U-RISE Mentor Project Descriptions

Dr. Shere Byrd (Biology)

Dr. Byrd is a cell physiologist who does research examining drugs typically used for metabolic diseases (such as diabetes and high cholesterol) and their effects on cancer growth and metastasis. She also works on projects involving stress and the immune system and is interested in herbal and non-traditional immune system modifiers. 


Dr. Callie Cole (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Project 1. Chemical Profiling of Cider Aroma & Taste by HS-SPME-GC-MS and HPLC

Project 2: An Exploration of Invasive Plant Allelopathy by GC-MS

Dr. Steven Fenster (Biology)

Project 1:  Biochemical Analysis of a Molecular Complex in Neurons Between NIL-16 and HDAC3.

Project 2: Characterization of the Molecular Mechanisms of Piccolo in Regulated Secretion of Insulin

Project 3: Characterization of the CD9 Receptor as an Alternative Receptor for Interleukin-16


Dr. Jeff Jessing (Physics and Engineering)

Project:  Development a Novel Microfluidic Lung-on-a-Chip

This is a joint project between Physics & Engineering and Biology.  Do you want to contribute to a high-impact, exciting project to design, fabricate and characterize a novel microfluidic Lung-on-a-Chip?  During the course of this project, you will get to use our new microfabrication laboratory (which houses a new scanning electron microscope) to fabricate and characterize components and work with co-culturing epithelial and endothelial cells on nanofabricated membranes.


Dr. Caroline Kulesza (Biology)

My current research focuses on Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a herpesvirus that causes life-threatening illness in patients immunocompromised by bone marrow and solid organ transplantation, HIV/AIDS and cancer chemotherapy. One major area of interest focuses on the function of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) during virus infections. A recently published study from my laboratory demonstrated the extreme stability of a lnc RNA expressed by Mouse Cytomegalovirusand future studies are planned to follow up on these published results. A second area of investigation focuses on a family of conserved proteins that are structural components of infectious virions. The function of these proteins during viral replication and pathogenesis remains to be determined.


Dr. Devin Leahy (Physics & Engineering)

Project 1: "Development of fracture-tuned composites for helmet purposes." This project will create composite materials that result in minimally concussive and traumatic impact energy attenuation profiles for a wearer. Materials will be computationally-modeled, constructed, and experimentally-tested on campus with state-of-the-art methods.

Project 2: "Design of an artificial spinal disc." Computational finite element models of the cervical spine are being used to create a replacement disc for patients with injury or degeneration. Current discs negatively alter the biomechanics of the spine, and this project is to create a disc that replicates the qualities of the native disc more accurately than has ever been done. This project is being run in conjunction with institutions on the Front Range.


Dr. Joslynn Lee (Chemistry)

Coming soon


Dr. Erin Lehmer (Biology)

Project. Using Genetic Analyses to Monitor Disease in Colorado Bat Populations.  Our research is focused on using DNA sequence barcoding analysis to monitor wild bat populations throughout Colorado for White Nose Syndrome, a fungal pathogen that has killed more than 6 million bats since its introduction to the US in 2007.  


Dr. Jeff McFarlane (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Project: Characterizing human gut microbe polyamine biosynthesis

Microbes within the human intestines produce small molecules called polyamines which are essential to life and are associated with cell proliferation and the regulation of various cellular processes. Recent studies have correlated an increase in polyamine production by gut microbes with the progression of colon and pancreatic cancer. Gut microbes produce polyamines through a biosynthetic pathway that is distinct from that found in human cells, making this pathway a potential anti-cancer therapeutic target. The aims of this project include using x-ray crystallography to solve the atomic structures of two of the biosynthetic enzymes and developing assays to evaluate the mechanisms used by these enzymes to produce polyamine products.


Dr. Yiyan Li (Physics and Engineering)

Project 1: High-speed droplet detection:

Use a high-speed camera and image processing techniques to detect fluorescence droplets in a high-throughput manner.  

Project 2: Development of biomedical instrumentation:

Development of hardware, software, GUI, and sensors for the detection of biomedical signals.


Dr. Jennifer L. Lowell (Biology, Public Health Program)

Project 1. The distribution and emergence of tick borne pathogens in the Four Corners region of the United States.

Project 2.  Studies of antibiotic resistance in an arsenic contaminated watershed


Dr. Kenny Miller (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Project: Students in the Miller research group study the synthesis and biological activity of natural products.  Current projects include the first synthesis of the antibacterial agent avrainvilleol and the synthesis of chiral conformationally constrained “molecular jump ropes.” 


Dr. Aimee Morris (Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Project 1.  Synthesis and characterization of new monodentate nitrogen-containing heterocyclic cobalt(III) complexes as possible anti-cancer prodrugs

Project 2.  Air-free synthesis of cobalt(II) complexes as potential dioxygenase catalysts


Dr. Sara Newman (Health Sciences)

Projects are welcome to be student led. Research areas of interest are the intersection of public lands and public health with a focus on increasing the accessibility of healthy places for diverse populations. Also, community-based projects to reduce health disparities for Native populations using an enculturation and assets-based approaches.


Dr. Missy Thompson (Exercise Science)

Project 1: Understanding the role of sensory feedback on plantar pressure variability in healthy individuals and those with peripheral neuropathy.

Project 2: Evaluation of the relationship of proprioceptive ability and gait dynamics. 


Dr. Megan Wrona (Psychology)

Project: Project to be decided on an individual basis with the student. Topic can be flexible but must fit within clinical/counseling psychology or prevention programming. Possible area for research: culture in treatment, dissemination of evidence-based interventions, integrated care and suicide prevention. Potential for collaboration with local community efforts regarding suicide prevention in La Plata county.