Office of Undergraduate Research Undergraduate research will set you apart.

The effect of bioretention media treatment of stormwater on Daphnia populations

Student Author: Rachel Kuntz

Co-Authors: Dr. Thorsten Knappenberger, Dr. Eve Brantley

Untreated stormwater entering streams can result in contamination of drinking water supplies and shell-fishing waters, prohibition of recreational use (e.g., fishing, swimming, and boating), injury to aquatic biodiversity, danger to public health, and increased flooding. Total suspended solids, nutrients (including phosphorus and nitrogen), pathogens, and petroleum-based contaminants are common stormwater pollutants of concern. Bioretention cells are landscape features that may serve as stormwater-control measures by reducing the impact of non-point source pollutants through filtration, absorption, and flow velocity reduction. The purpose of this experiment was to examine the lethal effect of local stormwater runoff and to evaluate the influence of bioretention media on stormwater toxicity.

Adult Daphnia pulex (water flea) were exposed to stormwater runoff collected in Auburn, Alabama, to observe the effects of runoff toxicity. Comparisons in survivorship were made between D. pulex exposed to untreated stormwater runoff and runoff treated with bioretention media, respectively. We hypothesized the bioretention media would decrease the toxicity and increase survival across D. pulex populations.

Approximately 85% of D. pulex exposed to the stormwater runoff treated with the bioretention cell survived, compared to 54% exposed to untreated runoff. This difference in survivorship is statistically significant (p < 0.05) and indicates bioretention media may minimize stormwater toxicity that, in turn, benefits aquatic communities in urban areas.

Activity levels of the D. pulex were observed and recorded after 30 minutes, 12 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours of exposure to the treated and untreated stormwater. Sixty-one percent exposed to untreated runoff died within the first 30 minutes of exposure; 0% of the D. pulex exposed to treated runoff died during the same time frame. 81% of the fatalities experienced from exposure to treated runoff did not occur until after 12 hours of exposure. Considering most storms in Alabama typically do not last longer than one hour, the likelihood of aquatic organisms being exposed to the same concentration of toxicity for over 12 hours is very low. This suggests bioretention media can be an effective solution to reduce toxicity of stormwater runoff and protect surrounding aquatic organisms from harmful polluted stormwater runoff. Future studies may evaluate different bioretention media, runoff from other impervious surfaces types (new asphalt, concrete, roof top), and sublethal impacts such as reproduction or movement.

Statement of Research Advisor: Rachel’s research is an important contribution to our understanding of how stormwater affects aquatic organisms, and it demonstrates the effectiveness of bioretention media on reducing stormwater toxicity and mitigating stormwater impacts on Daphnia pulex. Thorsten Knappenberger, Crop, Soil and Environmental Science


Identifying active tectonics in the New Madrid Seismic Zone using LiDAR and geologic data

Student Author: Caleb M Eldridge

Co-Author: Dr. Lorraine Wolf

The New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is located in the central U.S. and includes parts of west Tennessee, eastern Arkansas, and eastern Missouri.  This earthquake zone is considered the most seismically active area east of the Rocky Mountains, though most of the earthquakes are small and not always felt by humans (magnitudes < 3).  In 1811-1812, however, three major earthquake sequences occurred with estimated magnitudes up to M 7.8.  Earthquakes of that magnitude today would cause massive damage to cities and towns along the Mississippi River valley, including Memphis and St. Louis.  Studies suggest an earthquake recurrence interval of approximately 500 years during the last 1200-year period.

The purpose of this project was to analyze recently available Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data for portions of the NMSZ to identify surface deformation that is possibly related to active faults in the region.  Most faults in the central U.S. are hidden by a thick covering of alluvial sediment; thus, researchers have to rely on subtle changes in surface topography and remote sensing of subsurface structures for evidence of deeply buried active faults.

For this project, we compiled a comprehensive database of geologic and geophysical information for the study area using Geographical Information Systems.  This database consists of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), mapped locations of known or suspected basement faults, geologic maps and cross-sections, and information on earthquake locations and magnitude.  The new LiDAR data was added to the database and provided the highest resolution topography available for the area.  By combining features identified in the LiDAR data with earthquake locations and magnetic field anomalies, potentially active faults can be identified.  Aeromagnetic data were downloaded and processed using wavelength separation methods.  A literature search was conducted to collect articles describing magnetic anomalies and subsurface geology that could be related to regional seismic activity and surface features observed in the LiDAR models.

The LiDAR data collected show prominent earthquake-induced soil liquefaction deposits aligned in a northeast-southwest orientation that match the orientation of faults in the area. The LiDAR data also show linear ridges that align sub-parallel to the liquefaction deposits and that may suggest deformation from buried faults. Analysis of the magnetic data shows anomalies that share the northeast orientation and that could be related to seismic activity in the area. It also shows the presence of igneous plutons that may concentrate tectonic stress, which may explain some of the observed seismicity. These hypotheses may be further explored in future work.

Statement of Advisor: Caleb’s work on compiling data sets related to seismicity in the NMSZ represents a solid contribution to earthquake research in intraplate areas. Unlike that seen at tectonic plate margins, evidence of active faulting and deformation in the mid-continent is subtle and often not visible. Through his analysis of newly acquired, high-resolution topography, Caleb has identified surface features that suggest the presence of active, but hidden faults.  –Lorraine Wolf, Geosciences


The fine structure of the tentacular apparatus of Mnemiopsis leidyi

Student Author: Dorothy Mitchell

Co-Authors: Dr. Anthony Moss, Gen Dong

Ctenophores are gelatinous zooplankton found throughout Earth’s oceans, from the depths of oceanic trenches to the surface of shallow estuarine systems. Their unique morphology and physiology have long intrigued researchers working on various topics in development, neurophysiology, and evolution. Ctenophores have become popular research organisms because they were recently found to be the last common ancestor to all animals. I have investigated the cellular architecture of the ctenophore tentacular bulb and associated tentacles. The ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi was chosen because of its year-round availability and its resilient physiology. Mnemiopsis bears tentacles that arise from two centrally positioned tentacular bulbs. They have fine tentillae that extend perpendicular to the tentacles, which contain ‘sticky’ colloblast cells that aid in prey capture.

My goal was to visualize tentillar organization at a cellular level, using light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Preparations for microscopy were chemically fixed, infiltrated and embedded in Spurr’s epoxy resin. I generated 0.25-micron thick cross sections of the tentacle bulb using an ultramicrotome, then stained and viewed at up to 100x under a microscope equipped with a digital color camera. Since slide preparation causes dehydration and collapse of the watery tissue, I additionally cryosectioned frozen ctenophore bulbs to determine if dehydration changed the structural profile. I also performed analysis of 60 nm thick ‘thin sections’ using TEM. I sectioned resin-embedded samples with glass knives, followed by staining with lead citrate and uranyl acetate. Thin sections were mounted on copper grids, dried and examined by TEM on the Zeiss EM10 microscope in Auburn University Research Instrumentation Facility (AURIF) at up to 30,000X magnification. We were able to form a high-resolution ‘mega-image’ (totaling 1.2 terabytes) of a tentacular bulb, revealing previously unseen and unknown cellular structures and cell-cell interactions.

We discovered the following:  (1) the oral-most end of the bulb and canal was not attached to the body; (2) what we interpret to be a layer of food-absorptive cells that corroborates a recent report (Giribet, 2016); (3) a structural feature we interpret to be bulb neuropile surrounding a region rich in what we interpret to be neural stem cells; (4) a region of tentillar longitudinal fission and growth (TLFG) that ‘waves’ laterally to either side of the bulb to ‘feed’ tentillar structure within the tentacular groove of the food groove; and (5) several unknown cell types, including apparently apoptotic cells, at different stages of differentiation.

We view our findings as groundwork to investigate the function and identity of neuronal stem cells. These cells are of much interest because Mnemiopsis demonstrates the ability to rapidly regenerate and heal its wounds. Little is known about the function of the cells involved in tissue repair and how these cells interact with surrounding effectors. EdU (5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridin) analysis (Salic and Mitchison, 2008) by others showed a source of cell proliferation in the aboral portion of the ctenophore Pleurobrachia pileus (Alie et al., 2010). However, Pleurobrachia is structurally distinct from Mnemiopsis. Future studies will precisely determine the nature of the cells uncovered and relate them to their differential gene expression during cellular development.

Statement of Research Advisor: Dorothy’s work on the ultrastructural organization of the Mnemiopsis tentacular bulb and tentacular/tentillar structure has produced major strides in our understanding of this sensory integration center. This is a very difficult and time consuming, even tedious effort, and yet Dorothy’s enthusiasm and boundless energy, and attention to detail, together with the careful overview of her graduate student supervisor in addition to myself, has broken open the cellular organization of this mysterious system. This work is of considerable importance because ctenophores are thought to be among the earliest metazoan (i.e., multicellular animals) to evolve, and are thought to therefore have one of the most ancient nervous systems. That the ctenophores are so ancient poses an interesting possibility: namely that they could be a potential precursor to all current nervous systems in more complex, ‘higher’ animals, including ourselves. —Anthony Moss, Biological Sciences


Giribet, G. 2016.  Zoology: At last an exit for ctenophores. Curr. Biol. 26: R913–R936.

Alie, A. et al. 2010. Somatic stem cells express Piwi and Vasa genes in an adult ctenophore: Ancient association of “germline genes” with stemness. Dev. Biol. 350: 183.

Salic, A. and Mitchison, T. 2008. A chemical method for fast and sensitive detection of DNA synthesis in vivo. PNAS 105, (7):2415-2420.










Correlation of pelvis kinematics with ground reaction forces, muscle activation, and hormones during a drop vertical jump

Student Author: Gabrielle Gilmer

Co-Authors: Michael Roberts, Gretchen Oliver

Female athletes are 2-9 times more likely to tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than males [1]. Clinical tests and prevention programs focusing on the lumbopelvic-hip complex (LPHC) are used to identify injury susceptibility [2]. Despite implementation, females continue to have higher ACL injury rates. Recently, relaxin, a peptide hormone similar to insulin, was identified as interfering with the structural integrity of ACLs in females but not males [2]. We aimed to answer the question: how are pelvis kinematics during the drop vertical jump (DVJ) related to ground reaction forces (GRF), muscle activation, and serum relaxin concentrations (SRC)?

Twenty-two female athletes (21.7±3.7 yrs.; 64.8±8.2 kg; 1.8±0.3 m) participated. Participants performed a DVJ while equipped with various sensors. A DVJ involves the participant standing on a box 0.505 m high, dropping off the box to the ground, immediately jumping as high as they can in the vertical direction, then landing. Kinematic data were collected at 100 Hz using an electromagnetic tracking system. GRF data were collected at 1000 Hz using a Bertec force plate. Electromyographic data were collected at 1000 Hz using a Delsys system. Blood samples were collected when SRC peaked and processed using a Quantikine Human Relaxin-2 Immunoassay. 

Pearson product-moment correlations revealed significant correlations (p < 0.05) between the following: anterior/posterior GRF and pelvis lateral flexion, rotation, and adduction; vertical GRF and pelvis adduction; quadricep to hamstring ratios and pelvis flexion, adduction, lateral flexion, and rotation; gluteus medius activation and pelvis rotation, adduction, and lateral flexion; and SRC and pelvis adduction.

 These correlations reveal the interconnection between ACL injury risk factors during a DVJ. Larger anterior/posterior GRF and smaller vertical GRF indicate the center of mass is not appropriately distributed over the stance legs [3]. Larger anterior/posterior GRF was associated with the athlete’s pelvis tilting and rotating towards the dominate side and collapsing in towards their midline. Pelvic collapse towards the midline was also associated with decreased vertical GRF. These positions put the pelvis in a more injury susceptible position and decrease the energy transfer along the kinetic chain, which could result in distal segments being placed in injury susceptible positions (Figure 1).

The relationships between muscle activation and pelvis kinematics agree with previous literature that document low activation of the gluteal and hamstring musculature coupled with high activation of the quadriceps is associated with low energy transfer from the LPHC [4]. Athletes who had higher quadricep to hamstring ratios placed their pelvis in a position that was anteriorly tilted, collapsed towards the midline, tilted and rotated to the dominate side position. In contrast, athletes who displayed higher gluteus medius activation kept their pelvis in a more neutral location.

The relationship between pelvis adduction and SRC suggests higher SRC is associated with an adducted hip. Hip adduction during the DVJ is an injury susceptible position, due to decreased LPHC stability. LPHC instability and increased SRC should be of great concern for sports medicine personnel. This finding reiterates the need for coupling biomechanical evaluation with monitoring hormonal concentrations. 

Ultimately, these results suggest biomechanical, neuromuscular, and hormonal risk factors for ACL injury are not independent and should be evaluated together. Further studies are needed to determine if any causal relationships exist between these variables.


Figure 1 Caption: The three-dimensional positions of the pelvis are shown.

Statement of Research Advisor: Gabrielle’s work is an inspiration for future undergraduate research fellows. Gabrielle was able to utilize her research experiences to develop, design, and carry out a solid study that will further the world of sports medicine and biomechanics—Gretchen Oliver, Kinesiology


1. Hewett et al. AJSM. 2016.

2. Dragoo et al. AJSM.2011.

3. Chang et al. Arthritis Rheum. 2005.

4. Zeller et al. AJSM. 2003.

Design and Development of a Low Temperature Tube Calorimeter for Ammonia Refrigerant

Student Author: Ford Gibbes

Co-Authors: Dr. Lorenzo Cremaschi

In 1987, with the ratification of the Montreal Protocol, the United Nations agreed that environmentally harmful refrigerants would need to be phased out. This decision has created a need for refrigerants with low global warming (GWP) and low ozone depletion potential (ODP). Ammonia refrigerant is promising in this regard because it possesses both of these characteristics and is also a naturally occurring compound. Unfortunately, ammonia is toxic and corrodes copper; thus it is not commonly used in HVAC systems. Recent government policies encourage the use of low GWP refrigerants and the interest in ammonia has grown since. However, there is a lack of information regarding the frictional pressure drop during two-phase flow phase change processes when ammonia is used inside the tubes of a heat exchanger.

In this project, a tube calorimeter is used to measure the differential pressure drop across a 180° U-bend. The calorimeter is constructed from 3/8”, 3/4”, and 1” stainless steel tubing with pressure transducer taps at specific distances. The bend radius to tube diameter ratio ranges from 1.2 to 2.5. Flow visualization data are recorded across the 180° glass U-bend using a high-speed camera and a pressure chamber. The data from this study are used to improve pressure drop models of ammonia.

Increased energy efficiency and more predictable heat transfer can be expected for heat exchangers that are designed using the new model. Because of this, ammonia has the potential to become an attractive refrigerant for wide usage in HVAC and refrigeration applications.  Currently, the testing facility is nearing the end of construction and testing will be feasible late 2018.

Statement of Research Advisor: Ford assisted in the design and construction of two heat transfer fluid loops and two refrigeration loops. Additionally, he was responsible for all design and construction of the test apparatus. The new test facility developed under this project will allow our research group to gather new data for pressure drops in U-bends of heat exchangers for ammonia refrigerant-based refrigeration systems. The facility isolates and quantifies the energy losses and inefficiencies associated with U-bends in heat exchangers. — Lorenzo Cremaschi, Mechanical Engineering



Expression of the INK4AB/ARF Tumor Suppressor Transcription Factor MSK1 in Canine Breast Cancer: Quantification through qPCR and Correlation with Established Phenotypes

Student Author: Jonathan Dismukes,

Co-Authors: Patricia DeInnocentes, R. Curtis Bird

MSK1 is a regulator of a protein that encodes for INK4A/p16, a vital tumor suppressor gene that is found defective in both human and canine cancers. While the cause of many of these defects are known and lie within mutations of the genetic coding for INK4A/16, the other causes are most likely due to upstream mutations, possibly with MSK1. Canine mammary tumors cells are used in this study since dogs are excellent models for human cancer and exhibit comparable molecular targets. Prior research exhibited heightened expression of MSK1 within tumor cell tissue after traditional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and gel electrophoresis. To quantify the levels of this expression, quantitative-PCR (qPCR) was utilized using a SYBR Green fluorophore, which preferentially binds to double-stranded DNA during amplification. Therefore, the levels of fluorescence correlate directly with the amount of product as it increases exponentially. Following analysis, MSK1 was confirmed to have more starting product within tumor cell lines than the normal epithelial cells, albeit varying degrees among the six lines used. Future work will compare the data to the known phenotypes of the respective cells. Additionally, further tests exploring downstream protein kinases of INK4A/p16 and CDKs 1 and 2 with flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy will further verify expression and location of the transcription factor during the rapid growth of tumor cells. With these tools, description of MSK1 profiles among the different canine mammary cell lines and levels of expression will lead to evidence about defects within the mechanism of the INK4A/p16 tumor suppressor and changes in cellular location. Ultimately, this knowledge of the faulty cellular mechanism within canine cancer will allow for potential gene therapy treatments to correct the known defects in both dogs and humans.

Statement of Research Advisor:  Jonathan helped develop a research strategy to first determine if the canine breast cancer cells expressed this newly described transcription factor thought to regulate cell proliferation and then designed a qPCR assay to assess the levels of expression.  Though it took most of the summer to first develop and then optimize the assay, he was able to detect this important regulator of gene expression and to quantify its expression levels in cancer cells he grew in culture.  This technology will allow the further investigation of this important transcription factor and its contribution to cancer cell proliferation. – R. Curtis Bird, Department of Pathobiology


Does Community Conservation Improve Human and Wildlife Health in Eastern Madagascar?

Student Author: Jordan Broadhead

Co-Author: Dr. Sarah Zohdy

The purpose of this study was to compare the health and well-being of people and wildlife in community protected and non-protected forests in eastern Madagascar. Forest loss on the island of Madagascar contributes to both the endangerment of some of the world’s most threatened species and the spread of poverty-linked infectious diseases in human populations. The practice of slash-and-burn agriculture has resulted in the loss of 40% of the island’s forest since 1950. Community-driven conservation efforts may offer the potential to improve human health and well-being while simultaneously protecting endemic wildlife.

In this study, we captured small mammals using Sherman traps and assessed the species diversity, invasive rodent distribution, mass, and ectoparasite counts for small mammals in both the protected forest and in a disturbed habitat. To assess human health, Association Mitsinjo, the local community conservation center, administered surveys to the local villages. One village was surrounded by protected forest and two were surrounded by deforestation. Surveys assessed the economic status, education, and personal health of the inhabitants.

We found that small mammal diversity in the protected forest was greater than in the disturbed forest. Invasive rodents were more prevalent in the disturbed forest. Mass and ectoparasite counts were not significantly different between the two sites for any species captured (p=0.38 and p=0.31). The two villages surrounded by disturbance had 103 responses from 50 households with a mean age of 33. The single smaller village surrounded by protected forest had 15 responses from 5 households with a mean age of 29. Comparing the health of villages over 6 months prior to the survey, people living in the protected forest village had more fever incidents but fewer fleas and no ticks, lice or diarrhea. People living in disturbed villages had fewer fever incidents but more lice, fleas, ticks, and diarrhea. We surveyed 16 guides and 46 agricultural workers. Comparing the health of people in these occupations over 6 months prior to the survey, we found people who work as ecotourism guides had more ticks and diarrhea, fewer fever episodes, and no lice or fleas. People who work in agriculture had many more fever occurrences, more lice, and more fleas but fewer ticks and cases of diarrhea. People living in the protected forest village reported less income than those living in the disturbed village. Guides reported greater income than agricultural workers.

This research suggests that community conservation can benefit human health and well-being while simultaneously protecting native forests and endemic species diversity. Community conservation has the potential to be an effective public health strategy.

Statement of Research Advisor: Jordan Broadhead has a deep interest in disease ecology and how human and animal health are linked. Jordan led this particular project investigating whether wildlife conservation can play a role in improving human health and well-being. Jordan made two trips to the island of Madagascar for this research, and in collaboration with Association Mitsinjo, the University of Antananarivo, and students from the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine and Emory University, Jordan participated in all parts of the project from wildlife field sampling to helping with survey design and analysis and presentation of results at national conferences

—Sarah Zohdy, Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Mechanics of Professional Polo Players Exhibiting Pain vs. Players Without Pain

Student Author: Abigail Brittain

Co-Authors: Dr. Gretchen Oliver

As one of the oldest sports still played today, it is somewhat surprising that very little data have been collected on the sport of equestrian polo.  Of the available data, the focus has been either on the kinematics and kinetics of the offside forehand swing1,2 or injury statistics3,4 of polo athletes.  No study has yet to link the two areas of focus: mechanics and injury. The purpose of this study to identify significant differences in swing mechanics between female polo athletes with and without pain.

Ten female professional polo athletes (33.0 ± 10.4 yrs.; 1.69 ± 0.06 m; 66.9 ± 9.3 kg) participated.  After signing an informed consent and completing a health history questionnaire, participants were attached to an electromagnetic tracking system (trakSTAR™, Ascension Technologies, Inc., Burlington, VT, USA) synced with The MotionMonitor® (Innovative Sports Training, Chicago, IL., USA).  Each participant then warmed-up and executed three match effort offside forehand shots from a wooden horse.  Warm-up time as well as equipment (mallet and helmet) were not standardized in effort to minimize testing environment adjustments.  Testing procedures were approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board prior to all testing.

Five of the ten participants indicated they were currently experiencing pain and five indicated having no pain, allowing for participants to be divided into two equal groups, those with pain and those without pain. Kinematic data were analyzed at three swing events: take away (TA), top of backswing (TOB), and ball contact (BC) (Figure 1). An independent samples t-test was conducted to determine significant correlations between trunk and swing-side shoulder kinematics and reports of current pain. Significant differences were calculated using IBM SPSS Statistics 21 software (IBM Corp., Armonk, NY) for normally distributed data with an alpha level set a priori at α = 0.05.  Significant differences were found between pain and shoulder elevation at TA (t (7.54) = 2.999, p = 0.18); shoulder horizontal abduction at TOB (t (7.061) = -2.868, p = 0.24); and shoulder elevation at TOB (t (7.322) = 3.030, p = 0.18).

Based on this study, polo players exhibiting pain display different kinematics of the offside forehand swing, compared to those with no pain. The findings of this study suggest that athletes who display higher shoulder elevation at TA and TOB, as well as greater shoulder horizontal abduction at TOB, may be more likely to also experience pain. This means that bringing the mallet excessively high and farther from the midline of the body may be related to incidence of pain susceptibility in polo athletes. The study supports previous work that reported higher forces at the elbow when shoulder horizontal abduction is greater.1 Based on these results, more research regarding pain location, kinematics, and kinetics is warranted.

Statement of Research Advisor: Abigail’s work documents some of the first data published regarding polo swing mechanics. Abigail was able to utilize her research experiences carry out a solid study regarding polo swing mechanics that will not only further the sport of polo but also world of sports medicine and biomechanics.

Gretchen Oliver, Kinesiology


Figure 1: Events of Offside Forehand Polo Swing


  1. Oliver GD, Barfield J, Gilmer G, Brittain A, Washington JK. Horizontal shoulder abduction and elbow kinetics in the offside forehand polo swing. European Journal of Exercise and Sports Science.
  2. Oliver GD, Gilmer G, Barfield J, Brittain A. Swing mechanics of the offside forehand inprofessional female polo athletes. Journal of Orthopedic Research and Therapy. 2018.
  3. Costa-Paz M, Aponte-Tinao L, Muscolo DL. Injuries to polo riders: a prospective evaluation. Br J Sports Med. 1999.
  4. Merlini VL. A case study of the equestrian sport of polo: An integrative approach to issues of structure, function, and interaction. University of Connecticut, Doctoral Dissertations. 2004.

Grammatical Gender Lab Assistant Position Available

Lab Description: When learning Spanish as a second language, native English speakers (NES) face grammatical gender, i.e. the classification of a word as male or female.  Grammatical gender influences the connotative meaning of the word. In Spanish, besides morphological rules for assigning gender (i.e. female words ending in “a” and males words ending in “o”), gender assignment relies on other less clear-cut rules.  Some English words have a perceived gender. NES learners of Spanish rely on morphological rules, or on the natural gender of the word-referent (e.g. cow vs. bull) to assign word gender.  Beyond these clues, NES may use the perceived gender of the corresponding English word.  This study attempts to elucidate if the perceived gender of an English word affects the speed and accuracy of the gender assignment to its Spanish translation. 

Benefits: Lab Experience, learn useful programs like Eprime and SPSS, build facility relationships, continue into more research projects, possible publication

Time Commitment: Rough Idea= 3 hours per week, weekly meeting with Dr. Lazarte

If Interested: Contact Dr. Lazarte and express your interest! Sent up a time to meet and discuss any questions and how to get started! Dr. Lazarte’s email:; please make the subject line “Grammatical Gender Lab Assistant Inquiry” 

Mentor Spotlight: Sushil Bhavnani

Sushil Bhavnani

Sushil Bhavnani, Associate Department Chair and Endowed Professor for Auburn University’s Mechanical Engineering program, began conducting research during his graduate studies at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. Bhavnani said he was blessed with excellent mentors for both his masters and doctorate who had a tremendous impact on his research journey.

“Those interactions at an impressionable age have helped guide my actions with my mentees,” Bhavnani says.

Bhavnani’s primary research focuses on the cooling of electronics. Bhavnani’s main research goal is to keep cell phones and large computers that are in data centers like Google, Walmart, eBay, and Amazon operating at low temperatures. The purpose of Bhavnani’s research is to guarantee these electronics are the most efficient they can be and last longer.

When mentoring students, Bhavnani identifies goals he wants his undergraduate students to accomplish. Bhavnani said he expects outstanding students not only to accomplish the goals he assigns, but to show independence and take ownership of projects by creating additional goals using their own creativity.

“My principle for research has always been to recognize that it is a service activity. It is a service activity to prepare younger minds to enter the field of research,” Bhavnani says.

With more than 30 years at Auburn University Bhavnani, said he has had the privilege of interacting with approximately 400 students in a research capacity.