to work in a large collaborative lab environment with other students and faculty. Join us!

Colin Campbell, Ph.D. - School of Business, Marketing

Instagrammability: The goal of this project is to understand how physical objects and spaces can be designed to inspire consumers to create user-generated content (“instagram” something). Myself and co-authors are doing several different data collections to triangulate our understanding of the phenomenon. In our first phase we are scraping images posted from different sites (e.g. Museum of Ice Cream, instagrammable restaurants) and comparing what is posted to what is actually physically available to post. The idea is to see what makes a space or physical object more likely to get instagrammed. Funding here is needed for coding (ideally software-based, but likely also involving manual coding). We also plan to interview designers who create Instagrammable spaces and objects. Likewise, we will interview consumers to better understand the process they go through. Finally, we intend to test emergent ideas through a field study where we actually create several physical “cues” to Instagram and then see which consumers are more or less likely to Instagram. A student research assistant would code photographs for various features/characteristics. They may also be involved in transcribing interviews or assisting with a field experiment. 

David DeHaan, Ph.D. - Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

In this atmospheric chemistry research project, the researcher will use integrated aerosol generators, sizers, and counters to study the water uptake and solid-to-liquid phase changes of aerosol particles made from aldehyde-amine reaction products.  

Nadav Goldschmied, Ph.D. - Department of Psychological Sciences

The purpose of this study is to determine whether increased fighting among National Hockey League (NHL) players is associated with a shorter life span. Ages of death of major league baseball players who debuted in the 1957 season and onwards as well as the number of fights they were involved in throughout their careers will be obtained from on-line archival sources (as well as other relevant data such as career length). A regression analysis will determine if the two variables are correlated.

The research assistant will first read the relevant scientific literature and then be trained in SPSS statistical software to enter the data and then conduct the analysis. Expected to meet with the research supervisor on a regular basis. It is anticipated that this work will be presented in a poster format in a scientific conference.

Stanley Lim, Ph.D. - School of Business, Supply Chain Management

Sales from e-commerce is projected to surpass $4.9 trillion in 2021. Under this backdrop, delivering high quality logistics services to increasingly dense urban cities that often impose regulatory and infrastructural constraints on freight movement, continues to be a key operational challenge among retailers. Consequently, the so-called last-mile delivery, constitutes one of the most expensive sections of a supply chain, typically commanding more than 50% of total parcel delivery costs. In this project, we will work with large-scale data provided by one of the largest e-commerce retailer in the world. The project will proceed roughly in three stages. First, we will assemble a data set for this project by combining multiple data sets. Second, we will conduct exploratory data analysis using visualization and statistical tools to uncover interesting patterns. Lastly, we will deploy basic machine learning and econometric tools to develop prediction models to help the retailer improve its delivery operations. If the project progresses well, there may be an opportunity to develop prescriptive models by using optimization tools. The student can expect to be exposed to a variety of programming (e.g. Python), visualization, and statistical (e.g. Stata) software, that will be extremely useful for future data science related jobs. Moreover, the student will learn basic data analytical tools involving machine learning, econometrics, and possibly, optimization. Finally, this project will provide the student an opportunity to experience research from a data-driven perspective. Some experience on working with data is preferred.

The Alice B. Hayes Science Scholarships/Fellowships

The Alice B. Hayes Science Scholarship was established in support of students who display merit and majoring in Biology, Chemistry or Biochemistry, Marine Science, Environmental Studies, or Physics. The one-time scholarship may be used to support academic year or summer research up to $5,000, and is open to sophomores and juniors. Applications must be submitted via email by December 2nd, 2019 to Dr. Tammy Dwyer at tdwyer@sandiego.edu. For more information on the grant, please visit the website for more information.


Honors Program

Freshman and transfer students who meet certain academic requirements are encouraged to apply for USD's Honors Program. This program offers a four-year interdisciplinary curriculum that this integrated with a student's major. Near the end of the program, honors students have the opportunity to conduct independent scholarly research in their major field of study.