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Natural Science Division

Summer Undergraduate Research in Biology (SURB)

The biology department at Pepperdine University conducts a summer research program geared specifically to undergraduate students at the sophomore and junior levels. The faculty will conduct a 12-day research orientation workshop (May 12 - May 24). During the workshop, students will be introduced to the uses and limitations of specific research tools and techniques. The workshop will culminate with a visit to the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve near Idylwild, California and the presentation of student proposals for summer projects. Over the remainder of the summer, students will pursue individual research projects under the direction of faculty. Visiting scientists will hold special research seminars in each research area. The research program will conclude with a student research symposium in late July in the new Keck science facilities.

Research areas include:


Molecular Biology -- Dr. Thomas L. Vandergon.
The expression of most genes is regulated spatially and temporally within organisms. Elucidation of the control mechanisms responsible for regulated gene expression is a major focus of molecular research. Hemoglobin is found in a wide variety of organisms and may be expressed differentially in response to developmental and environmental cues. We study the structure and function of hemoglobins and examine the mechanisms involved in the regulation of globin gene expression. Possible projects include: isolation and characterization of hemoglobins, cloning and sequencing globin genes, analyzing the regulatory regions of globin genes, and analyzing phylogenetic relationships using molecular sequence data.

Conservation Biology of Amphibians -- Dr. Lee B. Kats.
Predators have both direct and indirect effects on prey. Recent studies in predator-prey ecology have focused on the impact that predators have on prey behavior (indirect effects) and the stimuli that mediate these interactions. We have found that some prey respond primarily to predators via visual stimuli while other prey species respond to primarily chemical stimuli. Students will investigate adaptations that prey have for dealing with both introduced (non-native) and native predators. Possible projects include: 1) investigation why some species of amphibians survive better with introduced predators than other species; 2) examining how the presence of alternative prey effects intraspecific predation (cannibalism) in salamanders.

Physiological Plant Ecology -- Dr. Stephen D. Davis.
Pepperdine's Malibu campus is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, providing easy access to a natural laboratory of native plant communities. Most research projects will focus on the physiological adaptation of chaparral and coastal sage to wildfire and drought. Some possible projects are: 1) the adaptive mechanisms of shrub species to survive periodic wildfires--seed germination, seedling survival, and resprout success; 2) mechanisms of drought tolerance--stomatal regulation, osmotic adjustment, and resistance of xylem to water stress-induced embolism; and 3) mechanisms of avoiding freezing injury--supercooling, extracellular freezing, and resistance of xylem to freezing-induced injury.

For more information go to Stephen Davis' Home Page

Ecophysiology of Marine Intertidal Animals -- Dr. Karen L. M. Martin.
Animals that live in the marine intertidal zone are periodically exposed to air or sequestered in tidepools during a low tide. Challenges for survival include desiccation, changes in physical parameters such as temperature, salinity, and pH, and absence of a liquid respiratory medium. Examples of research projects include respiration in water and air by tidepool fishes, salinity effects on intertidal invertebrates, bleaching of symbiotic zooxanthellae in sea anemones, and metabolism during development of grunion eggs.

For more information go to Karen Martin's Home Page

Mammalian Cell Biology - Dr. Jay L. Brewster.
Multicellular systems display complex regulation of cell division, differentiation, and even death. The removal of damaged or unwanted cells is accomplished through activation of a cellular apoptosis system, also known as programmed cell death. Several genes have been discovered that are involved in activating or resisting this cell death mechanism. Dad1 (defender against death) encodes a small protein that has been shown to protect against cell death in mammalian and nematode experimental systems. We are using mouse modeling techniques to learn more about the function of Dad1 in mammals. Projects available might include; 1) characterizing the gene expression pattern of Dad1 in mice by analyzing a "reporter mouse" (Dad1 promoter drives expression of a green fluorescent protein), or 2) analyzing a mouse which expresses large amounts of Dad1 protein in T-cells (immune cells). Projects will employ techniques of molecular biology (manipulating DNA and proteins in the laboratory), and the genetics of mouse husbandry.

For more information go to Jay Brewster's Home Page

Want to know more? Be sure to see: SURB