FIRE+ Next-Step Research Opportunities

We have something new for you. Students who comeplete the 3-semester FIRE sequence are candidates for FIRE+ research groups. What is a FIRE+ research group? It's simple. It's the perfect next-step after you have spent a year with a FIRE research stream. FIRE+ research groups are directly led by UMD faculty members who seek small teams (5 students max) to attack specific research projects. These faculty members are interested in you, FIRE students, for everything we told you you would have at the completion of FIRE: training, perserverance, leadership, responsibility - the capacity to get things done.

What's the next step for you? Pretty simple, actually. First, read about these research opportunities. Next, use the form at the bottom of this page to apply. It's that simple. There are a very, very limited number of spots. We will be back in touch in about a month regarding next-steps and outcomes of our evaluation of your application.

What's the commitment? Easy answer: FIRE+ research groups operate semester to semester. We ask that if you apply you are prepared to commit for an entire semester but can change your mind on a semester-to-semester basis.

Finally, it should be noted that while FIRE is providing funding to support these faculty members and the consumables you will use in your research, there are no credits or appointments associated with FIRE+ research groups. No classes, no assignments, no credits.

Dr. Alexa Bely - Department of Biology

The Bely Lab has been studying regeneration in segmented worms for many years and we have successfully engaged undergraduate students in projects comparable to ones planned for this FIRE+ Research Group project. I have continuously involved undergraduates in my lab since my first year on campus, having actively engaged 45 undergraduates in my research program at UMD since 2003. I have typically had 3-6 undergraduates in my lab working at any one time, so the scale of the involvement for this FIRE+ Research Group project is one with which I have extensive experience.

Students engaged in this Regeneration FIRE+ research project will be involved in two complementary dimensions of research on regeneration, one focused on the evolutionary biology of regeneration and the other focused on the developmental biology of regeneration. Research related to the first dimension will focus on the questions: How does regeneration ability vary across species, and what are the inferred broad patterns of regeneration evolution? This work will engage students in organism-level experiments to determine the regeneration capabilities of several different species. Students will gain experience in performing controlled experiments on a range of species (involving worm culture, amputation, photodocumentation), develop an understanding of evolutionary inference, and gain appreciation of species diversity. Research related to the second dimension will focus on the question: what developmental genes are involved in the regeneration process? This work will engage students in molecular-level experiments on one focal species (Pristina leidyi) to characterize the spatial and temporal expression patterns of developmental genes during the regeneration process. Students will gain experience in molecular and developmental techniques and become familiar with the major developmental steps involved in regeneration. By studying both evolutionary variation in regeneration and molecular processes of regeneration, students will be exposed to a range of scientific approaches and gain an integrated understanding of the process of regeneration.

Dr. James Culver - Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

With an expanding population predicted to reach 9.5 billion by 2050, world resources are increasingly being stretched. One important question is how do we feed a growing population without causing irreparable harm to our environment? Worldwide plant diseases are responsible for significant losses to food, fiber and forage crops. In addition, current disease control methods typically involve the use of pesticides that can negatively impact the environment and human health. Efforts in this project will expose students to cutting edge gene editing methods aimed at conferring both ecologically and economically beneficial forms of resistance against plant viral pathogens. Specifically, students will use bioinformatic systems to mine next-generation transcriptional data for the identification of host genes involved in virus pathology. Students will then use modern gene-editing technologies to disrupt the identified host genes within a model plant system and examine the impact these disruptions have on virus infection. This project will be integrated into existing USDA-NIFA and NSF awards within Dr. Culver's laboratory that combined provide a greater opportunity for students to present their findings at local and national meetings, publish their work in scientific journals and secure paid REU summer internships.

This project builds off existing research grants from the USDA-NIFA and NSF that are directed at identifying host factors contributing to plant viral infections in Arabidopsis, tobacco and plums. In fact, a newly recommended NSF project includes funds for a minimum of two undergraduate summer internships for each of the three years of the project. Dr. Culver sees the participation of undergraduate students in these projects as essential to their success. In particular, Dr. Culver is interested in building a team-oriented research environment that will both expose students to basic scientific design and methodology principles while at the same time advancing a cutting edge research project. The team will have dedicated bench space in Dr. Culver's laboratory and will be directly supervised by Dr. Culver. In addition, a post-doctoral associate and graduate student involved in these projects will also be available to assist in mentoring the team.

Dr. Ming Hu - School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation

The building sector has the largest potential for delivering long-term, significant, and cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reduction, as buildings account for 47.6% of total primary energy use and 44.6% of CO2 emissions in the United States (EIA 2012), and existing building retrofit and renovation could play an important role. Every year, approximately 1 billion square feet of buildings are demolished and replaced with new construction in the United States. In the meantime, indoor environmental quality has become an issue of increasing concern among occupants, and a majority of Americans spend 80% of their time indoors.

This project will propose a method for assessing building renovation and retrofit strategies with the goal of increasing energy efficiency and reducing environment and human health impact. The methods include the life cycle energy consumption (LCE) analysis, life cycle environmental impact(LCEI) analysis, life cycle cost (LCC) analysis and indoor environment quality (IEQ) assessment. This project intends to provide a methodology that can assess economic, indoor environmental quality, and specifically environmental aspects associated with the energy demand of such strategies from a comprehensive view. Using a case study, building renovation and retrofit packages are placed in context with other necessary measures required to improve environmental performance in buildings while reducing the impact on environment and building occupancies.

The proposed method will be further tested and analyzed by working together with facility management office on campus and apply this new method in one case study - one building on a college park campus. To verify the methodology, the research team will create two renovation and adaptive-reuse design strategies for one worst performed building on college park campus and renovation result will be simulated and compared in each of those four categories: LCE, LCEI, LCC and IEQ. The resultant of this project could: 1) provide a real life scenario an interdisciplinary learning environment for student by working on building on campus; 2) create a project-based and research-based teaching and learning module. 3) stimulate broad interest in built environment among students and teach student design innovation and leadership skills.

Dr. Patrick Killion - FIRE & The Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost

Our first-semester course (FIRE120) continues to grow and evolve over time. For the 2015-16 cohort of FIRE students, we introduced the first year of the course where we heavily increased the focus on research-based data analytics and visualization. This past year we used the Federal Election Commission public datasets to further demonstrate data acquisition, preparation, analysis and visualization in a manner that is linked with primary literature review.

What does the future hold? This is where I would like for you to be involved. The Federal Election Commission data was good - but not perfect. I'm after perfect. I want to work with a team of students who are interested in doing three things. First, help me find the ultimate public datasets that we can use as the training-ground for FIRE curriculum and instruction. I want a dataset (or preferably, multiple related datasets) that are compelling, both quantitiative and qualitative and interesting to a broad range of students. Second, I am interested in students who want to dig into to novel data-centric research projects for the raw possible research outcomes. Finally, I am interested in the development of an exemplar research project that will be used as a shining step-by-step example for the 600+ students we expect to have in our 2018-19 cohort.

Come be a part of my team and help me attack these goals. Wouldn't it be cool to say you helped create the next version of FIRE120?

Use the form below to apply for this exciting opportunity.