RISE Students Enjoy Summer Research (2013)

The RISE program encourages undergraduate students to engage in research --- a critical step in gaining admission into competitive graduate programs in the sciences. This summer, several RISE (Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) students did just that, engaging in internships and research experiences on and off campus:

Faculty Mentor

RISE Students/Fellows


Dr. Ben Bahr

Armando Corona
Sarah Hafner Ruiz
Marsalis Smith
Paul Freeman
Julia McGee

Dr. Bill Brandon

Ed Derosier
Jessica Brown


Dr. Tim Ritter

Tiffany Scott
Molly Musselwhite


Dr. John Roe

Lucas Baxley
Gareth Hoffmann


Dr. Jeremy Sellers

Mycah Sewell
Nigel Hirth

Dr. Maria Santisteban

Thomas Neal

Stanford University, CA

Marsalis Smith

Wildlife Rehabilitator at NC Zoo
VA Tech REU Program, Veterinary Medicine Microbiology Dept.

Jordan Smink

UNC- Chapel Hill SPIRE Program

Armando Corona


What was summer research like? Read their stories (in their own words) below:

1) Gareth M. Hoffmann: monitored box turtle populations responding to fire

Photo of Gareth Hoffman turtlephoto of juvenile box turtle

It was my duty and honor to assist Dr. John H. Roe in the second summer of his multi-year study of the Eastern Box Turtle species. We particularly studied these turtles in two parks, Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve and Lumber River State Park. The goal of the experiment is to study how controlled burning in the Sandhills affects the Eastern Box Turtle by tracking a small population of these turtles and recording critical data such as habitat, behavior, [physical] conditions, and location. Valuable and practical field applications were learned and used during the study. When the Internship came to an end, I then had the opportunity to analyze and present the data collected over the course of the study.

2) Molly Musselwhite: on board NASA’s microgravity research aircraft

Photo of Molly Musselwhite on board NASAs microgravity aircraftPhoto of Molly Musselwhite on board NASA's microgravity aircraft
During the 2012-2013 school year, the Weightless Lumbees research team conducted research to better understand the effects of gravity on the Cori Cycle. In May, the team traveled to Houston, Texas, to conduct our experiment on board NASA’s microgravity research aircraft.  It was an amazing experience to conduct microgravity research using the same methods as a NASA researcher. Not only that, it was truly invaluable to have the opportunity to interact and learn from NASA scientists. This research experience showed me that there are numerous opportunities available for microgravity research, and has truly changed my future.

3) Tiffany Scott: research on the Cori Cycle and on board NASA's microgravity research aircraft

Photo of Molly Musselwhite and Tiffany Scott at NASA in HoustonPhoto of Tiffany Scott on board NASA microgravity aircraft
My experience with RISE was amazing! This program allowed me to continue to conduct research over the summer with my research team, Weightless Lumbees. Throughout the 2012-2013 school year we conducted research to determine the effects microgravity has on the Cori Cycle. In the May 2013, we continued our research on board NASA’s microgravity research aircraft. Going to Houston was an eye opener. It allowed me to see that there are so many opportunities in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] than what meets the eye. The experience changed my life, and it would not have been made possible if it were not for RISE.

4) Jordan Smink: studied a shuttle vector for gene expression and transformation

Photo of Jordan Smink

This summer I had the pleasure of working under the mentorship of Dr. Tom Inzana at the Virginia Regional College of Veterinary Medicine on the Construction of an improved shuttle vector for transformation and gene expression in Histophilus somni. H. somni is an important pathogen of cattle, and may cause meningitis, pneumonia, myocarditis, septicemia, and other infections following stress or previous infection.  In order to identify factors responsible for virulence and pathogenesis, genes that encode for these factors need to be mutated and complemented.  Mutants deficient in key virulence factors may also be useful as vaccine candidates.  H. somni has a very tight restriction-modification system, making mutagenesis and complementation very difficult.  Although transposon mutagenesis is often useful in generating mutants, a first step in improving genetic modification systems in bacteria is development of an efficient shuttle vector. Broad host range shuttle vector pLS88 containing a kanamycin resistance cassette was obtained from the related bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi, and has been shown to replicate in some strains of H. somni, but not in pathogenic strains. A modified version of pLS88 (pNS3K) has been shown to replicate more efficiently in most strains of H. somni, but is not an efficient cloning vehicle. A small, novel self-replicating plasmid (pHS649) has also been isolated from a strain of H. somni and should efficiently replicate in other strains. An H. somni LuxS mutant has already been developed through transposon mutagenesis, and this mutant is highly attenuated in a mouse model. The objective of our work will be to clone luxS into plasmids PNS3K and PHS649S and to complement the LuxS activity of the mutant by natural transformation. Future temperature-sensitive modification of this plasmid should also make it useful as a suicide plasmid for mutagenesis.

5) Marsalis Smith: studied animal auditory systems

Photo of Marsalis SmithPhoto of Marsalis Smith at Stanford University

Photo of apparatus used to study auditory system


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