Undergraduate Research in Biology
Becoming involved in undergraduate research can be one the highlights of your college career and can increase your chances of reaching your career goals. These experiences can help you get in to graduate and professional schools. In fact, over 80% of students admitted to Penn State's Medical School at Hershey had undergraduate research experience. Students who have worked with biology faculty have travelled to Puerto Rico, New Zealand, South Africa, the Great Lakes, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Mountain Lake Biological Station in Virginia, and other locations to perform their projects. Their work has been presented at local, regional, national, and international meetings including the Penn State Altoona Undergraduate Research Fair, the Pennsylvania Academy of Science yearly meetings, the Ecological Society of America annual meetings, the Mammal Society yearly meetings, and the International Association of Great Lakes Research annual meeting, as well as others. Is some cases, the work with students have led to student coauthored publications in such journals as the Journal of Parasitology, the Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, the Journal of Great Lakes Research, Comparative Parasitology, Anatomical Record, Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Parasitology, Yeast, and Acta Chiropterologica.
Students who perform undergraduate research in biology typically sign up for Biol 296 or Biol 496 (Independent Study). Biology 296 is typically for students in their freshman and sophomore years and Biology 496 for juniors and seniors. However, undergraduate research is not like other courses. Typically, students are working on research projects in which the faculty member has a vested interest. If the project is not performed well it can be detrimental to the faculty member's career. Thus faculty members are careful in their selection of students who want to work with them. This means that undergraduate research opportunities are not guaranteed. Usually faculty members look for students who are motivated, interested in the subject matter, punctual, and well-organized. Some faculty members look at the performance of the students in their biology classes. Many faculty members give preference to students who are staying at Penn State Altoona for four years and/or who are willing to do research for more than one semester.
If you are interested in becoming involved in undergraduate research in biology at Penn State Altoona, go to our biology faculty page to examine the research interests of biology faculty members and qualifications needed for working in their labs. Once you have identified whom you hope to work with, make an appointment with the faculty member to discuss your interests. Keep in mind that opportunities are limited. There may or may not be space available for another student in a particular faculty member's lab.
Summer research is also a possibility. The Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences offers Summer Undergraduate Research Grants of up to $1500. To obtain one of these grants, students must submit a proposal with a faculty member, usually in March.
The expectations for students that are chosen for undergraduate research vary and should be discussed with the faculty member. In most cases, 3-4 hours of work in the lab are expected per week for each credit hour that a student signs up for. So, if you sign up for 3 credits of Biol 496, for example, you should plan on spending 9-12 hours working per week on the project.
Undergraduate research is also possible off-campus. Many other institutions offer undergraduate research and internship opportunities, especially in the summer. Of special note are Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) opportunities funded by the National Science Foundation. These opportunities can be found at institutions across the country and admission is based on an application and is competitive. See www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu.
Student Co-authored Publications:
Penn State Altoona biology students have also authored or coauthored over 10 peer-reviewed scientific papers in respected biological journals in the past ten years.
Palmer, L.K., Baptiste, B.A., Fester, J.C., Perkins, J.C., and Keil R.L. 2009. RRD1, a Component of the TORC1 Signaling Pathway, Affects Anesthetic Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast 26:655-661.
Levri, E. P., Helsel, M., and Levri, M. A. 2009. Deer herbivory reduces offspring recruitment in mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 83: 63-66.
Levri, E. P., Dermott, R. M., Lunnen, S. J., Kelly, A. A., and Ladson, T. 2008. The distribution of the invasive New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarm) in Lake Ontario. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 11(4): 412-421.
Plochocki J.H., Rivera, J.P., Zhang, C., and Ebba, S. A. 2008. Bone modeling response to voluntary exercise in the hindlimb of mice. Journal of Morphology. 269 (3): 313-318.
Levri, E. P. and Jacoby, W. 2008. The invasive New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) found in streams of the Lake Ontario watershed. Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 82(1): 7-11.
Levri, E. P., Lunnen, S., Itle, C., Martin, T., Kincade, B. DeLisser, M., and Mosquea, L. 2007. Parasite-induced alteration of diurnal rhythms in a freshwater snail. Journal of Parasitology 93(2): 231-237.
Levri, E. P., Kelly, A., and Love, E. The Invasive New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) in Lake Erie. 2007. Journal of Great Lakes Research 33(1): 1-6.
Mahan, C. G. and C. S. Itle. 2006. Enterobius sciuri in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus): a new host record. J. Pennsylvania Academy of Science. 80(1): 35-37.
Plochocki JH, Riscigno, C.J., and Garcia, M. 2006. Functional adaptation of the femoral head to voluntary exercise. Anatomical Record 288A(7): 776-781.
Levri, E. P., Dillard, J., and Martin, T. 2005 Trematode infection correlates with shell shape and defense morphology in a freshwater snail. Parasitology. 130: 699-708.
Olnhusen, L. R., and M. R. Gannon. 2004. An evaluation of bat rabies prevention in the United States, based on an analysis from Pennsylvania. Acta Chiropterologica, 6: 163-168.
Levri, E. P. and Coppola, B. 2004. First Report of the Acanthocephalan Plagiorhynchus cylindraceus in the Terrestrial Isopod Porcellio scaber. Comparative Parasitology 71(1): 90-91.
Penn State Altoona biology students have also authored or coauthored over 30 presentations at regional, national, or international scientific meetings in the past five years, including such meetings as the Ecological Society of America, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Human Biology Association, the International Association of Great Lakes Research, The Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Science.
"Is the invasive New Zealand mud snail in Lake St. Clair?" Rachel H. Bilka, Carol A. Opiela, and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting. Camp Hill, PA - April 2010.
"An Examination of the Influence of Shell Armature in the Geotactic Behavior of a Freshwater Snail in Response to Fish Predators." Carol A. Opiela and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting. Camp Hill, PA - April 2010.
"The potential effects of clearcut size, clearcut age, and deer management on oak regeneration in central Pennsylvania." Van Kuren, A. T., C. G. Mahan, B. Gamble, and J. F. Finley. The Wildlife Society annual meeting, Monterey, CA - September 2009.
"The endangered northern flying squirrel in Pennsylvania." Van Kuren, A., A. Meers, and S. J. Pedder. Spring Creek Day, Millbrook Marsh, State College PA - September, 2009.
"RRD1, a Component of the TOR Signaling Pathway, Affects Anestethic Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae." Palmer, L.K., Baptiste, B.A., Fester, J.C., Perkins, J.C., and Keil, R.L. International Conference on Yeast Genetics and Molecular Biology. Manchester, UK - July 2009
"Evidence for behavioral local adaptation in a freshwater snail in response to a fish predator." Edward P. Levri, Carol Opiela, Andrea Dubensky, Ashley Mears, and Jonathan Guth. Society for the Study of Evolution Meeting. Moscow, ID - June 2009
"The potential effects of clearcut size, clearcut age, and deer management on oak regeneration in central Pennsylvania." Van Kuren, A., B. Storm, C. Droebeneck, B. Gamble, C. G. Mahan, J. F. Finley. Penn State Altoona Undergraduate Research Fair - April, 2009.
"The potential effects of clearcut size and age of establishment on oak regeneration" Brent Storm. Penn State Altoona Undergraduate Research Fair. - April, 2009.
"The ecology of the endangered northern flying squirrel". Alexis Meers. Spring Creek Day, Millbrook Marsh, State College, PA - 2009
"Parasite ecology of sciurids from northern Pennsylvania." Samantha Jo Pedder. Penn State Altoona Undergraduate Research Fair. - April, 2009
"Prevalence of parasites including Strongyloides robustus and Citellinemia bifurcatum in the endangered northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and other members of the squirrel family (Sciuridae.)" Pedder, S. J., A. Van Kuren, C. G. Mahan. Pennsylvania Chapter of the Wildlife Society annual meeting, University Park , PA - March, 2009.
"The effect of predators on the response of an aquatic snail to light." Andrea Dubensky, Ashley Mears, Carol Opiela, and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting. Camp Hill, PA - March 2009.
"A survey of streams in New York and Pennsylvania for the presence of the invasive New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum)." Jonathan Guth and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting. Camp Hill, PA - March 2009.
"The effect of inflorescence size on the pollination success of mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia." Janel L. Huffman, Edward P. Levri, and Maureen A. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting. Camp Hill, PA - March 2009.
"Parasite communities of northern and southern flying squirrels: potential parasite-mediated competition." Van Kuren, A., Schenk, A., C. Mahan, M. Steele, G. Turner. The American Society of Mammalogists meetings, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD - 2008.
"The invasive New Zealand mud snail in the Great Lakes region." Edward P. Levri, Warren J. Jacoby, Shane J. Lunnen, Ashley A. Kelly, and Thomas Ladson. Ecology Society of America National Meeting. Milwaukee, WI - August, 2008.
"The endangered northern flying squirrel in Pennsylvania." Van Kuren, A. and S. J. Pedder. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wild Resource Festival, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, PA, May 2008.
"The phototactic response of a freshwater snail in response to the presence of fish predators." Andrea N. Dubensky, Ashley S. Mears, Jonathan Guth, Carol A. Opiela, and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting, Grantville, PA - April 2008.
"The effect of fish predator presence on the response of a freshwater snail to gravity." Carol A. Opiela, Ashley S. Mears, Andrea N. Dubensky, and Edward P. Levri. Pennsylvania Academy of Science Meeting, Grantville, PA - April 2008.
Contact:Dr. Edward P. Levri
Associate Professor of Biology
Mathematics and Natural Sciences
Office: 202 Hawthorn Building