Research Opportunities

REVU fellows will gain hands-on experience in a research field of their interest for the entire summer. Fellows will work within one of the research groups listed below and regularly meet with one ore more mentor(s) from this group. Applicants will select their preferred research group that aligns with their scientific interests when applying. Fellows will be assigned to one project based on preference and availability.
 
Note that some flexibility exists regarding assigned research projects, please email revu@yale.edu if you have any questions related to potential research projects.

Astrophysics

Professor Marla Geha

The Geha group uses the world’s largest telescopes to study the Universe’s smallest galaxies. We use observations of small galaxies to understand the nature of dark matter and the underlying cosmology of the Universe. Research projects include measuring the properties (mass, chemical composition) of satellite galaxies around the Milky Way, or using machine learning algorithms to differentiate between dwarf galaxies and more luminous background objects. Students should have a working knowledge of the python computing language, or be ready to learn this skill. Read more about the Geha group’s research: “Is the Milky Way an ‘outlier’ galaxy? Studying its ‘siblings’ for clues” and “The SAGA Survey: I. Satellite Galaxy Populations Around Eight Milky Way Analogs.”

Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics

Professor Reina Maruyama

The Maruyama lab is carrying out cutting-edge experiments to study neutrinos and dark matter in nuclear particle astrophysics. The aim of these experiments is to solve some of the greatest mysteries of the evolution of the Universe: what is the Universe made of and why does it have more matter than anti-matter? Projects for summer students involve testing, discussing, and analyzing data obtained from experiments and detectors in the Maruyama lab. Students will gain hands-on experience and train in the related physics during these projects. You can read more about Prof. Maruyama’s work on her website.

Chemistry

Professor Nilay Hazari

The Hazari group develops homogeneous transition metal catalysts to find easier ways to make important molecules. For example, they have developed commercially available palladium catalysts for use in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, and iron catalysts for the conversion of carbon dioxide into more valuable compounds, such as methanol. Research projects will explore the synthesis and characterization of new catalysts and the evaluation of their performance. Students who have completed a university class in chemistry will gain the maximum benefit from working in the Hazari group.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Professor Paul Turner

The overarching research focus of Paul Turner’s lab is to study evolutionary genetics and genomes of microbes. This focus has been applied to studying the rise of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens and developing methods by which antibiotic resistant infections might be controlled. One approach, phage therapy, is the use of bacteriophages (viruses of bacteria) to treat infections. We examine how phage exert selection pressure on pathogenic bacteria, especially phage biding to virulence factors that select for bacteria to evolve reduced virulence and re-sensitization to antibiotics and apply this technique to treat human infections in the hospital. Learn more about Prof. Turner’s work listen to Science Friday’s “Old Ideas May Help Us Fight New Superbugs” podcast or read, “A virus, fished out of a lake, may have saved a man’s life — and advanced science.”

Molecular Biology

Professor Scott Strobel

Dr. Strobel’s research involves the structure and function of riboswitches and the biology inferred from the connection between the small molecule ligand bound by the riboswitch and the downstream genes. One particular example the lab is pursuing is a riboswitch which binds fluoride and controls expression of a membrane protein of unknown function in fluoride biology. Now, multiple fluoride channels have been discovered that are responsible for maintaining fluoride below toxic levels in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. We are investigating the mechanism, localization, and regulation of fluoride transport by FEX, the eukaryotic fluoride channel. In yeast and plants, FEX is constitutively expressed and is necessary to prevent toxicity even at the fluoride levels found in tap water. How the fluoride channel that evolved in free living single cell microbes is now integrated into a multicellular and multi-tissue organism (plants) to achieve fluoride resistance is the current research focus.

Geology

Professor Maureen Long

Maureen Long’s research group investigates the structure and dynamics of the deep Earth by studying recordings of earthquake waves measured by sensitive instruments called seismometers. We study a variety of problems, including the dynamics of subduction zones, the structure of the core-mantle boundary region, and the evolution of continents. Projects will focus on collecting and analyzing seismic data from New England, with the goal of understanding how the structure of the crust and upper mantle reflects fundamental plate tectonic processes that have operated in the geologic past (or, in some cases, surprisingly recent activity). Research tasks will include computer-based data analysis as well as field work collecting seismic data in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. No prior coursework in Earth science is necessary or expected, and projects are suitable for physics, astronomy, math, or engineering majors in addition to Earth science majors. Read more about Prof. Long’s seismology research in New England: “New Research Discovers Surprising Seismic Activity Under New England” and “What lies beneath Connecticut? Yale’s SEISConn project will find out.”

Optics

Professor Jack Harris

The Harris group studies the force exerted by light on solid and liquid objects. This force can be used to produce temperatures close to absolute zero, to study the role of measurement in quantum mechanics, and to control both light and motion in new ways. Research projects could involve building optical paths for laser beams, writing code for data analysis, or assembling vacuum or cryogenic components. Some background with programing, optics, electronics, or machining would be helpful but most projects would involve on-the-job learning. You can read more about the Harris group’s work here: ‘Building a Moebius strip of good vibrations’ and ‘Opening a window on quantum gravity.'

Nanomaterials

Professor Judy Cha

The Cha group develops novel electronic nanomaterials for potential quantum computing and energy applications. Currently, the group focuses on making and characterizing layered materials that are only several atoms thick. Questions we address are: how do material properties change as we thin them down to the ultimate limit, and how do we make them cheaply and reliably? Research projects will explore synthesis of such materials, and studying their optical and electrical properties. 

Cell Physiology

Professor Michael Caplan

Epithelial cells serve as the barriers between the inside of our bodies and the outside world. Their ability to transport fluid, salts, nutrients and waste products play an enormous role in defining our body’s composition and maintaining homeostasis. The Caplan group is especially interested in the epithelial cells of the kidney, whose organization and architecture are exquisitely well matched to their function. The cell membranes of kidney epithelial cells are divided into distinct domains that possess dramatically different structures and populations of transport proteins. This asymmetry is required in order for the kidney to carry out its physiological functions. We study the processes through which kidney cells develop their structural specializations. We also study Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease, a common genetic disease that leads to dramatic disorganization of the kidney’s structure. We are working to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for the disease and to identify new therapeutic targets.

Genetics

Professor Bluma Lesch

Each cell in your body contains the same DNA genome, yet cells differ wildly in their form and function.   Chromatin, the set of RNAs and proteins that packages and organizes the genome, is responsible for this cellular diversity.  The chromatin components (“chromatin marks”) present at a gene determine whether that gene can be used, and the combination of chromatin marks across the whole genome determines the set of genes that is available for use in a given cell. The Lesch Lab studies how this chromatin code works to set up a cell’s identity and function.  We are particularly interested in how chromatin sets up a unique and essential function in gametes (sperm and eggs): the ability to generate an entirely new embryo at fertilization.  We use bioinformatics, mouse genetics, and molecular biology approaches to test how chromatin in developing gametes affects fertility, embryo development, and disease susceptibility in the next generation, as well as how chromatin states evolve across millions of generations. Learn more about the Lesch lab here and coverage in The Scientist article, "Mice Inherit Cancer Susceptibility Via Epigenetic Changes in Sperm."

Neural Network Computation

Professor Damon Clark

The Clark lab is interested in understanding how small circuits of neurons interact to perform basic computations. To study this, we work with the fruit fly Drosophila, where unparalleled genetic tools allow us to manipulate its brain and measure the activity of individual neurons. In Drosophila, we examine how the visual system recognizes cues to guide navigation, as well as how the fly’s legs coordinate as it walks through the world. In particular, we want to understand how animals extract motion information from the complex visual patterns in the natural world, and how they make decisions based on that information. We want to understand and model how the system computes at a mathematical level, but also use the genetic tools in the fruit fly to discover the neural and biophysical mechanisms that implement those mathematical operations. Projects in lab range from making behavioral measurements and using advanced microscopy to modeling and applying machine learning techniques.

©2020 by Research Experience for Veteran Undergraduates.

The Research Experience for Veteran Undergraduates is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute