SURE Program Feature: Natalie Rozwadowski

“Annotation of Drosophila takahashii on Chromosone 3L”

Senior biology major Natalie Rozwadowski is conducting a gene annotation for Drosophila takahashii as part of the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) program. Gene annotation identifies all the coding regions for genes within a genome and helps form hypotheses of the function of each gene based upon the similarities between species.

Drosophila takahashii is a model organism due to its similarities to many other organisms, including humans, as well as the ability to breed them at rapid rates and produce large numbers of offspring. Scientists are able to witness the traits that are passed down from generation to generation within a few short weeks or months.

“My interest in this project started in my Genetics and Perspectives in Evolution classes. I thought it was extremely interesting to look at the differences of a species at the genomic level, rather than the phenotype level. I also like how we can use this information to see the changes of a species over time and understand the effects mutations have,” Rozwadowski said.

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience - Natalie

The Research

Rozwadowski is working with Jackie Wittke-Thompson, Ph.D., on this project. Wittke-Thompson is a member of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), so the duo is using the GEP annotation workflow and gene report documents to complete and document their research, having the ability to claim projects, publish results, and access all programs and educational materials. The GEP allows undergraduate students to do genomic-level research, as it takes hundreds of scientists to annotate an entire genome quickly and efficiently.

In this study, gene annotation is being completed on one or more contigs (a segment of contiguous DNA sequences from a sequencing project) and will help the larger GEP research group make a better genomic-level analysis of the evolutionary relationship between D. melanogaster, D. takahashii, and other Drosophila species that have been sequenced on a genomic level.

It will be interesting to learn what Rozwadowski’s annotation uncovers!

SURE Program Feature: Christopher Parra

“Religion in Politics: How Religious Beliefs Affect Policy Debates”

Christopher Parra is a senior psychology major working with psychology professor Eyal Sagi, Ph.D., to examine how U.S. senators’ religious beliefs affect policy debates, if at all. The research is part of the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) program at USF.

Describing why he was interested in this particular topic, Parra said, “I wanted to find out exactly how much religion influenced politicians in their policy-making and in their moral rhetoric.”

SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) Christopher Parra

Carrying Out the Research

Parra, under the guidance of Sagi, is carrying out the research using a set of texts (frequently referred to as a corpus) that includes all speeches in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013. Basic demographic information on senators, such as their party affiliation, is included in this corpus, but the religious affiliation of each senator is not included, so Parra needs to compile this information from previous scholars who have researched the senators’ religious affiliations in the past.

Once all this information is compiled, Parra will conduct an analysis of the two selected topics (abortion and welfare) based on keyword searches in the existing corpus of Senate speeches. Parra has background in mathematics, through previous coursework at USF, which will help him understand the inner workings of this method.

It will be interesting to see what Parra’s research uncovers!