Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program at Northeastern

The Biology of Resilience

Spend the summer in the heart of Boston living with a small cohort of like-minded undergraduate students learning about and doing exciting research. Ten students will be selected to participate in Lab research for ten weeks, from the end of May to beginning  of August.

This summer program immerses students in the world of research science, exposing them to various aspects of scientific investigation and preparing them for biologic science careers via workshops, lectures, presentations, and field trips. The program culminates in a Summer Research Symposium, where students present their research.

On This Page:

Essential Program Information/Apply

Schedule of Activities

Apply Now

Research Teams

Essential Program Information/Apply

Students learn how research is conducted, and many will have the opportunity to present the results of their work at scientific conferences. Students will use techniques at the cutting edge of biological research to answer new questions and will enhance their abilities to lead and perform in research teams.

Participants work with faculty advisors and lab members and will use techniques at the cutting edge of biological research to answer new questions and will enhance their abilities to lead and distinhuish themseleves in their research Labs. Our approach fosters a community of learning to help students grow as independent scientists with common goals.

2022 Program Details

Our planned 2022 REU program is dependent upon funds currently pending from NSF.

  • 10-week schedule: May31 – August 5, 2022
  • $5750 stipend, paid in two installments on weeks 5 and 10 of the program
  • Free on-campus housing with kitchenette plus meal card with 50 free meals
  • Students are responsible for their travel expenses
  • 35 hour/week laboratory research in lively interactive research labs
  • Seminars, educational and social activities, final research presentation

Am I Eligible?

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Undergraduate college students (rising sophomores through rising seniors, as of Summer of program)
  • US citizens or permanent residents only
  • Students majoring in biology, biochemistry, or other related disciplines
  • Strong interest in a career that involves scientific research
  • Women, first-generation college students, and students from groups underrepresented in the sciences are encouraged to apply
  • Active and prior service US military personnel are encouraged to apply
  • Preference will be given to students from institutions lacking doctoral research programs

Apply Now

Thank you for your interest in the REU program in the Department of Biology at Northeastern University. The deadline to submit your complete application is February 1, 2021.

Apply Here

The application requires the following:
  • College/School is “Science”
  • Program is “Research Experience for Undergraduates – Biology” NOT INTERNSHIP
  • Degree is “Non-degree”
  • Concentration/Specialty/Track is “Not Applicable”
  • Enrollment status is “Full-Time”
  • Entry term is “Summer” and year

Copies of unofficial transcripts

  • Enter this is the Supplementary section
  • In 500 words or less, please tell us about your aspirations as a scientist and how participating in this summer program fits in with your academic and career goals.  Please be sure to include your research interests.

In the Recommendations Provider List, add the names and contact information of two recommenders. The recommenders will receive an automated e-mail from the application system with a link to submit their recommendations online.

Select that you will be paying the fee by check and we will WAIVE the fee upon submission of your application.

Not required:

Test results, employment experience

Schedule of Activities

Memorial Day Weekend

Move in to your dorm in downtown Boston!

Week 1

  • Welcome and orientation
  • Introduction to labs/lab safety training
  • Team building
  • Proposal writing
  • Visit the New England Aquarium

Week 2

  • Research projects
  • Proposal revisions
  • Science of teamwork and team dynamics

Week 3

  • Research projects
  • Ethics – Responsible conduct of research
  • Visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts
  • Research projects
  • Writing scientific papers
  • Faculty member Dr. Dori Woods presents: Mighty Mitochondria
  • Visit Boston’s Museum of Science

Week 5

  • Research projects
  • Oral presentations and posters in science
  • Faculty member Dr. James Monaghan presents: Gene Regulation of Limb Regeneration – Insights from the Axolotl
  • July 3-5: Enjoy the holiday weekend! Fireworks on the Esplanade!

Week 6

  • Research projects
  • Graduate student panel
  • Faculty member Dr. Rebeca B. Rosengaus presents: The Termite Microbiome and its Role in the Evolution of Social Immunity
  • Walk Boston’s Freedom Trail

Week 7

  • Research projects
  • Ethics – Sticky situations
  • The science of teamwork and leadership
  • Faculty member Dr. Erin Cram presents: Feeling the squeeze: Mechanotransduction in the C. elegans reproductive system
  • Visit Boston’s Room Escape

Week 8

  • Research projects
  • Careers in biology (Speaker panel from industry, academics, and entrepreneurship)
  • Faculty member Dr. Veronica Godoy presents: Bacterial DNA Damage Repair Pathways
  • Kayaking trip

Week 9

  • Research projects
  • Program evaluation

Week 10

  • Research projects
  • Faculty member Dr. Kim Lewis presents: Thinking About Antimicrobials: From Puzzles to Discovery
  • Final presentations
  • Celebration Picnic and Lab Olympics!

Research Teams

REU students will work to creatively shape the projects to match their interests. REU students will be full participants in all usual lab activities including lab meetings and journal clubs. Mentoring and support will be provided by faculty advisors and lab members throughout the experience.

Research Project Summary: The goal of the project is to discover and characterize new antimicrobial compounds. REU students will selectively isolate bacteria from environmental samples before screening for antimicrobial activity. Potential antimicrobial-producing microorganisms will be specifically captured from environments after using next-gen DNA sequencing methods to prioritize samples. The screen will uncover compounds acting selectively against a given pathogen, providing a new type of specific antibiotic. These compounds allow producing bacteria to survive, a demonstration of biological resilience. The compounds will be characterized for activity against a variety of human pathogens. 

Student Involvement in Project: Under the direction of Professor Lewis, REU students will screen a compound library for selective activity against Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, and screen producing microorganisms against E. coli and S. aureus. Once compounds are identified, their mechanism of action will be studied.

What Students will Learn: Students will gain first-hand experience in experimental design, and in current techniques in microbiology and natural product chemistry.

Broader impacts of this project: There is a great unmet need for new antimicrobials, and this project will examine novel approaches to their discovery – species-selective screening; and focused access to attractive producers. Identifying compounds will validate these approaches, leading to their broad application. Beyond this study, the project will provide students with fundamental skills needed to address a broad range of questions in microbiology, natural product chemistry, and drug discovery. 

Research Project Summary: The goal of the project is to understand how animals cope with stress. How are they resilient in the face of oxidative stress? We use the nematode C. elegans, a small transparent roundworm with many advantages for genetics and cell biology for our studies. Our lab is focusing on neuronal control of oxidant protective responses. We expect to identify genes and processes that are important, not just for worms, but in the biology of all animals.

Student Involvement in Project: Students will help design experiments to reveal the importance of oxidative stresses in animal physiology, with a focus on neuronal control of physiological and behavioral responses to oxidative stress. Students will select candidate genes to study and will design and test their own hypotheses about how these genes might affect the animal’s response to oxidative stress.

What Students will Learn: Students will learn the fundamentals of designing, implementing, and interpreting experiments and communicating their results to others. They will learn how to disrupt gene function in C. elegans using RNA interference and genetic approaches including CRISPR-Cas9, will perform molecular cloning techniques including PCR, DNA electrophoresis, and DNA purification, will help make their own transgenic nematodes, and will visualize fluorescent proteins in living cells via microscopy. Students will learn how to properly use statistics and how to explain what they are doing to a broad range of scientists and non-scientists.

Broader impacts of this project: Students will learn to use the tools of molecular cell biology and genetics to address scientific questions. Through working in our research lab, they will gain confidence in themselves as capable scientists. Our program is designed to also help them build professional resilience, a key feature of a scientist, and to learn how to communicate their passion for science to others. The training that we offer will help them serve as ambassadors for STEM education when they return to their home institutions and move forward in their careers. 


Research Project Summary: The assembly of the multilayered bacterial envelope, which contributes to drug resistance and resilience against immune attack, is controlled by regulatory networks that respond to and alleviate external stress. The proposed studies will focus on dissecting the regulation networks controlling key elements of envelope biogenesis, including a protective outer membrane, capsule, and cell wall, in the refractory opportunistic pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii.

Student Involvement in Project: Students will develop hypotheses and design experiments to elucidate the signal transduction and regulatory pathways that respond to stress and modify synthesis of the cell envelope in A. baumannii. To test their hypotheses, students will target key proteins in the pathway by directed mutagenesis and molecular cloning and examine their role in modulating envelope synthesis and in mediating the response to stresses including antibiotic exposures.

What Students will Learn: Students will learn how to develop a hypothesis, design experiments that test the hypothesis, garner data through experimentation, analyze data, and interpret results. They will learn techniques in molecular biology including PCR, DNA/RNA extraction, and DNA cloning. They will learn how to manipulate A. baumannii genetically using recombinant DNA technology, CRISPR interference, and bacterial transformation/conjugation. They will learn how to study the bacterial envelope using protein and polysaccharide gel electrophoresis, fluorescence microscopy, and antibiotic resistance tests. Students will also learn how to effectively communicate their scientific findings to experts and non-experts through meetings and presentations. Broader impacts of this project: Students will learn how to use bacterial genetics and molecular biology to answer scientific questions about the biology of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They will gain an appreciation of the power of bacterial genetics and related techniques and will gain perspectives on strategies to undermine the protective barrier of bacteria and antibiotic resistance, an important societal problem. The students will develop confidence in being able to tackle difficult problems through science and will gain skills in communicating their scientific interests to their peers, ultimately enhancing their ability to enter STEM careers.

Research Project Summary: The DNA damage response (DDR) in A. baumannii depends on the expression of the recA gene encoding the cells’ main recombinase. In bacteria RecA is a multifunctional protein with roles in recombination and in induction of the DDR. Formation of single stranded DNA (ssDNA) is the hallmark of DNA damage due to disturbances in DNA replication. The ssDNA is bound by RecA forming the RecA nucleoprotein filament or RecA* that promotes the cleavage of a global DDR repressor, which in turn regulates the expression of the recA gene. Remarkably, in A. baumannii this elegant circuitry is only partially functional. The recA gene is regulated by an unknown transcription factor in response to DNA damage. Moreover, the levels of cellular RecA vary in response to DNA damage. There are cells with low and cells with high RecA. Our research has discovered a 5’ untranslated region (UTR) in the recA message that is responsible for the 2-cell phenotypes. Mutations in the recA 5’UTR that destabilize a potential structure result in induction of gene expression but only a low RecA cell type. This and other findings have led us to believe that the structure of the 5’ UTR is stabilized by an unknown regulator. We seek both recA regulators. Student Involvement in the project: students will develop hypothesis, design, and execute experiments to identify in vivo the recA regulators. Students will use as a host A. baylyi, a close relative of A. baumannii that does not form two-cell types because its recA gene lacks the 5’UTR. Students will use an A. baumannii UTR-recA fluorescent reporter and introduce it by transformation in A. baylyi and observe whether there is one or 2-cel types. The results of this experiment will illuminate the next steps. The student will help design the following experiments for which we already have several molecular tools.

What students will learn: They will learn the basics of designing, executing, and interpreting experimental results and communicating scientific discoveries to others. They will also learn about the bases of gene regulation and signaling cascades in a unique bacterial DDR. Students will learn how to use statistics to determine the statistical significance between samples. All students will learn about responsible conduct of research in the process of experimental science. Broader

Impacts of this project: results from these experiments will allow us to gain insights into the recA regulators, which will in turn provide a glimpse about how cells form phenotypically different types of cells with the same genetic information. The students will gain valuable knowledge about biological resilience in response to injuries in the DNA and the approaches used by different bacteria to do so. They will also learn about the process of science starting from observation to hypothesis and experimentation to science communication. Through the process students will learn that resilience is key to the scientific endeavor.  


Research Project Summary: The skin is a protective and highly durable barrier for the body. It provides a resilient barrier to injury. The repair of the skin barrier requires exquisite coordination of its epidermal stem cells to remain dormant or expand and replace damaged keratinocytes. In this project students will study the basic energetic processes used by skin cells to enable their rapid activation, proliferation, or differentiation in response to various forms of stress. Student

Involvement in Project: After reviewing the literature on skin energy metabolism, students will develop research hypotheses, design, and perform experiments and analyze data. Experiments will involve state-of-the-art assays to assess mitochondrial and non-mitochondrial energy processes in stem cells and fate committed keratinocytes. Students will also assess protein expression and enzyme activities of the relevant metabolic pathways to understand their biochemical changes.

What Students will Learn:  Students will learn several lab techniques related to fluorescent microscopy, luminescence reporter assays and quantitative protein expression analysis. They will learn how to trace the fate of energy sources and their consumption in living cells. Overall, students will become proficient in understand how metabolic analyses can reveal shifts in energy use by the cell as well as the biochemical and molecular assays that elucidate these processes. Moreover, students will learn how to critically evaluate their own work and place it in the context of prior literature of metabolism in other cell types and tissues.

Broader impacts of this project:Understanding how tissues repair and regenerate have implications for traumatic injuries, tumor formation and developmental growth defects. Studying stem cells and the physiological mechanism of their growth provides a strong foundation for future work in cell and molecular biology. Students will learn useful skills for STEM career development, including how to conduct research, performing the experimental processes of scientific work, and hypothesis development and testing responsibly and safely. 

Research Project Summary: Contractile non-muscle and smooth muscle cells perform many important biological functions, especially in tubular structures found in the gut, lungs, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Remarkably, contractability is constant, a good example of biological resilience. However, how cells regulate and coordinate their contractility in vivo is not well understood. We use a combination of techniques to explore the function of the gene regulatory networks required for contractility of cells in the reproductive system of the nematode C. elegans and use in vivo imaging to analyze calcium transients. Students will design projects to identify regulators of calcium signaling in the C. elegans reproductive system.

Student Involvement in Project: The student will select candidate genes to explore for function in the C. elegans spermatheca. They will develop hypotheses, design, and execute experiments to elucidate the role of these genes in regulating calcium signaling and contractility in the nematode. Using video imaging of nematodes expressing the calcium sensor, students will quantitatively analyze the role of their selected genes in this process.

What Students will Learn: All students will learn responsible conduct of research, the process of science, beginning with hypothesis development and testing. Students will gain proficiency in C. elegans genetics, biochemistry, and quantitative imaging.

Broader impacts of this project: Results of the experiments will help us understand contractile tubes, which is relevant to understanding the pathogenesis of hypertension and asthma in which the tubes have lost their resilience. 

Research Project Summary:The axolotl salamander has extraordinary regenerative abilities. Upon amputation of a limb, the axolotl can regenerate its entire limb to generate an exact replica of the missing structure. Although this process of biological resilience has been studied for over two hundred years, the cellular and molecular basis for limb regeneration is still incomplete. Recent advances in genome sequencing, tissue staining, and imaging has facilitated the discovery of which cells contribute to the regenerating limb and the genes involved in the process. Student involvement in the project: In this project, students will build upon previous screening experiments in our laboratory that has identified genes that are likely involved in the regeneration process. The students will perform tissue staining and imaging of regenerating limb tissue that was previously collected by the laboratory.

What Students will Learn: A recent method to stain mRNAs in tissues called hybridization chain reaction has become a powerful approach for imaging RNAs in fixed tissues. Our laboratory has adopted this method for the axolotl salamander to perform multiplexed imaging of mRNAs in salamander tissue sections and whole mount tissues. The students will use protocols developed in the laboratory to image mRNAs in tissue sections and whole mount tissues that are expressed in the regenerating limb. These experiments will provide key information on the cell types that express candidate genes, providing insight into their possible function.

Broader impacts of this project: The students will gain experience in modern staining, imaging, and image analysis techniques. The students will perform confocal imaging of tissue sections and lightsheet imaging of whole mount tissues. They will then perform image analysis include segmentation of the cells in the images using machine learning and quantitative measurements of gene expression in 2D and 3D tissues. This modern approach to a classic question in developmental biology will provide valuable experience in experimental design, execution of wet bench experiments, and modern computational analytical tools. 




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