List of potential projects for students
This list comprises a variety of project ideas, but is not exclusive to the possibilities in my laboratory. Please feel free to contact me with specific questions in regards to any of these projects, or with any novel project idea that you may be interested to pursue in my laboratory. Although the projects are formulated primarily in terms of MS and PhD projects, many of them also have room for undergraduate research.
Twisted-wing insects (Strepsiptera):
- Investigation of the presence of a morphogenetic furrow within the strepsipteran eye. Previous anatomical investigations have resulted in several similarities between the compound eye of most insects and the unusual eyes of Strepsiptera. One way to demonstrate homology between compound eye facets, and the eyelets of Strepsiptera would be to demonstrate the presence of genes within the strepsitpteran eye, that are typical for compound eyes and have previously been described for Drosophila. Most interesting are a group of genes that are intimately involved in the formation of ommatidia. Those are genes that are expressed in the morphogenetic furrow. This project entails the use of a variety of different antibodies and possibly the fabrication of a Strepsiptera specific antibody. Depending on the depth of the approach this project could be pursued for a MS or PhD degree.
- Investigation of the olfactory system of the Strepsiptera. Thus far we have focused on the highly modified eyes of this peculiar insect. However, it has become clear that the olfactory system is also quite different from that of other insects, possibly being reduced to be a "male detector". This project has many components, including the histological analysis of new and existing preparations, behavioral observations and assays, as well as the possible use of electro - antennograms. To pursue this projects students need to be highly independent and creative, and thus it is only suited for students interested in acquiring a PhD.
Diving beetle larvae:
- Investigation of retinal ultra-structure of the larvae of Thermonectus marmoratus. Two of the six eyes on each side of the larvae are tubular and their shape and placement of retina is very different from any organism that previously has been described. One of our goals is to understand the function of these eyes, which is closely tied to ultrastructural details of the retina and its cells. This project will entail the use of a transmission electron microscope, a description of anatomical details and possibly 3D reconstruction. Although a dedicated student could extend the project to a PhD, it may be most suitable for a MS degree.
- Using physiological techniques to investigate visual fields of the larvae of Thermonectus marmoratus. In this project extracellular recordings of field potentials of the nerves of individual stemma will be used to measure the response to a small light source. By varying the position of the light source, the visual field can be determined. Given the peculiar anatomy of these insects, the visual field is expected to greatly vary between the horizontal and vertical axis. This project requires some background on physics and electronics as well as improvisation and skills and most likely will be co-advised between Dr. Layne and myself. Although a dedicated student could extend the project to a PhD, it may be most suitable for a MS degree.