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STEC4500 Science and Technology Undergraduate Research

Welcome to the STEC4500 course wiki page. Interested Faculty mentors can provide abstracts of Research Projects for students to view.

What to expect

Please check out the syllabus for STEC4500. It will give you an idea of the general expectations for your project, regardless of mentor.

How to Register

Look at the list of available projects below. When you find an research mentor and project that interest you, you must first contact the research mentor to confirm availability for that project. If the student and mentor agree on a project, then the research mentor must email Betty Wood in the Dean's office, who can override permission to allow the student to register for the Course. The student can then register on Banner. Please keep your academic advisor informed on your registration.

Please note that the times at which research is actually performed must be negotiated between mentor and student.

Mentors and Projects

A list of Research Mentors and Research Projects for STEC4500 is found below. Please contact the mentor to discuss the project before registering for the Undergraduate Research Course. Click on the Mentor's name to skip down to detailed descriptions of the projects.

Jim Nolan (email)

Viral Genome Sequencing and Evolution

Students will study the evolution of viral genomes by determining the DNA sequence of bacteriophage genomes related to T4. Students will make generate DNA templates and perform DNA sequencing reactions on them. Additional regions of the genome will be amplified and sequenced using PCR. Students will use computer programs to assemble sequences and compare them to known genomes in order to identify genes that have been acquired or lost in the viral DNA.

Clay Runck (email Clay)

1. Food Web Energetics of Pond and Stream Ecosystems

These studies are examining primary (algal) and secondary (aquatic invertebrate) production and food web interactions in a retention pond ("Beaver Pond") and a headwater stream on campus. The study involves quantifying the taxonomic composition, biomass or density, annual productivity, and feeding relationships of algae and invertebrates in these systems. The study will involve field sampling and laboratory analysis. Students must be prepared to participate in outdoor field work in ponds and streams.

2. Development of a Model to Estimate Surface Area of River Stones in the Field.

Stones are a natural habitat unit for insects and algae that live in stony-bottomed streams. The most widely used method for estimating the surface area of river stones (in order to calculate organism density) requires returning the stones to the lab and tediously wrapping a stone in aluminum foil (the foil method). A technique that could reliably and accurate estimate surface area of stones in the field would reduce processing time in the lab. This project will involve collecting bottom stones from several streams and rivers in north Georgia and estimating their surface area by foiling. Stone weight and displacement volume will also be measured (both of these parameters can be measured in the field easily). Regression analysis will be used to determine which parameter - stone weight or displacement volume - is the best predictor of surface area. Regression models for each stream will be statistically compared to determine whether a general relationship exists that could be used for any stream.

Mark Schlueter (email)

Dr. Schlueter's research focuses on zoology and field biology research projects.

1. One of his current focus areas is agricultural pest beetles.

(1) Flour Beetle (Tribolium species)

(2) Bean Beetles (Callosobruchus maculatus)

Flour Beetles

Tribolium confusium, the confused flour beetle, is a pest of stored grain and flour products. These beetles are known to invade our household pantries as well as large storage containers filled with tons of flour or grain. Females are capable of laying hundreds of eggs, resulting in a quick growing population. During optimum conditions, their life cycle can be completed in about 4 weeks. Temperature and humidity are the two most important abiotic factors regulating reproductive rate.

I am currently examining temperature effects on survival and food consumption rates in these important pest beetles.

Bean Beetles

Bean beetles, Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae), are agricultural pest insects of Africa and Asia that presently range throughout the tropical and subtropical world. Bean beetles are taxonomically ranked with other beetles in the Order Coleoptera (Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta).

Callosobruchus maculatus is commonly referred to as the southern cowpea weevil. The larvae of this species feed and develop exclusively on the seed of legumes (Fabaceae) hence the name bean beetle. The adults do not require food or water and spend their limited lifespan (one - two weeks) mating and laying eggs on beans.

I am currently investigating reproductive behavior and structures involved in finding a mate.

Dr. Schlueter's research is designed so that a student can spend one semester or summer performing experiments and gathering data. Then the following semester, the student will present the experiment at a scientific conference.

Chulsing Kim (email)

1. Soy bean effects on the solubility of copper in aqueous solution

The peptide bonds in many leguminous plants have potentials to build metal complexes resulting in the increase of solubility. The study will focus on the solubility of changes as a function of pH in the presence of soy beans. The potential available bonding sites will be determined using organic nitrogen method and the atomic absorption spectrometer will be used to determine the copper concentration in the aqueous solution.

2. Biodegradation of natural products.

Various natural products will be studied in order to investigate the rate of biodegradation in wide temperature range. Carbon dioxide production rate as well as oxygen consumption rate will be determined as a function of time. Students will evaluate the optimum temperature and humidity for biodegradation of various natural products.

3. Lead contents in commercial products.

It has been concerned that many coated materials are high lead contents threatening health of many children. The research will investigate the lead contents in various toys as well as household products. Lead contents will be determined following EPA methods using atomic absorption spectroscopy.

David P. Pursell (email)

1. Investigation of environmental contaminates and techniques for remediation.

Trace metals are some of the most widespread and toxic anthropogenic pollutants in the environment.1.a.-e. The migration of these pollutants into uncontaminated ecosystems through air, water, and soil transport mechanisms further increases their effect on humans. Trace metals of interest include zinc, copper, chromium, nickel, cadmium, and lead. Metals are metabolized and processed via specific pathways and as a result, present specific adverse health effects. In addition, these pollutants are bio-concentrated in livestock, game, and plant life. My research group has previously investigated lead contamination, which is of particular interest because of its formerly widespread use in gasoline and paints and its well known deleterious effect on the development of cognitive abilities in children. As lead pollution is a multi-phase issue spanning soil, water, and air, it presents a wide range of research approaches and activities for undergraduate students.

My group has investigated phyto-remediation of lead, the ability of vegetation to biologically concentrate pollutants from the local environment.2.a.-e. The vegetation is harvested over a series of growing seasons with the net effect of removing lead from the environment as the vegetation is transported off-site for processing. Finding advantageous conditions for phytoremediation, such as plant species and local growing conditions (pH, water content, soil composition, etc.) is a challenge. Moreover, plants that are able to transport lead in the soil through the roots and into the stems and leaves are particularly advantageous, as they allow mowing of vegetation rather than total extraction (roots and all) in order to remove lead from the local environment.3.a.-c.

There are many techniques for digestion and extraction of lead from vegetation, including acids, peroxides, heat, microwave radiation, and ultrasound.4.a.-g. Some techniques include chelation, most commonly using ethylenediaminetetraacetidc acid (EDTA) as the chelating agent. Chelation with substances such as ETDA enables a variety of spectroscopic techniques for the analysis. 5.a.-m. Most often, analysis for lead is accomplished with flame, graphite furnace, or electrothermal atomic absorption (AA) spectrometry. Multiple elements may be determined simultaneously using AA with charge coupled device (CCD) detection. Other analytical techniques include IR, mass spectrometry, x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and UV-vis spectroscopy, each tailored for specific chelating and matrix species. Because there is variety in analysis techniques, equipment and instrumentation for the project remains both flexible and affordable. In my previous experience with this project, students found the work both exciting and relevant and were able to achieve some measure of success. I expect that over several years, students would continue refining techniques and achieve meaningful and publishable results.

My research group previously investigated phyto-remediation at an abandoned pistol and rifle firing range that had been out of operation since 1983. The students first learned field techniques for identifying native plant species and methods for collecting specimens. They chose Spiraea latifolia as the species of interest. It is a hardy, fast growing shrub with robust roots, stems, and leaves. After conducting a site survey of the range, students selected a control site located approximately 3 miles from the abandoned firing range. Students harvested Spiraea latifolia from the Range and Control sites at the end of the summer growing season.

The wet chemistry portion of the project included stripping and sorting shrubs into leave, stem, and root components. Components were washed and rinsed with a series of detergents, then oven baked until dry. Dry components were weighed, mechanically pulverized, digested in hot nitric acid, neutralized, and diluted. The instrumental portion of the project began with preparation of standard lead solutions and generation of a calibration curve using flame atomic absorption spectroscopy. Students then collected data and completed analysis of the leave, stem and root components of Spiraea latifolia. Preliminary data is summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Spiraea latifolia lead content in ppm

Site Leaves Stems Roots

Range 1 5.50 97.2 667

Range 2 25.2 249 2550

Range 3 41.6 147 1080

Average 24.1 164 1430

Std Dev 18 77 990

Control 1 11.8 18.3 138

Control 2 12.4 14.3 72.3

Average 12.1 16.3 105

Std Dev 0.42 2.8 46

Preliminary results indicate that Spiraea latifolia harvested from the Range site contains more lead than that of the Control site. In addition, for each set of specimens the concentration of lead in the roots is greater than in the stems and the concentration in the stems is greater than the concentration in the leaves. These findings support the concept of using Spiraea latifolia in phytoremediation.

My group will continue with this research effort at GGC by investigating the soil, water, plant, and animal species on campus with respect to heavy metal contamination.

Research Goals. Students will master field collection techniques and laboratory analysis techniques typically used for investigation of environmental contaminates. Successful students will collect, process, analyze, and report results for at least one sample for one contaminate using one instrumental technique.

Expected outcomes. Expectation is that student work contributes to peer reviewed publications and presentations. Project will extend over several semesters, but when publication and presentation does occur, all students having successfully produced data for the project will be listed as investigators.


1. a. A.G. Khan, C. Kuek, T.M. Chaudhry, C.S. Khoo, W.J. Hayes, “Role of Plants, Mycorrhizae and Phytochelators in Heavy Metal Contaminated Land Remediation,” Chemosphere, 2000, 41, 197-207; b. Kenzaburo Tsuchiya, Soichiro Iwao, “Interrelationships among Zinc, Copper, Lead, and Cadmium in Food, Feces, and Organs of Humans,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 1978, 25, 119-124; c. A.H. Fielding, K. S. Badsha, “Lead Concentrations in the Vegetation of the Irwell Valley in NW England,” Chemosphere, 1987, 16, 1105-1111; d. A.M. Scheuhammer, J.A. Perrault, E. Rout, “Elevated Lead Concentrations in Edible Portions of Game Birds Harvested with Lead Shot,” Environmental Pollution, 1998, 102, 251-257; e. P. Johansen, G. Asmund, F. Riget, “High Human Exposure to Lead through Coinsumption of Birds Hunted with Lead Shot,” Environmental Pollution, 2004, 127, 125-129.

2. a. J. Wu, F.C., Hsu, S.D. Cunningham, “Chelate-Assisted Pb Phytoextraction: Pb Availability, Uptake, and Translocation Constraints,” Environmental Science and Technology, 1999, 33, 1898-1904; b. Aneta Piechalak, Barbara Tomaszewska, Danuta Barakiewicz, “Enhancing Phytoremediative Ability of Pisum sativum by EDTA Application,” Phytochemistry, 2003, 64, 1239-1251; c. Alessia Cao, Giovanna Cappai, Alessandra Carucci, Aldo Muntoni, “Selection of Plants for Zinc and Lead Phytoremediation,” Journal of Environmental Science and Health A, 2004, A39, 1011-1024; d. Jacek Antonkiewicz, Czeslawa Jasiewicz, “The Use of Plants Accumulating Heavy Metals for Detoxication of Chemically Polluted Soils,” Journal of Polish Agricultural Universities Environmental Development, 2002, 5, 1-13; e. Maria Gaweda, Ewa Capecka, “Effect of Substrate pH on the Accumulation of Lead in Radish,” Acta Physologiae Plantarum, 1995, 17, 333-340.

3. a. M. Sobotik, V.B. Ivanov, N.V. Obroucheva, I.V. Seregin, M.L. Martin, O.V. Antipova, H. Bergmann, “Barrier Role of Root System in Lead-exposed Plants,” Angewandte Botanik, 1998, 72, 144-147; b. A.J.M. Baker, “Accumulators and Excluders—Strategies in the Response of Plants to Heavy Metals,” Journal of Plant Nutrition, 1981, 3, 643-654; c. M.D. Jarvis, D.W.M. Leung, “Chelated Lead Transport in Chamaecystisus proliferus: an Ultrastructural Study,” Plant Science, 2001, 161, 433-441.

4. a. Bob Wilson, Alan Braithwaite, F. Brian Pyatt, “An Evaluation of Procedures for the Digestion of Soils and Vegetation from Areas with Metalliferous Pollution,” Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry, 2005, 87, 335-344; b. Jack L. Lambert, Clifton E. Meloan, “A Simple Qualitative Analysis Scheme for Several Environmentally Important Elements,” Journal of Chemical Education, 1977, 54, 249-252; c. Cheng Bin, Pu Yuepu, Yin Lihong, Lu Ziwu, Li Xianning, Song Hailiang, “Effects of Plants Arrangement and Periodical Reaping in Aquatic Plant Filter Bed on Pb in Plants,” Journal of Southeast University (Natural Science Edition), 2005, 35, 452-455; d. S.N. Biswas, “Comparative Studies on Plants as Bioindicator for Cu, Co, Ni, Pb, Zn, Cr, Fe, Mn, F, and K2O in Lead-Zinc-Fluorite Mine Area of Chandidongri, Distt. Rajnandgaon (C.G.), India,” Asian Journal of Chemistry, 2006, 18, 991-996; e. J. Ruiz-Jimenez, J.L. Luque-Garcia, M.D. Luque de Castro, “Dynamic Ultrasound-assisted Extraction of Cadmium and Lead from Plants Prior to Electrothermal Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy,” Analytica Chimica Acta, 2003, 480, 231-237; f. Omawunmi Sakik, Adam K. Wanekaya, Gelfand Yevgeny, “Pressure-assisted Chelating Extraction as a Teaching Tool in Instrumental Analysis,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2004, 81, 1177-1180; g. Dorto Adamczyk, “The Effect of Thiuram on the Uptake of Lead and Copper by Melissa officinalis,” Environmental Engineering Science, 2006, 23, 610-614.

5. a. Danuta Barackiewicz, Jerzy Siepak, “Slurry Sampling for Electrothermal Atomic Absorption Spectrometric Determination of Chromium, Nickel, Lead, and Cadmium in Sewage Sludge,” Analytica Chimica Acta, 2001, 437, 11-16; b. Heather C. Allen, Theo Brauers, Barbara J. Finiayson-Pitts, “Illustrating Deviations in the Beer-Lambert Law in an Instrumental Analysis Laboratory: Measuring Atmospheric Pollutants by Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometry,” Journal of Chemical Education, 1997, 74, 1459-1462; c. Henry Brouwer, “Screening Technique for Lead and Cadmium in Toys and Other Materials Using Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2005, 82, 611-612; d. Thomas M. Spudich, Jennifer K. Herrmann, Ronald Fietkau, Grant A. Edwards, David L. McCurdy, “Determination of Pb in Biological Samples by Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2004, 81, 262-265; e. Caryn S. Seney, Karen V. Sinclair, Robin M. Bright, Paul O. Momoh, Amelia d. Bozeman, “Development of a Multiple-element Flame Emission Spectrometer Using CCD Detection,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2005, 82, 1826-1829; f. E. Margui, I. Queralt, M.L. Carvalho, M. Hidalgo, “Comparison of EDXRF and ICP-OES after Microwave digestion for Element Determination in Plant Specimens from an Abandoned Mining Area,” Analytica Chimica Acta, 2005, 549, 197-204; g. E. Margui, M. Hidalgo, I. Queralt, “Multielemental Fast Analysis of Vegetation Samples by Wavelength Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry: Possibilities and Drawbacks,” Spectrochimica Acta B, 2005, 60, 1363-1372; h. E. Margui, M. Iglesias, I. Queralt, M. Hidlago, “Lead Isotope Ratio Measurements by ICP-QMS to Identify Metal Accumulation in Vegetation Specimens Growing in Mining Environments,” Science of the Total Environment, 2006, 367, 988-998; i. Danuta Baralkiewicz, Malgorzata Kozka, Hanka Gramowska, Barbara Tomaszewska, Konrad Wasinkiewicz, “Determination of Lead in Plants in Controlling Phytoremediation Processes using Slurry Sampling Electrothermal Atomic Absorption Spectrometry,” International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, 2004, 84, 901-908; j. Panayot K. Petrov, Grethe Wibetoe, Dimiter L. Tsalev, “Comparison between Hydride Generation and Nebulization for Sample Introduction in the Determination of Lead in Plants and Water Samples by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, using External Calibration and Isotope Dilution,” Spectrochimica Acta B, 2006, 61, 50-57; k. Simona Dragan, Alanah Fitch, “Infrared Spectroscopy Determination of Lead Binding to Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid,” Journal of Chemical Education, 1998, 75, 1018-1021; l. Remi Freydier, Jerome Viers, “Isotopic Study of Lead Transfer at the Interface Soil-plants-atmosphere,” Geophysical Research Letters, 2003, 30, 1227-1232; m. Paulo R.M. Correia, Pedro V. Oliveira, “Simultaneous Atomic Absorption Spectrometry for Cadmium and Lead Determination in Wastewater,” Journal of Chemical Education, 2004, 81, 1174-1176.

Dr. Deborah Sauder (email)

Development of Fluorescence Capabilities at GGC.

Students will learn the fundamentals of fluorescence spectroscopy, evaluate the characteristics of the Ocean Optics fluorimeters used at GGC, and undertake small kinetics or binding studies. I am currently examining temperature effects on survival and food consumption rates in these important pest beetles.

Research Goals

The main short term goal of this project is to implement fluorescence spectroscopy as a component of the GGC chemistry curriculum. A longer term goal is to employ fluorescence methods to characterize the kinetics and thermodynamics of simple biochemically relevant systems.

Expected Outcomes

Throughout this independent research, the student will learn:

  1. The fundamentals of fluorescence spectroscopy
  2. Scientific data analysis
  3. To read and critically evaluate papers in the scientific literature
  4. Scientific communication skills through preparation and presentation of a final project report.

Minimum requirements for students

Satisfactory completion of CHEM 1211

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