​Undergraduate Student Research

Work one-on-one with instructors through hands-on research. 

Students are permitted and encouraged to conduct hands-on research at the undergraduate level, which can prove advantageous when applying to graduate schools. Research is conducted extensively out in the field and in the labs of our green award-winning Davis Street Building

Current Research

​Professor Name
​Research Summary

Robert Charvat, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Biology​

​Dr. Charvat’s interests are to understand how the parasite Toxoplasma gondii responds to various stresses, including drug challenge. His lab is particularly interested in what happens to the parasite’s mitochondrion, or energy producing organelle, which they have demonstrated can undergo dramatic remodeling. Future research endeavors will focus on elucidating how the parasite remodels its only mitochondrion, identifying proteins involved in the process, and determining how the pathway is regulated.

biology cell chart

Ben Dolan, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Biology

​Research in Dr. Dolan’s Forest Ecology Lab examines changes in vegetation in central hardwood forest ecosystems resulting from various disturbances, including fire, timber harvesting, and invasive species. Much of his current work focuses on modeling the impact of emerald ash borer on forest plant communities by examining the composition of understory vegetation. Dr. Dolan collaborates with other researchers through the EREN project to better understand the influence of emerald ash borer on a broader scale.​

teacher looks through microscope

​Michael Edelbrock, Ph.D.,
Professor of Biology
Director of Laboratory Facilities 

​Dr. Edelbrock and his students are screening fungal extracts for anti-cancer properties. Fungal spores are collected by classroom students and the metabolites extracted. Research students then use the extracts to test for DNA damage and cytotoxicity. There are several tests to determine these effects. Students work in teams and each group looks at a different aspect. Over 200 samples have been screened and nine were found to kill several types of cancer cells that are grown in the Davis lab. The hope is that the samples that show anti-cancer properties can be investigated further to determine the active ingredient.​

student working under fume hood

Troy Fagan,
Instructor of Biology

​This research focuses on disturbed systems, specifically the impact of invasive species on interspecific competition and predation in freshwater communities.  To date, my research has focused on how molluscivores may impact the competition between two invasive dreissenids, the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) and the quagga mussel (Dreissena bugensis).  Though native to the Black and Caspian Seas, both dreissenids were introduced to Lake Erie in the late 1980’s via ship ballast water.  Since their introduction and subsequent spread through out the Great Lakes, population ranges have continued to ebb and flow through interspecific competition and predation.​

pile of zebra mussels

Bethany Henderson-Dean, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor of Biology
Chair of Natural Sciences Department

​Dr. Henderson-Dean's research involved testing water quality along nine testing sites along the Blanchard River. She and her students studied which parts of the region had the highest levels of phosphate, nitrogen and fecal coliform bacteria.​

professor teaching students

Xu Lu, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Biology

​Dr. Lu's research involves understanding the mechanistic effects of natural products (e.g., caffeine, bitter melon juice, etc.) on cellular division and cancer cells through the use of cellular and molecular techniques. Furthermore, his research interests also include epidemiology and the relationship between personal hygiene and susceptibility to infectious diseases.​

bittermelon plant in beaker

​Justin Rheubert, 

Instructor of Biology

Research in Professor Rheubert’s lab focuses on reproduction in amphibians and reptiles. Professor Rheubert and his students investigate a variety of topics surrounding reproductive biology including morphology, ecology, behavior, and evolution. The primary focus of the laboratory is to understand the evolution of the reproductive system in amphibians and reptiles and to gain an understanding of the selective pressures that act on the present variability in both primary and secondary sexual characters. Furthermore, most recent studies in the Rheubert lab have investigated the effects of endocrine disrupting contaminants (EDCs) in development of the reproductive system. Students are encouraged to explore their own interests by developing their own hypotheses to be tested with the means of lab.​​

biology students posed in front of ocean

Southwest research trip

The Rheubert lab, in collaboration with the Walker lab, took a trip in the summer of 2015 to collect amphibians and reptiles in Arkansas, Texas, and Arizona. This massive trip included visiting 10 different states and the collection of over 100 specimens that are being used for a variety of studies in both labs. Students gained hand on experience catching amphibians and reptiles (including rattlesnakes), learned REAL fieldwork, and learned to apply laboratory techniques in the field.​

Student holding lizard

Lizard behavioral arena

​Together (with the plans from Michael Wilder) students built a behavioral arena (which they have termed "the thunder dome") to test a variety of hypotheses concerning reproductive behaviors in Sceloporus undulatus. The data collected during these studies will utilize a variety of methods including behavioral assay analysis, geometric morphometrics, metric analyses, microscopy, and statistics. This is a large collaborative effort in the laboratory which everyone is involved in.​

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Kaia Skaggs, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor of Biology

Research in Dr. Skaggs’ lab examines repair and regeneration following brain damage using adult zebrafish as a model system. Brain damage is one of the most devastating of human injuries​, resulting in lifelong disability largely due to the inability of the human central nervous system to repair or regenerate damaged neurons. Unlike mammals, neural progenitor cells in the adult zebrafish brain proliferate in response to injury, migrate to the site of injury and appear to integrate into existing circuitry to restore brain tissue.  Zebrafish are vertebrates that share many developmental and functional features with mammals, so understanding mechanisms of successful brain regeneration in zebrafish may suggest approaches for augmenting repair and recovery after brain damage, disease, and degeneration in humans. Current research projects involve the role of neuroinflammation in stimulating regeneration and other mechanisms of neuronal regeneration and repair, alternative brain injury models, and characterization of individual cellular responses to damage.​​

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​Chris White,
Instructor of Biology
Lab Coordinator

Professor White’s interests lie in discovering evolutionary relationships among marine invertebrates by investigating DNA markers. Current projects include attempting to sequence DNA from museum-preserved crinoids and exploring relationships between color morphs of shrimp popular in the aquarium trade.​​

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