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Mentors and Projects Available for the B2B 2020 REU Program

You will pick three laboratories and mentors you are interested in working for to highlight in your application.


Lydia Heasley, Lucas Argueso Laboratory, Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: How Cells Gain and Lose Entire Chromosomes

Project Description: The gain and loss of entire chromosomes is an important way in which a genome can change. These events can enable cells to adapt to new conditions and environmental stress, as well as facilitate other modes of genome evolution. Moreover, the imbalanced complement of chromosomes (termed aneuploidy) that results from these events is one of the most well known hallmarks of cancer. We are working to understand the patterns and mechanisms by which cells gain/lose entire chromosomes.

The gain and loss of entire chromosomes is an important way in which a genome can change. These events can enable cells to adapt to new conditions and environmental stress, as well as facilitate other modes of genome evolution. Moreover, the imbalanced complement of chromosomes (termed aneuploidy) that results from these events is one of the most well known hallmarks of cancer. We are working to understand the patterns and mechanisms by which cells gain/lose entire chromosomes.

The REU student will work with Dr. Heasley to engineer cells such that we can identify individuals that randomly loose a specific chromosome. We will isolate aneuploid clones to determine a) the rate at which that chromosome is lost, and b) whether other mutations arose at the same time as the selected aneuploidy.

Mentoring Plan: Due to the assumed inexperience of the REU student, my mentoring approach will be very hands on. In addition to advising the student in the laboratory, I will also teach the student to search scientific literature, as well as to critically read scientific literature. My goals are to provide the student a with a comprehensive research experience.  Ruth Watson, Research Associate in the Argueso lab will also assist in mentoring.


Joseph Westrich, Candace Mathiason Laboratory, Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: The Effects of Maternal Immune Responses On Embryonic Development

Project Description: To develop normally, a baby needs to retain factors present. We want to know if the immune response to an infection of a pregnant mother cause problems for the developing baby.

We aim to understand how maternal infections change the immunological milieu at the maternal fetal interface and how these changes impact fetal health and outcome.

The student will assist in specific placental cell transcript changes. Placental cells secrete both cytokines and growth factors that promote optimal growth. We aim to see if infections changes expression of these factors.

Mentoring Plan: For day-to-day mentoring, Dr. Joseph Westrich will take lead. Further mentoring will occur by Dr. Candace Mathiason who will oversee the entire project.




Mark Prince Laboratory, Departments of Health and Exercise Science/Psychology

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: Predictors, outcomes, and mechanism of behavior change of cannabis use.

Project Description: The legal and social status of cannabis is rapidly changing around the globe. My lab currently has data from 20 states across the United States and from 6 countries around the world on cannabis use, predictors of use, outcomes of use, and mechanisms of behavior change. Our primary focus is on analyzing data and writing manuscripts for publication to disseminate findings. Ultimately, this research will be used to inform prevention and intervention efforts targeting those at risk for or currently suffering from cannabis related problems. In addition, we are interested in understanding under what conditions cannabis use may be beneficial.

Students working in my lab would spend time conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, and writing. We have some ongoing data collection that students may have the opportunity to participate in, but the primary focus is on writing. We are looking for students with strong writing skills, and ideally with some prior statistical training or an eagerness to learn advanced statistical methods.

Mentoring Plan: Students will be working within a team of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members. Students will be expected to independently develop research ideas for manuscripts they want to lead, and to contribute, as needed, to projects that are ongoing. Students will meet with graduate students and faculty members, as needed, as well as participate in lab meetings designed to problem solve and share ideas. Students will gain exposure to advanced statistical methods as applied to cannabis use data.  

Brad Reisfeld Laboratory, Quantitative Systems Pharmacology and Toxicology Research Group

Chemical and Biological Engineering Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: Predicting How Molecules Interact With the Human Body

Project Description: Predicting how chemicals like drugs and environmental pollutants interact with the human body is essential in developing effective therapies for diseases and for safeguarding the public from harmful compounds. This research is aimed at using biological models and computer-based tools to make these predictions.

Students will be involved in projects that utilize *in silico* approaches to predict and characterize the disposition and effects of xenobiotics (drugs and environmental pollutants) in humans. Current projects involve such compounds as opioid antagonists used in cases of overdose, antimalarial drugs, and certain classes of pesticides.

The student will interact with others in the research group, conduct literature searches, carry out basic data analysis and modeling studies, and participate in group meetings and events.

Mentoring Plan: Dr. Reisfeld will provide the mentoring.



Lauren Shomaker, Adolescent Wellness Laboratory, Human Development and Family Studies Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: Integrative Health – The Relationship Between Mental and Physical Health

Project Description: The project involves testing out if a group program helps teenagers who feel stressed out to feel less stress and to get healthier physically and mentally.

We study “integrative health” in teenagers; integrative health is the idea that mental health (for example, stress or depression) is connected to own’s physical health (for instance, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease). We want to understand how mental and physical health relate to each other. Also, we study ways of delivering behavioral interventions (like mindfulness training or cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapies) to help teens to feel less stressed, feel happier, and get healthier in how they eat, move, and sleep.

Students have the option of working on a number of ongoing projects in the lab that all address how mental health factors relate to physical health outcomes, including having too much body weight for one’s health and other risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. We are about to start a new study to test out ways of helping teenagers with anxiety and obesity. We want to see if taking part in different kinds of group programs are helping for both anxiety and gaining a healthier weight as teens grow. We’ll be studying physiological factors like heart rate variability and daily fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) throughout teens’ daily life. There will be a lot of opportunities to get involved in helping set up and launch this study.

Mentoring Plan: I will take responsibility for effective mentoring; Natalia (Natalia Sanchez, MPH, Research Associate and Lab Coordinator) is a full-time research associate who will be capable of providing hands-on day-to-day training with my oversight. Natalia has mentored ~10 undergraduate students in my lab over the past 2.5 years and she has done a stellar job with mentoring. Students adore her. We can also pair up the REU with other lab members to support mentoring, as meets his or her interests.


Daniel Sloan Laboratory, Biology Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: Evolutionary Relationships Between Interacting Proteins

Project Description: In the same way that interactions between organisms like bees and flowers lead them to evolve highly intimate relationships, many proteins have to physically interact and work together with other proteins within a cell. Studying how evolutionary changes in one protein elicit responses in other interacting proteins helps us understand how such functional relationships are maintained at a molecular level.

Because of the endosymbiotic origins of the eukaryotic cell, many key enzymes complexes in mitochondria and plastids are an assembly of protein subunits encoded by genes in different genomes (cytoplasmic and nuclear). The subunits in these cytonuclear complexes maintain highly intimate and coordinated molecular interactions despite evolving in genomic compartments with radically different mutation rates, modes of inheritance, and mechanisms of gene expression. This project will use a chloroplast protease enzyme complex that is exceptionally rapidly evolving in some flowering plants as model to understand the mechanisms and phenotypic consequences of coevolution between the multiple genomes that co-exist within eukaryotic cells. We will use genome editing techniques to determine the functional effects of creating coevolutionarily “mismatched” combinations of nuclear- and chloroplast-encoded subunits within this complex, complemented with comparative analysis of the phylogenetic history of protein sequence evolution in these subunits.

The REU student will be trained in plant nuclear and chloroplast genome editing techniques, including Agrobacterium-mediated and biolistic (“gene gun”) transformation, tissue culture, and plant regeneration. The student will also develop a complementary bioinformatic project using protein sequence alignments to infer the history of molecular evolution within the focal cytonuclear enzyme complex.

Mentoring Plan: The primary day-to-day mentoring responsibilities will be split relatively evenly between Salah Abdel-Ghany (Special Assistant Professor) and Alissa Williams (4th year Ph.D. Candidate in CMB). Both mentors have experience with the focal system for this project and have previously supervised undergraduate researchers in similar projects. Salah will supervise wet-lab work and training related to plant transgenics and tissue culture. Alissa will provide training in computational biology and sequence analysis. All four of us (Salah, Alissa, the REU student, and I) will meet on a weekly basis to coordinate overall project goals. The REU student will also participate in a weekly journal club involving our entire lab group.


Melinda Smith Laboratory, Biology Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: The Effects of Extreme Weather on Shortgrass Steppe Grassland Plants

Project Description: We are interested in how large changes in rainfall and pollution affect an ecologically and economically important Colorado grassland.

We seek to understand grassland plant community and ecosystem responses to extreme droughts and deluges and eutrophication.

The REU student could work on any independent project within the context of the ongoing nitrogen addition and extreme drought/deluge experiments in the shortgrass steppe grassland.

The project takes place at the Central Plains Experimental Range, located 38 miles from CSU. The REU student would travel to the site on a weekly basis.

Mentoring Plan: My graduate student(s), including Alan Knapp and postdoc will mentor the REU student on a day-to-day basis. I will ensure the graduate student is trained to mentor effectively. I will also meet periodically with the REU student and assist with project development and completion.



Joseph Zadrozny Group, Chemistry Department

Research Profile Webpage Link

Project Title: A Molecular Approach to a New Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technology


Project Description: We want to make novel medicines to help detect and treat disease, cancer, and other medical conditions through the use of noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Magnetic resonance imaging is a profoundly powerful technique for imaging the anatomy of the body, but not the chemistry. Developing new ways of imaging chemistry via MRI is the broad goal of this program, as this would open new doors to what can be detected with the technique, potentially providing new diagnostic capabilities. We specifically aim to enable this insight through the development of novel magnetic complexes (molecules containing magnetic metal ions) with unexplored functionalities.

Summer students will work on understanding how specific chemical features of potential imaging probes impact viability for imaging. To do so, students will synthesize a molecule (or set of molecules), then impact how specific structural or electronic features impact the properties of that molecule (or molecules) via advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic techniques. Hence, the summer appointment will be a comprehensive tour of chemistry – from making the molecules to measuring them.

Mentoring Plan: An initial meeting will be held between the summer student, the graduate students, and the professor to discuss the direction of the summer project. Throughout the appointment, extensive one-on-one interactions between the summer student and the graduate students will occur in the lab and at the bench. The PI has an open-door policy, meaning that unstructured, informal interactions are facilitated. However, every week there will be scheduled meetings between the student the PI to ensure success of the work. There are weekly group meetings with the entire group to gain experience presenting and discussing science in a group context. Beyond the professor, graduate students Tyler Ozvat and Anthony Campanella will participate.


If there is another laboratory and mentor you are interested in working for not on this list, there is an option in the REU application for “other” laboratory and mentor.