Vertically Integrated Partners (VIP) Program
May 20 - July 26, 2013
The 2011 Vertical Integration Partners (VIP) Program is a 10-week program that provides 10 Duke undergraduates with support for a summer of research in the Biomedical Sciences with the theme of Inquiry Across Scale: From Genes to Cognition. Participants receive a $5,500 stipend.
There will be 5 VIP research teams in summer 2013:
Psychoneuroimmunology (Staci Bilbo and Cagla Eroglu)
Models & Mechanisms of Human Disease (Fred Nijhout and Mike Reed)
Plant Perception and Responses to Environmental Cues (Meng Chen and Kathleen Donohue)
Primate Genomics and the Evolution of Diet (Christine Wall and Greg Wray)
Molecular Biology and Evolution of Olfactory Circuits (Pelin Volkan and Hiroaki Matsunami)
Each team has two undergraduates. Students can apply from any major, with priority given to rising juniors and seniors. Students may not participate in this program after graduation.
Applications for 2013 will open on December 1, 2012.
Nijhout-Reed VIP Team 2007
2013 VIP Program Projects
This VIP team, directed by Staci Bilbo (Neurobiology) and Cagla Eroglu (Neurobiology), focuses on the mechanisms by which early-life events (e.g., stressors, infection, or trauma) may permanently “program” adult cognitive and affective abilities. Students will explore the molecular mechanisms by which glia (e.g., astrocytes and microglia) influence neurons and synapto-genesis within the developing brain, and the cellular and behavioral mechanisms by which bacterial infection early in life leads to vulnerability to cognitive impairments in adulthood. Key to this project is the analysis of cellular function from an integrated and cross-disciplinary perspective, using behavioral, systems, and molecular techniques from psychology, neuroscience, immunology, and cell biology.
2. Models and Mechanisms of Human Disease
This research program focuses on understanding the mechanisms of human diseases by developing simulation models based on well-understood cellular and biochemical processes, and studying how these go awry when genes undergo mutations or when environments change. Projects in previous summers have included acetaminophen toxicity, inflammation and oxidative stress, insulin resistance in type-2 diabetes and obesity, dopamine signaling and Parkinson's disease, and folic acid metabolism and birth defects. In the summer of 2013 our VIP teams will select from a variety of developmental mechanisms (such as the control of growth and shape), genetic diseases and metabolic defects (such those involving serotonin metabolism and affective disorders), and public health problems (such as arsenic poisoning in Bagladesh).
3. Plant perception and responses to environmental cues
This VIP team, directed by Meng Chen (Molecular Biology) and Kathleen Donohue (Evolutionary Biology) combines molecular genetics and evolutionary ecology to study how plants perceive and respond to environmental stimuli in ways that influence development and life-histories. The timing of the developmental transition of germination influences the life cycles plants express and affects their fitness. This project investigates the molecular mechanisms through which seeds respond to light and temperature to influence germination timing. We focus on the phytochromes, which perceive red and far-red light, and the transcription factor FLC, which regulates responses to temperature. We will investigate interactions between these environmental factors and sensing pathways.
4. Primate Genomics
This VIP team, directed by Greg Wray (Biology) and Christine Wall (Evolutionary Anthropology), will investigate changes in genome sequence and function associated with the evolution of human diet. Dietary adaptations unique to humans are quite diverse, including changes in tooth and jaw anatomy, taste and odorant receptors, digestive processes, the allocation of energy among tissues, and behavior. The faculty leaders are currently working to understand how these changes evolved, beginning by identifying the genes responsible, and then understanding how specific mutations in these genes alter molecular and cellular functions, thereby affecting organismal traits such as morphology, physiology, and behavior. This project will use methods from very different areas of the biological sciences, including genomics, bioinformatics, medicine, and evolutionary anthropology.
5. Molecular Biology and Evolution of Olfactory Circuits
Changes in the patterns of olfactory circuits can underlie adaptation to new habitats, mate selection, and drive speciation. This VIP team, directed by Pelin Volkan (Biology) and Hiroaki Matsunami (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology) will focus on differences in sequence, function and patterns of olfactory receptor expression and morphological differences in the organization of olfactory receptor neurons. The analysis will be performed both in vivo and in vitro in vertebrates and invertebrates. The team will explore how the identity of thousands of chemicals are perceived by odorant receptors, encoded in sensory neurons, and the mechanisms by which the genes that control this receptor machinery have evolved.