Summer Undergraduate Research at North Central

Summer Undergraduate Research Application:  Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Physics

Collaborative student-faculty research is an integral component of a North Central College experience. Undergraduate research should play an important part in any curriculum of study. Student involvement in independent learning and research fosters the type of critical thinking needed when pursing future opportunities, both professionally and academically.  This emphasis on original research permeates our curriculum, from class projects to independent studies.

This year your faculty are engaged in a wide variety of projects, many of which cross traditional disciplinary boundaries.  Many of your faculty are also accepting applications for NCC students to work in their laboratories.  Below, you’ll find descriptions of the research groups that you can apply to join for summer research.

Click here for the online application:

Summer Application Form

DEADLINE:  Please complete the online application form by March 2, 2018 (Friday of Week 9 of Winter Term) at 4pm for full consideration by a faculty member.    If you see a project that you think sounds appealling and you’re interested in taking part in summer research, talk to that faculty member before you apply!   Any questions about the application form or the application process should be directed to Prof. Mauro (


The following is a list of NCC Science faculty who plan to work with students this summer, contingent on funding. When you fill out the application form, you will be asked to rank your top 4 research projects.

Dr. Jeff Bjorklund, Bio-organic Chemistry: (1) Use of quantitative NMR to analyze complex mixtures produced from yeast fermentations and the Maillard reaction. (2) Investigation of transesterification reaction processes (3) Organic synthesis

Dr. Paul Bloom, Experimental High-Energy Physics:  High energy physics is the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions. This summer I plan to work on the g-2 experimental at Fermilab, which is dedicated to measuring the anomalous magnetic dipole moment of the muon. This quantity is sensitive to as yet undiscovered particles and forces, and previous studies show a tantalizing hint of a statistically significant discrepancy between experiment and theory. Work will take place at Fermilab and will have a heavy hardware focus, specifically on quality assurance testing and installation of straw tube charged particle tracking modules. There are also opportunities to on the NCC campus to continue work on the radio telescope installation and commissioning as well as continued investigations of single photon avalanche detectors (SPADs).

Dr. Nicholas Boaz, Catalysis/Physical Organic Chemistry:  This summer we plan to study methods for the oxidative decarboxylation of aliphatic carboxylic acids to form new carbon-oxygen containing functionality.

Dr. David Horner, Physical Chemistry: chemical physics: Computational quantum mechanical studies of the energetics and mechanisms of chemical reactions.  Research will begin in early July.

Dr. Steve Johnston, Molecular Biology:  When food is abundant, all cells store energy for later use in molecules such as glycogen.  But how is the storage and breakdown of these high energy molecules regulated?  We will be using biochemical, genetic and cell biological techniques to help understand the regulation of energy storage using the eukaryotic yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Dr. Nicholas Mauro, Materials Physics:  Our work is focused on developing ionic liquids for the next generation of ion battery.  In our lab, we connect liquid structure with thermophysical properties and phase transformation.  This summer, we'll conduct X-ray diffraction experiments in the laboratory as well as at the Advanced Photon Source and work to connect structure with thermophysical and transport properties in several classes of room temperature ionic liquids. We'll work to understand how specific changes to the alkyl chain length, structure, composition and branching character affect the character of the liquid.

Dr. Chandreyee Mitra, Behavioral Ecology:  Mating systems of animals provide us with many examples of extreme adaptations, from bright coloration, strange ornaments and weapons, to a wide variety of sounds, etc. In my lab we explore questions on the evolution of such adaptations using a variety of insect species. This summer we will be field collecting two local species of field crickets, and using both field collected individuals and lab reared individuals to examine: (1) aspects of male calling behavior; and (2) physiology associated with flight and reproduction.

Dr. Nancy Peterson, Biochemistry:  Water molds have been shown to have pathogenic effects on amphibian egg/embryo populations.  Ruthig has shown that these water molds are inhibited by the presence of bacteria found on frog egg masses.  This summer we will work to isolate and identify the molecules responsible for the inhibition of water mold growth by bacteria.

Dr. Greg Ruthig, Infectious Disease Ecology:  Pathogens are important members of ecological communities and recent molecular techniques allow us to identify and count pathogens in nature for the first time. We will perform field surveys of local wetlands to search for amphibians and test them for pathogenic water molds. Detection methods will involve using DNA extraction and quantitative PCR.

Dr. Jennifer Sallee, Cell Biology:  In my lab we use the genetic model system of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to ask questions about how cytoskeleton proteins regulate the epithelial cell structure and function in developing embryos. We use cell biological and biochemical approaches to answer these developmental questions. Current projects include 1) using microscopy to examine cell morphology and protein localization in the epithelial cells and 2) using affinity-tagged protein purification to examine protein-protein interactions in the flies.

Dr. Becky Sanders, Environmental Chemistry: Use a combination of wet chemistry and analytical techniques to study organo-mineral interactions relevant to nutrient and contaminant cycling in the environment.

Dr. Jonathan Visick, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics: PCM is an enzyme that repairs a specific form of damage (isoaspartyl damage) which occurs spontaneously in proteins. Our lab studies the role of protein repair by PCM in the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli). Two major projects for this summer are: (1) Study the formation and disposal of aggregated proteins in the absence of repair, using primarily fluorescence microscopy. (2) Investigate the possible role of PCM in maintaining proteins needed for bacteria to adhere to surfaces and each other, using genetic techniques to construct strains with specific combinations of mutations and then assaying adhesion. Research will probably begin June 18 and continue until August 10.

Dr. Joanna Weremijewicz, Plant Sciences: Belowground, plants are interconnected with each other via symbiotic fungi in common mycorrhizal networks. These fungal networks influence how mineral nutrients are distributed among plants, affecting the population and community. This summer, my lab will investigate the relationship between plants and fungi through specific investigations on 1) the intimate exchange of mineral nutrients for plant carbon using in vitro root organ cultures and 2) the specificity of the symbiosis that may result in a beneficial relationship through DNA sequencing.