STEM Summer Research - Aberdeen Projects

You will earn 6 research credits over 6 weeks, conducting faculty supervised, hands-on, directed study research projects with results that will culminate in the preparation of a research paper. You will complete a minimum of 240 hours on research in and out of the laboratory.

Faculty mentors will work closely with you to direct your continued growth and knowledge development in the chosen research topic discipline.

  • Make sure your courses transfer back for credit with your home school – this is your responsibility.

Choosing Your Research Project

  • Review Project titles and descriptions below.
  • List 3 (in order of preference) in your personal essay.
  • Program is highly individualized, with limited enrollment.
  • You will need to complete a brief Literature Review in consultation with your research supervisor prior to departure before the start of the program. More details here.
  • We encourage you to contact Arcadia’s Assistant Dean of STEM programs, Dr. Jessie Guinn, to discuss your particular research interests further.

Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) or the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen

Course ID Title Credits Syllabus
ABER RSLW 392S International Independent Research in STEM Fields 6 PDF

Summer 2019 Research Projects

  • Cell Biology/Developmental Biology
    • Heads or tails? Stem cell programming during planaria flatworm regeneration (read more)
  • Cancer Biology/Cell Biology
  • Cancer Biology/Pharmacology/Molecular Biology
    • Determining the potential of natural products to induce cytotoxicity in human cancer cells (read more)
  • Microbiology/Molecular Biology
    • Bacterial pathogens as a cause of infections (read more)
  • Cell Biology/Neuroscience/Biochemistry
    • Study of a new receptor target for brain disease‚Ä® (read more)

Heads or tails? Stem cell programming during planaria flatworm regeneration

Dr. Ann Rajnicek

The ability to regenerate missing tissues spontaneously (e.g., limbs and the central nervous system) is limited in humans but some animals can regenerate naturally. In many cases, they recruit pools of stem cells to replace the missing structures with astonishing accuracy. The lab uses planaria flatworms (which can regrow an entirely new head, including a brain in about a week) to decipher the cues that signal stem cells to drive the spontaneous regeneration of appropriate head and tail structures. The project focus will be on voltage-gated ion channel activity and how the resulting ion gradients in the worms influence stem cell behavior and regenerative outcome. The data may contribute to future clinical therapies by understanding how to control stem cell fate during tissue repair and regeneration.

All training will be provided but students should have knowledge of cell biology or developmental biology.


Breast Cancer projects

Professor Val Speirs

The cancer biology group offers a range of projects related mainly to breast cancer. These can include identifying biomarkers which may help predict tumor response to therapies, examining how the tumor microenvironment influences cancer behavior or exploring differences in the biology of male and female breast cancer which might be exploited therapeutically.

Students should have a biology background and an interest in biomedical research.


Determining the potential of natural products to induce cytotoxicity in human cancer cells

Professor Heather Wallace

A significant number of anticancer drugs are derived from natural products such as the taxanes from the Yew tree bark and there is great potential to find more compounds with natural cell-damaging or killing activity. This project will investigate the potential of selected polyphenols and flavonoids to damage human cancer cells. A number of different assay methods will be used to determine the dose-response relationships and the type of cell death induced. The focus will be on difficult to treat human cancers such as lung and pancreatic.

Students should have a background in biochemistry, pharmacology or molecular biology.


Bacterial pathogens as a cause of infections

Professor Stefania Spano

We investigate the mechanisms through which phagocytic cells kill bacterial pathogens. We are particularly interested in intracellular bacterial pathogens that cause systemic infections, such as Salmonella Typhi, which is the cause of typhoid fever, and Staphylococcus aureus, which is a cause of bacteremia and sepsis in immunosuppressed individuals. The project will aim at elucidating the mechanisms of bacterial killing. The student will learn molecular and cellular biology approaches in addition to microbiological techniques.

Students should have a background in microbiology or molecular biology.


Study of a new receptor target for brain disease

Professor Peter McCaffery and Dr. Guy Bewick

RARs are the receptors for retinoic acid and have powerful actions to regulate cell growth and survival via their control of gene expression. Retinoic acid was one of the first “precision” treatments for cancer, targeting the chromosomal translocation of the retinoic acid receptor gene in acute promyelocytic leukemia. RAR ligands are also used to treat a variety of skin diseases. New discoveries though suggest that RAR ligands have far more wide-ranging effects and may be effective for brain disease through a polypharmacological effect promoting not just neuronal survival through actions on gene expression and kinase activity, but also through anti-inflammatory properties and enhancing neuroplasticity to improve learning and memory functions of the brain. Not enough though is known about the molecular action of RAR ligands on the individual neuron, which could open an entirely new field. The project will study the action of RAR ligands on motor neurons of the spinal cord and their action on their target of the muscle.

Students should have a background in biochemistry or cell biology and should be in either their third or fourth year of study.