CAS Undergraduate Research Fellowship
Our College has developed an Undergraduate Research Fellowship experience for up to ten students per year from across the College. Our aim is to give our undergrads research opportunities to find purpose, mentorship and community within their academic discipline. And we aspire to facilitate self-discovery through research engagement and increase access for all undergraduates to impactful science.
Apply By November 15, 2022
How Many Fellowships Are Awarded?
We offer a total of 9 fellowships every spring semester. Fellowships last for the spring semester, and are complete by the end of the semester.
Who Gets Priority?
We prioritize applicants who don’t have any previous research experience and individuals who have experienced under-representation in their lived experience.
About the Program
Get Real Research Experience
The CAS Undergraduate Research Fellowship give you the chance to build real research skills working with a faculty advisor on one of their most wicked problems.
Get Paid to do Research
Fellowships will start in the Spring 2023 semester. You will get paid $14/hour, and be allotted 10 hours per week over a 15-week semester to complete your unique project.
Present Your Work
We encourage all our Fellows to present their final project at the Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium or the Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity Showcase in spring of each year.
Support for Project Lead Faculty
Project leaders may receive up to $300 to assist with purchasing project supplies.
What You Gain From an Undergrad Fellowship
Solve Wicked Problems Now
Our fellows get to work on the most pressing questions facing us today.
Participating in undergraduate research gives you a connection to your major AND the people who are doing amazing research right now!
Higher Graduation Rates
Doing undergraduate research results in higher graduation rates.
The Application Process
November 15, 2022
Step # 1
Browse the available research project descriptions in different labs across the College. Choose the lab and research project that interests you.
When will I start my fellowship?
Spring Semester 2023
How much will I have to work?
You will work up to 10 hours per week over the 15-week semester.
How much will I get paid?
Available Research Project Descriptions
Terry Engle: Understanding the mechanisms of trace mineral homeostasis in beef cattle
Mentors: Terry Engle and Huey Yi Loh
Animal Sciences Department
Trace elements (copper, manganese, and zinc) play an important role in growth, immune function, and fetal development in beef cattle. Understanding how these elements are digested, absorbed and, metabolized is critical to improving beef cattle production. Furthermore, the use of cell culture has been a successful model to understand mineral metabolism in many species. It presents a controlled environment that can be precisely manipulated and replicated to better understand tissue specific handling of minerals. The majority of research investigating liver and intestinal cell culture has utilized tissues from mice and rats. Research specific to ruminant liver and intestinal cell mineral metabolism is limited. Therefore, the objectives of these experiments will be to investigate: 1) the relative expression of Cu trafficking genes in whole bovine liver and intestinal cells, 2) the influence of Cu dose on the relative abundance of Cu trafficking genes in cultured tissues, and 3) the impact of Cu supplementation to beef cattle on the relative abundance of mRNA associated with genes involved in liver Cu homeostasis. Our hypothesis is that in vitro and in vivo studies on bovine liver and intestinal tissues would be comparable to one another in terms of relative gene abundance; that Cu concentrations ranging from 0-100 mg Cu/L would have an impact on Cu homeostatic gene expression in an in vitro environment; and that supplemental Cu in live cattle will influence Cu homeostatic genes in tissues obtained at slaughter.
These projects will require sample collection from live animals, laboratory analysis, and data interpretation.
Time spent working with and collecting samples from beef cattle; laboratory analysis, and possibly data presentation at a regional or national meeting.
Jessica Prenni: Development of a high throughput method for the detection of smoke taint in hops
Mentors: Brandon Sandoval
Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department
The Pacific Northwest (PNW) region, which includes Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, contains over 99% of all commercial hop acreage in the United States and accounts for approximately 40% of global hop acreage. In recent years, wildfire events have been increasing in both number and severity within this region. Several studies from the wine industry on the effects of smoke-exposed grapes (pre-and post-harvest) have shown detectible levels of volatile phenols (VPs) characteristic of smoke-taint, both in berries and wine. However, there is little research extending this evidence to hops and the brewing industry. Our overall goal is to develop and validate high-throughput analytical method that can be used to detect smoke-taint in hops and evaluate the impact of wildfire smoke on this important crop for the brewing industry.
The fellow will become proficient in basic laboratory tasks including: weighing, measurement of solvents and homogenization, and will also complete laboratory safety certifications including hazardous waste generation and biosafety level 1 and 2. The fellow will gain hands-on experience with operation of the analytical instruments and will learn the basics of data processing and how to generate chemometric models. The fellow will be expected to maintain a laboratory notebook throughout the course of the project.
The project PI (Dr. Prenni) will meet with the fellow at the start of the fellowship and once a month during the fellowship (or as requested). The fellow will receive direct mentorship from the graduate student (Brandon Sandoval) that is leading the project, as well as the Prenni lab manager (Dr. Jacqueline Chaparro) on a daily basis throughout the length of their project. The fellow will be invited to attend bi-weekly lab meetings and will have the opportunity to receive feedback from the entire lab group on their final presentation. Project deliverables will include a poster to be submitted to the Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity (CURC) event once the project is complete.
Caitlin Cadaret: Thermoregulation in newborn lambs
Mentors: Caitlin Cadaret
Animal Sciences Department
Challenges during gestation not only cause stress on the dam but can also affect the way a fetus develops in utero. One such stressor animals in extensive rangelands often experience is nutrient challenge, as winter forage is less abundant and lower quality. This project seeks to identify how nutrient challenge during gestation impacts the postnatal lamb in order to develop strategies to mitigate the outcomes better. We will be evaluating many indicators of animal health, performance, and welfare but this fellowship will lead investigation into how these lambs regulate their body temperature.
The selected fellow will have the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the project including animal husbandry, feeding, vaccination, blood collection, and morphometric collection. They will also get to play a key role in lambing helping birth, care, and treat neonatal lambs. For their specific data collection they will be in charge of collecting daily body temperatures of lambs in order to better understand how well they are thermoregulating in the early postnatal period.
Students will get to spend quite a bit of time at ARDEC, be involved in laboratory meetings and weekly seminars. There is an opportunity to get lab experience as well, if interested. Student data will be presented on campus at one of the undergraduate research fairs with the possibility of traveling with the lab to a society conference and presenting their data there.
Caitlin Cadaret: Nutrient Challenge During Gestation on Lamb Growth and Development
Mentors: Caitlin Cadaret
Animal Sciences Department
Nutrient challenge during pregnancy is known to impact the way a fetus develops. Many of these studies have been completed by reducing intake but less is known about how specific nutrient deficiencies impact fetal health. Thus, this project will evaluate how a diet with reduced protein and energy during key points in gestation impacts lamb growth, development, health, and welfare. While we will evaluate many different determinants of lamb health, welfare, and performance, this specific fellowship will lead the collection of lamb weights and morphometrics to determine any differences in how these animals growth and perform.
Fellows are able to be involved in all aspects of the research where they are interested. This included opportunities to gain experience with animal husbandry, feeding, weighing, health analysis, blood collection, vaccinating, lambing, and lamb processing. The specific tasks this fellow will be responsible for are those related to animal body weight and morphometrics (crown-rump length, head circumference, abdominal girth, cannon bone length).
Students will spend most of their time at CSU’s ARDEC facility. They will also be invited to partake in lab meetings and weekly discipline specific seminars. The data resulting from their fellowship will be presented at one of CSU’s undergraduate research fairs. There will also be the possibility of joining the lab at a scientific meeting to present their research in an undergraduate competition.
Vamsi Nalam: Identifying site of host-aphid resistance in sorghum
Mentors: Carl VanGessel
Agricultural Biology Department
Aphids are a serious threat to crop production around the world and each species interacts with its host crop differently. Combining biology and electrical engineering, electropenetrography (EPG) uses an electrical circuit connecting an aphid and plant leaf to observe the feeding process and where insect-resistance mechanisms are interfering with aphid infestation. Students will use EPG and a hypothesis-driven scientific method to learn how sorghum aphid feeds on its host. This will inform the development of aphid-resistant varieties benefiting farmers in the US and globally.
Students will be trained on and perform electropenetrography experiments using Sorghum bicolor and Melanaphis sorghii (sorghum aphid). This involves connecting electrodes to a plant and aphid to form a closed circuit inside of a Faraday cage and observing the waveforms produced over several hours of aphid feeding. Students will use software to interpret EPG output and be responsible for maintaining aphid colonies and plants in the insectary and greenhouses. Students will also be given the opportunity to learn and perform other entomology and crop improvement related experiments.
Undergrad research fellows will be trained on entomology and crop research methods, invited to join research lab meetings, and given opportunities to present their results with the mentorship of the hosting graduate student.
Federico Martin: Exploiting conserved gene regulation mechanisms for genome-wide breeding for heat and broad- spectrum disease tolerance in rice
Mentors: Federico Martin
Agricultural Biology Department
Rising global temperatures create changes in weather patterns that exacerbate droughts, soil degradation, floods, and spread of pathogenic diseases, all of which directly affect agriculture. To mitigate the negative consequences of these rapid changes, faster and more efficient breeding strategies are necessary to produce tolerant cultivars. Tolerance in plants to stresses, such as heat and disease, involves changes in expression patterns of many genes. Our project aims to simultaneously increase heat and disease tolerance in rice through the development and application of conserved molecular markers for breeding based on shared molecular signatures that control gene activity upon changes in the environment. The markers will be developed by computationally identifying conserved stress responsive CRE/CRM in gene promoters relevant to heat and disease tolerance, converting information on CRE/CRM sequence variations into genetic markers. The markers will be validated in transient experiments in the greenhouse, as well as in a rice panel that varies for heat and disease tolerance. Our strategy would shift the paradigm for breeding crops because it would allow for genome-wide selection of complex traits with one or a few simple markers rather than the traditional one marker-one gene approach.
- Compile lists of genes based on published and publicly available reports.
- Develop and use bioinformatic tools to analyze genomic diversity in multiple genomes.
- Clone and test promoter sequences to test relevant sequences.
- Analyze plant performance and gene activity during control experiments for heat and pathogen infection.
- Data analysis, presentation of results, and publication of findings.
participation and presentation in lab meetings, student symposium and conferences. Participation in lab retreats and activities. Collaboration with other students and lab personnel.
Kelly Wrighton: Secrets of Wetland Soils: Investigating microbial methane production within wetland carbon sinks to better understand how wetland soils can contribute to climate change
Mentors: Jared Ellenbogen & Brooke Stemple (both post docs with Kelly’s group)
Soil and Crop Sciences Department
Wetland soils represent the largest natural source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. The release of this methane from wetland soils contributes to climate change and a lot of research has been done to understand how methane is produced in and released by these soils through microorganisms known as methanogens. We don’t fully understand how important different routes of microbial methane formation are to methane production in different soils. Methanogens can make methane using three different pathways, but most groups only think two of these pathways are important across wetlands. However, we believe that this third path of methane formation by methanogens is important but understudied. We are trying to show this in part by isolating methanogens from wetlands that can use this third way to make methane and characterize how they grow. Ultimately, we believe that this work is essential to understand soil carbon sinks and help build better models of global atmospheric methane emissions, to better predict and respond to climate change.
The goal of this project is to isolate a (hopefully novel!) methanogen from wetland soils to help us learn about how it grows and produces methane. The initial tasks of this project would involve learning microbiological culturing techniques, including enrichment/isolation of organisms from soils, aseptic technique, and anaerobic culturing techniques. The student would learn how to perform gas chromatography (GC) to measure gas production by methane-producing organisms, and how to use a spectrophotometer to measure the growth of organisms once isolated into pure culture. Finally, after obtaining a pure culture of a methanogen, the student could learn basic genomics, including how to sequence and analyze an isolate genome.
First, a research student on this project would be co-mentored by two post-docs with different backgrounds in the Wrighton lab, allowing for a diverse training experience. A student would be able to attend weekly lab meetings and interact with a diverse group of scientists at many career stages (undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, research scientists, and professors). Depending on how the project progresses, we see opportunity for a possible poster presentation at the 2023 Front Range Microbiome Symposium, and maybe even a short genome announcement publication, which would both be great for a CV/resume if the student wanted to pursue a research career/graduate school.
Robyn Roberts: Home Wheat Home: How do viruses cause disease in wheat?
Mentors: Robyn Roberts
Agricultural Biology Department
Climate change, drought, and plant stress apply pressure to field crops, and plant pathogens are continuously emerging as a result of these stresses. The Roberts lab applies a variety of molecular and applied techniques to study viruses that infect plants, particularly in wheat, which is the largest field crop in Colorado. The goals of the lab are to study how viruses emerge, how they make plants sick, and how we can improve plant immunity.
The fellow will learn and execute various plant biology research methods, from plant cultivation to molecular biology. The project will focus on separating two wheat viruses which are generally found together in a ‘virus complex’ and function in a synergistic manner. The fellow will learn inoculation techniques, DNA/RNA extraction, qPCR, and more.
In addition to gaining experience in a laboratory setting, the fellow will collaborate with graduate students, research associates, and other undergraduate students on projects, and participate in group discussions and lab meetings. Following the completion of their project, the fellow will be supported and encouraged to present at CSU’s Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium (MURALS) or the Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity (CURC) Showcase.
Alexandra Hill: Estimating Impacts of California Overtime Laws for Agricultural Workers
Mentors: Alexandra Hill
Agriculture and Resource Economics Department
Multiple states have now passed or are considering legislation to remove agricultural worker exemptions from overtime and minimum wage laws. California was the first to adopt these rules with the Agricultural Workers’ Assembly Bill (AB-1066) which passed in 2016. Since then, New York, Washington, and Colorado have passed similar legislation, and the issue is gaining traction in many other states.
Farm workers and the agricultural operations employing them have been historically exempt from standard overtime and minimum wage laws due to their exclusion from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Growing numbers of industry stakeholders and activists have argued that these exemptions should be removed, but to date no work has empirically estimated the impacts of these laws or systematically documented worker perceptions of these laws.
This project will be the first to examine the effects of these laws as implemented in California. The project will consist of analyzing data on employment, wages, and hours from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) to document changes in these outcomes in California since the implementation of the new overtime legislation. Prior to data analysis, the student will be expected to produce a background report summarizing the law passed in California and generating testable hypotheses as to the likely effects of the legislation. The end result of the project will be a research paper to be coauthored with the project mentor.
The CAS undergraduate student will be responsible for the following research tasks:
• Collecting background information on the California minimum wage and overtime laws as they pertain to agricultural workers.
• Downloading QCEW data for California; cleaning and combining these data; analyzing these data
• Downloading NAWS data for California; cleaning and combining these data; analyzing these data
• Producing a research brief with summary statistics on trends and changes in agricultural employment and wages in California. This will be posted on the Colorado State University Food Systems webpage – https://foodsystems.colostate.edu/research-impacts/agricultural-labor/
• Working with the project mentor to produce a publication-quality research article that estimates the effects of the California overtime and minimum wage legislation. This article will lead to a publication co-authored with the mentor and the CSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship Student.
The CSU Undergraduate Research Fellowship Student will have multiple mentoring opportunities:
• Join and present in the monthly Food Systems Research Lab meetings in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
• Weekly meetings with the project mentor.
• One-on-one instruction from the project mentor on:
o Conducting systematic literature reviews
o Data cleaning
o Data analysis
o Creating effective data visualizations
o Presenting to academic and industry audiences
• Opportunities to connect with and present findings to other economists, policymakers, and Colorado industry stakeholders.