Molecular Architectures

Science Research Initiative


Development of Unexplored Molecular Architectures Research STREAM

Dr. Ryan Stolley – Research Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

As complicated as chemistry can be, really everything is constructed like LEGOs – pieces with limited sizes, shapes, geometries all come together to make the intricate and complex. Because of this, if you look around you, unless it grew from the ground, nearly everything you see has been designed from the atom up. Over the span of human history, we have built an understanding of the matter that comprises our universe and have become quite adept of combining the 100-odd elements into the materials of modern society. Specifically, in organic chemistry – the chemistry of life – we have even less available atoms and possible connections; and given the importance to our existence this field has a very strong grasp on the possible.

So, it is incredible to conceive that in the limited space of atomic composition and connectivity in organic chemistry, a group of relatively simple, diverse, and powerful group of atoms has eluded investigation. Research into frequently observed group of atoms, called functional groups, has a rich history and students in our lab will have the opportunity to expand on lessons of the past - applying classical reaction development techniques - and deriving new paradigms as we investigate this sandbox of fun new pieces of the universe

Our SRI stream will uncover new chemical reactions to build never before seen arrangements of atoms and use a variety of chemical, analytical and computational tools to uncover how these new groups of atoms behave; and to expand on this capability to build ever more complex molecules. In our lab students will learn the principles of organic chemistry and chemical experimentation and the instrumental tools for us to ascertain structure and function of organic molecules.

 

 

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More SRI Streams

Science Research Initiative

COVID-19

Biological Invaders

Neural Networks

Cellular Biology

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

 

Science Research Initiative

Learn By Doing in the sri


Interested in Science and Mathematics? Want to learn how to do research and become a scientist? Seeking to connect with exciting career opportunities as a first-year or transfer student?  This is what the Science Research Initiative (SRI) is all about.

SRI aims to offer every incoming College of Science student the opportunity to participate in discovery-based scientific research. First- and second-year students tackle cutting-edge problems in dedicated research streams sponsored by local industries. Transfer students are also eligible to apply.

Step into the unknown to tackle big, open-ended questions. Learn by doing.  Experience the excitement of Science and Mathematics. Find out more below, or email us for more information.

 

PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS

The SRI is a program for first- and second-year students that enables them to start working in an SRI stream, or research experience, at the beginning of their journey at the University of Utah. This program assumes incoming students will not have any college-level research experience; instead, you will learn alongside your fellow students to gain research skills, technical experience, and the unique opportunity to learn from faculty.

Getting research experience early in your college career is one of the most effective ways to put you on the path of employment in the STEM economy. Whether your goal is to go to graduate or professional school, or begin working upon graduation, participation in the SRI will open doors for your future success. You'll gain practical experience, connect with faculty and researchers that can help you, and explore career paths early in your college experience. Utah's STEM economy is predicted to grow significantly in the coming decades, and the SRI will prepare you to be on the forefront of that growth.

Unlike other research programs, you are not required to have any experience in the lab in order to qualify. All the skills you will need to be successful will be integrated into your training. However, you are encouraged to take science and math courses in high school to prepare you for your degree in the College of Science.

Yes, the SRI is a program specifically designed for College of Science students. First-year students are encouraged to declare their intended major as soon as possible. Your advisor can help you determine which major will be suit your interests and goals.

The College understands that goals and interests of our students may change during your time at the University of Utah. If your academic goals change, your advisor can help you find the path that is right for you.

SRI staff will work with you to find a stream that interests you. You will have the ability to rank your preferences based on stream availability. You will be asked to commit to your SRI stream for a year; however, if there are extenuating circumstances and you need to change your plans, speak to your stream leader ASAP.

Check out all currently running streams below. New opportunities will be available each semester. If you have a particular interest in your major, talk to the SRI Director on which stream may be best for you.

You can apply as soon as you receive your acceptance to the University of Utah, or when scholarships for the next academic year open (December 1st for the 2021-2022 academic year).

The SRI application uses the same platform as all University scholarships. You can apply using the link below. To apply, you will need:

  • Acceptance to the University of Utah
  • Plan to declare a major in the College of Science
  • First- or second-year status, or a transfer student

SRI students are expected to participate in the following:

  • Enroll in SCI 1500, a 1-credit class that will cover research practices, scientific inquiry, and other topics that will help you be successful.
  • Commit to 10 hours of work per week in your research stream.
  • Participate in an end-of-year research symposium to highlight your research and hear what your peers have accomplished.

TBD

 

SRI Research Streams

 

Molecular Architectures

COVID-19

Biological Invaders

Neural Networks

Cellular Biology

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

COVID-19

Science Research Initiative


COVID-19 Research STREAM

Frederick R. Adler, Professor of Mathematics and Biological Sciences
Lindsay Keegan, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

In addition to disrupting about every aspect of normal life, the COVID-19 epidemic has brought unprecedented attention to the importance of mathematical modeling and data analysis. The tools needed to understand and predict this epidemic run the gamut from differential equations and large simulations, with methods coming from statistics and applied mathematics. Data are noisy and complicated, and raise many questions about the challenges of counting cases, tracking their sources, understanding viral spread, and quantifying stresses on the health care system and the economy.

We will access the vast quantity of available data, and use them to study the spread and genetics of this virus. Recent studies have shown that the spike protein, that lives on the outside of the virus and is critical for it to enter cells, has mutated in ways that might affect its ability to infect people.

Our SRI team will take an interdisciplinary approach to this aspect of the pandemic. Students will learn the skills needed to download and visualize genetic data using R and python, link these data with fundamental mathematical models of epidemiology, evolution, and the physics of viral entry. Working in teams, we'll investigate hypotheses about the causes consequences of viral evolution, and learn to effectively communicate and display these results to audiences ranging from scientists and decision-makers to the general public.

 

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

More SRI Streams

Molecular Architectures

Biological Invaders

Neural Networks

Cellular Biology

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

 

Biological Invaders

Science Research Initiative


Fox Squirrel Biology Research STREAM

Denise Dearing, PhD, Distinguished Professor, School of Biological Sciences
Tess Stapleton, PhD Candidate, School of Biological Sciences

Biological invaders are one of the key drivers of ecosystem change. Invasion can result in loss of native species, reduction of ecosystem diversity, and even loss of ecosystem services such as soil stabilization, water filtration, and natural pest control. These disturbances can cause long-term disruptions and even extinction of native species. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand the effect of invaders if we wish to preserve local ecosystems.

For the last hundred years, the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) has used human urbanization to spread out of its native eastern range and to invade the western United States. In 2011, these invasive squirrels were first spotted in Utah along the Jordan River Parkway and have since spread into the Salt Lake Valley.

This area is home to two native Utah species, the rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) and the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). How far these fox squirrels have spread throughout the valley, whether they are moving into the mountains, and how they affect these native species remains unclear.

The goal of this project is to determine the current range of this invasive squirrel, including how much they overlap with native species and how far east and upslope they extend. Working in collaboration with the natural history museum we will document sightings, collect voucher specimens, and prepare study skins of fox squirrels. This project will greatly contribute to ongoing work on the spread of these invasive animals and these specimens may be used for decades to come.

 

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

SRI Streams

Molecular Architectures

COVID-19

Neural Networks

Cellular Biology

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

 

Neural Networks

Science research initiative


Neural Networks Research Stream

Braxton Osting, Associate Professor of Mathematics

The abundance of data created in science, engineering, business, and everyday human activity is simply staggering. This data is often complex and high-dimensional, taking the form of video or time-dependent sensor data. Machine learning methods allow us to understand such data, automatically identifying patterns and making important data-driven decisions without human intervention. Machine learning methods have found a wide variety of applications, including providing new scientific insights and the development of self-driving cars.

One machine learning method in particular, neural networks, has emerged as the preeminent tool for the supervised learning tasks of regression and classification. Loosely modeled after the human brain and the basis for deep learning, Neural Networks use composition to develop complex representations of data. In recent years, researchers using Neural Networks have made tremendous breakthroughs in topics as varied as image processing, natural language processing, and playing board games such as Go.

Undergraduate students participating in this SRI stream will be introduced to neural networks and learn how they're used. Students will learn about the mathematics that forms the basis for neural networks and the optimization methods used to train them. They'll learn how to program in python and use machine learning packages such as scikit-learn and TensorFlow to analyze data. Working in teams, students will use Neural networks to solve real-world classification problems like object recognition in images, detecting falsified financial transactions, and controlling for manufacturing defects. They'll also learn to effectively communicate and visualize results.

 

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

More SRI Streams

Molecular Architectures

COVID-19

Biological Invaders

Cellular Biology

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

 

Cellular Biology

Science Research Initiative


Cellular Biology Research STREAM

Markus Babst, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences

The basic driving forces of evolution, mutation and selection, are often difficult to observe and study in the laboratory because it requires large numbers of individuals and long time periods in order to observe the evolutionary changes.

During our research we found that the yeast knockout collection (~4200 strains each containing a deletion of a non-essential gene) is a treasure trove for evolutionary and cell biological studies. Genome sequencing of several of these mutant strains in my lab identified additional mutations in each mutant that help the strain cope with the initial gene deletion.

These suppressor mutations most likely arose during the copying of the original knockout collection, during which strains with suppressor mutations had the opportunity to outcompete the original mutant strain. Knowledge of the suppressor mutations can give insights not only into evolutionary mechanisms but also into the interactions between different cell biological pathways (systems biology).

The goal of the project is to systematically analyze the genomes of yeast deletion strains propose a mechanism of phenotypic suppression and test the model. Furthermore, we will perform evolutionary experiments in the lab to identify the factors that are responsible for the rapid genetic adaptation of yeast.

 

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

More SRI Streams

Molecular Architectures

COVID-19

Biological Invaders

Neural Networks

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

 

 

Electrosynthetic Chemistry

Science Research Initiative


Electrosynthetic Chemistry Research STREAM

Shelley Minteer, PhD, Associate Chair of Chemistry
Henry S. White, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Chemists and engineers strive to develop safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable chemical synthesis for the production of high-value molecules, such as those used in medical applications. Advances by electrochemists have demonstrated remarkable new means for improving product selectivity under mild reaction conditions. Unexplored realms of chemical synthesis are now attainable using electrons at the primary reactant.

Supported by the National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation, chemists at the University of Utah and across the country are embarking on a collaborative project to employ the extensive knowledge electrochemists, materials scientists, and physical chemists in using electrons to make new molecules.  The overarching goal is to deploy this exciting new knowledge to advance chemical synthesis.

Undergraduates participating in this SRI project will demonstrate how using electrons as reactants can make pharmaceutical synthesis greener, safer, and environmentally friendly. Students will work towards learning advanced electrochemical methods for carrying out chemical transformations.  Working as a team, they will participate in designing a research plan for developing a general electrochemical route for introducing chemical functionality into molecules, and then demonstrate the general application of their method in the chemical syntheses of a series of molecules.

The project will provide students with a working knowledge of many aspects of organic preparatory chemistry, the physical chemistry of electron-transfer reactions, catalysis, materials chemistry, and quantitative analytical measurements, providing a foundation for future advance research in all areas of chemistry.  Biweekly meetings of the entire team with the project leaders (Profs. Minteer and White) will focus on discussion of individual student results and the overall progress of the team.

Communication skills and scientific writing will be emphasized as part of the project.  Undergraduates from all areas of science and engineering are encouraged to apply.

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

More SRI Streams

Molecular Architectures

COVID-19

Biological Invaders

Neural Networks

Cellular Biology