Undergraduate Research Showcase
Some of the research projects of NJIT biology undergraduates
Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to participate in research. In doing so, a student will be applying their classroom knowledge and strengthening their laboratory skills. For students planning on a career or graduate school, such laboratory experience can be invaluable. Because biology students have a broad science background, they can work with researchers from many disciplines. Our students have worked in the Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics departments at NJIT, and also in various departments at UMDNJ (now RBHS).
For advice on how to get involved, please see the Undergraduate Opportunities page. Below you will see a sampling of research projects carried out by our students.
Daniel is a senior at NJIT (class 2019) majoring in Biology. He has been doing research in Professor Jorge Golowasch’s neuroscience lab (Biology Dept) for several years. His work specifically focuses on the mechanisms used by neurons in the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) of crabs that enable them to homeostatically regulate their own electrical activity. This is important since all neurons receive a wide variety of inputs and perturbations throughout their life cycle, and in order for the organism to survive, these neurons must maintain their electrical activity restricted to within functional limits. His current project involves manipulating the expression levels of individual ion channels by injecting messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) that codes for these channel proteins directly into individual neurons. This is expected to up-regulate their expression. The changes in expression levels can be measured by measuring the amount of electrical current carried by the channels using electrophysiological methods. The effects this perturbation has on other channels is also measured. The hypothesis being tested is that cells can monitor the ion current levels being generated (or numbers of ion channels inserted in their membrane) and will up- or down-regulate other channels to maintain relative levels constant (homeostasis). Co-injection of mRNA that codes for a fluorescent protein, which can be easily visualized (see the figure), allows him to verify that an injection was successful. The expectation is that currents other than the one being manipulated will also see a change in their expression levels. Expression levels can in principle also be down-regulated using interference RNA (RNAi) by injecting short sequences of double-stranded RNA matching a specific (target) ion channel's sequence.
Raghav is a sophomore at NJIT (class 2020) majoring in Biomedical Engineering. His research with Dr. Horacio Rotstein (Biology) focuses on the issue of network resonance. Network resonance is the preferred frequency that excitatory and inhibitory networks respond at to oscillatory inputs. The goal of this project is to determine the network response patterns to oscillatory inputs and to establish the extent to which the network response qualitatively differs from the response of the individual neurons when they are isolated. For example, passive cells do not normally show resonance, but do so under certain circumstances. We use minimal network models including (i) individual cells that are either passive or non-oscillatory resonators, (ii) graded synapses with no dynamics that can be either both inhibitory, excitatory or hybrid, and (iii) sinusoidal inputs to one cell with frequencies in a wide range. We focus on various response measures including (i) the activity of each cell in the network, (ii) the overall (mean-field) network activity, and (iii) the activity ratio between the unperturbed and perturbed cells.