Undergraduate Research and Masters Thesis Research:
Undergraduates are actively encouraged to participate in laboratory research as an integral part of their
undergraduate science education. Students are advised to begin as early as they feel comfortable and able to commit
the necessary time and effort to their projects; many students begin as early as their freshmen year! In general, new
students will begin their labwork by working closely with another senior student in the laboratory, assisting the more
senior student with specific aspects of his or her project while developing lab skills and learning a variety of
molecular-cellular techniques. In subsequent semesters, students will be given independent projects that will entail
not only conducting experiments but developing an “intellectual ownership” of the project through reading the pertinent
literature and discussing ideas with others in the lab. The project often forms the basis for Honors thesis research
conducted and presented during the senior year. Masters students are encouraged to begin their thesis work as
soon as possible given that the MA program at W&M is a two year program. Masters students will begin work on
an independent research project as soon as feasible.
All students are expected to participate in weekly lab meetings where they will obtain experience in presenting
their research and in discussing the work of other students. All students will also be encouraged to develop their
projects to the point where they will be able to present their findings at regional and national conferences and become
co-authors on publications.
Examples of Current Student Projects:
John Seeley (Undergraduate Honors project): Cloning and characterizing the tyrosine hydroxylase gene in Xenopus; performing a
functional characterization using transgenesis.
Natasha Golub (Undergraduate Honors project): Using a combination of primary Xenopus cell culture and embryo dissections to determine the temporal and spatial patterns of GABAergic and glutamatergic fate specification with the goal of manipulating the in vitro system with various growth factors to determine their specific effects on neurotransmitter phenotype specification.
Stephanie Byers (Undergraduate Honors project): Investigating the mechanisms underlying developmental plasticity in neurotransmitter phenotype specification in Xenopus.
Negin Daneshpayeh (Undergraduate): Investigating the role of retinoic acid in neurotransmitter phenotype determination.
Daniel Teasley (Undergraduate): Performing a functional characterization of the GAD67 gene during early neural development in Xenopus using transgenesis.
Brittany Johnson (Undergraduate): Examining the role of the neurotoxin veratridine on early neural development and neurotransmitter specification.
Kellyn CarrierFenster (Undergraduate): Using a combination of techniques (tissue dissociation and cell culture, morpholino and dominant negative injections) to determine if there is a neurotransmitter phenotype "default" state adopted by the earliest presumptive neural cells.
Drew Hughes (Undergraduate): In a collaborative project with Dr. Del Negro (App. Sci.), examining the role of calcium transients in early neural development.
Patrick McGarey (Undergraduate): Investigating the role of the cell cycle in GABAergic and glutamatergic cell type determination using cell cycle inhibitors and assaying the outcomes using in situ hybridization.
Jenny Dorand (Undergraduate): Attempting to use quantum dots to identify GABAeric and glutamatergic neurons in vivo; using MS to quantify neurotransmitters in early embryos.
Chelsea Osborne (Undergraduate): Using primary cell culture to examine neurotransmitter specification in the eye.
Rebecca Lowdon (Undergraduate): Investigating the specification of serotonergic neurons in early development.
Ben Fontana (Undergraduate): Examining neurotransmitter specification in the eye.
Mike Harper (Undergraduate): Attempting to work out new a transgenesis procedure with the GAD 67 gene.