Undergraduate Research Assistants Program (URAP)
URAP is a program unique to Roanoke College. Incoming freshman students apply each year and are invited to join the program. They work as research assistants with a member of the Roanoke College faculty on an original research project of interest to both the URAP scholar and to the faculty mentor. URAP is offered in both a one year version and a four year version.
URAP students are awarded a stipend of $2,000 per year. In addition to the stipend the URAP scholar becomes a member of a research team working on a project which generally will lead to publication in a professional journal and/or presentation at a professional conference.
Examples of Biology URAP Student Projects:
Bacterial Source Tracking in Surface Water
Brooks Crozier, Biology
In this project the research assistant will work on developing ways to track the presence and movement of bacteria in surface waters using modern molecular biology techniques, such as DNA isolation, amplification, analysis and cloning. A variety of watersheds will be studied.
Estrogen Activity in the Roanoke River
Christopher Lassiter, Biology
Every day, our rivers are impacted with pollution in the form of agricultural run-off, industrial run-off, and wastewater treatment. Many of these chemicals are estrogenic, causing hormonal imbalance in wildlife and are a cause for concern in human health. Over the course of four years, this project will involve laboratory work with estrogen-sensitive genes in zebrafish embryos, and fieldwork sampling water in the Roanoke River. We will use zebrafish embryos as a living indicator to measure estrogen pollution locations and intensity along the river.
Characterization of DNA Elements in the Coprinus cinerus Genome Project
Marilee Ramesh, Biology
This project will integrate traditional molecular biology techniques with modern computational approaches to address questions pertaining to genome organization in the mushroom Coprinus cinerus. Repetitive elements within the genome will be characterized in terms of their DNA sequence, location and frequency. The URAP scholar will have the opportunity to culture the organism, perform common molecular biology techniques, and use computational tools for the analysis and manipulation of DNA sequences.
Steven Powers, Biology
The undergraduate researcher working on this project will conduct lab work testing Coalescent Theory, an important theoretical link between population ecology and genetic evolution. Empirical field research to test Coalescent Theory is wanting, and preliminary studies suggest the fish fauna of the Tennessee and Cumberland river drainages will provide a largely "controlled" natural laboratory to test the predictions of this important evolutionary theory. Molecular data from fishes with contrasting population sizes will be compared to test for the assumed inverse correlation between population size and genetic partitioning of populations. Much of this work will involve generating genetic sequences, using PCR techniques.
Michael Barrett '04 began researching the effect of shipwrecks on the environment during a semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Three years later, he became the youngest person to ever receive a National Geographic grant to continue his work.