Gonzaga Science Research Program-Summer Research Scholar
The Gonzaga Science Research Program (GSRP) supports undergraduate research efforts in the Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Physics Departments. To improve the representation of students in these departments, we are recruiting transfer students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to serve as GSRP Summer Research Scholars. In the spring, select transfer students will be invited to apply for a paid research position in the summer before their first fall semester. Scholars will have the opportunity to join GU's science community early and begin to create the lasting relationships needed for their lifelong learning journey.
Participating Faculty Mentors
The Ecology and Conservation of Aquatic Systems. I am an ecologist and conservation biologist, working primarily in aquatic systems. I am interested in the effects of environmental stressors such as increased temperatures, contaminants, and diseases on aquatic organisms. I work both in the lab and in the field and would be happy to work with students interested in projects related to experimental ecology, field surveys, or computer-based modeling.
Molecular Mechanisms of Bacterial Stress Response. Stress is a fact of life for bacteria in a dynamic environment. Bacteria, pathogenic and nonpathogenic, must monitor their surroundings in order to respond to the constant changes they face. Their ability to adapt demonstrates their resilience. Our research focuses on the regulation of SigB, the general stress response sigma factor, and its role in the resilience to oxidative stress. B. subtilis uses the stressosome, a multiprotein complex, to sense its environment and RsbP to sense nutritional stress. We are interested in teasing out the role of these SigB regulatory proteins during oxidative stress, the molecular interactions that control their activities, and the genetic networks responsible for the physiological response during oxidative stress. We approach these questions using a combination of genetics, molecular and microbiology techniques. Our findings will elucidate the genetic and molecular determinants of bacterial resilience.
Ecology of Predatory and Herbivorous Insects. I will be continuing a project on wool-carder bees and their interactions with other species. Some male wool-carder bees are territorial, and can be observed fighting and chasing each other away from flowers on campus. They will also attack other species of bees, including honey bees and bumble bees. Wool-carder bees are relatively new to the area, and the details of their interactions are not well known. For example, are male wool-carder bees more likely to attack particular types of bees, and will other bees learn to avoid the territories of wool-carder bees? In addition to collecting data through field observations, I am developing a mathematical model to analyze more general hypotheses about how environmental risks and rewards affect the behaviors of bees and other pollinators. Most of the work will be on analyzing the data and model.
Discovery of gene function. The function of many human genes remains unknown. Recent studies have shown that there are hundreds of genes required for cell survival that have not been studied. Our research focuses on studying genes with unknown function and testing them for potential roles in cellular processes that are important for cell survival (e.g., cell division, DNA replication and repair, mitochondria function). We are currently working on genes with potential functions in DNA repair and cell division.
Nuclear Reactions. Clusters of α particles can take many geometric shapes within a nucleus. In carbon, there are various predictions including triangular shapes and even linear-chain structures, in which the three α particles form a perfectly straight line. This one-dimensional behavior has been predicted since at least the 1950s , and evidence of it has been highly sought-after ever since. There have been predictions that adding additional neutrons to carbon may help stabilize the linear-chain structure. One of my recent publications  involves the study of 14C. In this work, my colleagues and I identified a rotational band of excited states that has close agreement with an antisymmetrized molecular dynamics model  that predicts linear-chain structure in 14C. We are continuing our studies of 14C and related systems to further understand the nature of linear-chain α-structure in nuclei.
Waterfowl Ecology. I conduct field research on waterfowl with geographic information systems (GIS) and statistical modeling. I study how resource use affects survival and reproduction in waterfowl populations. The migratory behavior of waterfowl, their dependence on wetlands, and their economic value exposes students to a variety of research areas including conservation biology, wildlife management, and basic research. Students working with Dr. Hayes will learn GIS, statistical programming with R, and a variety of field techniques. Waterfowl trapping and banding opportunities occur throughout the year; interested students are encouraged to volunteer.
Mechanism of Bacterial HMG-CoA Reductase, a Target for Novel Antibiotics. The Watson lab studies the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase and its role in the physiology and pathogenesis of the bacterium Burkholderia cenocepacia, an opportunistic lung pathogen that is naturally resistant to most known antibiotics and a major cause of fatality in cystic fibrosis patients. There are many unusual aspects of this enzyme, from its fundamental biochemistry to its evolutionary history, that suggest it may be a highly regulated enzyme in the bacterium and therefore maybe a new target for future antibiotics. We employ protein chemistry, spectroscopy, molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms by which this unusual enzyme performs its function.