Health Research Program

Dr. David Martinelli and Rohit Makol '20 (ENG).
HRP student researcher Rohit Makol ’20 (ENG), seated, works with David Martinelli, assistant professor of neuroscience at UConn Health, during summer 2017.

Program Overview
Application Deadline
How to Apply
Financial Support
Summer 2023 Research Opportunities

Program Overview

The Health Research Program offers a pathway into undergraduate research for students with interests in health and the biomedical sciences. By facilitating connections between UConn Health researchers and UConn undergraduates, this program involves more students in the cutting-edge research at the Farmington campus. The Health Research Program includes a combination of academic year and summer research opportunities, offering undergraduates and their faculty mentors a structure for sustained engagement in research projects, maximizing student learning and preparation for graduate study and/or careers in the health professions.

Information Sessions

For an overview of the program, students are encouraged to attend one of the following information sessions:

  • Monday, November 14th, 12:15-1:15pm – In-person – McHugh 201
  • Thursday, November 17th,  5:00-6:00pm – Online
  • Thursday, January 12th, 11:00am-12:00pm – Online
  • Tuesday, January 17th,  4:00-5:00pm – Online

Drop-In Advising

Virtual drop-in advising hours with Dr. Caroline McGuire will be held at this link at the following times:

  • Thursday, January 19th, 4:00-5:00pm
  • Friday, January 20th,  11:00am-12:00pm
  • Monday, January 23rd, 4:00-5:00pm


To be eligible for the Summer 2023 phase of the Health Research Program, a student applicant must:

  • Currently be pursuing a bachelor’s degree at UConn, and plan to graduate with that bachelor’s degree no earlier than May 2024. This includes students pursuing Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of General Studies, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and Bachelor of Social Work degrees.
  • Be a full-time student in good standing at a UConn campus during the Spring 2023 semester.
  • Be willing to continue their research involvement for Fall 2023 and Spring 2024.
  • Not have participated in any previous phase of the Health Research Program. Each student is eligible for a maximum of one placement and one summer stipend through the Health Research Program.

Beyond these general eligibility criteria, each individual opportunity description will specify the desired qualifications for that position.

Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted by January 30, 2023.

We expect that faculty will interview their leading candidates between February 1 and February 16, and offers will be made in late February 2023.

How to Apply

Research opportunity descriptions and application links are accessible in the Summer 2023 Research Opportunities section of this page. Each opportunity has its own description and application link. If you wish to apply for more than one opportunity, you must tailor your application materials to each opportunity’s requirements and submit an application to each opportunity that interests you. Please note that if you apply to more than one opportunity, OUR will send you a follow-up form in mid-February in which you will rank those opportunities in order of preference; your ranking must be submitted no later than 9am on Friday, February 17th. For guidance on how to use the application management system, please review the Quest Portal User Tips.

Financial Support

Stipend Support to Students

  • Students participating in the summer 2023 program will receive a $4,000 stipend for a commitment of 360 hours of summer research (10 full-time weeks).
  • Students may receive a maximum of one summer stipend over the course of their participation in the Health Research Program.
  • Academic year HRP student researchers (continuing research for fall & spring) may be eligible to apply for a $1,000 winter research stipend if they commit to completing 90 hours of winter break research.


Summer 2023 Research Opportunities

A time commitment of 360 hours (typically 10 full-time weeks) is expected for student researchers during the summer. Summer researchers will receive a stipend of $4,000 to cover the expenses associated with participating in this program (e.g., summer rent, meals, parking, etc.).

The names of participating faculty and a brief description of the research opportunities they are sponsoring are listed in the table below. Click on the relevant link in the third column to view more detail about the opportunity and access its application. The available opportunities can also be viewed in spreadsheet form here (Google Workspace login with UConn credentials required).

Faculty Mentor Project Description Opportunity Link
Dr. Corey Acker
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
This project is for the development of new and improved ways to study the electrical (action potential) signaling in cell culture models of disease. Custom fluorescence microscopy equipment is used along with patch clamp electrophysiology to control and monitor the voltage inside cells by recording voltage changes optically as well as electrically. Optical recordings will be applied to cell culture models including either human stem cell-derived heart cells or neurons. MATLAB is used for all aspects, from hardware control to data analysis. HRP SU23-1
Dr. Eran Agmon
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Department of Biomedical Engineering
For this summer project, the student will work on a computational model of bacterial interactions in the human gut microbiome. The student will write code to add new mechanistic details to the model of the microbiome, will simulate it, visualize the results, and evaluate the results by comparing with experimental data. The final model and results will be presented in a Python notebook and shared online for others to learn from. HRP SU23-2
Dr. Srdjan Antic
Department of Neuroscience
This is a basic science research project aimed at understanding cellular determinants of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We use an animal model of AD — mice carrying specific genes, which trigger development of amyloid plaques in the cerebral cortex. By the means of brain slice technology, electrophysiology (synaptic stimulation), and optical imaging (calcium and voltage imaging) we seek to determine if synaptic transmission in disease-free animals (Control) is any different from that occurring in the AD model animals developing amyloid plaques. The student will learn software for analysis of the optical imaging records (physiological), organization and presentation of measurements, some basic histology techniques for detecting plaques in saved brain sections, and if interested, the student may perform optical imaging of synaptically evoked depolarizations in brain slices working together with a postdoc. HRP SU23-3
Dr. Michael Blinov
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
Mathematical modeling of biological processes is important to gain an understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms and predict the dynamics and outcomes of experiments and medical interventions. Mathematical models describe interactions among components of biological systems. Models are implemented and simulated in the Virtual Cell ( software using GUI. We will develop an infrastructure and a set of small models (ModelBricks, that serve as building blocks for larger models. HRP SU23-4
Dr. Melissa Caimano
Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Molecular Biology and Biophysics
The project focuses on understanding how Lyme disease spirochetes alter their gene expression in response to tick and mammalian host signals. The summer research project will center on developing fluorescent (GFP) transcriptional reporters to localize DNA binding sites for regulatory proteins related to virulence. These constructs then would be transferred in spirochetes. If time allows, gene expression will be measured by microscopy and flow cytometry. HRP SU23-5
Dr. Leslie Caromile
Center for Vascular Biology, Department of Cell Biology
The overall objective of this study is to develop a well-defined 3D bioprinted in vitro/in vivo model that mimics the molecular, cellular, and metabolic interplay occurring in the bone-tumor microenvironment of metastatic prostate cancer and confirm that it is responsive to targeted and non-targeted diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. HRP SU23-6
Dr. Manuel Castro-Alamancos
Department of Neuroscience
The project is for students in the fields of data science, engineering, computer science, applied math, statistics, psychology, or neuroscience that have programming skills in Python, R, and/or Labview and who are interested in helping develop tools for automated analysis of complex data pipelines originating from neuroscientific experiments addressing the neural basis of behavior in mice. The student would be involved in developing the software tools used to control the experiments (actuators and computer vision) and analyze the data from these experiments (data models). Opportunities to also participate in the research by conducting experiments are also available. HRP SU23-7
Dr. Steven Chou
Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Using the red blood cell cytoskeleton to probe the structural basis of actin polymerization by formins. Aim 1. Isolation of the short actin filaments in human red blood cells. Aim 2. Architecture of short actin filaments alone. Aim 3. Association of FH2 domains to the short actin filaments. Aim 4. Structural basis of actin nucleation and polymerization by different FH2 domains. Aim 5. Inhibition of pathological Formin-mediated actin polymerization. HRP SU23-8
Dr. Jessica Costa
Center for Molecular Oncology, Center for Regenerative Medicine and Skeletal Development
Our research focuses on modeling of parathyroid tumorigenesis and the related Hyperparathyroidism-Jaw Tumor syndrome. The student will assist in phenotypic characterization of genetically modified mice including: assisting in mouse colony management, blood collection, tissue harvest, rotary sectioning of fixed tissue, immunohistochemistry and measurement of serum calcium and PTH. Student will also be involved in primary culture of harvested tissues. HRP SU23-9
Dr. Caroline Dealy
Departments of Craniofacial Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Orthopedic Surgery, and Cell Biology
Diagnostic tests that accurately reflect cellular physiology are critical for predicting patient response to cancer drugs. Our group has identified a human blood protein whose levels in circulation correlate with aging and cancer. Surprisingly, this circulating protein is produced via alternate splicing of a gene that previously was only known to produce a membrane-bound protein. The membrane-bound protein has multiple roles in development, health, and disease and is the target of several major cancer drugs; however, the efficacy of these drugs is variable and does not correlate with tumor expression of the membrane-bound protein. We propose this is because available diagnostic tests fail to account for the circulating isoform, which we believe regulates the function of the membrane-bound protein. Indeed, we have found that the relative proportions of the two alternatively-spliced transcripts vary across a wide range of normal and developing tissues in mice, suggesting that production of the different protein isoforms is tightly regulated and may relate to specific functions carried out by different tissues. The goal of this summer project is to correlate the relative proportions of the alternately-spliced transcripts to the relative amounts of the two protein isoforms they encode. Approaches will include quantitative PCR, Western Blot, and ELISA. The information obtained will be first-of-its-kind and is critical for foundational understanding of the physiological role of the circulating protein and its potential as a future cancer diagnostic. HRP SU23-10
Dr. Anne Delany
Department of Medicine, Center for Molecular Oncology
The goal of this summer project is to identify novel mRNA targets for microRNAs (miRNAs, small noncoding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression). Students will learn key aspects of miRNA and bone cell biology. Regarding technical skills, students will learn to: clone specific DNA fragments from mouse genomic DNA into a plasmid vector, transform bacteria, isolate plasmid DNA, perform diagnostic restriction endonuclease analysis, culture and transfect mouse cell lines, perform luciferase assays, and critically analyze data. Students may learn to isolate RNA and perform qRT-PCR. HRP SU23-11
Dr. Alix Deymier
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Your teeth are made up of 2 main parts: enamel and dentin. These 2 very different materials are connected to each other via a very unique interface called the Dentin-Enamel Junction (DEJ). In theory, the DEJ should be a very weak interface, but instead it is extremely fracture resistant in healthy individuals. One the other hand, people with certain genetic diseases like osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), brittle bone disease, have very weak DEJs. Our goal is to compare the structure and composition of DEJs from teeth that are healthy and those that have OI to understand what gives this interface its unique properties. HRP SU23-12
Dr. Zhichao Fan
Department of Immunology
This project will work on small molecular drug screening to identify potential drugs to inhibit neutrophil recruitment during inflammatory diseases. We have accomplished a drug screening and found several hits for further exploration. The summer student will work with a graduate student on this project to confirm the effects of hits on inhibiting neutrophil integrin activation and adhesion. In vivo experiments on mice might be performed to demonstrate physiological relevance. HRP SU23-13
Dr. Mallika Ghosh
Department of Cell Biology, Center for Vascular Biology
Cell-cell fusion is a highly specialized process mediated by fusion regulatory proteins involved in a variety of diverse cellular function. CD13, a transmembrane protein that we study in my lab, controls many events including adhesion, migration, membrane organization, and endocytosis that are all critical in cell-cell fusion. We hypothesize that CD13 is a negative regulator of cell-cell fusion during osteoclastogenesis and macrophage giant cell formation, and thus is a novel target for therapeutic intervention in pathological conditions mediated by defects in cell-cell fusion such as osteoporosis and failure of medical implants such as hernia mesh or glucose sensor. HRP SU23-14
Dr. Carolyn Greene
Department of Psychiatry
I am seeking an undergraduate student researcher to assist with the Cultural Understanding of Emotions Study (CUES) a research study investigating emotion socialization processes in Latinx families. The student researcher will assist with the cultural and linguistic adaptation and piloting of a measure of parental emotion socialization behaviors, and will also assist with implementation of a national on-line survey, as well as with other study tasks. The student researcher will have the opportunity to develop a poster or paper on a research question of their choosing, related to children’s emotion regulation, parents’ socialization behaviors, and children’s functioning. Data for the project can be drawn from (1) qualitative CUES study data from focus groups of Latinx parents discussing emotion processes in their families, or (2) data from a previous study on parent and child emotion regulation and emotion socialization. The student researcher will be expected to attend research team meetings. HRP SU23-15
Dr. Xiaoyan Guo
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
The student will have the opportunity to study the mitochondrial stress response signaling pathway in mammalian cells. Previous work from the lab has identified a novel pathway with OMA1-DELE1-HRI to relay mitochondrial dysfunction to the cytosol/nucleus. DELE1 is a messenger protein from dysfunctional mitochondria, which we still know little about. This summer project will focus on how DELE1 is imported to mitochondria using cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry approaches. HRP SU23-16
Dr. Christopher Heinen
Department of Medicine, Center for Molecular Oncology
Our lab uses CRISPR gene editing to recreate patient variants in the DNA mismatch repair genes in a human stem cell model system. The goal is to study the functional effects of these variants. Summer students will initially learn some molecular biology techniques to assist in validating the creation of these variant cell lines. As the project goes forward, there is the opportunity to learn some human cell culture techniques and perform some CRISPR editing. HRP SU23-17
Dr. Sivapriya Kailasan Vanaja
Department of Immunology
The primary focus of our research is to determine the mechanisms by which bacterial pathogens modulate host innate immune responses. Since innate immune responses play a crucial role in the clearance of infectious agents, it is natural that pathogens have developed strategies to inhibit the same. Our research aims to identify bacterial mechanisms that inhibit innate immune activation. The summer research opportunity will focus on identifying virulence factors of two enteric pathogens, Salmonella Typhimurium and Enterohemorrhagic E. coli, that can suppress a major innate immune pathway, the inflammasomes. The research strategy will involve working with bacterial mutants that lack specific virulence factors and determining their mode of action in innate immune cells such as macrophages. HRP SU23-18
Dr. Adam Kim
Department of Medicine
Our lab is interested in understanding how the immune system contributes to liver disease by utilizing patient samples, next-generation sequencing technologies, and bioinformatic analyses. In this project, we will use peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from patients with alcohol-associated hepatitis, challenge them with bacterial LPS, then perform single-cell RNA-seq to understand gene expression responses in different immune cell types. By using PBMCs isolated from males and females, we investigate sexual dimorphism in immune cell function and how that might contribute to disease. HRP SU23-19
Dr. Kshitiz
Department of Biomedical Engineering
We are exploring many parallels between cancer malignancies and pregnancy bringing many aspects of biology and medicine together. There are multiple interesting angles from which we approach these questions, involving integration across disciplines, so there is something for you whatever your interest. These include biophysics, animal work, tissue engineering, microscopy, computation, machine learning, bioinformatics, and preclinical projects. Specifically, we look at how cancer cells interact with stromal (non cancerous, non immune) cells, and in a similar vein how fetal cells interact with maternal cells. There are surprising similarities between the two very different phenomena and we will explore these in our various mini projects. HRP SU23-20
Dr. Sangamesh Kumbar
Department of Orthopedic Surgery
The project involves formulation and evaluation of sprayable/injectable bioengineered polymeric scaffolds for wound healing and drug-delivery application. Briefly, the student researcher along with the mentors will optimize the formula for the polymeric scaffold. Furthermore, the student researcher will use the formula to prepare the scaffolds which will then be evaluated to determine a variety of physical, chemical, and biological properties of the scaffold. The student researcher selected in this project will have the opportunity to learn various techniques of formulation of bioengineered scaffolds and in-vitro animal cell culture and understand all of the aseptic methods utilized in animal cell culture. HRP SU23-21
Dr. James Li
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
We study how the brain develops and how abnormal development contributes to brain disorders. We are using a number of approaches, including single-cell genomics and epigenomics, molecular biology, and experiments in stem cells and animal models (mouse and chick), to study the generation of various neurons and the assembly of neural circuitry, particularly in the cerebellum. Our multidisciplinary study will provide students with ample opportunities to explore different research approaches and identify a project that aligns with the individual’s skill, interest, and career goal. HRP SU23-22
Dr. Changchun Liu
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Nucleic acid-based molecular detection provides a highly sensitive and specific approach for rapid diagnostics of infectious diseases (e.g., COVID-19). In this summer project, we will design and fabricate microfluidic chips to detect nucleic acid molecules (e.g., DNA, RNA). We will use 3D printing technology to fabricate the chips. Please find more detail on our current research through the website: HRP SU23-23
Dr. Leslie Loew
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, Department of Cell Biology
The lab is using computational methods to understand cell function. The project will involve learning how to use a cell modeling software tool that was developed in my lab called SpringSaLaD ( You will use it to understand the molecular and cellular principles controlling the assembly of molecular machines composed of many individual molecules containing multiple binding sites. If you are interested in computer programming, there will also be the opportunity to work on improving SpringSaLaD. HRP SU23-24
Dr. Kevin Manning
Department of Psychiatry, Center on Aging
Older adults lost more than $1.7 billion to fraud last year. The current project aims to understand the cognitive, motivational, and emotional symptoms that contribute to financial decision making and susceptibility to scams. The student will learn to administer cognitive evaluations, conduct telephone screens asking about depression symptoms and history, and administer assessments of financial literacy and decision making to adults over the age of 60. Students will also learn about and contribute to data entry using databases like Redcap, Access, and SPSS. HRP SU23-25
Dr. Bruce Mayer
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
We work on new ways to visualize cell signaling pathways that are active in cells, particularly in cancer cells. We have developed a method based on the binding of fluorescent protein domains that can be used to quantify the tyrosine kinase signaling activity in single cells, based on fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. While the basic platform of the assays is well established, there is a great deal of work needed to optimize the method and validate it on different types of cell samples. This will provide the student with experience in assay and technology development, basic biochemistry skills, and cancer research. My group works closely with two other faculty, Dr. Kazuya Machida and Dr. Ji Yu, on developing these new assays. HRP SU23-26
Dr. Pedro Miura
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
This summer research opportunity would involve a mix of mammalian cell culture work, molecular biology, and next-generation sequencing dataset analysis (short-read, long-read and single cell RNA-Seq). The Dnmt3a gene generates two alternative length 3’UTRs in mouse and human neurons. The student will investigate the biological role of the long 3’UTR Dnmt3a isoform by analyzing CRISPR-deletion ES cell lines differentiated into glutamatergic neurons. HRP SU23-27
Dr. Megan O’Grady
Department of Public Health Sciences
The State of Connecticut has recently legalized recreational cannabis for adults. This change in policy may have impacts on public health, making it imperative that data be monitored and analyzed to study the impacts on youth and adult health across the State. This summer research opportunity will support the Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics at UConn Health in a research project related to cannabis legalization, specifically by contributing to a systematic review and policy analysis of data monitoring for adult cannabis legalization and preparation of a manuscript describing the findings. HRP SU23-28
Dr. Stefan Pinter
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
The Pinter lab studies genetic syndromes that change the expression levels of many genes residing on a single chromosome, for example Down syndrome (DS, trisomy 21) and Turner syndrome (TS, monosomy X). We have established human stem cell (iPSC) lines of these aneuploidies, along with isogenic euploid control lines, to model cellular phenotypes associated with these conditions. To correct the dosage of genes on chromosome X or 21, we use epigenetic (XIST RNA) and CRISPR tools to study their developmental impact, and map cellular phenotypes back to specific mis-expressed genes, for example, in our current preprint:
For the summer of 2023 we have both in-person research opportunities in cellular characterization of iPSC-derived cell types, as well as hybrid research opportunities in bioinformatics analysis of transcriptomic or high-content imaging data. Note: The Health Research Program has certain in-person participation requirements, including a presentation at Summer Research Day, that a student working in a hybrid arrangement would be expected to satisfy.
HRP SU23-29
Dr. Carla Rash
Department of Medicine
My lab does behavioral research related to treatment and behavior change, mostly around substance use disorder and/or interventions for severely disadvantaged groups. I have two ongoing projects: 1) an NIH-funded clinical trial that aims to use contingency management to help persons living with HIV/AIDS obtain employment; and 2) a SAMHSA-funded project that expands an existing medication-assisted treatment program for persons with opioid use disorders. These two projects are both located in Hartford and would provide opportunities to learn about working with clients, clinical trials, and conducting participant interviews. In addition, for those who are interested, I have finished studies that would be available for data analyses and possible submission of posters to local and/or national conferences. HRP SU23-30
Dr. Blanka Rogina
Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
The Indy (I’m Not Dead Yet) gene encodes a plasma membrane citrate transporter. We have shown that reduced expression of the Indy gene extends longevity in fruit flies by altering energy metabolism and preserving metabolic homeostasis. INDY regulates citrate levels, which occupies a central role in the regulation of glycolysis, lipid synthesis, and energy flux in the mitochondrion. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive, age-associated neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive impairment, and other mental functions. AD is associated with altered metabolism and impaired mitochondrial function. We are testing our working hypothesis that preservation of metabolic and mitochondrial function associated with Indy reduction will ameliorate metabolic imbalance associated with AD. We are using a fly model of human AD, which contains an amyloid precursor protein mutation associated with early onset AD in a Swedish pedigree (APPswe), and are investigating the effects of Indy reduction on metabolic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic changes associated with AD. HRP SU23-31
Dr. Archana Sanjay
Department of Orthopedic Surgery
The ongoing work in my laboratory focuses on characterizing skeletal stem/progenitor cells. We have developed several transgenic mouse lines. The summer research project will be to assist in characterizing these mouse lines using a variety of techniques including: frozen sectioning of bones, staining and imaging sections, gene expression by qRTPCR, and cell cultures. HRP SU23-32
Dr. Tannin Schmidt
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Lubricin is a multifunctional protein, with both lubricating and anti-inflammatory properties, that is present throughout the human body. While initially discovered and studied in synovial fluid as a lubricant of joints, we recently discovered it in tears, the ocular surface, and in the posterior of the eye. Recombinant human lubricin has been shown to be clinically effective in treating dry eye disease, improving signs and symptoms of dry eye disease in humans. This project will examine the biological (anti-inflammatory) properties of recombinant human lubricin in the context of disease(s) related to the eye. HRP SU23-33
Dr. Henry Smilowitz
Department of Cell Biology
Our lab, in collaboration with a small biotech company, has pioneered the use of non-toxic heavy atom nanoparticles (NPs) to enhance radiation therapy (RT) of tumors. Projects will involve proof of concept studies of the efficacy and microlocalization of both the INPs and a novel NP with exciting new properties for the treatment of tumors with an emphasis on brain tumors. Another project will study a novel NP for the delivery of inhibitory RNAs and/or microRNAS in combination with drugs to tumors–with an emphasis on brain tumors. We also have a atherosclerosis project using heavy atom nanoparticles to study atherosclerotic plaque progression and regression in live mice over time. Please see our cell biology blurb for our publications and research interests. HRP SU23-34
Dr. Timothy Spellman
Department of Neuroscience
The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain that is critically involved in processing attention, short-term memory, and rule learning. This project seeks to clarify the involvement of specific neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and dopamine, in allowing the cells of the prefrontal cortex focus attention on external cues, and to shift that focus when necessary. These are cognitive processes that are disrupted in a wide range of psychiatric diseases, which we are seeking to better understand. Students would be involved in carrying out behavioral neuroscience experiments, which will entail testing mice on tasks involving attention, and also using several different cutting-edge techniques for monitoring and manipulating the activity of specific cell types in the prefrontal cortex of the mice undergoing these tests. HRP SU23-35
Dr. Ali Tamayol
Department of Biomedical Engineering
We are developing a robotic bioprinter that can directly bioprint scaffolds within a patient’s body. As part of this effort, the candidate will work with our team to integrate the robot with a moving system that allows it to travel across the patient bed to cover different patient body parts. The system will be programmed and the quality of bioprinting will be tested in vitro. HRP SU23-36
Dr. Ephraim Trakhtenberg
Department of Neuroscience
We study how the brain develops and utilize gained knowledge to reverse-engineer regeneration of the brain tissue damaged by an injury or stroke. We employ a multidisciplinary approach spanning cutting edge genetics, epigenetics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, and gene therapy, which will provide a student with an opportunity to explore different approaches and select a project that aligns best with the individual’s career goals and interests. HRP SU23-37
Dr. Melanie Tran
Department of Nephrology
Chronic kidney disease is associated with accelerated and premature ageing of the kidney, which is characterized by cellular senescence. Moreover, accelerated tubular cell senescence promotes the pathogenesis of renal fibrosis. This research project aims to investigate signaling pathways that regulate cell senescence and renal fibrosis development. The student will gain experience in cell culture, immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, qPCR, Western blot, and mouse models of chronic kidney disease. HRP SU23-38
Dr. Oscar Vargas-Rodriguez
Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics
The summer research project aims to decipher the functional role of a family of proteins known as aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in bacterial pathogenicity. These proteins regulate protein biosynthesis and may enable pathogenic microbes to survive, adapt, and thrive in different environments, particularly within their host during colonization and infection. The student will perform standard molecular biology and biochemistry assays, including molecular cloning, protein, nucleic acid manipulation, enzymatic assays, and cell-based experiments. HRP SU23-39
Dr. Paola Vera-Licona
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, Center for Quantitative Medicine
This is a computational-based project where the student will identify combinations of perturbation to induce cell reprogramming in pancreatic beta cells. The student will have the opportunity to learn how to (1) use multi-omics profiles, including RNA-sequencing data, to reconstruct a signaling network of the biological system of interest, (2) apply our in-house and other computational tools for cell-reprogramming analysis, and (3) discuss and interpret the results and future steps, together with our collaborators. HRP SU23-40
Dr. Rajkumar Verma
Department of Neuroscience
Encephalomyosynangiosis (EMS) is a neurosurgical procedure with low morbidity that is applied to promote collateral vascular formation in patients with moyamoya disease, a condition with progressive narrowing of cranial arteries and consequent low blood flow that increases risk for ischemic stroke. Therefore, we hypothesized that EMS, which provides a local and robust tissue as a source of vascular endothelium and angiogenic growth factors, will supply growth factors for angiogenesis that could promote neuronal survival following ischemic stroke. As a proof of concept, we have established EMS surgery for the first time in mice after ischemic stroke. The student will be helpful in investigating EMS for treating ischemic stroke for the following overall goals: to determine if EMS promotes angiogenesis after a ischemic stroke, and to determine if EMS promotes long-term functional recovery after ischemic stroke. HRP SU23-41
Dr. Kepeng Wang
Department of Immunology
My lab is developing novel oncolytic viral therapies for advanced cancer. The project aims to generate a new viral platform that, when delivered systemically, homes to tumor in a specific manner. On top of the new platform, we are testing different immune modulating payloads to activate cancer-killing immune cells and bypass immune suppression. The student will generate new oncolytic viral agents, and test their safety and efficacy on mouse models of cancers. HRP SU23-42
Dr. Zhao-Wen Wang
Department of Neuroscience
We recently discovered that melatonin promotes sleep in the nematode C. elegans by activating the SLO-1 potassium channel through a specific melatonin receptor, PCDR-1 (Niu et al., PNAS 117: 25128-25137, 2020). This project is to identify the neurons where PCDR-1 and SLO-1 act to regulate sleep by analyzing activities of neurons in the C. elegans sleep neural circuit using a genetically encoded calcium indicator, and by correlating neuronal activities with worm sleep behavior. HRP SU23-43
Dr. Ping Yan
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
There is a research opportunity on developing new voltage sensitive dyes, which are used for imaging membrane potentials. The student will have broad hands-on experience on the synthesis of organic compounds, and test the newly developed voltage sensitive dyes using spectroscopic and microscopic methods, on model cell membrane, and even on real cells (in collaboration with Dr. Loew). HRP SU23-44
Dr. Ji Yu
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling, Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences
Our lab specializes in single-cell analysis of the cancer phosphoproteome. The specific student project involves acquiring profiling data on a subset of PBMC samples collected from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients. The student will: (1) Initiate the sample preparation pipeline and perform quality control evaluation; (2) Operate the automatic phosphoproteome profiling instrument to acquire data from the samples; (3) Perform quantitative evaluation of data quality. HRP SU23-45
Dr. Kristyn Zajac
Department of Medicine, Calhoun Cardiology Center
The Collaborative Hub for Emerging Adult Recovery Research (CHEARR) at the UConn School of Medicine is recruiting students interested in learning skills to conduct research on recovery support services for emerging adults (ages 18-25) with substance use disorders, with a particular focus on opioid use disorder. CHEARR activities include establishing and collaborating with community boards consisting of emerging adults in recovery and recovery coaches providing services in community settings; developing a range of technical tools to advance the research on recovery support services and communicate these advancements to other researchers, professionals, and the public (e.g., tipsheets, webinars, social media content); developing and validating a measure of recovery capital specifically for emerging adults; and training the next generation of researchers in the field of recovery supports. The student researcher would have the opportunity to participate in all of the above activities as well as two ongoing randomized clinical trials led by Drs. Zajac and Kelly that are relevant to this research area: 1) a clinical trial evaluating the use of recovery coaches to reduce treatment dropout among emerging adults in community-based substance use treatment, and 2) the development and evaluation of an mHealth tool for use by emerging adults who present to the emergency department following an alcohol- or suicidality-related medical crisis. HRP SU23-46
Dr. Misti Zamora
Department of Public Health Sciences
The primary project objective is to investigate how an individual’s choices influence personal exposures to traffic-related air pollutants (TRAPs) and the corresponding acute health effects. During the two 48-hour sampling periods, real-time air pollution data will be measured using an instrument that my team created. These measurements will be complemented with assessments of blood pressure, lung function, and pulmonary inflammation of the lower airways. We will work together to understand how people’s exposures to air pollution impacts their health by collecting and analyzing this information for 65 participants (ongoing throughout the next year). HRP SU23-47
Dr. Yanjiao Zhou
Department of Medicine
My lab is a computational biology lab. We are interested in understanding the role of the gut microbiome and microbial metabolites in aging. The techniques we use include mouse models, anaerobic culture, molecular biology, and multi-OMICS technology. The student will have the opportunity to learn wet bench techniques and bioinformatics, depending on their interests. HRP SU23-48



What time commitment is expected of a summer researcher in this program?

A time commitment of 360 hours (typically 10 full-time weeks) is expected for student researchers during the summer. The standard research dates for the program are May 22 to July 28, 2023, but you may elect to extend your involvement in research in consultation with your faculty mentor. All weeks of summer research must be completed between May 8 and August 25, 2023.

What time commitment is expected of an academic year researcher in this program?

A time commitment of 3-9 hours/week is expected for student researchers during the academic year; this varies across research opportunities and is a key factor to consider as you are reviewing the different opportunities and considering which might be a good fit for you. The standard formula for academic credit is 1 credit for each 3 hours of weekly research, and you will register for the appropriate number of credits given the time commitment you are making to research. Note: In the absence of extenuating circumstances (e.g., leave of absence, study abroad), a student cannot discontinue participation in the HRP during one semester and resume participation in the HRP in the subsequent semester.

How do I earn academic credit for my participation in this program during the academic year?

You will likely earn Undergraduate Research, Independent Study, or a similar kind of course credit in the department associated with your major. The most common arrangement is for a Storrs faculty member to be the instructor of record for the course and to coordinate with the UConn Health faculty member supervising your research in order to approve a learning agreement and enter the appropriate grade at the end of the semester. OUR staff will work with you individually to provide guidance on how to proceed in your specific situation.

What transportation options are available for students?

Shuttle service will not be available during summer 2022 or in academic year 2022-23. An HRP travel subsidy request process that prioritizes students with financial need will be available during the academic year; summer 2023 HRP participants will be able to apply for these funds beginning in fall 2023. We encourage you to take your class schedule and planned transportation method into consideration when reviewing the possible research schedule associated with each opportunity.

Do I need to be pre-med to participate in this program? Do I need to be in Honors?

You do not need to be pre-med or be a member of the Honors Program in order to participate in this program. The program is open to all undergraduate students interested in health research. However, bear in mind that this is a demanding program that requires you to coordinate weekly travel to UConn Health. We encourage you to take a realistic look at your schedule, the demands of your other courses, and your past academic achievement in order to assess whether this program is a good fit for you.

OUR advisors would be happy to discuss your specific situation and the most appropriate research opportunities with you at any time. Review our Meet with an OUR Advisor page for more information on how to make an appointment.

How do these opportunities continue into the academic year?

Sustained engagement in a research project maximizes learning, so we want to make it possible for students to stay engaged in undergraduate research at UConn Health over longer periods of time. The Health Research Program is focused on developing new research opportunities and involving more undergraduate students in research at UConn Health. The program offers a structure for the new student-faculty pairs that are formed in the summer to continue into the academic year. Students selected for summer 2023 opportunities will complete a mid-summer assessment process along with their faculty mentors, which will gauge whether adequate research progress is being made and will ask both student and faculty to indicate their interest in continuing the research placement beyond the summer. Continuing placements will be contingent upon satisfactory student research progress and continued interest by both student and faculty (in addition to the student’s full-time enrollment and good standing at the university). If a student continues his/her research in academic year 2023-24, s/he may be eligible to apply for a $1,000 winter research stipend if s/he commits to completing 90 hours of winter break research (and graduates no earlier than May 2024).

While students may continue research in this program across multiple academic years and/or summers, students are eligible for a maximum of one HRP summer stipend. In the absence of extenuating circumstances (e.g., leave of absence, study abroad), a student cannot discontinue participation in the HRP during one semester and resume participation in the HRP in the subsequent semester.

This application asks for a Science GPA. What is that? How do I figure out my Science GPA?

Unlike your cumulative GPA, your Science GPA is not automatically calculated and reported on your transcript. You will need to calculate this by entering the number of credits and your earned grade from each of your science classes into an online GPA calculator or by using the Nexus GPA calculator to select the relevant courses. We recommend that you move through your transcript methodically, using your best judgment to decide whether a given course is a “science course.”

How does participation in the Health Research Program affect my eligibility for other OUR funding programs?

During your initial summer in the Health Research Program, you may not receive any other funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research. For the duration of your participation in the Health Research Program, you will be ineligible for OUR Supply Award and OUR Research Travel Award support for your HRP research as equivalent support for these expenses is made available via the Health Research Program.