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Current Biology Master's Students

Student Research Interests
Rohini Bhattacharya
Manipal University , India
Bachelors in Science

My advisor Dr. Phillip Funk, and I are interested in the role of the chB6 alloantigen (formerly called Bu1) in the development of B cells within the bursa. We have shown that chB6 can trigger apoptosis when stimulated by anti-chB6 antibody and this apoptosis uses intermediates commonly found in death receptor signaling pathways. Recently, chB6 has been found in close proximity to the BCR (B cell receptor) on DT40 cell lines. However, the means by which chB6 initiates signals, and how those signals might be coordinated with other components of the BCR complex remains unclear. Previous work indicated a 15 amino acid stretch in the cytoplasmic domain and critical in initiating apoptosis. Within this region is the PXXP motif indicating a binding site for SH3 domain containing proteins. We have mutated the proline codons within this region and transfected these mutated chB6 cDNAs into BK3a cells to test the hypothesis that this SH3 binding site is important in death signaling via chB6. This project furthers our efforts to understand the B cell biology and signals that decides the fate of a cell. (Advisor: Dr. Funk)
Catherine Ann Cushny
Carlow University
BS, Molecular Biology/ Bioengineering

NA (Advisor: Dr. Funk)
Joseph Aaron Frumkin
University of Illinois
BS, Integrative Biology

My study entails the ecomorphology of the caudal fin in three known species of thresher sharks (genus Alopias). Ecomorphology is a field of biology that connects the form of an organism to its function within its natural habitat. Thresher sharks use their tail to slap schools of fish, stunning them, making it easier for them to consume prey. I am studying multiple morphological aspects of the caudal fin among the three Alopias species, such as scale morphology, vertebral counts, musculature, and skin histology, in order to better understand this unique hunting behavior and its relation to their swimming ability. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)
Shannon Gallagher
NA
NA

NA (Advisor: Dr. Connolly)
Jesse G Hacker
Aurora University
Biology

Urban ecology is especially important in today's rapidly urbanizing world. My research explores how urbanization and human-induced landscape changes might influence avian behavior and cognition. My thesis project focuses on American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) in urban versus rural environments, using puzzle boxes around the city of Chicago to analyze differences in problem-solving performance and neophobia. (Advisor: Dr. LaMontagne)
Jordan Christopher Johnson
Eastern Illinois Uninversity
Environmental Biology

I am interested in conservation biology, specifically work with sensitive species. I am currently examining parasite-host relationship that occurs between the acanthocephalan parasite Acanthocephalus dirus (thorny-headed worm), its intermediate host the aquatic isopod (Caecidotea intermedius) and its final host the green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus). (Advisor: Dr. Sparkes)
Zach Langston
University of South Carolina Upstate
BS, Biology

Research interests include neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. Research project examines the effect of genotype on neuroinflammatory responses related to multiple sclerosis. Transgenic murine models and isolated astrocytes and microglia in primary cell cultures are used to assess genotype-dependent inflammatory cytokine and chemokine production. (Advisor: Dr. Cudaback)
Maxwell London
University of Maryland
Environmental Science and Policy: Wildlife Ecology and Management

My thesis project entails the examination of a 95-million-year-old fossil, nearly complete skeleton of a large (ca. 1 m) bony fish collected from the Tarrant Member of the Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Group in Tarrant County, Texas. The goals of my study include its anatomical description, determination of its taxonomic identity and phylogenetic position, and making inferences about its paleobiology, such as its growth pattern and diet. My study is anticipated to add new information about the paleoecology and evolution of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway of North America where the fish inhabited. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)
Ahmed Majekodunmi
NA
NA

NA (Advisor: Dr. Gilliland)
Annie P. McIntosh
Northern Arizona University
BS, Biology

My research interests are in the fields of paleontology and evolutionary biology. I am specifically interested in the evolutionary relationships between theropod dinosaurs and modern birds. My thesis focuses on the descriptive and functional morphology of the foot of an extinct primitive bird (Confuciusornis sanctus) from the Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous of China. The purpose of this study is to determine the behavioral context and evolutionary significance of this morphology. (Advisor: Dr. Shimada)
Kattie Morris
Elmhurst College
BS, Biology

I am broadly interested in conservation biology. My research focuses on the Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), a near-threatened species in continued decline. I am examining the winter cavity use of the Red-headed Woodpecker in Cook County, IL. In particular, I am interested in the interactions between Red-headed Woodpeckers and European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) during this time period and the cost of these interactions on the nesting success of the woodpecker. (Advisor: Dr. LaMontagne)
Leah Ashley Morris
The Ohio State University
BS, Biology

I am currently investigating the mechanism of retinoic acid (RA), a physiologically active derivative of vitamin A, and its role in the regulation of healthy ovarian follicle development in females by focusing on the role of its receptors, known as retinoic acid receptors (RARs) in vitro. The findings of this study will contribute to the overall knowledge of folliculogenesis (the development and maturation of ovarian follicles), ovarian disease prevention for those suffering from diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome and premature ovarian failure, as well as infertility and cancer treatments. (Advisor: Dr. Kipp)
Tracey Park
Eastern Illinois University
BS, Biology

I am interested in studying the multidimensional effects that acanthocephalan parasites may have on their isopod hosts. Specifically, I will be studying the Acanthocephalus dirus infection of the Caecidotea intermedius host, and how the parasite induces changes in isopod body color, activity, and hiding behavior. Ultimately, I will be studying whether or not the parasitic effects induce additive or synergistic changes in isopod hosts that increase predation of the isopods by their definitive host. (Advisor: Dr. Sparkes)
Alaina Pfenning
St. Ambrose University
Biology

My future interests are understanding the effects of ecological and evolutionary diversity in endangered species. Currently, I am studying the ecological and evolutionary diversity of acanthocephalan parasite egg morphology. I am also interested in understanding how differences in egg morphology contribute to successful transmission of the eggs to their intermediate host. Specifically, I am determining what is the function of Acanthocephalus dirus egg fibrils in transmission to Caecidotea intermedius. (Advisor: Dr. Sparkes)
Robin Redline
Albion College
BA, Biology

Research interests include Stenotrophomonas maltophilia biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance. This research involves a combination of an antibiotic and a surfactant to inhibit bacterial growth and biofilm formation. Growth and biofilm assays are performed in order to measure this inhibition. (Advisor: Dr. Brooke)
Anthony Ruggeri
NA
NA

NA (Advisor: Dr. Kozlowski)
Michelle Sener
NA
NA

NA (Advisor: Dr. Bystriansky)
Elizabeth Vaca
NA
NA

NA (Advisor: Dr. Dean)
Ryan Wenkus
DePaul University
BS, Biology

I am interested in many fields of ecology and evolution that have applications in wildlife conservation. Currently, I am studying predator-prey population dynamics using a Daphnia-algae model system in the lab with hopes to link predator population life-history traits to prey population availability and feedbacks. I am also interested in field research and have studied various species in the field from mollusks to trees. (Advisor: Dr. LaMontagne)
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