Undergraduate Research and Senior Thesis

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 subdiscipline. 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.

* Faculty Research Interest 2017.pdf
Faculty Research Interests 2017


Past Senior Theses

Teresa Cannone Dr. Samantha Chapman
How do elevated temperatures impact soil respiration rates in a nitrogen-saturated temperate forest ecosystem?
Patrick Frangos Dr. Janice Knepper
The Effect of Fliz1 Deregulation in Human and Mouse Breast Cancer Cells
Laura Graf Dr. James W. Wilson The expression of cloned S. Typhimurium Pdu microcompartments in other Gram negative bacteria
Dana Grieco Dr. Mike Russell
Agar-based diets for assessing nutritional value of sediment ingestion: the picky-eater sea urchin conundrum!
Erin Hannon Dr. Louise Russo
Characterizing the effects of GPER on estrogen- induced inflammation and matrix remodeling of rat uteri utilizing in-vivo morpholinos
Elsie Howell Dr. John Olson
Bilirubin and it's mediation of oxidative stress in the liver in response to acute and chronic exercise
Rebecca Lin Dr. Aimee Eggler
Role of reactive oxygen species in electrophile- mediated Nrf2 activation
Tara Malanga Dr. Adam Langley
Does nitrogen addition irreversibly alter soil microbial community composition and function?
Prem Patel Dr. Matt Youngman
Innate Immunity in Adult C. elegans Requires DAF-18, an Evolutionarily Conserved Phosphatase
Prasanth Romiyo Dr. Louise Russo
NF-kB Knock-Down in the Immature Rat's Uterine Inflammatory Response
Erin Rosenberg Dr. Elaine Youngman An examination of the regulatory architecture that governs Argonaute protein expression in the germline of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Jani Swiatek Dr. Janice Knepper
The role of ZC3H8 in breast cancer cell invasion, phenotypes, and in transcription through the Little Elongation Complex
Nicholas Ader Dr. Aimee Eggler Novel activators of the Nrf2/ARE pathway:  A quinone alone
Gabriella Arauco-Shapiro Dr. Todd Jackman Phylogenetic relationships and species boundaries of New Caledonian geckos Bavayia cyclura and Bavayia sauvagii using nuclear loci
Kaitlin Barney Dr. James W. Wilson The ydcI, yaiV, and STM1266 gene deletion mutations in Salmonella Typhimurium: can these improve vaccines?
Jiyoun Chun   Dr. Jan Knepper The Effect of Fliz1 Deregulation in Human and Mouse Breast Cancer Cells
Michael A. Fuery Dr. Louise Russo The Effect of the Endocrine Disrupting Compound Genistein on Estrogen Responsive Tissues in the Mouse
David Haas Dr. John Olson Effect of short- and long- term cold acclimation on avian uncoupling protein (avUCP) in muscle tissue of Zebra Finches
Matthew Haemmerle Dr. Angela DiBenedetto Investigating the Expression of Tumor Suppressor, Brd2b, in Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Development
Katrin Heider Dr. Angela DiBenedetto Potential Brd2a interaction sites with eng2a promoter
Alexandra Kinnally  Dr. James W. Wilson Testing the relationshiop between yaiV and oxidative stress resistance in bacterial survival: using the C. elegans model, oxidative stress assays, and deletions in Salmonella, Enterobacter and Cronobacter
Heather Kittredge   Dr. Samantha Chapman The effect of Warming on Potential Exoenzyme Activity in Soils
Julie Kurtz  Dr. Samantha  Chapman Investigating the role of plant soil feedbacks when mangroves are invading salt marshes
Allie Lamari Dr. John Olson Catabolic capacities in muscles of Zebra Finches after short- and long-term cold-acclimation
Paulina Rudy Dr. Louise Russo Longer-term effects of vivo-morpholinos on MEK1/2 knockdown in the ovariectomized immature rat
John Szot Dr. Bob Curry Song recognition in black-capped and Carolina chickadee hybrids: an experimental approach
Anita Uche Dr. James W. Wilson Role of surface components in biofilm formation mediated by cloned SPI-1 in Salmonella
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 brd2Knockdown 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
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 does one get involved in biological research at Villanova?

research image

Learn about the research activities of our faculty as soon as you can. In recent years, faculty members have made "guest appearances" in General Biology to introduce students to their areas of study. 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!

Get involved by working part-time as a laboratory or field assistant during the regular school year, or over the summer. Ample opportunities exist (at Villanova and elsewhere) 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.