HRP SU23-39: Research Opportunity with Dr. Oscar Vargas-Rodriguez

Project Mentor

Dr. Oscar Vargas-Rodriguez
Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Description

Project Description 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.
Project Direction The summer project will set the groundwork for understanding how aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases work in one organism. Additional work into the academic year will be needed to study various aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases in other organisms.
Mentorship and Supervision
The summer research project aims to provide opportunities for students to apply the scientific principles they learn in the classroom and expand their knowledge in microbiology, enzymology, genetics, bioinformatics, protein evolution, and molecular biophysics. The student researcher will work with Oscar (the principal investigator) and other lab members in different aspects of research (experimental design, discussion, data analysis, and communication) and are expected to gain independence over time. The student will gain hands-on experience with bioinformatics, database mining, evolutionary biology, sterile techniques, bacterial growths, nucleic acid isolation, PCR, molecular cloning and genetics, protein purification, and enzymology. The student will also acquire transferable skills such as critical thinking by reviewing scientific literature and interpreting data, scientific communication by giving presentations and writing progress reports, working in teams, project management, leadership, and problem-solving. The student will be encouraged to attend seminars, workshops, and other events associated with scientific training and career development offered across the UConn Health community.
Progress expectations will be discussed during lab orientation (first week). Progress will be evaluated in weekly group meetings and one-on-one meetings with Oscar. The one-on-one sessions with Oscar will be used to provide feedback and discuss short- and long-term project objectives and opportunities for developing skills and foundational knowledge that advance the student’s career goals.
Student Qualifications Students interested in scientific research and developing laboratory skills in molecular biology, microbiology, and biochemistry are qualified. Students from underrepresented backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply. Students should have good organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work with others and take directions.
Summer Schedule Options Research Dates: May 22 to July 28, 2023
Schedule: M-F, 9am-5pm
Project Continuation Fall 2023, Spring 2024
Academic Year Time Commitment 3-6 hours/week
Possible Thesis Project Yes


Submit an online application for this research opportunity at The application deadline is Monday, January 30, 2023.

This application requires a cover letter, a resume or CV, an unofficial transcript, and a brief statement of career interests. References should be available upon request.