Summer Undergraduate Research Program - MSU

Through GLBRC’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI), students are engaged in a research program across multiple disciplines, including biochemistry, plant biology, genetics, microbiology, ecology, and crop sciences. The summer program students will: 

  • Join a dynamic group of students and faculty for a unique research experience.
  • Learn the process of research: reading literature, formulating questions and hypotheses, designing a study, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting your results as a research poster and presentation.
  • Participate in lab group meetings and attend research seminars.
  • Explore if bioenergy research is a right fit for them.
  • Attend field trips to learn more about the integrated bioenergy research at GLBRC.
  • Build references for your application to graduate school or other professional programs.
  • Participate in professional development seminars that will prepare you to think broadly about STEM career options.

Apply here now!

2024 MSU SURP Host Labs

Biomass Analytical Core Facility

The Biomass Analytical Core Facility provides analytical capabilities to characterize and screen feedstock materials such as native and pre-treated biomass, hydrolysates, conversion residues and lignin extracts. The data obtained is essential for the understanding of plant development and for use of the plant biomass in the agriculture, biofuel and bioproduct industries. Our summer research would involve method development for a chemical procedure and analytical chemistry for the analyses of cell wall polysaccharides. Specifically, we seek to carry out identification and quantification of cell walls and their respective linkage positions to teach us how the cell walls were formed. The research project will cover the preparation of cell walls for the analysis of monosaccharides, tagging the complex hemicellulose structures for linkage analysis and chemical conversion to volatile acetate derivatives for analysis by means of gas chromatograpy and mass spectrometry.

Mentor: Ryan Johnson, Lab Manager

Brandizzi Lab

The main goal of our summer research project is the evaluation of Mixed-Linkage Glucan (MLG) in engineered bioenergy sorghum in the field at the MSU agricultural farms. Utilizing first generation sorghum hybrid lines, we will estimate MLG content and biomass production. This work will include monitoring growth, conducting biochemical plant cell wall analysis, genotyping sorghum hybrid lines, and engaging in molecular cloning. This integrated work aims at providing a complete overview of plant engineering work, including field work experience and the opportunity to discover various lab techniques.

Mentor: Sang-Jin Kim, Research Assistant Professor

Hamberger Lab

Our team is interested in bioactive plant metabolites, discovery of the pathways and biotechnological production of these industrially relevant targets. Examples in the past are plant protectants, anti-feedants, plant-microbial interaction, and other high value bioproducts that can help boosting the resilience of our biofuel plant species. We use a broad spectrum of bioinformatics, metabolite analysis (gas/liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry), transcriptome, and plant genome mining to discover candidate genes to reconstruct pathways of interest. We can offer experiences in any (or all) of these areas, depending on your interests. Techniques that can be mastered include plant synthetic biology, general molecular biology, metabolomics, bioinformatics, and plant engineering.

Mentor: Nick Schlecht, Graduate Student

Kravchenko Lab

The summer research project will focus on the rainout shelters at the Marginal Lands Experiment at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (MLE-GLBRC). The shelters were installed to examine the effects of drought on plant production and composition. The main goal of the summer project is to study the soil biological properties, such as quantifying fungal biomass and enzymes in the water-stressed conditions combined with analyzing soil pore structure, especially pore size distribution, porosity, and pore connectivity, to understand the drivers and mechanisms underlying the below-ground soil carbon accrual. This project will be a lab-heavy experience, where you will become familiar with using an HPLC and other various laboratory techniques and machines.

Mentors: Poulamee Chakraborty, Postdoc & Maxwell Oerther, Research Assistant

Last Lab

Our summer research project aims at concentrating key metabolites found in the root exudates of the bioenergy crop switchgrass to evaluate their antimicrobial activity and understand their biological functions at the interface between switchgrass and its associated microbes. Our work will focus on 1- optimizing the current methodology for identification and quantification of these small molecules by liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS) (improve sensitivity and resolution of detection method); 2- modifying the hydroponics culture conditions to obtain higher metabolite concentrations in the root exudates of switchgrass; 3- isolating and purifying the small molecules directly from switchgrass tissues by extraction, phase partitioning, and high-performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC); 4- testing the properties of the extracted metabolites of interest.

Mentor: Xingxing Li, Postdoc

TerAvest Lab

The goal of the project is to the ability of the bacterium Zymomonas mobilis to make biofuels. The project will involve making genetic modifications to Zymomonas using molecular biology techniques including PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA assembly, and transformation. We will also grow the modified Zymomonas and measure their ability to convert lignocellulosic feedstocks into biofuels.

Mentor: Michaela TerAvest, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Walker Lab

The overarching objective of the upcoming summer research project is to understand the role of photorespiration in bioenergy crops under drought conditions. We will use an improved programmable drought system that has been developed in the Walker lab. The research will take place in the MSU greenhouse. The undergraduate student will be using various instruments such as Li-6800 and Li-600 to measure various aspects of photosynthesis and photorespiration. They will also be trained to visualize and analyze the data that they collected.

Mentor: Binod Basyal, Postdoc


For additional information about the program, contact Pavani Tumbalam (tumbala1(at)msu(dot)edu).

Read about the experience of previous GLBRC SURP participants here.

Michigan State University
May 20 - July 26, 2024
Who Should Apply
We strongly encourage applications from underrepresented groups in the sciences, first-generation college students, students that attend colleges with limited research opportunities (e.g., small liberal arts and community colleges), and US military veterans currently enrolled as undergraduates in STEM majors.
Application Deadline