16th Annual Darwin Day is Tuesday February 3rd!


VCU Graduate Organization of Biology Students, Graduate Student Association, and the Department of Biology presents the 16th Annual Darwin Day. This university sponsored event is held around Darwin’s birthday, and is a celebration of his life and contributions to modern science. This year it is our great honor to present Evolutionary Ecologist Robert Ricklefs, PhD who will be speaking on “Darwin’s Wedge Metaphor and the Development of Community Ecology”. The event is open to scientists, students, and the public. It will be held in Commonwealth Ballroom B, at 11:00 AM – refreshments provided.

For more information on Dr. Robert Ricklefs check out his website:http://www.umsl.edu/~ricklefsr/

Call for Submissions: Auctus, the Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship at VCU!


Auctus: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creativity is student-run and peer-reviewed. Auctus accepts submissions from VCU undergraduates in all disciplines. The journal welcomes submissions of research articles, technical papers, expository articles and works of creative scholarship including visual art, music, creative writing, film and multi-media projects.

Who Can Submit?

Undergraduate students enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University may submit toAuctus. Graduates may submit research up to two years after graduation as long as the research was conducted as an undergraduate while attending VCU.

What Can I Submit?

Auctus accepts submissions from all disciplines. The editors of Auctus encourage submissions of both original work as well as reprints, if permitted by the original publisher. In the case of reprints, please provide us with the original publication information so that we may provide appropriate credit.

Multiple submissions are welcome, but only one submission per author will be published each semester. Simultaneous submissions with other publications are also accepted. Accepted authors grant the journal one-time electronic serial publishing rights. Authors retain all copyright.

Auctus evaluates research using VCU’s definition of undergraduate research.If you are unsure whether your submission fulfills these guidelines, please contact auctus@vcu.edu.

Guidelines for Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM Submissions:

  • Research that engages local, regional or international communities is encouraged within all three topic disciplines.
  • Humanities topics include (but are not limited to) history, linguistics, languages, literature, philosophy, ethics, logic, mass communications and religion.
  • Social science topics include (but are not limited to) anthropology, archaeology, cultural and ethnic studies, economics, education, gender/sexuality, geography, political science, policy, business, psychology and sociology.
  • STEM topics include (but are not limited to) astronomy, earth sciences, chemistry, physics, computer sciences, mathematics, technology, engineering, environmental science and health care.

Guidelines for Creative Submissions:

  • Works that engage local, regional, or international communities are encouraged.
  • Works that combine media or genres are encouraged.
  • A single submission may contain one piece or a series of pieces that are interconnected.
  • Creative submissions should be accompanied by an artist statement.
  • Visual and performing arts include (but are not limited to) music compositions, dance performance documentations, fashion design, sculpture, photography, paintings, prints, illustrations, crafts, graphic arts, film and kinetic imagery.
  • Literary arts include (but are not limited to) literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry that experiments with the form and function of the genre or, in other ways, investigates the creative process.

Visit Auctus and submit your work at http://www.auctus.vcu.edu/

Undergraduate researchers present research findings on a national stage


Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

In early November 2014, at a prestigious national research conference, Virginia Commonwealth University junior Michael Kiflezghi presented his research into the molecular biology of aging. Kiflezghi’s appearance is just one of the latest in a string of accolades earned by VCU students taking part in a pair of programs that support aspiring scientists from underrepresented groups.

“My primary research interest is the molecular biology of how we age. What’s going on at the cellular and molecular level that leads to aging? More specifically, I’m interested in the effect of dietary control like caloric restriction on aging and the gut microbiome’s role,” said Kiflezghi, who presented his paper, “Microfluidic Devices for the Study of Dietary Influences on Life History Traits in Caenorhabditis elegans,” at the Gerontological Society of America’s 67th Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“In laymen’s terms, I was developing microenvironments made of a special breathable plastic and glass that would allow for very in-depth studies on the nematode C. elegans — think microscopic worm,” said Kiflezghi, who is pursuing a dual degree in information systems at the School of Businessand bioinformatics in VCU Life Sciences.

Kiflezghi is among a group of VCU students participating in National Institutes of Health-funded undergraduate research training programs at VCU that support students who are historically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

The research training programs, which are part of the VCU Center on Health Disparities, are theInitiative for Maximizing Student Diversity Scholars Program and Minority Access to Research Careers.

As part of the IMSD program, participants have the opportunity to work with faculty mentors who are leaders in the fields of neuroscience, cancer biology, metabolic diseases, allergy and immunology, microbial pathogenesis, drug addiction or abuse, molecular genetics and more. The scholars, who are admitted as early as the end of their freshman year, also enroll in a series of courses and workshops on biomedical science, preparing for the Graduate Record Examination and career development.

The MARC program specifically targets academically talented VCU juniors and seniors from underrepresented groups who are interested in biomedical research careers. Each participant is paired with a faculty mentor, works in research laboratories and attends courses and workshops that prepare them for research careers.

Both programs provide the scholars with the chance to conduct research and present their findings at local, regional and national research meetings.

This fall, Kiflezghi was one of three scholars who presented their work at national research conferences.

“It’s very rare for undergrads to present their work at national discipline-specific meetings,” said Sarah Golding, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and associate director of undergraduate research training for the Center on Health Disparities. “I’ve been involved in this research training program for four years now. This is the first time we’ve had three. Last year, two people presented. And the year before that, there was one person. It’s been a snowballing effect.”

Brittany Martinez, a senior biomedical engineering student in the School of Engineering, presented her research at the national Annual Meeting of the American Biomedical Engineering Society in San Antonio, Texas, in October.

“It was the most humbling experience in my research career,” she said. “I absorbed so much knowledge, and I came back and created new experiments to try just based on what I heard at the conference. I truly got the experience of a lifetime.”

The best part of the conference, Martinez said, was when a third-year Ph.D. student from Clemson University told her that her poster was the highlight of the conference.

“She told me that I had made an impact on her view of her own experiments that she would go back and try to incorporate my reasoning into her design,” she said. “I had never been given such a compliment about my science before. I knew I was there to learn from other researchers, but I never thought someone would learn something from mine.”

Read the rest of this story at the VCU News site: https://news.vcu.edu/article/Undergraduate_researchers_present_research_findings_on_a_national

Call for Abstracts: VCU Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity!

Organized by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and part of VCU Student Research Week, the annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium is a wonderful opportunity for students to present their research endeavors to their academic peers, members of the VCU faculty, community members, and friends and family.  All undergrads from every discipline are encouraged to present and attend.  Presentations may be for completed research projects, completed papers, or research in progress.

Projects involving creative work such as prose or poetry, performances, and artwork will be considered for acceptance if they are part of a scholarly project undertaken by the student.  We are currently accepting poster abstracts up until the deadline of March 18th, 2015.  All abstracts should be submitted to http://go.vcu.edu/uroppostersubmit

After students are notified of their acceptance, we will accept electronic file submission of their posters until the deadline of April 5th.   Note: We hold poster workshops Jan. – Mar. and we are now able to print research posters free of cost to our students!

Abstracts should include: Name/Major of student, Name/Dept. of Faculty Mentor, Title of research Project, Brief description of research project.  All inquiries to hhill@vcu.edu

symp flyer

Undergraduate Research Positions with the Virginia Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics


Description of the research:

The goal of this study is to learn more about genetic and environmental factors that could influence the likelihood of someone developing an anxiety/mood disorder.  To help accomplish this, we are inviting parents and their twins, ages 9 to 13 years old, to participate in this study.

Description of Duties:

The research assistant would have a great deal of involvement in the day to day details of running a research study. Responsibilities may include the following:

  • Extensive participant interaction (administering an IQ test, collecting DNA samples, presenting behavioral and computer tasks)
  • Working with psychophysiological software and equipment (BIOPAC and E-Prime)
  • Early data monitoring/quality control

If the student matches well with this project, there is potential for publishing opportunities for posters and papers.

Required hours/week: 10 hours/week

Eligibility requirements:

  • GPA of 3.0 or higher required

  • Candidates must demonstrate an ability to learn quickly, work diligently, and interact in a professional and personable manner

The application can be found by visiting this link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1itaXAnzIkgNX4X1Nkcclite8JktpXQE-oOCl_9c9DzU/pub.

If interested, please complete this form and email it as an attachment to the study coordinator at dcarney@vcu.edu.


2015 Summer Fellowships for Undergraduate Research at VCU!

It is time again to announce our funded fellowship opportunities for undergraduates interested in conducting research during the summer of 2015!  In addition to the UROP Fellowship and our fellowships funded by the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the Division of Community Engagement, the Global Education Office, we are very pleased to offer a new fellowship funded by the Division for Inclusive Excellence!  As always, many thanks to these units for their support!  Below you will find a brief description for each fellowship opportunity with a link to the full description.  Deadline for proposals is March 1st, 2015.  Feel free to direct any questions to Herb Hill at hhill@vcu.edu

geoGlobal Education Undergraduate Research Fellowships

The Global Education Office will fund three unique undergraduate fellowship awards for research projects, mentored by VCU faculty. Research proposals should show evidence of significant engagement with a culture originating from outside of the US that is different from the applicant’s native culture. Successful proposals should exhibit how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience to demonstrate successfully functioning across a variety of borders, such as national, linguistic, cultural, religious, and/or others. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor.  For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/geo_fellowship.htm

cctrUndergraduate Fellowships for Clinical and Translational Research

The VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research will fund one undergraduate research fellowship award for a clinical translational research project focused on human health and mentored by a VCU faculty member. A clinical translational research project is one that aims to translate scientific discoveries into improved human health and wellness. Successful proposals must discuss how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience while simultaneously attempting to advance human health through clinical research. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor.  For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/cctr_urop_fellowship.htm

DCEUndergraduate Fellowships for Community Engaged and Translational Research

The Division of Community Engagement and the Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) will fund three undergraduate community-engaged research fellowship awards for research projects mentored by VCU faculty and carried out in collaboration with a community partner. Proposals for this fellowship should include a community-engaged research project that creates and disseminates knowledge or creative expression with the goal of contributing to the discipline and strengthening the well-being of the community. At least one of these fellowships will be awarded to a project that focuses on the advancement of human health.  Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor.  For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/ce_cctr_fellowship.htm


Undergraduate Research Fellowship for Inclusive Excellence

The VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence will fund one undergraduate research fellowship award for a faculty-mentored research project focused on “diversity” as it relates to ideas, cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Successful proposals must discuss how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience related to the social, economic, political and historical significance of particular differences. This project may investigate diversity through the lens of gender, race/ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, disabilities and/or international issues. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor.  For details and to apply : http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/ie_fellowship.htm

VCU Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowships

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) will fund a limited number of undergraduate student fellowship awards for projects mentored by VCU faculty. Successful student applicants will receive a cash stipend of $1,500 and $500 for the faculty mentor.  Applicants must submit an online application no later than March 1st, 2014 for review.  For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/fellowship-instructions.htm

SRO Dessert Social and CV Workshop Nov. 10 at 7pm!

Hello Researchers!

Come out to our Student Research Organization event “Sweeten up Your Resume/CV” tonight, Monday, November 10th, at seven PM in the commons, Virginia Room B. It’s a dessert-luck, so feel free to bring any sweet treats you would like, but plenty of SRO-ians have already pledged to bring great things, so don’t hesitate to come anyways!
We would love to see you there!

Staff and Editorial Openings with Auctus: the Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship at VCU

auctus logo

Auctus is now accepting applications for staff and editor positions for the next submission cycle. Please use the role descriptions at the link below to help guide your choices in applying. Applicants seeking editorial positions will be invited for interviews in late Fall 2014.

Please visit our online application to apply: http://www.auctus.vcu.edu/apply.html

Working for a journal is demanding, but rewarding. All positions require excellent language, grammar and communication skills. Journals demand tight deadlines and prompt task completion. Staff members should understand that workload fluctuates with submission volume.

All members are expected to continually solicit submissions, as well as engage with Auctus social media through following and sharing. Staff members should be able to devote adequate time to the needs of the organization, including attending staff meetings and workshops, and completing assigned tasks before deadline.

Outstanding Associate Editors will be given priority consideration for advancement in the organization. Editors will announce application deadlines to join Auctus and select the staff each year.


Biology course explores Ebola epidemic in real time

Ebola Class-feature

Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

Derek Johnson, Ph.D., a biology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, sat at the head of his class, role-playing as the head of the Centers for Diseases Control, probing the response to the Ebola case in Texas. Johnson’s students played the role of CDC experts on infectious diseases.

“We have this case, Thomas Duncan. He arrived in Dallas on Sept. 20. All of you have my briefing here. And so we need to worry about secondary infection,” Johnson said. “Which contacts should we trace, and which should we not be worried about?”

“Definitely the people who were living with him in the apartment when he started showing symptoms on Sept. 24,” said Zeeshan Qureshi, a biology major.

“Since he started showing symptoms on the 24th and went to the hospital, we should make sure that the triage nurse, the standing doctor and whoever else he came in contact with at the hospital during his visit are all monitored,” added biology and chemistry major Kevin Luu.

What about all of Duncan’s international flights? Johnson wondered.

“The briefing showed that he didn’t show symptoms until Sept. 24,” Luu said. “Before that, I don’t think you need to trace further back. There’s no point in going back in his flight history.”

The real worry, biology major Stephen Whitenack suggested, is the two days after Sept. 24 before Duncan was admitted to the hospital, as well as the two days later when he was admitted again. “That’s where the key tracing needs to take place,” he said.

The class, Outbreaks and Epidemics, is offering VCU seniors an opportunity to explore the ongoing Ebola outbreak in real time.

Johnson, an expert on forest insect outbreaks in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, said the course was not originally going to center on Ebola, but changed focus as events unfolded.

“When this course was scheduled in the spring, I envisioned that it would focus more on insect outbreaks and deal with some epidemics,” he said. “However, once the Ebola epidemic became as large as it is, I realized that it was a unique opportunity to have a class follow an epidemic as it occurred.”

When this course was scheduled in the spring, I envisioned that it would focus more on insect outbreaks and deal with some epidemics. … However, once the Ebola epidemic became as large as it is, I realized that it was a unique opportunity to have a class follow an epidemic as it occurred.

The students have read several scholarly articles on the current and past Ebola outbreaks, and have been following the response by health agencies via regularly posted updates by the CDC and World Health Organization.

“This is really a subject that presents its own topics every week,” Johnson said.

Among the topics explored by the course so far have been the history of Ebola, the outbreak in Africa and the response to Ebola cases in the United States.

The students also have learned how health officials use population models to follow epidemics and make predictions.

“There’s a certain model — the basic type is called an SIR model — where you categorize a population into one of three categories — those who are susceptible, those who are infectious and those who are recovered and resistant to the virus,” Johnson said.

The course has not only focused on Ebola, however. It has also looked at other disease outbreaks, such as measles.

“Measles is a very seasonal occurrence, which is largely driven by the bringing of new susceptible school children into a population,” Johnson said. “In recent years, as the rate of vaccination has decreased largely due to the unfounded scares of autism, we’re now seeing a higher prevalence of measles.”

Measles and small pox, he added, are good examples to illustrate how vaccines can protect the entire population, not just those who are vaccinated.

Read the full article on the VCU News Site: http://news.vcu.edu/article/Biology_course_explores_Ebola_epidemic_in_real_time