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Research Opportunities

undergraduate research opportunities


The College of Science has a long tradition of exceptional research. Working in a lab is one of the best experiences you can pursue as a College of Science student. Faculty across campus are in need of your skills and can provide you with hands-on training to strengthen your abilities as a researcher. Students across campus are participating in cutting-edge research that is making an impact on daily lives. Undergraduate students have many opportunities to participate in research in the College, as well as opportunities on the Health Sciences (Medical) Campus. Undergraduate research opportunities can come in the form of:

  • structured research methods or project-based research courses (Science Research Initiative, department-based courses);
  • research under the mentorship of faculty, graduate students, or research staff;
  • engagement through the Office of Undergraduate Research.

The best time to start your research is now! Students can find a wide variety of opportunities in their major or in a topic that interests them.

Where to start? Current professors are a great resource - they can connect you to research labs and faculty peers. College departments maintain a list of open opportunities, and your academic advisor or college internship coordinator can help you reach out to find opportunities.


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Edward Meenen, BS’86

Edward Meenen

Ed Meenen (seated) talking to Gordon Lark at the Lark Endowment Dinner, 2019

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring, the School of Biological Sciences checked in with our alumni across the country and beyond to see how they were managing. The self-isolating Edward Meenen (BS’86) responded from his ancestral family community in Clay Center, Kansas. My “morning decision,” he quipped, “is what to put on to go to the living room!”

Though not the most philosophical response, Ed’s humor was well appreciated at a time when lock downs, quarantining and sheltering at home became the new, hopefully temporary, “normal.”

Ed worked with the late K. Gordon Lark,  founder of the Department of Biology, now SBS, at Kansas State University and decided to follow him to the U as Lark’s lab technician before moving to the labs of Ray Gesteland (now an SBS emeritus faculty member) and finally Robert Weiss. Ed's understanding of micro environments increased exponentially at a time when Lark was establishing and rapidly growing micro and cell biology at the U. The Kansas native recalls his introduction to the Mountain/Southwest through skiing and a field trip to Southern Utah, both of which were particularly memorable. So too was his work in Baldomero “Toto” Olivera’s lab researching conotoxins, ion channels, neurobiology ad molecular biodiversity using the subject model of venomous marine snails.

Earlier, Ed was drafted into the Army where he trained as a veterinary technician. There he spent most of his time at Walter Reed Medical Center stationed at Forest Glen in the research section. The veterinarians and their technicians were attached to the research group to provide veterinary support for the research groups. “People do not believe my military stories,” he says with his signature wry humor. “So I don’t often tell them (even my parents were not sure of my tales).”

Currently, Ed manages the two Kansas family farms, one of which he grew up on. Both are mainly for grain production:  wheat, corn and soybeans. “The farms are rented out on shares,” he explains, “which means that a portion of each crop belongs to the family (my sister, my sister-in-law and myself). The crops are delivered to the grain elevators. I then take over and market the grain.”

The farms require extraordinary administrative skill: “I must pay the bills as the family is responsible for their share of fertilizers, spraying for weed and fungus control,” he explains. Ed is also responsible to see that all the paper work is complete at the Farm Service Agency and that the crop insurance paper work is complete.

“I am responsible for all the bookkeeping and accounting reports that are given to the certified public accountant who prepares the IRS papers.” Finally, he cuts the checks to family members for their regular distributions.

In October 2019, Ed made the trip by pickup to honor his mentor Gordon Lark at a special dinner that included Lark’s wife Antje and, among many other colleagues hired and mentored by Lark during his tenure, Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi. The former Department Chair was visibly delighted to see his friend Ed Meenen as the two of them reminisced on days of yore doing cutting edge research together at the School of Biological Sciences.

 

The K. Gordon Lark Endowment is currently on its way to becoming fully funded.
You can join Mr. Meenen, Mario Capecchi and others who have made a donation to honor the legacy of SBS’s founder here.

 
by David Pace
 

Handshake

 

Find your internship today!


The Career and Professional Development Center uses Handshake, an online platform that connects you directly to employers for internship and career opportunities. These opportunities are located across the country and may not be specific to College of Science.


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Academic Credit

Earn Academic Credit


Qualifying jobs and internships can earn university credit!

College of Science students may earn university credit for their internships by completing an internship course. Reasons you may want to earn credit for your internship include:

  • Completing a graduation requirement (Gen Ed)
  • Completing major elective credit
  • Completing a lab requirement
  • Adding additional credits to meet financial aid requirements
  • CPT requirements

All courses are designed to complement and enhance your internship experience. The courses MUST be taken at the time you are actually interning, so interested students are encouraged to look into these course opportunities early in their academic career/internship experience.

If you are currently working long-term in a position related to your degree, you may be able to earn credit for your experience even though it is not a typical internship experience. The courses available and what they count for may vary by major and internship position.

Common internship courses for College of Science Majors include:

  • BIOL 4965- For Biology majors, possible Biology lab or elective credit
  • CHEM 4965- For Chemistry majors, possible Chemistry elective credit
  • HONOR 3500-For Honors students
  • MATH 4910
  • SCI 4965-Open to all students, this course meets the CW Gen Ed requirement and can count for Biology or Chemistry elective credit

Departments may have additional resources and can help you identify appropriate courses:

For more detailed information and to discuss what might be best in your individual case, make an appointment with the internship coordinator. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with their academic advisor before selecting a course.


>> INTERNSHIPS HOME <<

 

 

Michele Lefebvre, PhD’05

Michele Lefebvre

Michele Lefebvre, PhD’05, knows exactly what graduate students in the School of Biological Sciences need to know about their academic careers at the University of Utah.

“What you learn here,” she advises them, “will apply to any career path you choose. The abilities to critically read, analyze, and write will serve you well on whatever profession you pursue.” It’s the kind of advice that has proven true for her as she navigates the pandemic as an environmental scientist based in Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island.

It hasn’t been without its challenges. “Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific, away from family, has been isolating and hard. Working a full-time, professionally challenging job with two elementary school-aged children at home has also been hard.” But her training and persistence have paid off, and even during an unprecedented pandemic she understands the opportunity in this time of global loss and grief. “I hope our individual searches for what’s important during this time, turn into decisions that improve our lives moving forward.”

The perspective she currently has undoubtedly stems at least in part from her time at the U, in particular in the lab of Don Feener. Following her graduation with a BA in biology from Boston University, Lefebvre realized she wanted to continue conducting research, and Feener was very well respected in the field as a researcher and mentor. “I’m grateful for his patience and the great example he set, which gave me the confidence to tackle the challenges in the program.” The training, which she calls "rigorous," requiring that she develop a skill for attention to detail, translated “directly to the work I currently do,” she says. A Florida native, Lefebvre also has fond memories of learning how to ski while in Utah.

“I started working in environmental consulting after I graduated,” she explains further. “At first, I learned how to conduct biological surveys and write biological reports and impact analysis.” Lefebvre later transitioned to preparing and managing documents that comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Currently, Lefebvre is employed as an environmental impact assessment specialist and project manager for Stantec, an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry. There she conducts impact analyses on resources as a result of a given proposed project. This involves coordinating baseline surveys including biological and cultural inventories. She also assists with stakeholder coordination, which underscores the company's tagline:  "We design with community in mind."

Outside of work Lefebvre loves going to the beach with her two daughters, watching (and sometimes swimming with) turtles, snorkeling, and playing in the sand. She also enjoys gardening—her family grows sweet potatoes, bananas, and papaya in their yard and they have a small herb garden. To top it off, Michele loves staying active and runs the Big Island half marathon every year.

It's the culmination of a life of inquiry, passion and hard work, qualities that other graduate students in the School of Biological Sciences are poised to emulate … even during these difficult times when uncertainty reigns.

 
by David Pace
 

Boyana Martinova

Boyana Martinova


Why did you choose math as your major?

I chose math because I love problem solving. I always knew I wanted to pursue a degree in math because, unlike most things, there is always a right answer, which I find incredibly satisfying.

What do you like about the Math Department? What makes it special?

The Math Department is relatively small, so it’s a tight-knit group of people. Since the class sizes are small, I’ve gotten to know my professors and peers really well, which makes it feel as if I am hanging out with my friends, learning about something we all find super interesting rather than just sitting in math class. Additionally, since you get to know your classmates so well, there’s a strong support system within the department, and you can always find someone willing to help you. I think that’s really special, and you don’t usually find that at an institution as large as the U.

What kind of research or internship opportunities have you had? How did you find them?

I’ve been conducting research with the same professor since the spring semester of my freshman year. As an incoming freshman, I participated in the ACCESS Program for Women in Science and Mathematics, which introduced me to research and helped me find a lab in the department. I have stuck with it ever since.

How has the research helped prepare you for a career?

Participating in research as an undergrad has entirely shaped what I want to do professionally. I came into college thinking I wanted to work in industry, but after a few semesters of research, I know that I actually want to do research for as long as possible. There are countless topics in math that we're just starting to understand, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of that process.

What do you plan to do with your math degree?

I will be graduating in the spring, and my plan is to move on to a Ph.D. program in Pure Mathematics. I still have so much to learn, and I can’t wait to explore the subfields within math that interest me most, such as abstract algebra. Ultimately, I want to continue my research and hopefully make a career in academia.

What do you wish you had known about the department when you applied to the U in high school?

I wish I'd known how well ranked the U’s Math Department is! I originally applied to the U because it was close to home and had everything that I was looking for, but I had no idea of the great reputation of the department. If I'd known this, it definitely would have made my decision of where to go to college easier.

What advice would you give to high school students who are considering joining the U and majoring in math?

One huge piece of advice I have is that anyone can do math! I know math can seem daunting at times, but all that’s needed to be successful is a passion for math and some determination. The other students and faculty at the U have been consistently supportive of my endeavors in the field, and I can’t envision a better place to get an undergraduate degree.

What do you think are some of the selling points of the department that high school students should know about?

Unlike other institutions, the Math Department has an abundance of research opportunities for undergraduates. There are even programs that pay undergrads to work on a research project with a professor, so it’s really easy to get involved.

 - first published by the Department of Mathematics

Academic Advising

 

Academic Advising


The Advising Hive is open for the Fall 2021 semester!

Academic Advisors are here to help you succeed. As educators and problem solvers, they advocate for students as they navigate their personal journey of higher education and attain their academic goals. Through inclusion and connection, they open doors to new opportunities for self-awareness and growth, empowering students to define their roles as citizens within local and global communities.

The Advising Hive
Crocker Science Center, Room 240
office@science.utah.edu


Biology Advisors

Denise Brenes

Biology Advisor
 801-581-6244
 denise.brenes@utah.edu

Denise Brenes

Biology Advisor
JTB Rm 220
 801-581-6244
 denise.brenes@utah.edu

Bree Peacock

Biology Advisor
 bree.peacock@utah.edu

Bree Peacock

Biology Advisor
JTB Rm 220
 bree.peacock@utah.edu

Mark Campbell

Biology Advisor
 801-581-6244
 mark.a.campbell@utah.edu

Mark Campbell

Biology Advisor
JTB Rm 220
 801-581-6244
 mark.a.campbell@utah.edu

Jacklyn Chiu

Biology Advisor
 801-581-6244
 jacklyn.chiu@utah.edu

Jacklyn Chiu

Biology Advisor
 801-581-6244
 jacklyn.chiu@utah.edu

Chemistry Advisors

Maddy Montgomery

Chemistry Advisor
 801-585-7284
 advisor@chem.utah.edu

Maddy Montgomery

Chemistry Advisor
HEB 2112
 801-585-7284
 advisor@chem.utah.edu
Joe Simpson
 801-585-7284
 advisor@chem.utah.edu
Joe Simpson
HEB 2112
 801-585-7284
 advisor@chem.utah.edu

Mathematics Advisors

Emily Platt

Mathematics Advisor
 801-587-0645
 emily.platt@utah.edu

Emily Platt

Mathematics Advisor
CSC 240
 801-587-0645
 emily.platt@utah.edu

Lauren Bustamante

Mathematics Advisor
 801-581-4880
 lauren.bustamante@utah.edu

Lauren Bustamante

Mathematics Advisor
 801-581-4880
 lauren.bustamante@utah.edu

Physics & Astronomy Advisor

Cyri Dixon

Physics & Astronomy Advisor
 801-587-0650
 cyri.dixon@utah.edu

Cyri Dixon

Physics & Astronomy Advisor
CSC 240
 801-587-0650
 cyri.dixon@utah.edu

Honors College Advisor

Karleton Munn

Honors College Advisor
 801-581-7383
 k.munn@honors.utah.edu

Karleton Munn

Honors College Advisor
 801-581-7383
 k.munn@honors.utah.edu

Internships & Careers

Jacqueline Broida

Internship Coordinator
 801-585-1985
 Jacqueline.broida@utah.edu

Jacqueline Broida

Internship Coordinator
 801-585-1985
 Jacqueline.broida@utah.edu

Crystal Cory

Undergraduate Career Coach
 801-581-7993
 ccory@sa.utah.edu

Crystal Cory

Undergraduate Career Coach
 801-581-7993
 ccory@sa.utah.edu

Francine Mahak

Graduate Career Coach
 801-585-9076
 fmahak@sa.utah.edu

Francine Mahak

Graduate Career Coach
 801-585-9076
 fmahak@sa.utah.edu

General Education Requirement Form

If you see transfer courses on your Degree Audit that you think should clear General Education requirements, but aren’t doing so, and you are a College of Science major, please submit the General Education Requirement petition form.


 

Scholarships, Grants & Financial Aid

Scholarships for first-year, undergraduate and graduate students.

Read More
Academic Resources

Resources for academic success.

Read More
Late Withdrawals

Withdrawal instructions and downloadable Petition forms.

Read More
Student Wellness

Tools for you to maintain a safe and healthy life both in and out of class.

Read More

Live on campus

Live on campus in a Science Community


One way to deepen your engagement at the U is to live in a College of Science Themed Community: College of Science First Year Floor at Kahlert Village or the Crocker Science House on Officers Circle. These communities are designed to bring students with similar interests, majors, goals, and experiences together.

College of Science First Year Floor


Kahlert Village is the newest residential community on campus and is home to approximately 990 first year students. The building features double and single rooms in cluster and suite-style configurations. Kahlert Village is centrally located on campus, includes a full-service dining facility, and a variety of classroom and study space available for students. A meal plan is required in this living area.

If you are a first year student pursuing a degree in the College of Science the Science First Year Floor is an excellent opportunity for you. Residents support each other through the rigors of their coursework while deepening their connection to the College of Science faculty, alumni, staff, and opportunities.  Resident Advisors are science students who can help mentor you through your academic career.

Crocker Science House


Nestled in Officers' Circle, at the base of the Wasatch foothills and the Shoreline Trail, the Crocker Science House provides a unique opportunity for twelve science students to live and learn together in a beautifully restored building once occupied by military officers. Crocker Science Scholars have the opportunity to attend lectures, dinners, and other events with luminaries of Utah's business, science, and academic communities. In 2018, Mario Capecchi joined the students for dinner and ping-pong. A meal plan is required in this living area.

Crocker Science Scholars come from a variety of geographic, cultural, and academic backgrounds, united by a strong drive to succeed in the physical and life sciences.   Scholars often find that living in close quarters with students from other disciplines helps them with their own work and encourages them to explore avenues of science they would not have considered otherwise.

Frequently asked questions


Complete the Housing & Residential application and select the College of Science First Year Floor as your preferred Themed Community by the priority deadline of March 10.

 

Complete the Housing & Residential application and select the Science First Year Floor as your preferred Themed Community by the priority deadline of March 10.

A supplemental application is also required to be considered for the Crocker Science House.

Apply now for the Crocker Science House!

 

Selection for the College of Science First Year Floor and the Crocker Science House is completed by the College of Science. 

There are three main components that factor into how much it costs to live on campus: location, room type and meal plan. 

Pay your housing bill in monthly installments, rather than a lump sum at once. Payment plan enrollment is is fast and simple.

  • No hassle withdrawals are automatically deducted from designated checking or savings account, or charged to a credit card
  • Calculate the amount you wish to have in your payment plan by using the payment estimator tool

No scholarship is currently available for the College of Science First Year Floor.

Students accepted to reside in the Crocker Science House receive a scholarship to assist with housing expenses, making this opportunity accessible to a wide range of students.


Academic resources

Scholarships, Grants & Financial Aid

Science Research Initiative

Center for Science and Mathematics Education

Employment Opportunities

LEAP Science Course

Science Ambassadors

Honors College

Employer Hub

Employer Hub


College of Science Internships are intended to help students explore a given career field and/or prepare for future studies or employment. Our focus is on internships, but we also seek other career-building opportunities for our students including volunteer opportunities, part-time & full-time student jobs, and entry-level positions. 

Since the College of Science includes biology, chemistry, math, and physics & astronomy, our students have a variety of interests and skills. We seek employers with a wide range of positions, from laboratory placements to finance, technology to theoretical physics, and education to law. 

College of Science students have: 

  • Laboratory Experience
  • Strong problem-solving & critical thinking skills 
  • Robust mathematical abilities
  • Fundamental understanding of technology 
  • Inquisitive natures and the drive to explore

Participate in our Facilitated Internship Program:

  • Enhanced recruitment and recognition. Participating organizations have the opportunity to identify student talent and recruit undergraduates before they graduate. Employers also appear in our marketing materials, which increases overall visibility to students.
  • Access to students qualified in STEM​. Our program recruits from College of Science undergraduates majoring in biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and/or physics & astronomy. Many of these students also have majors or minors in additional STEM subjects such as computer science.
  • Student employees who take their jobs seriously. College of Science students tend to be driven, but our interns are particularly so. Through the College of Science Internship Program, these students also have access to support and resources to help them succeed.
  • On-going support and facilitation.We are committed to making this program a positive experience for employers and are available to assist with questions, resources, and aid before and during the internship.
  • Pre-screened applications. Host organizations receive application packets that have been pre-screened for verifiable requirements such as major, academic year, GPA, and required coursework.
  • Intern Orientation. All students participating in our facilitated program receive a professional orientation before the start of their internship so that they arrive prepared for their experience.
  • Internship Symposium. College of Science students participate in a symposium at the end of their facilitated program experience, showcasing their internship and exploring their professional progress. Supervisors are welcome to attend and share in their intern’s accomplishments.

For more information about our program; how our students can assist your lab, department, or business; or other ways to connect with the College of Science, contact the internship coordinator, Jacqueline Broida, at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu.


>> INTERNSHIPS HOME <<

 

 

Julia Bailey-Serres, BS’81

Julia Bailey-Serres, BS'81

SBS Distinguished Alumna 2020

 

 

Julia Bailey-Serres, BS’81, is known for her research on mechanisms of plant adaptive responses to environmental stresses. She remembers enrolling in “a lot of lab classes in genetics, animal physiology and chemistry” at the U. And she fondly recalls a team-taught lab with now Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi. Other teachers and mentors she is quick to mention are Ray Gesteland, Joe Dickinson and E. Tucker Gurney, all emeritus faculty now.

A California native, Bailey-Serres transferred as a sophomore to the U where she immediately got a job in a lab with the late George Edmunds, an aquatic entomologist. “It was an early opportunity to understand what research was,” she says. “It gave me a home and then paid for a summer school class in electron microscopy on insects.”

After graduation, she attended he University of Edinburgh where she earned her PhD studying rearrangements of mitochondrial DNA in sorghum, a genus of flowering plants in the grass family Poaceae. Now Director at the Center for Plant Cell Biology and Distinguished Professor of Genetics at the University of California, Riverside, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 and, in 2020, recognized as a Distinguished Alumna of the School of Biological Sciences.

In addition to Edmunds, while at the U Bailey-Serres was mentored by SBS’s David Wolstenholme who would “steal” her away from his colleague. Cell and molecular biology outside of bacteria and viruses were just beginning to emerge, and Wolstenholme, who would become Department Chair, “didn’t guide me as much as just provided opportunities. [It was a] tremendous undergraduate opportunity,” she says, doing electron microscopy as well as some molecular biology. The research experience was accented by her work during her junior year as a teaching assistant for the non-majors biology class. “I was self-supporting as a student and needed the money for tuition.” Getting paid for lab work, she wryly attests, was “a lot more interesting than washing dishes.”

Even so, she remembers, “I was just this naïve young person interested in science and David gave me the push I needed.” She remembers Wolstenholme's explaining that she really needed to go to graduate school. As a consequence of her research experience at the U, Bailey-Serres has always had an undergraduate researcher in her own lab, over 100 to date. Fittingly, her first faculty award at Riverside was for her work with budding undergraduate researchers. The kind of relationship she formed with Wolstenholme was arguably prologue to what would become what is now the recently launched Science Research Initiative for undergraduates in the U’s College of Science.

Grains in the Rain

The Bailey-Serres group develops basic plant research discoveries into technologies or approaches that improve agriculture. By pursuing translational plant biology, says Bailey-Serres, “we aim to harness genetic mechanisms that provide climate change resilience to crops, particularly flooding, drought and nutrient stress resilience.” Her lab works from the single cell to the whole plant level. Their studies have defined mechanisms of low oxygen sensing and post-transcriptional gene regulation, from the epigenome to the "mRNPome" and translatome. “This knowledge is of importance to efforts that seek to stabilize crop yields,” she explains. “As Earth’s population grows, arable land decreases, and climatic patterns change.”

In a 2019 paper published in Science she disclosed how other crops compare to rice when submerged in water. Her research found that the plants – a wild-growing tomato, a tomato used for farming and a plant similar to alfalfa – all share at least 68 families of genes in common that are activated in response to flooding. “We hope to take advantage of what we learned about rice in order to help activate the genes in other plants that could help them survive waterlogging,” the paper reported.

Bailey-Serres has been involved in improving climate resilience in crops since her post doctoral fellowship at Berkeley where she first connected hypoxia responses with changes in translation. Traditional plant breeding demonstrated the presence of a gene that could confer submergence resistance (the SUB1 locus), but early breeding of the submergence locus into popular rice cultivars was mostly unsuccessful because it led to strains that had lost other desirable traits.

To get around this, Bailey-Serres was a member of a team that characterized the SUB1 locus molecularly. In her nomination of Bailey-Serres for the Distinguished Alumni Award, SBS’s Leslie Sieburth wrote that the 30-year research veteran’s “studies have led to much broader understanding of plant responses to hypoxia, and allowed marker-assisted breeding which introduced this gene to popular rice varieties.” By 2014, the rice cultivars that carried SUB1A were distributed to more than 4 million farmers throughout Asia. Sieburth applauded Bailey’s “extended … studies to understanding the gene regulatory networks underlying hypoxic responses, [including] the evolution of these responses in monocots and eudicots.”

The Climate Challenge

 While finding survival strategies for rice and other crops has always been critical, with climate change the challenge has become even greater. Currently, Bailey-Serres is embedded in a research group with other full professors in the Netherlands while she directs the National Research Traineeship program for graduate studies bridging plant biology and engineering. She also continues to collaborate with Sieburth, also a plant biologist, while continually being informed by others working in the field like Distinguished Professor and former SBS Chair Jim Ehleringer who is looking at how climate change effects where plants grow.

In addition to her research, Bailey-Serres is dedicated to promoting science education and professional development as well as fostering diversity and innovation in collaborative and interdisciplinary research. An example of this outreach is high school senior Susan Su who in 2018 took her project developed in the Bailey-Serres lab to the International Science and Engineering Fair where she placed third in her category (Plant Sciences). Su is now a student at MIT.

The technical advances taking place in plant translational research exemplify how basic research discoveries spawned at the School of Biological Sciences and elsewhere are being translated into methods to develop and improve important crop traits. Dr. Julia Bailey-Serres and her research group are at the forefront of making sure that happens.

 
by David Pace