Student Research Opportunities


UTSA is an amazing institution with many opportunities to get involved in undergraduate and graduate research!

To help you find a laboratory in the Department of Neuroscience, Developmental and Regenerative Biology (NDRB) that currently has openings for students to participate (non-paying) in cutting-edge research, see the table of available research opportunities below.

How to Make Contact

  1. Find a project described in the table of available research opportunities below that matches closest to your interests.
  2. Visit the NDRB faculty webpage or their lab website (if they have one) and do a bit of homework to understand the investigator's area(s) of interest.
  3. The big question: do the interests of the lab match your interests? You should be able to clearly articulate – to yourself and others – why you are interested in working in that lab.
  4. Using the contact information provided, email the following:
    • Your name and that you are interested in working on a particular project as posted on the website (include project number)
    • Your major and how many credit hours you have completed toward your degree.
    • If minimum requirements are stated, respond to each item.
    • If a CV or completed form is requested, include it as an attachment.
    • Provide the amount of time you have available to commit.
    • Explain in 1-3 sentences why you are interested in the laboratory.
    • Note the deadline for applying (if there is one). If there is a deadline, you most likely will be notified within 1-2 weeks (or sooner) if the laboratory is interested in scheduling an interview.

If you have any questions about this process, please contact the Assistant Chair Dr. David Jaffe.

students in lab microscope NDRB logo

Available Research Opportunities

last updated: January 2, 2023
PI and Project
Details

Alfonso Apicella, PhD

Associate Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Projects

AA1: Anatomical characterization of cortical neurons
AA2: Active avoidance
AA3: Fear conditioning
AA4: RNAseq

Level: Undergraduate or Master's thesis

Minimum Requirements:

  • Neurobiology
  • Matlab coding
  • Arduino

Time Committment: 19 hours/week

Application Deadline: none

Description: Cortical microcircuits process sensory information to drive behavior. Deciphering how populations of neurons encode information, generate perceptions, and execute behavioral decisions requires working at both the cellular and system levels.

Lacy Barton, PhD

Assistant Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Project

LB1: Investigations into how proper primordial germ cell development supports fertility and health of the next generation using classic Drosophila melanogaster genetics, microscopy, molecular biology, and in vitro cell assays

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • successful completion of an introductory biology class with an associated laboratory section
  • comfort working with fruit flies
  • ability to sit at a microscope for one to two hours at a time
  • ability to follow verbal and written multi-step directions
  • ability to take notes well enough to use to precisely replicate techniques you’ve been shown
  • ability to work independently and as a team in a manner that is respectful to all lab members

Time Committment: 5 hours/week for an introductory volunteer period (which will last 2-3 months). If everything is going well and you want to stay, we will shift away from volunteer status. To do your own research project after the introductory volunteer period, we require a commitment of 10-15 hours/week for a minimum of 6 months (9 months if including the introductory period).

Application Deadline: Please email your materials by the end of the third week of every Fall and Spring semester starting Spring 2023 (first deadline is February 3, 2023).

Anthony Burgos-Robles, PhD

Assistant Professor
»email  »profile

Projects

ABR1: Neural encoding of fear and safety memories
ABR2: Threat avoidance and behavioral flexibility
ABR3: Cortical control of social phobia in mouse models
ABR4: Epigenetic alterations in the brain in response to stress

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • scientific curiosity and imagination
  • ability for critical thinking and problem-solving
  • motivation, dedication, and reliable work ethics
  • effective skills on communication, teamwork, and time management
  • have an interest in neuroscience or biomedical research career
  • familiarity with the basics of neurobiology and neural function
  • familiarity with data analysis, statistical methods, and graph plotting
  • experience with machine learning coding in R, Matlab, or Python is a huge plus

Responsibilities:

  • examine mouse behaviors associated to fear, stress, and anxiety
  • perform histological procedures and fluorescence imaging of mouse brain tissue
  • perform data analysis, apply statistical methods, and generate illustrations of results
  • participate in weekly group meetings to discuss the theoretical framework of projects
  • participate in regular meetings with the PI for progress on project and mentoring
  • prepare presentations of published articles for group discussions (i.e., journal clubs)
  • help to maintain a joyful and successful lab environment and team atmosphere
  • help in the collective effort of the lab to succeed

Time Committment: 15-19 hours/week

Application Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis. For initial screening, email Dr. Burgos-Robles with your CV or resume, prior research experiences, and a brief description of your career interests. URMs in the MARC, RISE, ESTEEMED, LSAMP, WSRTP, McNair, and Honors Program are encouraged to apply.

Description: Dr. Burgos’ lab focuses on elucidating the neural substrates associated with the regulation of fear, stress, and anxiety. Particularly, his lab investigates neural pathways originating in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which plays central roles in higher-order cognitive functions and the regulation of negative emotions. Determining how distinct populations of neurons in the PFC encode information about potential dangers in the environment is essential for understanding how cognitive processes are engaged to generate flexible behavioral strategies to deal with fear, stress, and anxiety inducing stimuli. To investigate these neural substrates, this lab implements various multidisciplinary approaches that include mouse behavior paradigms, in vivo neural recordings, viral-mediated gene transduction, optogenetics, chemogenetics, neuropharmacology, immunohistochemistry, fluorescence imaging, and scRNA-seq.

Brian Hermann, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Projects

BH1: Characterization of novel transgenic mice for lineage tracing and ablation
BH2: Analyze novel RNAseq datasets
BH3: Validate single-cell RNA-seq results with immunostaining and smFISH methods

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • strong work ethic, reliability and punctuality
  • effective written and oral communication
  • willingness to work independently and in a team
  • enthusiasm for learning
  • willingness to work with laboratory mice (for project 1)
  • strong core knowledge about basic cell and molecular biology principles
  • experience with DNA/RNA isolation, PCR and gene expression analysis a plus
  • microscopy, cell manipulation and basic R skills are also a plus

Responsibilities:

  • perform experiments; collect data and interpret data
  • document daily lab work in lab notebook
  • communicate results in lab notebook, lab reports, and contribute towards writing manuscript(s)
  • attend and participate in weekly lab meetings
  • meet weekly with the PI to discuss experiments

Time Committment: 15-19 hours/week

Application Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis; contact Brian Hermann for more information.

Description: Work on research projects that involve studying spermatogenesis and spermatogonial stem cells in laboratory mice and marmosets using a variety of techniques and approaches.

Jenny Hsieh, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Projects

JH1: Single cell transcriptomic analysis of human brain organoids
JH2: Cell phenotype analysis of human brain organoid models of epilepsy
JH3: Cell phenotype analysis of human brain organoid models of Alzheimer’s disease
JH4: Mouse models of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease

Contacts

(email directly for more information)
JH1: Parul Varma
JH2: Vanesa Nieto Estevez
JH3: Kaisha Acosta
JH4: Gopu Changarathil

Level: Undergraduate (Neuroscience or Biology or equivalent) or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • preference given to students in their freshman or sophomore year (or MS students in their first semester)
  • completion of intro biology and/or molecular biology is highly recommended
  • understanding of basic molecular biology concepts (replication, transcription, translation)
  • interest and motivation in learning/working in a research lab
  • previous lab experience is a plus but not required
  • demonstrate effective communication and ability to work as a team and independently
  • able to have a consistent schedule for devoting time to lab training and experiments
  • ability to take notes to facilitate the learning of techniques and equipment
  • participate in lab meetings/journal clubs

Specific Requirements for JH1:

  • coding experience in languages such as R/Python is mandatory
  • familiarity with network modeling and machine learning, statistical methodologies
  • familiarity with UTSA High Performance Computing (HPC) cluster Arc and/or TACC servers at UT Austin is a plus
  • understanding of basic biology concepts such as replication, transcription, and translation is a plus but students with pure computational background are also highly encouraged to apply and can be taught the basics as required

Time Committment: Flexible, at least 10 hours/week for an introductory volunteer period (which will last 3 months). If everything is going well and you want to stay, we will shift away from volunteer status. To obtain a paid position, we require a commitment of 15-19 hours/week for a minimum of 6 months (9 months if including the introductory period). Ideally, the student would have two or more years to learn and use the techniques and contribute to data collection that would result in a publication.

Application Deadline: none

Description:

  • JH1: Work on research projects that involve identifying cell type specific gene regulatory networks using scRNA seq datasets from brain organoids. This project is anticipated to identify crucial molecular targets for therapeutic intervention in genetic epilepsy.
  • JH2 and JH3: Work on research projects that involve identifying cell phenotypes using immunohistochemistry and microscopy of brain organoids. This project is anticipated to identify crucial cellular targets for therapeutic intervention in genetic epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease.
  • JH4: The project involves animal models and human samples to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of seizures in epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

David Jaffe, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile

Projects

DJ1: Role of aberrant adult born granule cells in the generation of electrographic seizures in the hippocampal formation
DJ2: Gating of pain information through dorsal root ganglia

Level: Master's thesis

Minimum Requirements:

  • undergraduate Neurobiology or equivalent

Time Committment: 19 hours/week

Application Deadline: none

Description: Projects are available for two motivated Masters students interested in thesis research.

  • DJ1: Involves recording of seizure activity from awake behaving animals. The goal is to understand how aberrant adult born granule cells affect hippocampal circuitry and, in turn, seizure activation.
  • DJ2: The goal is to understand how pain signals are filtered at the level of dorsal root ganglion. Students will make recordings from nerve fibers and individual neurons to determine the underlying mechanisms of action potential filtering under different experimental conditions.

Robert Renthal, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Projects

RR1: Insect odorant receptors
RR2: Photochemical tags for biochemical analysis of insect antennal lipids and proteins
RR3: Antennal touch receptors in ants

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • some coding experience (any language)

Time Committment: at least 10 hours/week

Application Deadline: none

Fidel Santamaria, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Projects

FS2: Unifying neuronal simulation environments in Python
FS3: Computational and experimental neuroscience of the cerebellum

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • coding experience a must
  • MATLAB and Python preferred

Time Committment: 5-20 hours/week

Application Deadline: none

Todd Troyer, PhD

Associate Professor
»email  »profile

Projects

TT1: Dta modeling of neural responses in auditory cortex of Mexican Freetail bats
TT2: Modeling firing rate response dynamics in simple model neurons

Level: Undergraduate or Master's thesis

Minimum Requirements:

  • some background in calculus
  • some familiarity with computer programming
  • willingness to learn
  • exposure to concepts of model optimization optimal for work on bat auditory responses

Time Committment: Flexible, but at least 7 hours/week.

Application Deadline: none

Description: Space is available for computationally motivated students to work on data modeling/theoretical studies of timing in neural circuits. Students will mostly work individually in collaboration with Dr. Troyer: most work can be done wherever on a student’s laptop. It is expected that students will meet roughly weekly with Dr. Troyer. Students with only an initial exposure to math and programming skills are welcome, but success requires student with initiative and ability to succeed in a loosely structured environment.

  • TT1: Dr. Michael Smotherman at Texas A&M has recorded auditory response from neurons in bat auditory cortex. Work is needed to build models to characterize the computations performed by these neurons.
  • TT2: It is generally assumed that response times of neurons should be limited by the timescales of membrane integration, but preliminary simulations show that response times result from a mix of fast and slow dynamics. The nature of this mix will be investigated by simulating noisy spiking neurons.

Matthew Wanat, PhD

Professor
»email  »profile  »lab

Project

MW1: Astrocytes and avoidance learning

Level: Undergraduate or Master's

Minimum Requirements:

  • motivated students with an interest in neurobiology/lab research projects
  • successful completion of animal training requirements
  • comfortable working with rodents

Application Deadline: none

Description: The project examines the role of midbrain astrocytes in learning how to avoid aversive outcomes. The research involves rodent surgeries, viral manipulations of astrocytes, rodent behavior, and immunohistochemistry.

Λ