Research Experiences and Other Opportunities

Research Experiences and Other Opportunities

One of the main strengths of the Biology Program at UMPI is the opportunity for undergraduates to participate in research experiences, both in the lab and in the field. Students can work as work-study students or paid assistants on faculty research projects, or they can take Independent Study courses or volunteer as well. UMPI faculty are all conducting research projects and undergraduates are encouraged to participate. UMPI also has other special opportunities in the state and beyond.


Dr. Jason Johnston, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, has led several years’ of research on the Aroostook River Watershed through EPSCoR grants [Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research], bringing more than $416,000 in National Science Foundation monies to the institution. Biology students have been able to help out with various aspects of this research, including work on ecological aspects of current and proposed new grasslands and evaluating the potential impact to grassland birds.

INBRE-supported Biomedical Research

Students work in the lab with professors who are supported by Maine INBRE on biomedical research projects which currently include genomics of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, organ regeneration in insects, and cancer treatment strategies.

Advanced Physiology Cancer Research Laboratory

Directed by Dr. Li Zuo, Associate Professor of Biology, this lab is designed to study ROS formation in cancer cells, and elucidate new pathways in an effort to develop more effective therapeutics that targets cancer cells with minimal harming effects on the neighboring healthy cells. In addition, we are interested in the redox regulation in cancer stem cells, which may enhance the understanding of the stem cell-based therapeutics at molecular levels.

Molecular Biology Research Projects

UMPI faculty are actively involved in many areas of molecular-based research that utilize cutting-edge technology. This gives UMPI students the opportunity to learn skills that are utilized in labs around the world. Molecular-based projects have included next-gen sequencing, microbiome analysis, bacterial and viral pathogenesis, phylogenetic analysis of gene sequences, metabarcoding,and comparative functional genomics. Molecular-based research is a great way for students to expand skill sets and increase competitiveness in the job market.

Field Projects in Northern Maine that combine Ecology and Genetics

Northern Maine offers opportunities for field projects right in our own backyard. The North Maine Woods is very close to the UMPI campus and this extensive natural area has been extensively used by UMPI scientists to explore both ecological and genetic questions of regional interest. Studies have included bird diet and climate change, the genetics of snails in the Fish River chain of lakes, the carbon budget of local Native American lands, and the vegetation community structure and population genetics of lichens on rock glaciers in Deboullie Public Lands.

Plant and Soil Research Projects

UMPI faculty are also conducting research projects on the response of plants to the environment, their association with other organisms such as bacteria and viruses, and soil biology. Many undergraduate students have participated in these projects, and a number of them are done in collaboration with local agricultural associations or state agencies. Our greenhouse is used for teaching and research where we provide students with real-world experience on projects that have been funded by the USDA and the Maine Potato Board.

Biomedical Research Short Course at MDI Biological Laboratory

UMPI Biology undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in a week-long biomedical research short course in January every year that is fully supported by Maine INBRE. Students are instructed by high caliber biomedical research scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. The week includes working on a biomedical research project in the state-of-the-art teaching lab, bioinformatics instruction, exploration of current technologies such as PCR and high resolution microscopes, and career exploration.

Maine Biology and Medical Sciences Symposium and other conferences

UMPI Biology students have many opportunities to attend scientific conferences, such as the MBMSS conference each year at the MDI Biological Laboratory. The conference is attended by Biology undergraduate and graduate students from all over Maine, and UMPI students often present posters on their research. If you work with a professor on a research project, you may be included in trips to conferences such as the American Society of Microbiology or the Northeastern Natural History Conference to present your work. Students also present their research at the annual University Day held every spring.

Capstone Course

The final course in your Biology program is the Capstone Course. One opportunity is an Internship at a local institution, agency or business in the area of your career choice. Examples might include working and observing at a local hospital, a physical therapy business, or an agriculture agency. You also have the option of doing a Senior Project where you do in-depth literature research and grant proposal writing or a Senior Thesis where you participate in a research project with a faculty member and write a senior thesis on your results.


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