​​​​​Undergraduate Student Research​​

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


Students are ​encouraged to conduct hands-on research at the undergraduate level, which can which allows students to experience real life applications of classroom material while enhancing their understanding of the scientific process and the complexities of biological systems. Research is conducted extensively out in the field and in the labs of our green award-winning Davis Street Building

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Students researching ticks

​Evolution of RNA Virus in Ticks and Honey Bees

Abby Levitt, Ph.D.

​In this lab, work is being done on viruses transmitted primarily through arthropods – those invertebrate animals having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages – particularly honeybees and ticks. Levitt works with students to collect samples from honeybees, which are then homogenized in what is known as an extraction buffer, where DNA/RNA is extracted using various molecular techniques. The contents are then analyzed to detect whether or not the bees have the particular virus or viruses that Levitt and crew might be looking for. “It's good for students to have this direct and hands-on experience with these specific methods so that they're prepared to continue the work wherever they end up," said Levitt. Click through to learn more about Levitt's research in Findlay's Newsroom.​

Parasite under microscope

​Toxoplasma Parasites

Robert Charvat, Ph.D.

​​Two Findlay students found their own curiosity piqued by this subject and pursued research with Dr. Charvat as a mentor.  According to the CDC, toxoplasmosis is considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States. More than 40 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, women newly infected with Toxoplasma during or shortly before pregnancy and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware that toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences. Working in conjunction with UF's College of Pharmacy, the students are researching anti-cancer drugs that may have the ability to inhibit or kill this parasite.

Antibiotics

Antibiotic Susceptibility in Probiotics

Robert Charvat, Ph.D.

It is well known that antibiotics don't just kill what's making you sick, they also kill the good bacteria in your gut that keep you healthy. Currently, it is recommended that people take probiotics (good bacteria that act similar to your own gut bacteria) to counteract the unwanted negative effects of the antibiotics on the good intestinal bacteria. In his research lab, Dr. Charvat is investigating if that is actually the case. Working with students, he is researching whether antibiotics taken for an infection actually kill off probiotics as well. They are also looking at recovery time for good bacteria, and when the most effective time to take probiotics would be.​

Snake Venom Research

Antimicrobial Properties of Snake Venom

Justin Rheubert M.Sc. and Robert Charvat, Ph.D.

​Can a toxin with no adverse health effects on humans be used as an antibiotic? This is the question that two Findlay biology professors are working together to answer. Working with a group of students led by senior biology major Megan Pasternak, they are researching the Heterodon nasicus—better known as the Western Hognose because of its upturned snout— and the potential for its venom to possess antimicrobial activity. This species was chosen because its salivary secretion, while similar in composition to more deadly snakes like cobras and rattlesnakes, is only toxic to its prey, mainly frogs. The group's short-term goal is to test this species for antimicrobial effectiveness and, if their predictions are correct, to expand into other snake species. They're currently working with a statistician who is doing modeling work—taking venom composition and inputting it into a model selection that predicts its antimicrobial effectiveness—that leads to them being able to take any snake venom and its protein breakdown and make a prediction of effectiveness or ineffectiveness. This moves toward a better functional understanding of why some venoms are better than others. To learn more about this project, click through to read about it in the 2018 Findlay Mag.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer's Impact on the Local Plant Community

Ben Dolan, Ph.D.

Coming from Asia to North America just over 20 years ago, Agrilus planipennis, more commonly known as the emerald ash borer, has killed millions of ash trees in the Midwest. Since Ohi​o is home to more than 3.8 billion ash trees — about one in every 10 trees in Ohio is an ash — the loss of the species has created a void in the existing ecosystem. Students performing research in Dr. Dolan's Forest Ecology Lab get to see first hand how this introduced species has an impact on the larger ecosystem. They examine changes in vegetation in Central Hardwood Forest ecosystems resulting from various disturbances, including emerald ash borer. They work to model the future composition of 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.  

Student doing research in lab

Evolution of Male Reproductive Tracts in Vertebrates

Abby Levitt, Ph.D., Robert Charvat, Ph.D., Justin Rheubert, M.Sc.

​Understanding the evolutionary path of an organism's reproductive system involves understanding the biological influence involved in the process. In this project Rheubert, Levitt, Charvat, and a group of students are investigating the evolution of the male reproductive tract in vertebrates through the use of morphological data. By mapping various traits of the reproductive tract in extant species, the group hopes to reveal how the reproductive tract might have looked in extinct species, such as dinosaurs. Students gain exposure to different aspects of researching, such as collecting samples from a wet lab and data mining,  and can use these experiences to find their strengths.   ​

anaxyrus frog

Evolution of Sexual Characteristics in Amphibians and Reptiles

Justin Rheubert M.Sc.

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 the development of the reproductive system. Students are encouraged to explore their own interests by developing their own hypotheses to be tested within the means of the lab. 

Dr. Eddlebrock in lab with student

Fungus as a Bioreactor

Michael Edelbrock, Ph.D.

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.   

Bittermelon

Natural Products on the Growth and Cell Division of Cancer Cells

Xu Lu, Ph.D.

​​​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.  

Neuron Regeneration in Adult Zebrafish

Kaia Skaggs, Ph.D.

​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. 

Professor Dolan in Lab with Students

Plant Competition through Allelopathy

Ben Dolan, Ph.D.

​​It's a tough world out there, and a plant's gotta do what a plant's gotta do. In order to better compete for resources, some plants produce chemicals that prevent other plants from growing. To investigate this phenomenon, students test for the presence and influence of these allelochemicals in our forest ecosystems. Dr. Dolan and his students are interested in determining whether these chemicals are important in determining the outcome of competition between native and introduced species.  Click to learn more about Dr. Dolan and his lab.

Pear Tree Blossoms

Pollinators Spreading Virus

Ben Dolan, Ph.D., Abby Levitt, Ph.D.

​On the University of Findlay's main campus lives numerous Pyrus calleryana, or a Callery pear trees. This species blooms before many of the other trees on campus, producing beautiful white flowers, but it could be having an impact on our native pollinator communities. Working with professor Abby Levitt, Ph.D., whose research interest relates to viruses in arthropods, this research seeks to determine whether native pollinators, including bees, make use of Callery pear differently from other plants with similar blooming characteristics. This research could help identify solutions for improving success of bees in our region. 

Sample Tray

Relationship Between Hand and Cell Phone Hygiene and Their Effects on the Susceptibility to Infectious Diseases Among Students Attending the University of Findlay

Xu Lu, Ph.D.

​​​Presented at the 2019 Symposium for Scholarship and Creativity, this research evaluates the correlation between proper hand and cell phone hygiene, and the susceptibility to infectious diseases. Bacterial samples were collected from the hands and cell phones of student volunteers, and a series of survey questions were asked in order to understand this relationship. 

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