UC San Diego SearchMenu

STARS 2018 - Research Project Descriptions

The following UC San Diego faculty members have offered to host STARS students in Summer 2018. Identify the department and three faculty mentors with whom you would like to work and describe the research interests for your selection in the online application.

If you have trouble identifying three faculty members in the list below, you may also search the department homepages and faculty information here: https://apply.grad.ucsd.edu/departments.  After you have pinpointed 1-3 faculty members you may contact the STARS program at urstars@ucsd.edu. Include the faculty members email addresses in the email and we can contact the faculty member(s) to see if they would be interested in offering a research opportunity this summer.

Biological Sciences – Cell and Developmental Biology

Eric Schmelz

The Schmelz laboratory has a research focus on biochemical mechanisms that mediate crop plant defenses against insect and pathogen attack.  The first step in activation of defenses is immune recognition of pests, often enabled by specific, germline-encoded receptor proteins.  While many receptors for pathogens have been identified, receptors for insects (e.g. Lepidopteran caterpillar larvae) have remained unknown.  We have recently identified candidate receptor genes specific to legumes which are predicted to detect defense elicitors, termed inceptins, found in the oral secretions of insect herbivores.  Using newly available crop genomes, orthologous receptor genes have been cloned from legume species in the family Phaseoleae including dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), black eye peas (Vigna unguiculata) and mung beans (Vigna radiata), all species which naturally ward off herbivorous pests. In the wild, induced defenses can be directly toxic or indirectly defend against herbivores, e.g. induced volatiles serve as the plant’s ‘cry for help’ by acting as reliable host location signals for predators, parasitoids, and other natural enemies. A STARS summer student will be involved with understanding the biochemical basis for defense signaling against herbivores as opposed to pathogens, and exploring the evolutionary origin of novel receptor function by comparing defenses responses across legume species.  The long-term vision is to move the inceptin receptor, through either classical breeding or transgenic approaches, into crop plants currently lacking this specific mechanism of insect pest resistance as a sustainable alternative to pesticides.

Julian Schroeder

Julian Schroeder's research is directed at discovering the signal transduction mechanisms and the underlying signaling networks that mediate resistance to environmental stresses in plants, in particular drought, salinity stress and CO2 responses in plants. These environmental ("abiotic") stresses have substantial negative impacts on plant growth and crop yields. These environmental stresses are also relevant in reference to climate change and to maintaining crop growth and food production to meet human needs. Research in Julian Schroeder's laboratory is using multidisciplinary approaches including genetics, genomics, cell signaling, physiological, proteomics, molecular biological and bioinformatics towards uncovering the signal transduction network and receptors in plants that translate drought stress hormone reception, atmospheric CO2 sensing and salinity stress to specific resistance responses in plants. Some of recent research advances are being used in the biotechnology industry with the goal of enhancing stress resistance of plants and improving crop yields. (Samantha Landgrave - CRSP Regulates Stomatal Development in Response to High and Low CO2) (Rachel Darko – Isolation of salt-sensitive mutants through a genomic-scale artificial microRNA mutant pool in Arabidopsis and characterization of salt-responsive phenotype in rack131-1)  (Deborah Fadoju – Arabidopsis Mutant Screening for Phenotype that Confers Resistance to a Small Molecule that Inhibits ABA signaling by Activating Effector Triggered Immunity).

Brian Zid

The cellular stress response is an adaptive response that all cells from yeast to humans undergo when environmental stressors appear. Some common stressors include nutrient starvation, extreme temperatures, and exposure to toxins. One common response to adverse environemental conditions is the suppression of overall protein synthesis. At the same time stress responsive mRNAs must circumvent this depression in protein synthesis by increasing their translation. Translation initiation has traditionally been thought of as the key control step of translation across a variety of stresses. Surprisingly we have preliminary information that nutrient limitation in yeast, translation elongation is a crucial mechanism that allows preferential translation of select stress genes. This project seeks to explore this observation in more detail by culturing yeast, manipulating their nutrient environment, quantifying protein synthesis using luciferase reporters, and also following mRNA localization using fluorescent microscopy.

Biological Sciences – Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution

Sergey Kryazhimskiy

Our plant has transitioned into the era when a single species (Homo sapiens) massively alters ecosystems, genetically engineers other species and even starts to create new species. All these environmental changes exert enormous and extremely poorly understood pressures on many organisms to evolve and adapt. This is especially true for microbes, many of which adapt extremely rapidly and sometimes cause unanticipated and catastrophic situations (think of "superbugs" that are resistant to all known antibiotics).

Our lab is interested in understanding, predicting and, in long run, manipulating evolutionary responses of microbial populations and microbial communities. To do that, we study how bacterium Escherichia coliI, yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii evolve in the lab. In one project, for which we would be interested to have a STARS student, we are trying to understand how the physiology of E.coli changes as it adapts to various environments, including environments with antibiotics. In another project, we are studying how two members of a microbial community, S.cerevisiae and C. reinhardii, co-evolve and affect each other's evolution. 

James Nieh

Research in the Nieh lab at UCSD focuses on two areas: honey bee foraging communication and honey bee health.

  1. Honey bee foraging is essential for colony life, and we therefore study how colonies regulate foraging communication at individual and colony levels. Honey bees are superorganisms because they are so highly social that individual bees can function, to some degree, like cells in a multicellular organism. This opens fascinating research possibilities because the behaviour of individual bees can easily be altered to test hypotheses about colonial organization, particularly self-organization. The Nieh lab is currently focusing on how inhibitory communication (the stop signal) helps to regulate colony foraging. Much as a balance of inhibitory and excitatory signaling is necessary for proper brain function, inhibitory signaling is also important in bee colonies. However, we still know very little about such signaling in superorganisms. Help us learn more and understand how complex, cooperative systems self-regulate and deal with intrinsic and extrinsic noise and environmental variability.
  2. Our lab focuses on two aspects of honey bee health, which has emerged as a major concern. We examine two different factors: pesticides and infection by a fungal-like pathogen, Nosema ceranae. (1) Our pesticide work focuses on how insecticides that target insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors affect complex bee behaviors like communication and learning. Such pesticides are widely used, and neonicotinoid pesticides are now highly restricted in the European Union. However, relatively little is known about the complex cognitive effects of these pesticides.  (2) Our disease research focuses on how we can activate the honey bee immune system to fight Nosema ceranae, a widespread disease that affects a majority of managed US honey bee colonies. The major treatment for this disease is an antibiotic, but there is evidence that antibiotic resistance is growing. New treatments are needed, and we are studying how immune-priming (analogous to vertebrate vaccination) may provide resistance by activating the Toll AMP pathway.

Biological Sciences – Neuroscience

Chih-Ying Su

The Su Laboratory is interested in determining the isoform of a transcription factor, Fruiless, that controls the sensitivity of a pheromone sensory neuron in the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. The student will be using immunhistochemistry, whole-mount staining and confocal microscopy techniques to address the question.

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Seth Cohen

The design, synthesis, characterization, and evaluation of new metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) is the goal of this project. MOFs are a class of materials that combine organic ligands and metal ions to generate porous materials with defined topologies. Our focus for several years has been on the development of postsynthetic methods for the functionalization of MOFs. Postsynthetic methods, such as postsynthetic modification, postsynthetic deprotection, and postsynthetic exchange are useful approaches to altering the physical properties of MOFs and generate MOF materials with new properties, including catalytic function. More recently, we have developed an interest in the interface between MOF and polymer materials, including a new hybrid we describe as polyMOFs. (Pablo Quijano Velasco - Synthesis of polyMOF with block copolymer ligand).

Gourisankar Ghosh

My laboratory focuses on two major research areas: 1) investigation of the mechanism of gene regulation by the NF-kappa B (NF-kB) family of transcription factors, and 2) investigation of the role of serine-arginine (SR) family of splicing factors in metazoan pre-mRNA splicing.  Our approach integrates three-dimensional structure determination, in vitro biochemistry and molecular genetics. 

  1. NF-kB regulation has been the major focus for over twenty years.  We have determined x-ray structures of several protein:DNA and protein-protein complexes relevant to NF-kB signalling.  These structures and correlated biochemical and cell-based studies have helped us to explain how deregulation of NF-kB activity promotes cellular transformation. 
  2. My research was expanded to include splicing regulation with special emphasis on SR proteins, SR protein kinase and assembly of the spliceosome.  Our works in this area have been instrumental for better understanding of how the phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of the SR proteins facilitate spliceosome assembly at the correct splice sites across the intron. These works emphasize on how the spliceosome assembles on sequences with minimal distinguishable features.

Francesco Paesani

To cope with increasing demand for freshwater, it has become apparent that purification of unconventional water sources, such as seawater and municipal wastewater, is needed to augment existing water supplies. Due to their demonstrated efficiency, membrane-based technologies have already found widespread applications in various water treatment processes. Further improvements in the design and optimization of nanoporous materials for water treatment require a molecular-level characterization of the corresponding active-layer properties, such as water permeability and water-solute selectivity. The Paesani group has taken up this challenge by developing and applying new methods, algorithms, and software at the intersection of quantum chemistry, statistical mechanics, and computer science to model the structure and dynamics of aqueous solutions in porous materials (e.g., metal-organic frameworks) for potential applications in water desalination and purification.

The ideal student would be one who is interested in computers, programming, and physics/chemistry.

Kim Prather

As part of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), the Prather Research Group is involved in a variety of projects centered on understanding the production and climate impacts of sea spray aerosols (SSA). With the invention of the Marine Aerosol Reference Tank (MART), focused lab studies on the chemistry of nascent sea spray aerosols are now possible and currently being pursued. Examples of lab experiments in our lab include:

  • Chemical characterization of sea spray and seawater during phytoplankton bloom mesocosm experiments: identifying chemical and biological changes in seawater that lead to changes in SSA composition
  • Heterogeneous reactivity with nitric acid and cloud-nucleating ability of lipid-containing aerosols
  • The impact of enzymatic activity on the chemical composition, phase, morphology, and reactivity of sea spray
  • Understanding the surface properties and dynamics of single-surfactant monolayers and bubble interfaces
  • Development of methods to detect bacterial and viral species in single aerosol particles

Wei Wang

We are interested in understanding the regulatory mechanisms underlying cell fate decision. Especially, we take a multi-scale approach that integrates computational and experimental investigation of epigenetic regulation in cell fate decision from molecular level to genomic level then to systems level. We aim to build computational and theoretical models to uncover fundamental principles that govern cell fate decision in development and cellular reprogramming and design strategies to intelligently manipulate cell state. Our research is highly interdisciplinary. The methods we use range from molecular modeling of protein structures, to bioinformatics analysis of epigenomic data generated by sequencing technology, to statistical learning of genetic network, to biophysical modeling of epigenetic landscape. The theoretical work is tightly coupled with experimental investigation that exploits molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology and genomic techniques.

Joel Yuen-Zhou

Background: Student should be strong in linear algebra and have some basic understanding in quantum mechanics and MATLAB or Mathematica or Python.

Research objective: To understand how optical microcavities can affect quantum mechanical nuclear motion in molecular systems. Research will involve development and implementation of computational code. Results will likely be included in a manuscript to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal in Physics or Chemistry.

Expected methods: Coding, theoretical quantum mechanics, mathematical derivations.

Importance: The research outcome will help us understand novel opportunities in the emerging field of molecular polaritonics, where molecular states and photons mix strongly to give rise to exotic excitations that can undergo new chemical dynamics and modified physicochemical properties.

Guy Bertrand

Phosphorus is vital not only for food production but also for other agricultural commodities such as ethanol, biofuels, and any biorenewable chemicals. The annual worldwide production of elemental phosphorus reaches 850,000 tons, from which 18% is transformed by addition of chlorine gas into 700,000 tons/year of PCl3, the industrial precursor to most phosphorus derivatives. Significant environmental risks are involved in the preparation and transport of PCl3; it is highly reactive to atmospheric moisture, and has to be transported in lead-lined, glass-lined or nickel vessels. Lastly, its transformation into the desired chemicals produces an enormous amount of waste and is energy-inefficient. From this short analysis, it can be concluded that it is of utmost importance to discover environmentally sustainable PCl3 alternatives, which allow for the preparation of a variety of phosphorus derivatives. There has been an intense research effort towards the design of molecular catalysts, based on early and late transition metals, as well as on main group elements that could allow for the reaction of elemental phosphorus with organic substrates to form organophosphorus derivatives.  Unfortunately, decades of unsuccessful attempts indicate that the design of catalysts for the one-step transformation of elemental P into valuable organophosphorus compounds is likely unrealistic. As multi-step syntheses appear unavoidable, we propose to develop molecular bricks, whose preparation, storage, shipping, and handling are significantly more tolerable than PCl3.

The student will learn to synthesize and handle air sensitive chemicals, and will become familiar with different analytical techniques such as NMR and X-ray crystallography.

For additional information about the Bertrand Laboratory please go to http://bertrandgroup.ucsd.edu/Site_Bertrand_group/Bertrands_group.html

Galia Debelouchina

The Debelouchina laboratory develops new chemical and spectroscopic tools to aid the structural biology of cellular macromolecules and assemblies. In particular, we focus on the structural investigation of chromatin and chromatin interacting proteins. To this end, we use chemical biology approaches to assemble synthetic chromatin polymers that reproduce the complexity and dynamics of nuclear chromatin. We investigate these systems using solution and solid-state NMR, as well as other biophysical and structural techniques. In addition, we develop sensitivity-enhanced NMR methodologies that allow an unprecedented increase in the detected NMR signals (up to two orders of magnitude) and that can significantly shorten the NMR data acquisition times. This technique enables us to study tiny amounts of biological material and to investigate complex and dynamic biological systems in vitro and in cells.

We have projects suitable for students interested in performing research in chemical biology and structural biology. Students should have taken organic chemistry, and background/interest in biochemistry, physical chemistry or biophysics would be helpful. 

Kamil Godula

Our research lab is interested in developing chemical approaches to study how carbohydrate molecules presented on the surfaces of cells encode biological information. As well, we create new nanotechnology tools to harness the biological functions of these biomolecules to influence cellular functions. One major area of research involves the study of glycoproteins, called mucins. Viruses, such as Influenza A, use mucins to gain entry into host cells. STARS scholars visiting our lab participate in creating nanoscale materials that mimic mucins and use them as a tool to unravel the mechanism through which Influenza A viruses interact with host cells during infection. A second project area in our lab that STARS scholars can participate in focuses on tailoring carbohydrate structures on the surface of stem cells using chemical methods. Cell-surface glycoproteins engage growth factors, which, in turn, trigger signaling pathways involved in the activation of genes and cell differentiation.  By gaining control over the activity of growth factors at the cell surface, we aim to direct the outcome of stem cell differentiation. (Joel Beazer - Use of heparan sulfate proteoglycan mimetics to enhance growth factor signaling in mESCs on cellular microarrays) (Ashley Litton - Synthesis of Epoxide Monomers for Polymerization and Development of Mucin-Like Glycopolymers) (Daisy Monsivaiz – Remodeling the Glycocalyx of Stem cells derived from Embryoid Bodies, using NeoPG’s)

Vicki H. Grassian

Current research in the Grassian group focuses on the chemistry of environmental interfaces, including indoor surfaces, heterogeneous and multiphase atmospheric chemistry, climate impacts of atmospheric aerosols, and environmental and health aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. 

For additional information please go to http://grassiangroup.ucsd.edu.


Navtej Toor

The Toor laboratory focuses on the structure and function of non-coding regions of prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes. Two genetic elements particularly abdundant in these organisms are introns and retroelements. For example, ~50% of the human genome consists of spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Both of these are considered to have evolved from a class of introns which orginated in bacteria billions of years ago called the group II introns. Group II introns share many structural and/or biochemical features with spliceosomal introns and non-LTR retroelements. Previously, I worked on determining the first crystal structure of a group II intron (figure 1). This revealed the active site of this ribozyme to contain two catalytic metal ions coordinated by a conserved RNA structural motif called domain 5. Since the group II and spliceosomal introns both share this RNA structure, spliceosomal introns should also have the same active site arrangement.

For additional information please go to https://www-chem.ucsd.edu/faculty/profiles/toor_navtej_s.html

Wei Xiong

Surfaces and interfaces play an important role in real life and industry, such as lubricant, heterogeneous catalyst and electrochemistry. At the molecular level, the surface/interface atoms have different chemical environment, and thus have different spectrum from the bulk. However, for most of the cases surface/interface molecules are only a small potion, the signals from the surface/interface are overwhelmed by the signals from the bulk. In our lab, we are using a method called SFG (sum frequency generation). For SFG, the bulk has inversion symmetry and therefore gives no signal; however, at the surfaces/interfaces, the inversion symmetry breaks down and therefore nearly all the SFG signals are from surfaces/interfaces.

By combining SFG with microscope, we could obtain domain specific knowledge and mitigate ensemble averaging, which is crucial for understanding structures on many inhomogeneous systems.

Students will work on the synthesis, characterization of the sample, and analysis of the data. Students will learn how to use matlab, how to make self-assembling sample and how to work with laser. 

Cognitive Science

Gary Cottrell

We will be looking for undergraduates who can program, and are interested in working with a group that does machine learning/cognitive science. The set of projects in our lab are always in flux, but they generally involve training neural networks, designing human subjects experiments on amazon mechanical turk, and/or making cognitive models. (Vijay Chaudhary - Building a model of human vision using deep networks; Counting the frequency of objects we look at using a portable eye tracker; Fine-grained categorization using a bottom up attention model) (Jacqueline Castro – Measuring Object similarity Mapping Emotional Faces and Words, Lisa Garcia)

Gedeon Deak

The Cognitive Development Lab (cogdevlab.ucsd.edu) studies how infants and children learn during social interactions with adults. We use different behavioral methods, including cognitive ethnography and experimental paradigms. We also collect EEG and ECG (cardiac) data, as well as (sometimes) motion-capture and eye-tracking. Our general goal is to discover brain-behavior dynamics during social interactions and to describe how these change during the first years of life. We also study brain-behavior associations during social interactions of adult dyads. Students gain familiarity with one or more of the following methods: experimental behavioral studies, EEG, ECG, motion or gaze tracking, machine learning assisted coding.

Eran Mukamel

Analysis of gene expression regulation in the developing brain.  Our lab’s goal is to understand how healthy brain cells develop during early life, and how disruption of that developmental process can lead to neuropsychiatric disorders.  To do this, we are focused on the brain epigenome, a set of molecular modifications to brain cells’ genetic material that enable fine-tuned regulation of their behavior. By using statistical and computational methods to analyze large sets of genomic and epigenomic data, we test hypotheses about the roles of specific epigenetic modifications in brain function.  This project will involve analysis of RNA-Seq and/or DNA methylation data sets collected from mammalian brain cells.  The student should have some background in computer programming and/or analysis (e.g. Matlab, Python or R); knowledge of genome biology is desirable but not necessary.

Education Studies

Sherice Clarke

Dr. Sherice Clarke’s research focuses on studying the complex social reality of teaching and learning through dialogue in order to develop solutions that promote educational equity for learners of the greatest need

Additional information about her research may be found at


Frances Contreras

Dr. Frances Contreras offers 6 potential projects. If you are interested in working with Dr. Contreras please clarify in the application which project(s) you would like to be considered for.

RISE2  (Research Investigating STEM Excellence & Engagement)
The RISE2  Project explores the pathways through STEM majors among underrepresented and firstgeneration students enrolled in promising campus programs and efforts that work to mitigate the uneven high school preparation for the rigors present in highly selective institutions. Project findings will inform educational partnership efforts (ie., school districts or local education agencies) as well as campus programs, while strengthening infrastructures that exist with public higher education institutions. This project informs multiple institutional contexts to better serve increasingly diverse student populations and expand pathways to graduate school, industry and the professorate. 

Project GANAS
Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) have grown substantially across the United States in states with sizable and rapidly increasing Latino populations and represent a plausible avenue for increasing Latino college completion rates. California is home to more than one third of all Hispanic Serving Institutions across the United States. There are over 152 Hispanic Institutions in California out of 428 nationally. In addition, there are an additional 77 institutions that are “emerging” HSIs, with at least 15-24 percent of their student body comprised of Latino students. However, despite the growing presence of HSIs in California and national postsecondary sectors, these institutions fall short of optimally serving Latino students. Latinos experience alarmingly high attrition rates and low college completion rates. Since the majority of HSIs reside in the state of California, the need for increased attention and investment in the HSI sector through a comprehensive statewide research initiative is clear. This study examines the HSI systems at the CC, CSU, and UCs as well as the emerging HSIs throughout the state of California. 

Latinos Selective College Choice & Experience Study
This project seeks to understand the choice process among Chicano/Latino students in California. Many Chicana/Latino students “undermatch” and enroll in less selective public institutions, even if they are prepared (have taken rigorous coursework in high school) accepted to more competitive institutions. Students from the highly selective UC campuses will be interviewed and surveyed to better understand the rationales and information used to make an informed college decision. Students will be involved in the interview process among Latino undergraduates. The second feature of this study is to understand their actual experiences in college as they navigate highly selective Research I institutions. How do they navigate their majors? What academic supports do they rely on to succeed? What is the role of faculty or institutional mentors in their success? This study is among the first (if not the first) to go beyond choice and transition to understand how their choices evolve while navigating undergraduate education, graduate school, and employment. That is, the study connects college choice and transition to longitudinally examine the factors that influence their academic success, identity development, and college completion.  

Project EXCEL
Examining College Enrollment & Linkages California is home to the fifth largest African American population in the country (American Community Survey, 2014). It is therefore in the public interest of both the state and nation to invest in this population that has for generations sacrificed and invested in the country’s infrastructure. California has suffered from a hyper-implementation of Proposition 209 over the past 20 years, where attempts to ensure diversity are under strict scrutiny and UC campuses have moved further away from its public mission, under the California Master Plan, to serve students in the top 12.5 percent of their graduating class. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court decision in Grutter (2003) provides campuses with a framework for utilizing race as one factor in a series of admissions variables and factors, Proposition 209 further complicates this possibility and has demonstrated a political will in California that remains hostile to historically underrepresented students of color. 

This study represents a statewide examination of the college admissions and choice process as experienced by African American students admitted to the UC system for the Fall 2015 admissions cycle. While the majority of the students in both our survey (n=558)  and interview (n=74) samples were not admitted to the highly and moderately selective UC campuses of their choice, it is important to note that most of the students were in the top 10th percentile of their high school classes, having earned GPAs of a 4.0 or higher, held leadership positions in high school, earned special school and community recognition, were actively engaged in sports or extracurricular activities, and/or worked throughout high school. This elite group of students truly represents a very high achieving pool of high school graduates who are self-motivated, engaged and committed to the betterment of the African American community and society.

Latino College Completion
This Project Examines the Latino College Completion efforts in states such as California, Washington, & Georgia to understand the P-20 policy frameworks to raise Latino college completion rates. Using data from three states, including those with emerging Latino populations, this project utilizes secondary data as well as interview data from institutions of higher education and systems to explore the various approaches to increase Latino student college success and completion. 

Cali Baja Center—ENLACE Grant 
Senior Advisor to the ENLACE Grant with the Calibaja center which engages students from Tijuana and San Diego to encourage their STEM identity development and preparation for engineering majors and careers.

Jacobs School of Engineering (JSOE) - Bioengineering

Karen Christman

The Christman Lab focuses on developing novel biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications. The lab has a strong translational focus with the main goal of developing minimally invasive therapies for cardiovascular disease.  Projects are highly interdisciplinary and involve collaborations with basic scientists, engineers, and physicians.

For more information about Dr. Christman’s research, please visit: http://christman.eng.ucsd.edu/research

Francisco Contijoch

Dr. Contijoch's research develops novel medical imaging techniques to improve our understanding of cardiovascular physiology, improve diagnosis of patients, and help monitor disease progression and responses to treatments. We recently developed a technique to measure regional myocardial function in a novel way and are interested in comparing the results of this technique with other standard measures of function. The student would measure both new and standard measures of function and explore the potential of the method to improve clinical care. The datasets will include patients with normal function as well as patients with a variety of cardiovascular diseases including congenital heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, and heart failure. This project could advance our understanding of these disease as well as a result in a new way for clinicians to evaluate their patients. The student will be exposed to cardiovascular medical imaging techniques, computer programming, and image analysis tools.

Adam Engler

Cancer cells within a tumor or a cell line in culture are very heterogeneous. They exist in different states and only a small fraction are able to form secondary tumors. Biological markers that clearly identify these cells are limited, which complicates their isolation and further study. However using physical rather than biological characteristics, we have identified cation-mediated changes in attachment strength between metastatic and non-metastatic mammary epithelial cell lines over a concentration range found within tumor stroma. Metastatic cells exhibit remarkable attachment strength heterogeneity only in stromal-like conditions, unlike their non-metastatic counterparts who exhibit stronger, cation-insensitive attachment. This heterogeneity is the result of increased sensitivity to cation-mediated focal adhesion disassembly in metastatic cells. Less cation-sensitive metastatic cells maintain their phenotype over several days in culture but stochastically repopulate the entire attachment strength range within one month. This metastatic subgroup also exhibits less migratory and invasive behavior, similar to non-metastatic cell lines. As with adhesion, they regain invasiveness after 2 or more weeks due to stochastic state transitions. Attachment strength heterogeneity and phenotypic stochasticity was observed across multiple cancer cell lines (mammary and prostate), suggesting that attachment strength may serve as a general marker of highly metastatic cells. (Leigha Jarett – Effects of six growth factors on the proliferation and differentiation of human skeletal muscle progenitor cells)

Ester Kwon

New tools are needed to understand and treat the brain. Materials that are on the nanometer length scale can have unexpected new properties and are a promising tools for treatment of the brain. One important goal of the Kwon Lab is to engineer new nanomaterials that can localize treatments to the brain to specific areas or cell types to improve the performance of therapeutics. The objective of this STARS project is to test new nanomaterials and how they interact with cells of the brain. The project will be done with a team of interdisciplinary scientists and will include techniques in material synthesis, molecular biology, and imaging. In addition, the student will be mentored on data analysis and science communication.

For more information about Dr. Kwon’s research, please visit kwon.ucsd.edu

Jacobs School of Engineering (JSOE) - Computer Science and Engineering

Vineet Bafna

I have many projects in 'personalized genomics', relating to the mining of genetic information to better inform about diseases, and genetic health. Students should be comfortable, or willing to learn Python.

Gary Cottrell

We will be looking for undergraduates who can program, and are interested in working with a group that does machine learning/cognitive science. The set of projects in our lab are always in flux, but they generally involve training neural networks, designing human subjects experiments on amazon mechanical turk, and/or making cognitive models. (Vijay Chaudhary - Building a model of human vision using deep networks; Counting the frequency of objects we look at using a portable eye tracker; Fine-grained categorization using a bottom up attention model) (Jacqueline Castro – Measuring Object similarity Mapping Emotional Faces and Words, Lisa Garcia)

Alex Sanchez-Stern (PI Sorin Lerner)

Proverbot9001 is a new project to use machine learning to reason about program behaviour, and provide ironclad guarantees that a program is correct. It builds on special programming languages called "interactive proof assistants", which allow programmers to write proofs about the behaviour of their program, and have those proofs checked by the compiler for correctness. Proverbot9001 aims to teach neural networks, a powerful machine learning model, to reason about programs and generate these proofs. The impacts of such a tool can be far-ranging, allowing many more programs to be formally verified, and providing more reliable software. Proverbot9001 is a relatively new project, and there's a lot of opportunity to try radically new approaches in this exciting space.

Nadia Polikarpova

The Polikarpova lab works on program synthesis: automatically generating code from high-level or incomplete descriptions, such as test cases it has to pass or security policies it has to enforce. I will be offering several synthesis-related project in different application domains: security, web programming, CS education, and cyber-physical systems. All projects will involve contributing to existing open-source projects (synthesis tools, education platforms), so the students are required to have solid programming skills. Background in programming languages (functional programming, types) is a plus, but not required.

Additional information about her research may be found at https://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~npolikarpova/

Jacobs School of Engineering (JSOE) - Electrical and Computer Engineering

Tina Tse Nga Ng

This project aims to develop short-wavelength infrared photosensors by using a new generation of narrow bandgap conjugated polymers. The polymer semiconductors are processed by solution processing techniques and allow printing deposition to bypass the limitations of die transfer and bonding in conventional devices. The proposed research will involve fabrication of photosensors and device characterization to identify the fundamental constraints in the exciton dissociation and charge collection processes as polymer bandgaps are reduced. The resulting knowledge will be applicable not only to infrared sensing applications but also to other areas including photovoltaics and optical communications, and will be essential to theoretical efforts to rapidly predict better photo-active polymers. (Carolina Salinas - Near-infrared photodetectors, based on low cost flexible organic semiconductors)

Jacobs School of Engineering (JSOE) - Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Jorge Cortes

Work on distributed robotics at the MURO Lab (http://muro.ucsd.edu) includes design, analysis, and implementation of motion planning strategies and distributed coordination algorithms on multi-robot networks performing spatially-distributed tasks. Our lab focuses on deployment of heterogeneous robots including ground vehicles and aerial vehicles.  We rely on methods from graph theory, dynamics, and control combined with open source software programming.  Several project opportunities exist to enhance the range of current capabilities in the lab. These include the implementation of distributed methods for self-localization with on-board cameras, 3D formation control strategies with heterogeneous teams,  human-swarm interaction mechanisms that enable rapid deployment of robot swarms, and design and instrumentation of small ground and aerial robots.


Ameeth Vijay

My research examines the intersections between literature, urban planning and geography in order to track the persistence of colonial relationships in the development of contemporary spaces, including in global cities.   Methodologically, I study not only literature but historical materials, planning documents, environmental assessments, and urban aesthetics to theorize the development of colonial and neocolonial relations.  I would like to extend the scope of my region to study the Los Angeles and San Diego/border regions as key sites of urban development and thus metonymic for all global cities.  I need a student both familiar with the cultural history of Southern California and familiar with the techniques and disposition of literary studies and critical theory to aide in this research.  Research in the humanities addresses critical and timely issues pertaining to culture, politics, and aesthetics. 

Neurosciences - Institute for Neural Computation (INC)

Leanne Chukoskie

The Research for Autism and Development Laboratory and the Power of NeuroGaming Center (at the Qualcomm Institute) seek to develop and test game-based therapeutics and assessments that address specific challenges that are commonly observed in different neurodevelopmental disorders.  Our gaze-driven games train attention orienting skills are the subject of an NIH-funded clinical trial. 

For more information please see radlab.ucsd.edu.


David Gonzalez

Our laboratory aims to study the biochemistry that governs host-microbe interactions. From a systems scale perspective, we focus on studying bacterial pathogenesis, host responses to infection, the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and the impact of the microbiome on health and disease. At its core, the laboratory applies multiplexing quantitative proteomics to simultaneously track thousands of protein dynamics and associated post-translational modifications in an accurate and high throughput fashion. We then interface microbiology techniques to characterize important factors identified during these interactions. When the opportunity arises, translational studies of therapeutic value are undertaken in tissue culture and murine models. This information is then used to design novel strategies for the treatment of human infectious diseases.


Frank Wuerthwein

The Wuerthwein Laboratory has a focus on new phenomena at the high energy frontier with the CMS detector at the LHC. Topics of interest include but are not limited to the search for dark matter and electroweak symmetry breaking.

Students who are assigned to Dr. Wuerthwein’s lab must have significant programming experience with python, or equivalent on linux, or equivalent operating systems. CS, EE, Applied Math, or Physics students with strong programming skills may be interested in doing research in this lab.

Additional information about the Wuerthwein Laboratory may be found at https://www-physics.ucsd.edu/fac_staff/fac_profile/faculty_description.php?person_id=494


David Barner

The Language and Development Lab is interested in how children learn language and develop an understanding of objects and events in the world. Current research projects in the lab investigate a broad range of topics, from how children acquire words and concepts about logic, number, color, and time, to how children make pragmatic inferences in conversation. Summer research students will have the opportunity to work on an existing project under the supervision of a graduate student, postdoc, or lab coordinator. Students will run experiments in preschools, museums, or in the lab with children (e.g. 18-months-old to 5-years-old) or adult controls; enter and code data using various computer software; recruit families via phone, email and at external sites; design stimuli; and participate in weekly lab meetings.

Timothy Brady

My lab is interested in the precision with which people can remember information in long-term memory and how much we can actively hold in mind in working memory (e.g., you may have heard we have a working memory capacity of 7+/- 2). When you are asked to remember a property of a visual object (e.g., what color was that car you saw?), how much does holding it in mind for a longer time hurt your memory? Does your memory get worse primarily because all of your memories get noisier and less precise, or because some memories are lost completely but others are preserved almost perfectly? This summer STARS project will focus on examining visual memory precision -- how well we can remember what we saw and what we can do to improve our memories. You'll get to learn to do some programming in MATLAB; run people in experiments; and learn to analyze the data in Excel and MATLAB. The experiments will vary from simple examinations of memory precision to questions about what memory looks like when people have false memories. 

Adena Schachner

The Mind and Development Lab (madlab.ucsd.edu) investigates children's social and cognitive development. We are interested in how infants and children learn about their social world, by making inferences about the hidden contents of others' minds (like goals, preferences, or beliefs). In particular, we are currently studying how infants, children and adults understand other's intentional actions, and reason about the objects they own and create. Our work has also focused on music cognition, particularly the origins of our capacity to move in time with a beat. Student researchers may be involved with data collection (including recruiting and conducting studies with families of infants, children, and adults), data coding and analysis, weekly lab meetings and reading groups.

Viola Stomer

My lab (http://stoermerlab.ucsd.edu/) is interested in understanding the cognitive and neural mechanisms of visual attention and multisensory processing. Our research is focused on the question of how attention helps us select and process information efficiently. Furthermore, we are interested in the role of attention in integrating events from different sensory modalities (sight, sound, touch). We use both behavioral and electrophysiological methods to study these questions in healthy human participants. This summer STARS project will focus on examining how visual and auditory attention interact. As a student researcher, you’ll get to do some programming in Matlab, run participants in both behavioral and electrophysiological (EEG) experiments, and analyze data in Excel and Matlab. You will work closely together with the PI and a PhD student.

Edward Vul

At the Computational Cognition Lab we try to understand the computational principles behind human behavior.  To do this, we combine behavioral experiments and analysis of large natural data sets with probabilistic computational models of cognition.  Ongoing research projects in the lab investigate a broad range of topics, from consumer behavior and economic decision-making, to social perception and strategic reasoning in interactive games, to inference and errors in reconstructive memory and perception.  As a summer research student, you will use behavioral experiments with human adults to investigate one of these topics.  You will participate in regular lab meetings, run experiments, design stimuli, learn to do data analysis in R, and program interactive online experiments.

Caren Walker

The Early Learning & Cognition Lab, under the direction of Dr. Caren Walker, seeks to understand how children build early theories and learn and reason about the causal structure of the world. We use a model of the child as a "scientist," forming implicit hypotheses and then testing and rationally revising those hypotheses based on incoming evidence. Although children are excellent at scientific reasoning in informal learning contexts, they often find explicit scientific inquiry skills in formal pedagogical contexts quite difficult. Our current line of work explores a variety of techniques in order to facilitate these early skills. All studies will take place in the context of short games, designed to be engaging for young children (between the ages of 2 and 6).

School of Medicine

John T. Chang

Our laboratory is interested in cell polarity as a central theme in regulating the fate and function of a wide range of cell types across many different organisms.  In particular, we are interested in how rare progenitor cells continually produce terminally differentiated cells while also preserving a self-renewing lineage. One potential solution is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism called asymmetric cell division, during which a dividing cell imparts unequal inheritance of its components to its two daughter cells, making them different from inception. In the mammalian immune system, T lymphocytes face a similar need for simultaneous differentiation and regeneration. During a microbial infection, a naive lymphocyte, so called because it has never encountered its foreign antigen, must give rise to two distinct classes of cellular progeny. One daughter cell undergoes terminal differentiation into effector cells, which play a critical role in the elimination of an invading microbe. The other daughter cell gives rise to long-lived memory cells, which are capable of regenerating both subsets of progeny upon re-infection. We have recently found that a T lymphocyte undergoing an immune response against a microbial pathogen appears to divide asymmetrically, giving rise to effector-fated and memory-fated daughter cells. The goal of our research is to understand how T cells use asymmetric cell division to balance the demands of terminal differentiation and self-renewal, using cutting-edge methods including immunofluorescence microscopy, animal models of infection and autoimmunity, multi-color flow cytometry, and single-cell RNA sequencing techniques. The importance of the work is that defining the mechanisms regulating asymmetric cell division will contribute to our understanding of a multitude of diverse processes, including embryonic patterning, organ formation and function, stem cell and tissue regeneration, immunity, and cancer. (Gianna Casteleiro - The role of β1 integrin in regulatory T-cell homeostasis; Jocelyn Olvera - Proteasome activity regulates CD8+ T lymphocyte metabolism and fate specification)

Miguel Lopez Ramirez (PI Mark Ginsberg)

Cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs) are cerebrovascular malformations that affect the central nervous system. CCMs cause epilepsy and strokes, leading to significant morbidity and mortality. CCMs affect ~1/200 humans and there is no pharmacologic therapy. Our pre-clinical study provides evidence that genetic inactivation of the gene Ccm1 inhibits expression of anti-angiogenic proteins that contributes to brain vascular anomalies and the pathogenesis of CCMs. Our research is using mouse and zebrafish genetics in combination with histology, primary cell cultures, molecular cell biology and bioinformatics tools. The ultimate goal of our research is to better understand the biology of CCMs to provide non-invasive, safe, and effective therapies to cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Sreejith Nair (PI Geoff Rosenfeld)

In response to hormonal stimuli thousands of transcriptional enhancers and their target genes are either activated or repressed simultaneously. Such coordinated regulation of gene expression requires sharing of limited transcriptional machinery. Our lab tries to understand how such coordinated gene expression is regulated in 3D space of the nucleus. Metazoan nucleus contains several membraneless organelles that are assembled by phase separation events mediated by elevated local concentration of RNAs and proteins containing low complexity domains. Our data support the idea that many of the highly active hormone responsive enhancers associate with membraneless organelles and also assemble transcriptional machinery by phase separation events. The student will assist in examining the proteins associating with enhancers in response to hormonal stimuli that facilitate phase separation and the roles of various RNAs in facilitating such assembly. He/She will get exposure several techniques such as cell culture, quantitative PCR, genome editing and microscopy.

Francesca Telese

Adolescence represents a critical time window of neurodevelopment during which the brain undergoes critical changes at the behavioral, cellular and molecular level. The adolescent brain is highly responsive to the environment and this plasticity might lend to this period of development a greater vulnerability to external insults, such as drugs of abuse. In my laboratory, we investigate the effects of cannabis abuse in the adolescent brain using novel mice models that permit the analysis of cell-specific epigenetic pathways. Potential STARs students will participate in ongoing experiments based on next-generation sequencing techniques aimed to identify epigenetic and transcriptional changes in distinct neuronal populations (ex. excitatory versus inhibitory neurons).

Gene Yeo

A major focus of the Yeo laboratory is an interest in understanding how gene expression is controlled at the RNA level to maintain proper functioning of cells during development and aging.

Additional information about the Yeo Laboratory may be found at http://yeolab.github.io/gene-yeo/

School of Medicine – Biomedical

Tsung-Ting Kuo (PI Lucila Ohno-Machado)

Cross-institution interoperable predictive modeling can advance research and facilitate quality improvement initiatives. However, state-of-the-art distributed privacy-preserving predictive modeling frameworks are still centralized, which carries several risks. In this research project, we aim at developing novel privacy-preserving machine learning algorithms on Blockchain networks to learn better models. We believe it is critical to exploit the wide-range of existing predictive modeling methods to further improve the predictive power of the cross-institutional machine learning models.

School of Medicine – Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Huilin Zhou

The Zhou Laboratory focusses on understanding signaling pathways that prevent genome instability in normal cells and to identify how these insights could be used to develop treatment of cancer.

Additional information about his research may be found at https://www.huilinzhoulab.org/

School of Medicine – Neuroscience

Chitra Mandyam

Neural stem cells persist in the adult hippocampal subgranular zone and mature into hippocampal granule cell neurons (a process known as hippocampal neurogenesis). Neurogenesis may play a significant role in brain repair and recovery from a number of insults. Withdrawal and relapse are integral parts of the addiction cycle, and withdrawal from intravenous methamphetamine self-administration (Meth SA) enhances reinstatement to Meth seeking in male and female rats. It is therefore essential to determine whether withdrawal from Meth SA alters the process of hippocampal neurogenesis and whether this alteration is required for enhanced relapse to Meth seeking in an animal model of Meth addiction. The student intern will assist the postdoctoral fellow to determine whether withdrawal from Meth SA differentially alters the neurogenic capacity of neural progenitor cells in the granule cell layer of the hippocampus in adult male and female rats. We will use techniques such as retroviral labeling to label newly born granule cell neurons and perform 3D structural analysis on these neurons. We will use state-of-the-art software Neurolucida and NeuroExplorer from MicroBrightField to determine these issues. The overall goal of the summer internship will be to assess if withdrawal from Meth SA differentially alters the structural plasticity of newly born versus preexisting neurons in the granule cell layer in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus in male and female rats. Preclinical rodent models of intravenous Meth SA will be used. Students majoring in Biochemistry or Neuroscience preferred. Students should have an interest in performing animal behavior such as methamphetamine self-administration, biochemical experiments including immunohistochemistry and should be interested in performing extensive microscopic analysis. Students with experience in animal handling, pipetting, tissue handling are desired.

School of Medicine – Pathology

Nigel Calcutt

Neuropathy is the most common complication of long-term diabetes and there is currently no FDA-approved therapy for this condition. Corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) is emerging as an iterative, non-invasive and sensitive technique for both diagnosing peripheral neuropathy and following the progression of sensory nerve degeneration. CCM also has the potential to be used to assess efficacy of therapeutic interventions that are developed in preclinical studies prior to clinical use. The goal of this research is to test the hypothesis that diabetic peripheral neuropathy in the cornea can be reversed by topical application of growth factors. The student will establish colonies of control and diabetic mice, monitor corneal nerves until neuropathy is detected then instigate daily topical treatment with growth factors and use CCM to track reversal of neuropathy. Prior studies have shown that mouse models of diabetes develop loss of corneal nerves in a manner that replicates the human condition and that this can be prevented by topical insulin treatment. The aim of this research project is to use this preclinical system to investigate the capacity of novel therapeutics to reverse established neuropathy with the intent of providing support for the advancement of effective therapies to clinical trial and ultimately, clinical practice. (May Madi Han - New Topical Cream Treatment against Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: Muscarinic Subtype 1 Acetylcholine Antagonist as an Enhancer of Nerve Growth in Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy)

Jonathan Lin

Tauopathies are devastating neurodegenerative diseases that include Alzheimer’s disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  Recent studies have identified a novel gene, EIF2AK3/PERK, as being a risk factor in patients with tauopathies.  The EIF2AK3/PERK gene encodes a kinase with numerous coding and non-coding variants in the human population.  Several of these EIF2AK3/PERK variants are associated with increased risk for tauopathy, but the function of these variants and how they cause neurodegeneration are unknown.  The goal of the STARS project is to test the function of human EIF2AK3/PERK alleles in cells obtained from patients with tauopathies.  The student will use stem cell, molecular, and biochemical approaches to identify differences between EIF2AK3/PERK alleles.  These studies will reveal how EIF2AK3/PERK contributes to neurodegeneration and may lead to development of novel therapies to prevent disease based on targeting this kinase.

School of Medicine – Pediatrics

Kyle Gaulton

The Gaulton Laboratory studies the genetic basis and molecular mechanisms of complex disease, in particular type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Additional information about his research may be found at https://gaultonlab.org/

School of Medicine – Psychiatry

Lilia Iakoucheva

The Iakoucheva laboratory is involved in investigating molecular basis of psychiatric diseases using systems biology approaches. The goal is to discover pathways that connect genes carrying mutations identified in the exome and whole genome sequencing studies of autism and schizophrenia patients.

For more information about Dr. Iakoucheva’s research, please visit: http://iakouchevalab.ucsd.edu/research.html

Gregory Light

Psychotic disorders have devastating and often life-long consequences for approximately 2% of the global population. Most psychiatric interventions are implemented in the absence of knowledge about individual variation in important domains of brain function that might influence therapeutic response and outcome. This “one-size-fits-all” approach to treatment is problematic, with treatment failure occurring far too often and incurring substantial cost to the patient, family, therapist and larger social system. To “bend the curve” on the individual outcomes and societal impact of chronic psychotic illness, we must advance our understanding of the neural substrates of the illness features that most strongly contribute to poor outcomes, and use this information to guide mechanistically informed, personalized treatments. My program of research has advanced the use of neurophysiological biomarkers to develop precision medicine trials for psychosis patients that are: 1) effectively delivered in “real-world” community centers; and 2) informed by objective, reliable, validated, and low-cost biomarkers for identifying patients most likely to benefit (or not) from treatments. Findings support large-scale biomarker-guided trials to prevent or ameliorate illness in high-risk cohorts or treatment refractory populations. This program ultimately aims to develop and apply personalized biomarker assessment tools to deliver the “right treatment” to the “right person” at the “right time.”

Adam Halberstadt

Dr. Halberstadt’s research interests are in head twitch, optogenetics, schizophrenia, drug abuse, hallucinogens, interval timing, and serotonin.

For additional information please go to http://profiles.ucsd.edu/adam.halberstadt

Julie Wetherell

For more information about Dr. Wetherell’s research, please visit: www.medexstudy.com

Victoria Risbrough

Persistent Avoidance of Threat

Avoidance of perceived danger is a hallmark feature of anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Until recently, investigators argued that individuals engage in avoidance to reduce feelings of fear. Yet, avoidance continues to persist in the absence of fear or imminent danger. A new model proposes that avoidance is initially learned through a fear-based neural circuit, but overtime it becomes an over-trained habit controlled through a distinct circuit involving the striatum. Here we aim to test this model and determine if habit-based avoidance contributes to PTSD. Research objective: We will be utilizing a game-like task to examine how habit learning may contribute to anxiety disorders like PTSD and to identify the circuit mechanisms underlying avoidance habits. Expected methods: We will use this novel task in two stages. The first aims to validate the task by collecting behavioral and psychophysiological (galvanic skin response). In the second stage, we will collect brain imaging to delineate the neural circuitry underlying habit-based avoidance. The student will have the opportunity to learn how to recruit subjects, run experimental protocols, collect psychophysiology and fMRI assessments, conduct mental health and personality assessments, and perform statistical analyses on data collected.  Importance: This project hopes to identify a neurobiological mechanism that can scientifically inform current therapies, motivate the development of novel interventions, and predict treatment outcomes for individuals suffering from PTSD and other fear-based disorders.

Susan B. Powell

Dr. Powell’s research broadly involves the behavioral effects of alterations in monoamine neurochemistry. She has been primarily studying the effects of early developmental manipulations on behavioral and neurobiological measures in rodents. In addition to research on the psychopharmacology and neurocircuitry of prepulse inhibition in rodents, Dr. Powell’s research explores possible prophylactic antipsychotic treatments in neurodevelopmental rodent models. Her research also involves basic studies on the behavioral effects of hallucinogens in rodents with the hope that these models will inform us about psychosis in humans.

For additional information please go to http://profiles.ucsd.edu/susan.powell#toc-id1

Skaggs School of Pharmacy

David Gonzalez

Our laboratory aims to study the biochemistry that governs host-microbe interactions. From a systems scale perspective, we focus on studying bacterial pathogenesis, host responses to infection, the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and the impact of the microbiome on health and disease. At its core, the laboratory applies multiplexing quantitative proteomics to simultaneously track thousands of protein dynamics and associated post-translational modifications in an accurate and high throughput fashion. We then interface microbiology techniques to characterize important factors identified during these interactions. When the opportunity arises, translational studies of therapeutic value are undertaken in tissue culture and murine models. This information is then used to design novel strategies for the treatment of human infectious diseases.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Paul Jensen

Many of the bacteria living in the ocean have the genetic potential to produce antibiotics and other biologically active natural products. Yet under normal laboratory culture, most of these compounds are not produced. This project will employ ecological approaches to trigger antibiotic production in marine bacteria. Challenge assays in which bacteria are cultured with potential competitors will be used as a method of induction. Antibiotic activity will be monitored using these bioassays and the active compounds isolated and identified. The goals are to develop new methods for antibiotic discovery and to demonstrate that they can be effectively employed for this purpose. The results will also provide new insight into the ecological functions of antibiotics in nature. (Emily Aguirre - Chemical Ecology of Naturally Produced Brominated Compounds)

Lisa Levin

Deep-sea biodiversity.   There is growing interest in elucidating the forces shaping deep-sea biodiversity, determining how this biodiversity might be affected by human activities such as energy extraction or bottom fishing , and what the consequences are for the functions and services provided by deep ecosystems. Levin Lab research in summer 2017 will examine how deep-sea heterogeneity in methane seepage shapes biodiversity and its services. A research cruise in May-early June 2017 recovered samples from carbonate rocks and sediment cores from methane seeps and surrounding habitat off Costa Rica (400-1850 m water depth).  This summer we are seeking motivated students to help sort, quantify, identify, weigh, photograph and analyze these samples. The research will contribute to better understanding of how chemosynthetic communities interact with the rest of the deep sea, and what this might mean for designation of deep-sea protected areas on continental margins.

Social Sciences – Political Science

Erik Gartzke

There are three project opportunities at the Center for Peace and Security Studies (cPASS).  cPASS supports and monitors funded research, graduate training, and campus outreach at UCSD in the subject of peace and international security. This research focuses on new modes of deterrence (gray zone, cross-domain) and emerging modes of conflict (cyber, space, UAVs).  We are eager to integrate students into our research agenda and can offer them opportunities to work on one of several projects in these substantive areas.  For example, an ongoing project involving students seeks to assess the ways in which officials choose the types of actions to threaten or employ in crises and conflict situations.  Professor Erik Gartzke studies the impact of information on war, peace and international institutions.