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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

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, see Faculty Research interests. 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) 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 375 A-C (1-3 credits) Advanced Research in Biology

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. Jason Breves      Office: Dana 345, Ext. 5079

Dr. Breves' research program leverages a variety of fish models (zebrafish, tilapia, killifish) to study how the endocrine system directs the transport of ions and water across osmoregulatory tissues such as the gill, kidney and gut. Dr. Breves and his students seek to reveal the mechanisms of action for several key hormones, namely prolactin and growth hormone. An additional focus of Dr. Breves' research is to understand the manner in which growth hormone, through interactions with insulin-like growth-factors, mediates a remarkable life-history transition (termed smoltification) in Atlantic salmon.

Dr. David Domozych      Office:  Dana 343, 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: Dana 292, Ext. 5086

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 372A, 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. Josh Ness      Office: Dana 319, Ext. 5080

I am a community ecologist interested in the ways that plant-animal interactions change in response external drivers such as landscape change (e.g., habitat fragmentation, edge effects), climatic variation, and local biodiversity.  Our research focuses on parasitism, mutualism (reciprocally beneficial interactions between two species) and biological invasions (the disruption of communities by the introduction of non-native species). Research systems include temperature deciduous forests (such as the North Woods), the streambanks of the rivers and streams in the upper Hudson watershed, and the Sonoran Desert.

Dr. Bernard Possidente      Office: Dana 317, 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.