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Summer Masters' Research Experience

We are excited to partner with Eastern Michigan University to offer 8-week paid summer research experiences to current and incoming EMU Masters’ students.

Location: Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Timing/Duration: June 3-July 26, 2024

Application deadline: April 5, 2024


Who Should Apply: We strongly encourage applications from underrepresented groups in the sciences, first-generation college students, individuals with no previous research experience, and US military veterans. Applicants must be currently enrolled as masters’ students (or accepted for enrollment in fall 2024) in a STEM field and attending Eastern Michigan University.

What to expect:

  • Join a collaborative, multidisciplinary community of researchers focused on understanding and engineering plants.
  • Engage in a research program across multiple disciplines, including biochemistry, plant biology, genetics, genomics, microbiology and computational modeling.
  • An opportunity to conduct research at one of the country’s largest and most scenic academic research universities.
  • Learn the process of research: reading literature, formulating questions and hypotheses, designing a study, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting your results.
  • Develop technical skills.
  • Participate in lab group meetings and attend research seminars.
  • Explore if plant research is a right fit for you.
  • Build references for your application to Ph.D. or other professional programs.
  • An opportunity to interact with successful role models who have earned advanced degrees.
  • Research presentation and reception at the end of the summer, family and friends are welcome to attend.

Host labs

Benning Lab

Plants frequently encounter harsh biotic or abiotic conditions and need to respond to these stresses. Lipases are enzymes that degrade membrane lipids and play critical roles in initiating plant stress responses. Our recent study identified specific plastid lipases of the model plant Arabidopsis that are involved in jasmonic acid biosynthesis. This is a plant hormone that provides a signal during plant physiological processes such as growth and responses to stresses. We are interested in learning what novel components are involved in the jasmonic acid signaling pathway. A variety of laboratory techniques are utilized in this study, including phenotype quantification, genotyping mutants by PCR and agarose gel electrophoresis, lipid extraction and thin-layer chromatography, lipid quantification using GC-FID, plant crossing, DNA extraction, DNA sequencing data analysis, gene cloning and other techniques as we move forward with the project.  

Brandizzi Lab

To address the problems created by climate change, it is vital to understand and engineer plants to increase resilience against biotic and abiotic stressors. The plant cell wall provides a unique avenue to enhance plant resilience. The current project in the lab of Prof. Federica Brandizzi aims to use genetic, biochemical and molecular biological techniques to understand the role of the cell wall hemicellulose - xyloglucan (XyG), in plant growth and immunity. Earlier work in the lab has established a critical important role of cell wall polymers containing pentoses in plant immunity. Building on our findings of XyG as a potent immune elicitor, we aim to understand how XyG activates plant immunity by identifying the receptor/s for plant XyG and deciphering the downstream immune cascades. The student will use state-of-art techniques, including genomics, microscopy and protein biochemistry, to identify receptors of XyG and will have access to the cell wall facility at MSU. In parallel, the student will test a battery of genetic mutants selected in the lab for modified resistance to bacterial and fungal phytopathogens. Findings from this project will be important in understanding the role of xyloglucan in plant growth and resistance and enable the design of engineering crops with enhanced resistance to pathogens.

Vermaas Lab

The Vermaas lab uses molecular dynamics simulations to answer fundamental questions around photosynthesis and plant structures. We have multiple ongoing projects within the laboratory, and a student will plot their experience together with Dr. Vermaas based on current research progress and student interest. Example questions under active study through molecular dynamics include how photosystems bind to accessory proteins like ferredoxin or phycobilisomes, or the long path carbon dioxide takes to rubisco. Alternatively, parameterizing photosynthetic pigments for use in simulation is also a possibility for those wanting to go deeper into quantum mechanics. Prior familiarity with any programming language (Python and Tcl are used most often in the lab to drive analysis) will help a student get the most out of their time in the lab, but is not essential.


For additional information about the program, contact Sarah Stainbrook (stainbr1@msu.edu).