Senior Thesis

Members of the Biology faculty pride themselves on being able to offer Villanova undergraduates the opportunity to be involved in meaningful biological research. We welcome all qualified students to consider including a research experience in their undergraduate curriculum.

Undergraduate research may be conducted over a single semester, or over more than a year. To get a taste of research, students may arrange with a faculty member to take Directed Research (Bio 6509), in which they complete a project lasting one semester. Any Biology major having a GPA of at least 3.0 can work toward a senior thesis (Bio 6609, 6610, 6709) that would involve at least two semesters of research for credit.

Completion of the full Senior Thesis sequence will fulfill the Castone Requirement in the Core Curriculum.

List of Recently Completed Senior Theses

Student   Mentor Thesis Title
Kristen Adorno
  Dr. Bernard Lopez Prevalence of unreported CAM use and drug-drug interactions in non-English speaking emergency department (ED) patients
Dan Amor   Dr. Desmond The role of focal adhesion kinase in brain expansion of the early embryo
Ashveen Bains   Dr. Curry Genetic change in a moving hybrid zone via markers from next-generation sequencing
Jeffrey Chen   Drs. Balsamo & Langley Effect of Biochar  on the growth rate of switch grass and soil respiration
Michael Connor Dr. E. Youngman Investigating a role for small RNAs in mRNA quality control in polymorphic strains of the nematode C. elegans
Michelle Corso   Dr. Balsamo Lead uptake in Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in response to pH variation
Courtney Curran   Dr. Chapman How does Deepwater Horizon Oil impact salt marsh microbial communities?
Emily Duwan   Drs. Russell & Gibbs Estimates of bioerosion through rock ingestion by the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus
Edithrose Fairweather   Drs. Gibbs & Russell Does calcein affect growth and immune response in the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus?
Erin Geraghty   Dr. Russo The effects of the endocrine disrupting compound Bisphenol A on the morphology of mouse liver tissue
George Hanna   Dr. Russo Novel technique for intraluminal uterine injections of Vivo-morpholinos in-vivo in the OVX rat model
Laura Madigan   Dr. Palenchar Kinetic characterization and cofactor alteration of Trypanosoma cruzi Beta-Hydroxybutyrate Dehydrogenase
Christina Martin   Dr. Knepper Development of a vector for regulatable expression of fliz1 in human and mouse cells: the effect of fliz1 on mammary gland cells
Alison Presti   Dr. DiBenedetto Analysis of miRNA Expression in brd2 Knockdown Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Embryos
Sara Radecki   Dr. Knepper Knocking out the expression of fetal liver zinc finger protein (FLIZ1) decreases mobility in mammary tumor cells
Adam Santoro   Dr. Knepper Fliz1 affects epithelial morphology of breast tumor cells
Michelle Schlaubitz Garcia   Dr. M. Youngman SMK-1 regulation of DAF-16-mediated immunity during aging in C. elegans
Noor Shaik   Dr. Wykoff Using fluorescent markers in cells and flow cytometry to measure the selective pressures in yeast
Rachel Amiano   Dr. Olson Effect of Oxidative Stress and Vitamin E on Avian Uncoupling Protein mRNA Expression in Pectoralis Muscle of European Starlings
Caitlin Billingham   Dr. Olson Social Determinants of Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Severe Jaundice in Newborns and its Impact on Healthcare Delivery 
Chris Cali   Dr. Knepper Understanding Resistance to Breast Cancer Therapy: The Role of Fliz-1 in Regulating Tamoxifen
Mary Corrigan   Dr. Wykoff The Fate of Linear DNA in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida glabrata 
Katy Dynarski   Dr. Vile Molybdenum, Phosphorus, and Nitrogen Availability Control Rates of Biological N2-Fixation in Boreal Peatlands
Dan Goldowsky   Dr. Knepper The Influence of FLIZ1 Expression on Tamoxifen Sensitivity in Human Breast Cancer 
Rebekah Green   Dr. DiBenedetto Toxicological Effects of the Fracking Chemicals Boric Acid, Ethylene Glycol and Gluteraldehyde on the Developing Zebrafish Embryo
Sydney Lee   Dr. DiBenedetto A PTZ Zebrafish Kindling Paradigm for the Study of Epilepsy Susceptibility
Michael Peel   Dr. Wykoff The Utility of Promoter-YFP Constructs in Understanding Transcriptional Rewiring
Melissa Skoryk   Dr. Olson Acute and Chronic Responses of Antioxidant Enzyme Levels to Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress in the Gastrocnemius Muscle of Mice
Laura Solomon   Dr. Wilson Expression of the Conserved Stress Survival Protein YdcI in a Broad Range of Bacteria
Vimvara Vacharathit   Dr. Bamezai Examining the Effects of Sca-1/Ly-6A Knockout on B, NK, and NKT Cell Development in Mice
Ciambella, Chelsey   Dr. Russo An Analysis of the Estrogenic activity of combinations of Bisphenol A, Genistein and 17β-Estradiol in the reproductive tissue of the mouse
Cirullo, Michael   Dr. Wykoff Identifying segments of the PMU2 gene that confer phosphatase activity
Donovan, Kelly   Dr. Gardner Novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy
Esernio, Jessica   Dr. Russo Analysis of the effects of the Endocrine Disrupting Compounts Bisphenol A & Genistein on Mouse  
Hagerty, Shannon   Dr. Langley Methanogenesis in response to sea level rise: A potentially potent climactic feedback
Kuhn, Arianna   Dr. Jackman Phylogeny and phylogeography of the genus Trachylepis (Reptilia: Scincidae) using mitochondrial and nuclear loci
McManus, Sean   Dr. DiBenedetto Intracellular ice formation during freezing of MRC-5 cell suspensions
Palanivel, Reena   Dr. Chapman Microbes mend oil spills? Investigating how nitrogen impacts oil degradation
Patra, Sayani   Dr. Russo Generation of siRNA-loaded biodegradable nanoparticles for use in an in vivo rodent model system
Quinn, Andrew   Dr. Orkwiszewski Algae derived freen energy: Digestion of C. coeruleus by cellulolytic Hydrogen producing bacterium
Rivera, Gabriel   Dr. Olson Effects of training on exercise-induced oxidative stress in liver and kidney of mice
Rocha, Nicole   Dr. Jackman Multilocus analysis and phylogeography of the Pachydactylus serval/weberi clade
Saunders, Justin   Dr. Knepper Cellular localization and protein interaction of Transmembrane Protein 170, a potential oncogene
Smith, JJ   Dr. Russell Diurnal movement and feeding patterns of the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, on different substrates
Soni, Anjali   Dr. Wilson Is the Low Fluid Shear Response conserved in Enterobacteriaceae?
Tyler, Logan   Dr. DiBenedetto AnalEYESing the role of Brd2 in visual system development
Wang, Tianjiao   Dr. Knepper Binding of zinc finger protein Fliz1 to the regulatory region of the gene encoding GATA-3 in mouse mammary gland cells
Student Mentor Thesis Title
Lauren Acosta Knepper The effects of the down regulation of Tmem170 on cell and tumor growth in BALB/c mice
Caitlin Armstrong Olson The role of avUCP in short-term and long-term cold acclimation of Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata)
Thomas Castle Iyengar Close encounters of the unkind: the role of male aggression in reproductive isolation between sympatric damselflies
Kathleen Crosby Wilson The effect of mutations in unexplored Salmonella typhimurium regulatory genes on host cell interactions
Kate Devine Chapman The effects of nitrogen addition and depletion on invasive plant cover and herbivory
Sean DeWolf Bamezai Sca-1/Ly-6A is involved in sex-specific murine B lymphocyte development
Courtney Fox Olson Ontogenetic growth and development of pectoralis muscle in precocial Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica)
Eliza Fradkin DiBenedetto The role of Brd2 in the control of proliferation during Zebrafish central nervous system development
Hayley Hanby DiBenedetto The effect of zygotic Brd2 knockdown on the susceptibility to epileptic behavior in a zebrafish (Danio rerio) seizure model
Charles Hannon Wykoff

Identifying the role of Inositol Heptakisphosphate as an intracellular signal in the phosphate transduction pathway in Schizosaccharomyces pombe

Michelle Harris Wieder Effects of community assemblages on Sphagnum peat decomposition
Antonio Pullano Chapman Herbivores and microarthropods impact American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) leaf litter decomposition
Agnes Reschke Olson Effect of diet and migratory training on ketone body metabolism in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)
Christina Riley Olson

Malaria transmission in regards to climate change

Tom Ruffino Wykoff Determining the regulatory sequence of the PHO1 promoter in phosphate starvation
Kelly Thomas Russo An analysis of the potential effects of the phytoestrogen genistein as an endocrine disruptor in reproductive tissues in the mouse
Antonio Nathan Villamor Wilson DNA Binding Activities of the Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium YdcI Protein
Chong Wai Tio Knepper Sequence analysis of mouse mammalian tumor virus integration sites
Karen Zusi Curry Song repertoire composition and structure in Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis): implications for mate choice within hybridizing populations

How much research you complete is up to you, in consultation with your advisor and supervising faculty member—but the effort is virtually never wasted: few things can better help you stand out from your competitors when it comes time to apply for graduate school, professional programs, or employment. Until you try your hand at research, you can’t make an informed decision about pursuing (or ruling out) many career options.

How do I get started in research at Villanova?

Learn about the research activities of our faculty as soon as you can. Visit the faculty pages on this web site to gain a sense of what different members of the faculty do. Follow this up by going to see any faculty member whose work interests you: make an appointment, or just drop by during office hours. It never hurts to ask about opportunities that might exist!

Work part-time as a laboratory or field assistant during the regular school year, or over the summer. Ample opportunities exist for helping faculty and their graduate students in the tasks that are central to biological research, while earning hourly pay. Duties may include laboratory preparation, care of animals, preparation of specimens, computerized data entry, or collection of data or samples in the lab or field. Working in several different labs can expose you to a range of possibilities for independent study, while helping you get to know several different faculty with whom you might want to work. Some faculty members will suggest a project to get you started; others would prefer to see you develop a general interest in the work being done, from which ideas for a specific project can develop. Experience gained in this way at Villanova or elsewhere can develop into an independent research project.

One key to research success is to get involved as early as possible during your undergraduate career. Beginning senior thesis research in the fall of your Senior year might be OK for someone doing only library research, but scientific research in the laboratory or field usually involves unpredictability and therefore frustration and delays. The amount of time needed to complete a project often varies by biological subdisciplines. In molecular biology, for example, it may make sense to wait until you have taken advanced coursework before attempting a laboratory project. (Still, there’s much to be gained from prior exposure to the activities of a lab as an hourly worker assisting with the research.) Also, lab-based biology can usually be done throughout the year, including winter, so you can work throughout Senior year. In contrast, research in field biology (e.g., ecology or behavior) may require more advance planning, especially if a phenomenon of interest (e.g., breeding or germination) only occurs during the summer. It’s not uncommon for students doing ecological studies to begin working with a faculty member during their Sophomore year, with their major “push” for data collection taking place during the summer between their Junior and Senior year. The earlier you have data in hand, the more time you will have to complete a satisfying and scientifically valuable senior thesis.

The commitment of time and effort required for completing a senior thesis is probably going to be greater than you might think. Your senior thesis will involve extensive planning, data collection, analysis, and preparation of the thesis document (usually a report comprising 20 or more pages, along with figures and tables reporting your original results). Thus, a thesis is not worth doing unless you are able to make this a high priority during your Senior year (and, perhaps, the year before that). And yes, it does involve a lot more work than that required for the biology degree. Still, completing a thesis is without doubt worth the effort if done well. You have an opportunity at Villanova to gain research experience through work on a thesis that students at many schools are not given. Further, it will give you an opportunity to make a scientific contribution that will be significant in your applications to graduate and professional school. The Department of Biology would be happy to see more of its majors succeed in meeting this challenge.

Students completing the degree requirements for the Bachelor of Science, Honors Program (B.S.H.) are required to complete a Senior Thesis, but you do not have to be an Honors major to do research for a thesis; you just have to be an interested Biology major with a GPA over 3.0.

Research funding

Opportunities exist to obtain financial support for your research activity. In particular, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences now has a generous program for Undergraduate Research Grants for summer work or for research during the school year. Students conducting research under the direction of Biology faculty mentors have had great success in this program. Additional possibilities exist for support from faculty research grants or from external student award programs. Contact your advisor or research mentor for more information.