Examples of Scientific Research
directions Examine the examples of student research in the sciences detailed below to see what others are doing and glean ideas for your own project.

Making Clunkers Shine 

Prem's brother had a beat-up old car, and Prem noticed that waxing it seemed to make the spots on its finish go away. Prem got an idea to create a wax that would fluoresce and make old clunkers appear shiny again. He hypothesized that wax synthesized directly from fluorophores—and added to commercial car waxes—would impart a fluorescent effect on car wax and onto any polished surface.


An Innovative Method for Observing Frustrated Total Internal Reflection (FTIR)

Frustrated Total Internal Reflection (FTIR) is an optical phenomenon important in many practical applications. The greatest difficulty in studying FTIR is designing an apparatus to observe it. While researchers have studied FTIR with precision instruments, we did not have access to them. The goals were to design and build an apparatus to allow us to easily observe FTIR, to determine the media separation distance at which we can observe it, to establish a relationship between media separation and evanescent wave intensity, and to determine agreement with theory.

Image from:  Source article:
(2005) The Evolution of Self-Fertile Hermaphroditism: The Fog Is Clearing.
PLoS Biol 3(1): e30

The Effects of Caloric Restriction on the Subsequent Stress Resistance and Chemosensation of Caenorhabditis Elegans

The nematode, C. elegans, displays sensitivity to certain stressors, such as heat, oxidative stress and caloric restriction. The purpose of Part I of the experiment was to demonstrate the effects of controlled nutrient deprivation on the lifespan of C. elegans. In Part II, we developed a chemotaxis assay in order to efficiently and accurately quantify chemosensation (used as a measure of neural function) of the C. elegans by observing the worm's transition to a dauer state (lowered cellular function due to minimal environmental nutrients). In Part III, we tested our chemotaxis assay on worms that were starved initially for 24 hours and 48 hours to observe the effects of nutrient deprivation on chemo-sensation.


Utilizing the Isotopic Signature of Macroalgae to Identify Sources of Nitrogen in Streams and Rivers

The students completed this project in order to utilize the isotopic signature of macroalgae to identify the sources of nitrogen pollution in streams and rivers and to evaluate the usefulness of stable isotope analysis of macroalgae in lotic ecosystems.


Protecting Our Water: The Effects of Common Household Chemicals on the Decomposition of Acetaminophen 

The students completed this project in order to determine whether household chemicals can be used to decompose acetaminophen, which would allow consumers to treat their expired medications so they will not pollute local aquatic ecosystems after disposal.


Malleable Polymer-Imprinted Porous Silicon Photonic Crystal Composites

Porous silicon as a sensor is useful in many applications throughout the real world, from detecting toxins in the environment to monitoring levels of chemicals in the living systems. But while porous silicon possesses assets of reliability and efficiency, it lacks certain practical qualities such as biocompatibility, flexibility, and adaptability to a myriad of environments - qualities offered by polymers. The purpose of the project is to create composite materials comprised of porous silicon nanofilms infiltrated by various polymers.


Nice Rice 

This project first explored the effects of humidity and time on levels of enzyme activity in rice, using an azocasein hydrolysis assay. The levels of protein in each of the different types of rice were then measured using a Bradford reagent. This data was used to determine the necessary sample quantities to be used in zymography, to compare the size of the protein molecules with those of known markers. Finally, the effect of different known and unknown protease inhibitors on rice were tested using the same azocasein assay in hopes of finding some food-grade possibility for industrial use in developing countries.

brain cell

Effects of Guanosine on Alpha-Synuclein in a Parkinson's Disease Model

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting voluntary controlled movement. A build-up of alpha-synuclein forms in Lewy Bodies, which are deposits commonly found in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s disease. Alpha-synuclein kills brain cells when it is overexpressed.  The purposes of this experiment were to determine if MPP+ induced apoptosis and alpha-synuclein expression in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells and to determine if the addition of guanosine, a purine nucleoside, prevented alpha-synuclein expression induced by MPP+ in human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. MPP+ is a neurotoxin commonly used in Parkinson’s disease models.

Watch this video to observe students from Michigan describe their research projects in a symposium setting. Projects titles included are as follows:

  • Effects of Diet on Normal Colonic Mucosa
  • African Americans' Educational Attainment and Attendance at Historically Black Colleges/Universities:  The Role of Social Factors
  • Illiterate Literature:  Vernacular Translation in Dante's Italy
  • Molecular Cloning of DNA Plasmids
  • Deposition and Characterization of Compsite Semiconductor Photoelectrodes
  • Conversion of Stress Analysis Software in TrueBASIC

Watch this video to view a student presenting her biochemistry project.  Observe the way the student presents and the feedback given to her at the end.

Poster Presentation Practice & Feedback from SACNAS on Vimeo.

Poster Presentation Practice & Feedback from SACNAS on Vimeo.

Poster Presentation Practice & Feedback from SACNAS on Vimeo.

Poster Presentation Practice & Feedback from SACNAS on Vimeo.

Poster Presentation Practice & Feedback from SACNAS on Vimeo.

Return to Research in the Sciences