Faculty in the Biology department have active research programs that involve students in mentored, original research projects in the summer and during the academic year. This page contains information to help students get involved in Biology research at Carleton.

Winter Break Research

During winter breaks, the Kolenkow-Reitz fellowship provides research support for Carleton students working with non-Carleton science and math faculty at another institution during the break. These research opportunities are intended to encourage Carleton students’ development as scientists and their exploration of mathematics and the sciences as a possible career.

Awards fund student stipends ($480/week for full time work) for up to 3 weeks during winter break. Additional expenses up to $150 can be requested to help defray travel or research supply expenses.  Note that students must work full time in order to qualify and that a GPA of 3.0 is required in order to apply. More details are available in the application form.

Research during the Academic Year

During academic terms, research students working with faculty in Biology receive academic credit. Once a student applies and is accepted into a faculty member’s research group, they may enroll in BIOL394 (Student-Faculty Research in Biology) by filling out the BIOL394 form.

How to apply to do research in the Biology Department

As the number of available research positions in the Biology Department is limited, we also encourage students to apply for other research opportunities. Links to some of these Carleton research opportunities and fellowships can be found on the Math and Science at Carleton research opportunities page. Additionally, some links to summer undergraduate research opportunities available at other institutions can be found at the Biology Summer REUs and Internships page.

Biology Faculty research descriptions and applications

Rika Anderson (On sabbatical until Fall 2020. Please contact Rika directly for research opportunities beginning Fall 2020)

Dr. Anderson is an oceanographer and astrobiologist. The Anderson Lab uses genomics and bioinformatics approaches to better understand the processes that drive microbial and viral evolution over time and to gain an understanding of how life co-evolves with its environment over time. This includes collaboration with astronomers, geologists, chemists, and atmospheric scientists to ask big-picture questions in astrobiology and oceanography.

Dan Hernandez (Not accepting students for summer 2020)

Dr. Hernández is an ecosystem ecologist studying grassland restoration and management. His research team(the EcoCarls) investigates the patterns of carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, the ecological role of grassland herbivores, and the ecosystem impacts of management strategies to control invasive species. He collaborates with Prof. Mark McKone on numerous projects in the Carleton Arboretum.

Fernan Jaramillo (Not accepting new students for Summer 2020)

Dr. Jaramillo is a neurobiologist interested in sensory systems. His work focuses on the hair cell, the mechanosensory receptor of the auditory, vestibular, and lateral line systems. Current research interests of the Jaramillo Lab include the study of mechanoelectrical transduction, molecular motors in the hair cell, the role of noise in sensory processing, and the physiology of synaptic transmission.

Mark McKone  (Accepting students for field and lab research in Fall 2020. Students will be chosen in Spring 2020 in time for Fall term registration. Please contact Dr. McKone for further information)

Dr. McKone is an evolutionary ecologist and pursues research on the interactions between insects and plants. Particular interests and pursuits of the McKone Lab include the pollinator community of prairie composites and the evolutionary impact of pre-dispersal seed predators of grasses. 

Raka Mitra (Not accepting new students for Spring, Summer, Fall 2020; accepting new students for Winter 2021) In order to work in the Mitra lab, students must have taken Cell Biology and the lab. Those students who have done so and are interested in research opportunities should contact Raka by email in Fall 2020. Interviews for open positions will take place in Week #6 of Fall 2020 and will be open to those students who have taken Cell Biology or are currently in the class.

Dr. Mitra is a molecular and cellular biologist interested in the interactions between plants and microbes. Her lab studies bacterial pathogens of plant roots with the goal of understanding disease development and plant defense. Current lab projects involve elucidating the role of bacterial effector proteins in pathogenesis of tomato plants.

Mike Nishizaki (Not accepting new students for summer 2020)

Dr. Nishizaki is an aquatic biologist interested in the interaction between organisms and their physical environment.  Current research projects use marine/freshwater invertebrates to examine biological responses (e.g., behavior, respiration, gene expression) to fluctuating environmental conditions. Projects typically involve some combination of field work, lab work, computer modeling, and aquarium/animal care.

Matt Rand (Not accepting students for summer 2020. Please check back in the Fall of 2020)

Dr. Rand, a vertebrate reproductive biologist, studies the hormonal mediation and function of sexually dimorphic traits. Currently the Rand Lab is looking at the role of genes in determining pigment differences in Sceloporus lizards. 

Rou-Jia Sung  (On sabbatical 2020-2021; not accepting new students for Fall 2020 or Winter 2021, please email or visit the lab website for research opportunities in Spring 2021)

Dr. Sung is molecular biochemist interested in the regulation of protein function. Her lab combines techniques from cell biology, molecular biology, protein biochemistry, and structural biology to study the modulation of ionotropic receptor function by auxiliary proteins, with the goal of understanding how problems in receptor regulation are related to different disease states. Current projects are focused on understanding the regulation of AMPA receptors by the ly-6 protein family.

Debby Walser-Kuntz (Not accepting students for summer 2020. Please check back in the Fall of 2020)

Dr. Walser-Kuntz is an immunologist interested in the potential impact of the environment on the immune system.  The Walser-Kuntz Lab is currently exploring how diet and a common plastic component, bisphenol A, alter immune cell responses. Current projects utilize techniques such as the ELISA, real-time PCR, and fluorescence microscopy, and students gain experience working in relevant animal model systems including zebrafish and mice.

Jennifer Wolff (the Wolff lab is currently not accepting students; Jennifer will be on sabbatical during Fall and Winter 2020-21.)

Jennifer Wolff’s lab uses classic and molecular genetic techniques to study how neuronal fates are specified by transcription factors, using the nematode C. elegans as our model system. During summer 2018, students will work on projects including molecular cloning and analysis of fluorescent transgene expression in neurons, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, and ChIP-qPCR.  Students in the Wolff lab work on projects including molecular cloning and analysis of fluorescent transgene expression in neurons.

Stephan Zweifel. (Unable to accept students for summer 2020)

Dr. Zweifel, a geneticist and molecular biologist, studies the replication and segregation of mitochondrial DNA in the yeast S. cerevisiae.  The identification and characterization of the nuclear genes responsible for the proper transmission of the mitochondrial genome involves classical genetic techniques as well as current tools in molecular biology and bioinformatics.  Another current project is focused on developing DNA markers to ascertain the genetic diversity among threatened species of reptiles.