Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Synthetic Biology Approach to Neurotransmitter Regulation in the Piglet Gut."

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Fall 2015 - DURI
Research area(s):
biological engineering, synthetic biology, microbiology, neuroscience
Project Description:
The goal of this project is the generation of probiotic controls for the inoculation of piglets. Moving piglets from their litter environment to a larger pen causes social and dietary stress, a regiment of probiotics is being explored to decrease the stress felt during this time. Undergrads will work with synthetic biology techniques to generate bacteria capable of upregulating and downregulating specific neurotransmitters present in the guts of fetal pigs. These will act as controls to the natural probiotic regiments also being explored. Neurotransmitter biosensors from Dr. Rickus’s lab will be used to assay the bacterial production and Dr. Eicher’s lab will be overseeing the inoculation of the piglets.
Expected Student Contributions:
Interns will initially work with plasmid DNA and competent bacteria to create a stain capable of expressing the proteins associated with neurotransmitter production. They will then transition to preforming assays on these constructs to characterize their nature and performance under various conditions of pH and temperature.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
Applicants should have a basic understanding of micro-bio lab techniques. Be an independent learner and have a passion for synthetic biology.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 2 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Rickus, Jenna
agricultural and biological engineering

Student Supervisor

Jenna Rickus & Susan Eicher

Cooperating Faculty

Susan Eicher
Animal Sciences, Agriculture