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Skidmore College
Biology Department

Research Opportunities in Biology


Research is of fundamental importance to Biology. Only through such investigations can biologists learn about the living world that surrounds us. The Department of Biology offers several opportunities for students interested in doing research. These opportunities provide close collaboration between the student and faculty sponsor. Often, research projects result in joint presentations at scientific meetings and/or joint publications in scientific journals.

How to Get Involved in Research

First, carefully analyze the idea. Determine what areas of research might interest you: Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Ecology, Tissue Culture, Plant Studies... It is important to contact and discuss particular research possibilities with individual faculty members. To find out more about research possibilities, please go to the Faculty and Staff page. Find out about necessary commitments in the laboratory, field, and library. Learn of the specifics of particular projects. Also, attend Senior Seminar (BI 377/378 Thursdays from 4-5pm) presentations and learn what other students and outside scientists are doing in their research.

Second, ask yourself if you have sufficient time to commit to a research project. While different projects have different time commitments, realize that research involves careful budgeting of your time. It is not unlike the time commitment an athlete must devote to a particular sport. Talk to potential faculty sponsors and determine time requirements for specific projects.

Third, plan ahead. Determine which semester would be best for your research commitment. Some students wish to start research in their sophomore or junior year, while others wait till their senior year. Please note that registration for research courses occurs at pre-registration time. So start early in planning your research--at least several weeks before pre-registration.

Courses that Deal with Research

BI 275 Research in Biology

BI 385 Research Methods in Biology
Registration Form for BI385

BI 371 Independent Study:
An opportunity for students to pursue in depth specialized topics not available through regular course offerings. This is offered without a laboratory/field component. Prerequisite: agreement by a faculty member to serve as a tutor, topic acceptable to both student and tutor, and permission of the instructor. Biology majors may take either BI 371 or 385 only once to substitute for a 300-level biology course requirement. 3 hours

Faculty Research Interests

Dr. Jennifer Bonner
Office: Dana 347, Ext. 5089,

In order for the nervous system to function properly, neurons must make specific connections with their targets, which can be great distances away. Jennifer Bonner's research is focused on the mechanisms that are essential for axon guidance during nervous system development. Using zebrafish as a model system, she is using genetic and gene knockdown approaches to identify what genes are important for axon guidance, and how these genes may act together to lead neurons to their targets.

Dr. David Domozych
Office: Dana 382, Ext. 5075,

David Domozych is a plant cell biologist who studies the extracellular matrix of primitive green plants. His two main interests include the evolution and the biochemistry/cell biology of  cell wall polymers in the charophycean green algae, i.e., the group of algae from which land plants are derived. His primary research tools include electron microscopy, including immunocytochemical labeling and tomography, confocal laser scanning microscopy, high resolution light microscopy and biochemistry. Recently, his lab has collaborated with researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the National University of Ireland and Cornell University in several projects dealing with the biochemical characterization of pectins and arabinogalactan proteins from green algae.

Dr. Corey R. Freeman-Gallant
Office: Starbuck 201C, Ext. 5720,

Dr. Freeman-Gallant's research uses field and molecular techniques to explore the evolution of ecologically important traits in birds. In the field, he combines observational and experimental work with color-banded individuals to describe the selective environment shaping avian life histories. In the laboratory, he uses hypervariable genetic markers to describe patterns of gene exchange within and between populations. Current projects include a long-term study of sexually antagonistic selection on plumage traits in common yellowthroats and an investigation of the linkage between cell level processes (oxidative stress, telomere dynamics) and patterns of sexual selection on carotenoid based ornaments in birds.

Dr. Pat Hilleren
Office: Dana 321, Ext. 8301,

Quality control and kinetic processing of RNA in Eukaryotic cells; relevant to functional expression of genetic information and to medical disorders caused by defects in RNA processing (regulation, transcription, splicing, editing, transport, turnover etc.) using yeast as a model organism.

Dr. Sylvia McDevitt 
Office: Dana 317, Ext. 5076,

The focus of my research is different aspects of how bacteria interact with different transition metals that might or might not be essential for life. For example, copper and silver have long been known as antimicrobials. In a time of increasing antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria the use of metal surfaces to limit bacterial growth becomes more and more important (e.g. in hospitals, food industry). However, several bacteria have resistance mechanisms that enable them to tolerate these metal concentrations. So, one part of my research focuses on copper/silver resistance mechanisms in bacteria. On the other hand, many of these transition metals are essential for life. Another aspect of my research focuses on the bacteria assure that enough metal ions are taken up and how, in case of Salmonella typhimurium and zinc ions, the availability influences the virulence of this bacterium.

Dr. Roy Meyers (on leave Fall 2010 and Fall 2011) 
Office: Dana 345, Ext. 5079, 4390,

My efforts are in two areas as follows. 1) Simulation - Computer modeling of biological systems- Much of my recent work has been in the area of computer simulation of biological systems, largely to make them available for educational use on the web. An easily accessible perhaps familiar example is the web-HUMAN physiological simulation at . In HUMAN, there are projects available to add to our developing inventory of one-step click and run models for health professions educators.

2) Experimental  Does The Amphibian Heart Possess A Specialized Cardiac Conduction System? This is investigated by sequential electrophysiological recordings on mapped locations on the bullfrog heart via suction electrodes. Recent progress on this project (and a feeling for what the work involves) are summarized at

Dr. Josh Ness
Office: Dana 319, Ext. 5080 ,

I am a community ecologist interested in plant-animal interactions. Much of research focuses on mutualisms (reciprocally beneficial interactions between two species) and biological invasions (the disruption of communities by non-native species). Mutualisms and biological invasions are both common phenomena, although ecologists and conservation biologists are just beginning to appreciate how biological invasions alter important mutualisms within the invaded communities. I'm particularly interested in studying the mutualisms between ants and spring-flowering herbaceous plants (ants disperse their seeds) and/or arthropods such as the Karner blue butterfly (ants protect the caterpillars), as well as tracking biological invasions in the North Woods.

Dr. Bernard Possidente
Office: Dana 343, Ext. 5082,

Dr. Possidente's general research area is the analysis of biological clocks underlying the expression of circadian (daily-endogenous) rhythms using mice and fruit flies as model systems: manipulation of rhythms in mice and fruit flies with genetic, pharmacological and photoperiod treatments in order to identify and understand the functional properties of circadian system in relation to genetic, physiological and behavioral mechanisms.

Dr. Monica Raveret Richter
Office: Dana 370, Ext. 5083,

Dr. Raveret-Richter's research is on the behavioral ecology of foraging and mate choice, and on issues in conservation biology. Her field studies focus on social insects, butterflies and their hostplants, and birds. In her laboratory, insects, fish, birds and lizards are potential research subjects for a variety of behavioral and ecological inquiries.

Sue Van Hook, Research Associate in Biology

Sue Van Hook studies macrofungi and their applications for sustainable mycotechnologies.  Her research is focused on isolating, preserving and testing various strains of Basidiomycete fungi for optimal growth and strength characteristics as natural organic binders of agricultural wastes in the formation of Mycobond ™.  (Students interested in doing Independent Study with Sue should contact her at before registering a Bio 275 Mycology credit.)

Summer Collaborative Research

Over the past decade, Skidmore College has sponsored a summer collaborative research program. This program has been sponsored by various private donors and the school itself. In this program, student-faculty teams design and implement a ten-week, full-time research project (usually running from late May to late July/early August). This intensive research project allows student and faculty to thoroughly delve into field and laboratory research. During the tenure of this program, students are provided with free room and board and a stipend of $1550. Research teams occasionally meet during the summer to discuss the status of their projects. Often the results of this program lead to publications and presentations.

The Summer Collaborative Research program is competitive. Applications for this program are available through the Dean of Faculty's Office and the Biology Department chairperson. They are usually due in mid-February. So be sure to investigate possible summer research projects with potential faculty mentors well before the application deadline.