Research Streams

Each Research Stream has a dedicated laboratory designed and equipped for its specific type of research and supervised by a team of three to five faculty members.

Weekly, each Research Stream meets to discuss its research; these are broad-ranging discussions led by faculty and instructors. These "team" meetings include lectures to provide the "big picture" and background, troubleshoot problems, and learn how to design experiments, analyze data and present results to others. FRI students learn how to talk about their research, collaborate and identify their next steps in research. Students finish the three-semester program with a public poster session displaying their results.

Biofilms (Microbiology)

The Biofilms Research Stream will focus on surface associated bacterial communities called biofilms and their planktonic free-floating counterparts, which differ with respect to antimicrobial agents. Under laboratory conditions, biofilms can be 1,000-fold less susceptible to antimicrobial agents than their planktonic counterparts, and are extremely problematic to eradicate by conventional antimicrobial treatment strategies. Moreover, biofilms pose significant problems in medicine due to their enhanced resistance to therapeutic intervention and to immune function. The goal of the biofilm research stream is to identify and characterize factors contributing to the extreme resistance of biofilms using the biofilm model organism Pseudomonas aeruginosa and various microbiological, molecular and biochemical methodologies. Throughout the research, students will be involved in experimental design, interpretation of results, and discussion. The four-faculty team consists of Professors Karin Sauer, David G. Davies, Cláudia N. H. Marques and Jeffrey W. Schertzer in the Department of Biological Sciences. Over the last three years, this team has had research grants from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense (DOD), and various private companies, and supported 54 students, with six undergraduate students as co-authors in conference abstracts.

Smart Energy (Chemistry & Physics)

The Chemistry-Physics-Materials Science Research Stream is part of an integrated campus-wide research effort that focuses on smart energy.

This interdisciplinary team of faculty consists of Professors Wayne Jones (Chemistry), Stan Whittingham (Materials Science & Engineering), Bruce White (Physics), and Louis Piper (Physics), with current funding from NSF, the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Department of Defense (DOD) and industrial partners totaling over $2 million over three years. Students working with these faculty have current research projects on photovoltaic systems, thin film electronics, thermoelectric systems, lithium-ion batteries and super-capacitors. Over the last three years, nearly 30 undergraduate students have completed research projects working closely with teams of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research scientists.


The Neuroscience Research Stream will focus on the intersection between neuro-inflammation and neuro-degeneration in animal models of disease. With increasing life expectancy, the incidence of neurodegenerative disorders has exploded. Unfortunately, our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to disorders of the brain like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease remains incomplete.

This faculty team, consisting of Professors Chris Bishop, Terry Deak and Lisa Savage, has decades of experience studying neurobiological mechanisms of disease in animal models and is perfectly situated to guide discovery-based research in this milieu. Over the last three years, this team has held research grants from several sources, including the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This group of faculty also maintains a strong tradition of student research, and in the past three years has supported 80 students (15 graduate students and 65 undergraduate students) and published more than 25 peer-reviewed research articles with undergraduate students as co-authors.

Additional Research Streams for 2015-16  

Image & Acoustic Signals Analysis (Computer Science & Electrical Engineering)

The Image and Acoustic Signals Analysis Research Stream is an interdisciplinary team in The Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science that will focus on research and development in multimedia, human computer interaction, acoustics and computer vision. The team will engage students in developing new digital forensic and biometrics techniques; designing novel immersive environments that will shape future trends in human-computer interaction; developing bio-acoustics, data compression and visual speech technology; and developing and testing the computer vision technology.

This four-faculty team consists of Professors Scott Craver, Mark Fowler, Stephen Zahorian (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Lijun Yin (Computer Science). Over the last three years, this team has had research grants from HIH Laboratory, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Research Laboratory and NSF, and supported 31 students, with six undergraduate students as co-authors.

Biomedical Chemistry

The Biomedical Chemistry research stream will focus on studies of the structure and function of select biological macromolecules, in particular proteins, which are important for our understanding of patho-physiological processes, as well as for biomedical applications. Our goal is to identify molecular mechanisms of action of these proteins, and to develop new strategies and methodologies to study them, and potentially control their activity.

The team consists of four faculty members from Chemistry, Susan Bane, Brian Callahan, Christof Grewer and Wei Qiang. This team has had recent research grants from the National Institutes of health (NIGMS and NINDS), as well as the Department of Defense. Students working with these faculty members perform research on structural biology, NMR spectroscopy, membrane biology, biophysical chemistry, bio-organic chemistry, biochemistry, protein purification, and drug discovery. In the last three years, 41 undergraduate students have participated in research projects, with 9 undergraduate students as co-authors of peer-reviewed manuscripts/publications and conference abstracts.

Proposed Future Research Streams

Molecular & Biomedical Anthropology

The Molecular and Biomedical Anthropology Research Stream will focus on evolutionary and population genetics and paleo-demography of Oceanic and Native American human populations, and origins and domestication of camelids (such as camel, llama and alpaca). It also focuses on population health and biomedical studies of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, malaria, nutrition, obesity and metabolic diseases associated with cultural change and modernization. Biological anthropology as a field includes the study of indigenous populations around the world and their subsistence, health, evolution, and adaptations to diseases, changing diets, activity patterns and environments. Students in this research stream will be involved in all stages of the laboratory research that occur after biological sample acquisition. This includes DNA extraction, PCR amplification, gel electrophoresis, genotyping and DNA sequencing, as well as the analysis of genotypic and sequence data and their comparisons with phenotypic, historical, linguistic, geographic and other types of data to test hypotheses.

The three-faculty team consists of Professors Ralph M. Garruto, J. Koji Lum, and D. Andrew Merriwether of the Departments of Anthropology and Biological Sciences. Over the last three years, this team has had research grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Geographic Society, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Government of Peru, Government of Trinidad, Director of Heritage for Nunavut. We have supported and trained 62 graduate and more than 100 undergraduate students, 54 of whom were co-authors on regional and national/international conference abstracts.

Biogeochemistry for Environmental Science

The Biogeochemistry Research Stream will focus on sustainability of earth systems from climate change and related human and ecosystem health perspectives. We are particularly interested in microbes and their geochemical interactions with metals and other contaminants, resulting in their coupled short- and long-term impacts on physical, chemical and biological interactions. Modern and ancient oceans, the atmosphere, watersheds and wetlands provide the field sites for our studies.

This four-faculty team consists of Professors Tim Lowenstein, Joseph Graney and Thomas Kulp in Geological Sciences and Weixing Zhu in Biological Sciences. Over the last three years, this team has had research grants from National Science Foundation (NSF), US Geological Survey (USGS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Colorado School of Mines, and the Colcom and Wallace Research Foundations, and has supported 30 students with 13 undergraduate students as co-authors on publications and presentations.

What students are saying:

"From being in a lab for two days a week (sometimes more), I was able to see what it was like to work and study in a real laboratory setting. The nature of the class allowed for some feeling of freedom, yet I never felt as if I was going into an exercise completely blind, and the instructors always prepared me well. I also knew I could always ask questions whenever I was unsure about something and that the instructors would be helpful and receptive."

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Last Updated: 7/13/15