Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Research opportunities help students develop additional skills not typically offered in undergraduate courses and help the student apply knowledge acquired in coursework to real-world situations through individualized faculty mentorship. These research opportunities also train students to effectively implement the scientific method in laboratory or field studies and to both process and communicate their results. All students are eligible for research support through the Canisius Earning Excellence program. Students participating in research present their work during Ignatian Scholarship Day at Canisius, frequently attend national and international professional conferences with their mentor, and publish in respected, peer-reviewed research journals.

Click on the name of a faculty member below, or scroll to the bottom of this page, for additional expandable information on research projects in their lab.

Katie Costanzo

Research in the Costanzo lab focuses on how interactions with the abiotic and biotic environment affect population dynamics, life history traits, and behavior in mosquitoes.  These traits may impact disease transmission by the mosquito vectors, so we can determine how the environment may alter transmission over spatial and temporal scales. We also study a number of mosquito species including invasive and native species to the New World, which allow us to determine how their responses vary, along with the impacts invasive species may have on the native community.  The studies performed in my lab include field studies and laboratory studies working with both the aquatic immature larval stage and the terrestrial adult stage.

Another area of research we perform is the effects of human activities on aquatic invertebrate communities.  Specifically, we are investigating the impacts of road salt and petroleum on communities residing in roadside ditches retaining water.  These studies will provide insight to how vehicular activities impact aquatic communities including mosquitoes, which inhabit these ditches.

Robert Grebenok

In addition to the collaborative research involving the examination of natural steroid defenses in higher plants (see keeping the food supply safe), Dr. Grebenok’s lab also investigates the steroidal regulation of the photosynthetic process and the plants use of steroids as signaling molecules throughout their growth and development.

The examination of steroidal regulation of the photosynthetic process involves the examination of transgenic tobacco that maintain bacterial genes that allow the transgenic tobacco to photosynthesize at a faster rate and accumulate elevated levels of photosynthetic products, than controls. The transgenic manipulation alters the membrane environment in which the photosynthetic process takes place and the manipulation allows a faster rate of electron movement and an increased ability of the transgenic plants to accumulate products of photosynthesis.

The examination of movement of steroids within the phloem involves the isolation of phloem from many plants at varied developmental times.  These steroids appear to be highly regulated in their appearance and their presence appears to correlate with development of the plant and environmental stimuli.

Daniel Haeusser

Research in the Haeusser Lab focuses on bacterial cell division, particularly on factors expressed by viruses (bacteriophage) that infect cells and alter host shape or cytokinesis. As an essential and conserved process, bacterial cell division is an attractive target for novel antibiotic development. Division in most bacteria involves the cytoskeletal protein FtsZ, a homolog of tubulin that binds GTP and polymerizes into filaments that cluster into a ring-shaped structure at the nascent site of division. This FtsZ serves as a scaffold for the recruitment of many other proteins necessary for cytokinesis that is properly coordinated within the bacterial cell cycle. 

Student research projects in the Haeusser Lab allow mentoring in genetics, microscopy, and biochemical techniques in the context of basic microbiology research with potential medical applications. Outside of 'wet lab' experiences, students may work with Dr. Haeusser in science communication through Small Things Considered or in research on the inclusion of microbiology in literature and media. 

Lisa Morey

I am interested in how natural and synthetic estrogens impact gene expression in cancer cells. Estrogenic compounds have been shown to both increase and decrease the risk of a variety of conditions and diseases, including cancer. These compounds, however, are not mutagenic which means they are not altering the DNA sequence. Instead, they have been shown to change the accessibility of the DNA. This is achieved by modulating the expression of enzymes involved in chemically modifying both the DNA and histone proteins. Histone proteins package the DNA in cells and control how readily a given sequence is expressed (transcribed).  When the amount or activity of these enzymes changes, there is a direct effect on gene expression. Given the prevalence of these compounds in our environment, understanding how exposure to these compounds impacts cancer gene expression could lead to novel therapies. 

Students working on research projects in my lab learn basic molecular and cellular techniques, including cell culture, nucleic acid (RNA and DNA) isolation and analysis, and pcr. In addition, students gain an understanding of how environmental exposures impact gene expression. 

Andrew Stewart

My primary research area falls under the umbrella of sexual conflict, where the evolutionary interests of one sex may differ from that of the other. Sexual conflict is manifested in two primary forms: intralocus and interlocus. Intralocus conflict is a tug of war over the expression of sexually antagonistic alleles: those that increase fitness when expressed in one sex, but decrease fitness when expressed in the other sex. Interlocus conflict is a 'Red Queen' process where an allele at one locus increases one sex's success in sexual selection (males), but actively harms the other sex (females). The harmed sex is then selected, through alleles at a different locus, to counteract this harm, but in so doing also negates the other sex's fitness gain. To explore both forms of sexual conflict I utilize the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) model system, combined with three major empirical tools: 1) evolutionary island analysis, 2) experimental evolution, and 3) digital microscopy.

Currently, research in the Stewart lab is focusing on how intralocus conflict over life-history traits affects the fitness of males and females. For the past decade several lines of flies have been evolving under intense artificial selection on body-size (larger, smaller, & disruptive). During this time, these lines have displayed remarkable changes in size, with flies becoming 50% larger, 50% smaller, and reversed sexual dimorphism. The changes in general body-size have also likely changed many other anatomical, physiological, and behavioral phenotypes. While many other research opportunities exist, most of the current and planned student projects seek to explore changes in various phenotypes in response to their various artificial selection treatments, and how one sex may have constrained the response in the other sex.

Sarah Tulin

Research in the Tulin lab focuses on discovering how an animal’s genome controls embryonic development and how changes to the regulation of the genome have resulted in the evolution of the animal body plan. We primarily use the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis, an emerging anthozoan cnidarian model system. Cnidarians are the sister clade to all bilaterians and are ideally situated to explore the origins of bilateral symmetry, triploblasty, and gastrulation. The Nematostella genome was fully sequenced in 2004, and the embryonic transcriptome was assembled in 2013, so it now represents a particularly tractable experimental system. All the necessary techniques needed to functionally characterize genes and to construct regulatory gene networks are now available in Nematostella, including in situ hybridization, bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) recombineering, ChIPseq, and gene knockdown through morpholino-substituted antisense oligonucleotides.

Cnidarians were once considered simple animals with radial symmetry; however, recent molecular research has shown that underneath the visible morphological simplicity lies a rich regulatory landscape with several genes expressed asymmetrically on the secondary, or directive, axis (De Robertis 2009). Current evidence drives an evolutionary model in which the progression towards two primary body axes had already begun before the bilaterian/cnidarian split some 600 million years ago. The acquisition of a secondary body axis was a major innovation in evolution, which allowed additional organizational complexity and potential for diversity. Some gene families have already been shown to have important roles in the process of establishing this axis, including BMPs (Genikhovich et al. 2015), and our work will expand these early findings to include all the players found in the quantitative embryonic transcriptome corresponding to this time in development.

Student research in the Tulin lab will provide mentoring in molecular biology and developmental biology techniques. Computational projects are also available, collaborating with local bioinformaticians at Canisius and the New York State Centers for Excellence in Bioinformatics at University of Buffalo.

Susan Margulis

Research in the Margulis lab focuses on primate behavior and endocrinology. Most members of “Team Ape” collect behavioral data on gorillas at the Buffalo Zoo. This type of data collection, known as behavioral monitoring, provides a solid baseline of “normal” behavior so that changes in behavior that may be due to specific events or occurrences can be quantitatively evaluated. Projects include impacts of different types of enrichment on behavior, space use in the exhibit, infant development, and group social dynamics. Some members of the Margulis lab use zoo-based demographic data (“studbooks”) to explore long-term patterns in demography, population management, and development. The Team Ape endocrine laboratory utilizes non-invasive fecal sample collection to explore patterns of reproductive and stress hormones. Zoos throughout the country collect samples and ship them to the lab for analysis. Students gain valuable laboratory skills by working on hormone-related projects.

Seniors have the opportunity to develop their own independent research projects. To date, studies have involved species as diverse as gorillas, vampire bats, Asian elephants, giant Pacific octopus, and domestic horses. Students regularly attend regional and national conferences, including MPIG (Midwest Primate Interest Group), NEEP (North Eastern Evolutionary Primatology Group), and the Animal Behavior Society. Students have also co-authored papers in journals including Zoo Biology, Animal Behavior and Cognition, and Folia Primatologica.

Katie Costanzo - Recent Student Research Projects & Presentations

Recent Student Research Projects:

Genetic and environmental effects on the size-fecundity relationship in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus
Students: Gabriel Barthelme, Mary Bridge, Paul Hart, Courtney Kramer, Michael Piombino, Kaitlyn Taylor, Kira Voyer, Katarina Wagar, Austin Wuerch
Collaboration with Dr. Katie Westby, Tyson Research Center, Washinton University, St. Louis.

The effects of road salt and petroleum on aquatic invertebrate communities.
    Collaboration with Stephanie Schlelbe, adjunct instructor, Canisius College

The effects of photoperiod on female size, fecundity, and blood feeding behavior in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.  
Students: Kathryn Jerz, Zachary Kozslowski, Austin Nottingham, Marissa Verdi, Brian Zylinski

The effects of photoperiod on life history and population dynamics in the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.
Students: Romain Dahan, Mwengwe Ndholu, Ofure Okhiwu, Daniel Radwan

The effects of photoperiod on female size, fecundity, and blood feeding behavior in the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.
Students: Stephanie Schelble

The effects of photoperiod on life history and population dynamics in the Asian Tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus
Students: Michael Keenan, Katie Little, Mwengwe Ndholu, Stephanie Schelble, Sarah Whittington

Student Presentations:

2013     Ndhlovu, M., Radwan, D., Keenan, M., Schelble, S. and K.S. Costanzo. Phenotypic plasticity in Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti across photoperiod regimes.  Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. Lancaster, PA, 

2013    Keenan, M., and K.S. Costanzo.  The effects of photoperiod on life history in mosquito vectors.  Medical Advisory Board Meeting Canisius College. 

Robert Grebenok - Student Projects, Collaborations & Awards

Students work on all aspects of the projects, and they earn authorship on publications written that describe the outcomes of their research. 

Student Projects:

Effect of the volatile, methyl jasmonate, on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Jacob DeBell

Effect of damage and oxidizer application on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Rizwan Hassan and Syed Kamal

Effect of caffeine’s surface application on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Marnae Gerace and Hayden Senn

Effect of ethylene on the production of steroids in the phloem of higher plants
Eric Acosta and Mike Wieler

Inhibition of the sterol C-8,7 sterol isomerase using surface applied sigma ligands in tobacco
Josh Harkins and Alyssa Tzetzo

Isolation and assessment of photosynthetic tissue from control and transgenic tobacco
Alexis Grebenok

Generation of transgenic A. thaliana using siRNA techniques
Ivy Chen – Texas A & M University


The examination of the modification of photosynthesis in transgenic tobacco involves the collaboration between the Grebenok lab and the Becker lab at Pomona College, Claremont CA.

The examination of food security involves a research team focused on assisting plants in defending themselves against herbivorous insect attack.  The interdisciplinary team includes faculty researchers, postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate students at Texas A&M University, Cornel University, the Max Planck Institute in Jena East Germany and Canisius College.  
The examination of steroids in the phloem of higher plants involves a-collaboration between the Grebenok lab of Canisius College and Cornel University and Texas A & M University.

Student Awards:

Supervised 33 undergraduate research students who have earned the Canisius Earning Excellent Fellowship
Supervised 15 undergraduate research assistants that have earned a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship
Supervised Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award Winner from American Society of Plant Biologists (Summer 2007 Michael Galante)

Daniel Haeusser - Student Research Projects & Potential Project Opportunities

Current Student Research Projects:

Inhibition of Bacillus subtilis cell division by gp56 of bacteriophage SP01.
Amit Bhambhani

Characterization of intragenic suppressors of the ftsZ84 temperature sensitive allele of Escherichia coli.
Collaboration with Dr. Anu Janakiramon, Ph.D., The City College of New York.
Christian Montes

Isolation of ftsZ mutants that permit bypass of essential zipA in Escherichia coli.
Collaboration with Dr. William Margolin, Ph.D., UT Health Science Center at Houston.
Laura Cavallari

Characterization of bacteriophage Mu product Kil in alteration of Escherichia coli cell shape.
Samantha Weiss

Other Potential Project Opportunities for Students:

Potential utilization by aphids of hopanoids derived from bacterial endosymbionts.
Collaboration with Dr. Robert Grebenok, Ph.D., Canisius College 

Isolation and characterization of novel bacteriophage.

Contributions of science writing to Small Things Considered

The inclusion of microbiology in science fiction or fantasy literature.

Students are invited to email Dr. Haeusser about any potential research interests. A wide range of microbiology research is possible with intersections throughout biology and other fields to fit environmental, biochemical, ecological, medical, or additional interests.

Lisa Morey - Student Projects, Presentations & Additional Opportunities

Student Projects:

Effect of chronic genistein exposure on Sirt1 and Set8 expression in prostate cancer
Lanni Aquila

Effect of acute genistein exposure on Sirt1 and Set8 expression in ovarian cancer
Tori Granger

Additional Project Opportunities:

Effect of chronic bisphenol A exposure on Sirt1 and Set8 expression in prostate cancer

Effect of chronic bisphenol A exposure on Sirt1 and Set8 expression in ovarian cancer

Students are invited to speak with Dr. Morey about any and all research interests. A wide range of molecular and cellular projects are possible as they pertain to estrogenic compounds and prostate/ovarian cancer.

Student Presentations:

"Differential expression patterns of histone modifying enzymes in ovarian cancer in response to estradiol and bisphenol A" American Society of Cell Biology December 2014 Philadelphia PA

"The effect of estrogenic compounds E2 and BPA on the expression of histone modifying enzymes in prostate cancer cell lines" American Society of Cell Biology December 2014 Philadelphia PA

"The effect of estrogenic compounds E2 and BPA on the expression pattern of histone modifying enzymes in two prostate cancer models". Experimental Biology Meeting April 2014 San Diego CA

Andrew Stewart - Student Research Projects & Potential Opportunities

Current Student Research Projects:

Effects of dietary sterol restriction on growth & development of D. melanogaster
Collaboration with Dr. Robert Grebenok, Ph.D., Canisius College
Andrew Beiter

Allometry (biological scaling) within experimentally evolved populations of D. melanogaster.
Kyle Samson

Effect of temperature and photoperiod on body & wing size in experimentally evolved populations of D. melanogaster.
Lota Ofodile
Judith Appenteng

Other Potential Project Opportunities for Students:

Male mating preference evolution in response to persistent artificial selection.
Measuring changes in female fitness in response to artificial selection.
Looking for evidence of centromere drive in Drosophila.

Students are invited to speak with Dr. Stewart about any and all research interests. Drosophila lends itself to a wide range of evolutionary research projects, and many collaboration opportunities exist within the department for those interested in exploring interactions between flies and their microbes, dietary biochemistry, changing environment, etc.

Sarah Tulin- Research and Publications

Research Interests:

  • Developmental gene regulation
  • Evolution of animal body plans
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genomics and Transcriptomics in emerging model systems

Recent Publications:

  • Tulin S, Smith J. 2013. A quantitative reference transcriptome for Nematostella vectensis early embryonic development: a pipeline for de novo assembly in emerging model systems. BMC EvoDevo 4(1):16
  • Fischer AH, Tulin S, Fredman D, and Smith J. 2013. Employing BAC-reporter constructs in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Integr Comp Biol. doi: 10.1093/icb/ict091
  • Helm RR, Siebert S, Tulin S, Smith J, Dunn CW. 2013. Characterization of differential transcript abundance through time during Nematostella vectensis development. BMC Genomics. 14:266.

Invited Presentations:

  • 2014 Developmental Biology of the Sea Urchin, biennial meeting
  • 2013 Bell Center Research-in-Progress, MBL
  • 2013 Coastal Studies for Girls, Freeport, ME, invited speaker
  • 2012 Endicott College Biotechnology Career Panel Member
  • 2008 Current Research in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Caltech

Organization Involvement:

  • Society for Developmental Biology
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Susan Marguils- Research Projects

Current and Ongoing Projects:

Data-mining the long-term gorilla database. Students who contribute data to the gorilla behavior database may use these data for original research. Topics have included: infant development, pregnancy effects on behavior, visitor impacts and visual barriers, maternal style, and enrichment effectiveness.
An ongoing study on hormonal patterns associated with maturational color-change in white-cheeked gibbons is underway.
Additional studies that branch out into cognitive areas are planned for the coming year.


Students have presented posters and talks at the North East Evolutionary Primatology meeting, the Rochester Academy of Sciences undergraduate research symposium, the University at Buffalo’s primatology symposium, and the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society. Presentations have included the following:

Hannah Ridge, Jon-Ellyn Cullen, and Koryndee Bowlsby. Why does Koga hate me? 

Margret Halfdanardottir and Magdalena Lenczewski. Now you see me (now you don't)

Sara Sperber and London Wolff. Ranking changes in lowland gorillas before, during, and after pregnancy

Eli Musik-Kotlowski. Investigating maternal styles in Western lowland gorillas.

Sydney Chertoff. The effects of varying captive environments on sub-adult gorilla behavior.

Trumpp, K and Margulis, SW. Hormonal suppression of male white-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus leucogenys). Paper presented at the Animal Behavior Society Meeting, June 2015, Anchorage, AK.

Sydney Chertoff. Extra! Extra! Read all A’bat’ it!  

Publications With Students (Canisius students in bold):

Margulis, S.W., Steele, G.R., and Kleinfelder, R. E. III. 2012. Use of buckets as tools by Western lowland gorillas. Zoo Biology, 31: 260-266.

Margulis, S.W., Burns, F., and Rothenberg, A. 2011. Sex ratio bias in managed populations of Hylobatids. Folia Primatologica, 211: 224-235.

Robbins, L. and Margulis, S.W. 2014. The effects of auditory enrichment on gorillas. Zoo Biology.33: 197-203.

LaDue, C., Madden, M., Perkes-Smith, L., and Margulis, S. 2014. Behavioral changes associated with pregnancy and infant development in captive gorillas. Animal Keepers’ Forum, 41:80-83.     

LaDue, CA, Scott, NL, Margulis, SW. 2014. A Survey of musth among captive male elephants in North America: updated results and implications for management. Journal of the Elephant Managers Association.25: 18-24.

LeFauve, MK, and Margulis, SW. 2015. Functionality in tool use in Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Animal Behavior and Cognition.2: 96-104.

Robbins, L. and Margulis, S.W. 2016. Music for the birds: effects of auditory enrichment on captive bird species. Zoo Biology. 35: 29-34