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On-Campus Research Opportunities

Students in the Patterson School for Natural Sciences may participate in faculty-mentored experimental research during the academic year or during the summer.


Semester Research

If you are interested in research at Ouachita during the fall or spring semester, begin by contacting potential research mentors. A good mentor will help you identify a project idea and plan a feasible schedule.


Summer Research

If you are interested in doing summer research at Ouachita in Summer 2023, you must complete an application.

The application process for Summer 2023 will occur in early Spring 2023. Choosing a good faculty mentor is a important aspect of a successful research project.

  • Faculty research interests can be seen by clicking on the faculty name below. Please read through them to see which projects you are interested in.
  • Contact the faculty with whom you would like to work to arrange brief interviews to announce your interest, get information about projects in their labs, and let the faculty members get acquainted with you.
  • Submit an application to the Natural Sciences office by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. The contents of the application should include: 
    • Your name, major and minor
    • Expected graduation semester and year
    • Any courses relevant to the projects you are interested in
    • Prior research/lab experience, if any
    • The names of three mentors (rank order) with whom you would like to work and why you would like to work with each one
    • Other research opportunities for which you are applying, including application dates and notification dates
    • Designate if you plan for this research to serve as your Honors Program Thesis
    • Are you currently in, or do you plan to apply for an OBU apartment for next fall?

We will make every effort to announce the matches by Friday, March 3, 2023.

If you are accepted:

  • Confirm your plans to work at Ouachita this summer with your mentor.
  • Discuss with your mentor the requirements for your funding- e.g., start date and end date, contract, etc.
  • Submit your signed contract to the Dean's office by Monday, March 13, 2023.


Professors with Patterson-Funded Research (Summer 2023)

My summer research project consist of two focuses. The first research project’s focus will be to conduct nutrition focused physical examinations (NFPE) on adults attending the Arkadelphia Senior Center. We will read research articles on the NFPE, participate in an interactive online training, and then conduct the NFPE assessments. We will also weigh and measure height and calculate BMIs as well as conduct 24-hour dietary recalls and analyze the nutrient intakes of the seniors. The purpose of the research is to collect data on malnutrition in the elderly. All data collected will be entered into an Excel spreadsheet. Comparisons will be made with any existing data found in the literature. A poster of the research will be presented. The second research project will focus on nutrition assessments of children. We will weigh, measure and calculate the body mass indices of children attending all Arkadelphia summer childcare programs. Nutrition education and information will be provided to all children and a time will be set up at each childcare center to provide nutrition information to the children’s parents/caregivers. We will provide an interactive time of food samples and hands-on education. I am not sure how many sessions will be provided that will depend on the interest of the childcare center. The primary goal is to compare results of the Arkadelphia children’s nutrition assessments with state and national data. A poster will be developed.


In the past students in Dr. Bradshaw’s research lab have synthesized various water-soluble porphyrins for the potential treatment of cancer using photodynamic therapy (PDT). During the summer of 2023, students will synthesize 2 new zinc porphyrins, investigate singlet oxygen production, and examine the cytotoxicity on human non-small cell lung cancer cells in the presence and absence of light confirming their activity as PDT agents.


Many people believe (and there is evidence to support the) claim that thumping a watermelon can reveal if it is ripe or not. We have taken the process one step further by analyzing the sound to determine if there is a sugar signal or profile in the thump sound as well. We have developed an algorithm to predict the sweetness of a watermelon from its thump sound and our results have been impressive (~8% error). Our goal is to test more watermelons and reduce the error to 5% or less. In addition, last summer we developed a working iPhone app that we plan to finalize and bring to market by summers end. Students will be collecting data from many watermelons, evaluating the data in excel to update our predictive algorithm, providing creative insight to the app, reviewing the process to publish an app and if they have experience, be involved in some of the app programming.

Bis-phenol A (BPA) is probably most recognizable for the phrase “BPA free” that is attached to baby bottles and other plastics used for eating and drinking. BPA can be found in several materials used in the food and drug packaging industry, so there is potential for human exposure to trace amounts of BPA. Experiments have shown that BPA can bind to and activate estrogen receptors. Suspected effects of this activation include reduced fertility, altered development, and cancer in estrogen sensitive tissues.

Despite the reduction of BPA in current food packaging, BPA is still found in many everyday items, including feminine hygiene products. Does this mean that items like panty liners are a potential source of BPA for women and girls? How can we determine if, and how much, BPA is present in a sample?

BPA is a fluorescent compound, which means after absorbing light energy, it will emit a different color of light than what was absorbed. This emitted light can be measured and directly correlated to the concentration of BPA present in a sample. Fluorescence is a very sensitive and selective technique, which makes it possible to determine very low concentrations of BPA. I plan to utilize fluorescence spectroscopy to continue to work toward a better understanding of the behavior of BPA as it leaches out of feminine hygiene products.


Scope: In order to study sexual differentiation in my laboratory, protocols need to be developed to process zebrafish samples from all life stages. This project would examine the necessary protocols to process larval thru adult zebrafish tissue samples for standard histological assessments. The student would be involved in literature review and implementation of best practices to establish standard operating procedures for the OBU Zebrafish Laboratory.

Project Goals: Student will learn about husbandry and laboratory maintenance for both adult and larval zebrafish; establish and optimize working protocols for histological processing and immunohistochemistry.

Methodology: Research best practices, test, and document protocols for use in normal rearing of zebrafish offspring and implementing protocols for immunohistochemistry and histology.

Resources and Equipment: Zebrafish Laboratory and supplies


Stipends: $3000 from INBRE New Faculty Grant
Equipment/Supplies: Available from Zebrafish Laboratory, INBRE funds for immunohistochemistry reagents



Scope: Studying sex differences between larval zebrafish requires early discrimination of male and female larva. Researching and testing which tissue molecular markers might provide the best early indicators of sexual differentiation will be important for future work in characterizing sex differences in zebrafish.

Project Goals: Student will research early molecular and tissue markers of sexual differentiation and select candidate target proteins for immunohistochemistry. Students will then test these markers in preserved, formalin fixed tissue samples from previous experiments in the laboratory. Zebrafish tissue processing for standard histology and immunohistochemistry will be learned and implemented in identifying useful molecular targets for future work in sexual differentiation in the lab.

Methodology: Research literature on best candidates for immunohistochemistry and ordering antibodies to test in lab tissue samples for effective staining and developmental stage confirmation.

Resources and Equipment: Zebrafish Laboratory and 119 Laboratory and identify supplies and apparatus to be ordered.


Stipends: $3000 from Patterson Summer Research Grant
Equipment/Supplies: Order needed supplies for immunohistochemistry from INBRE funding

Dr. Pruett is interested in using genetic and ecological approaches to understand local adaptation and the effects of small population size on long-term population persistence. She primarily studies vertebrate and plant populations. Currently she has ongoing projects including 1) using genomics to understand the effects of colonization and local adaptation on song sparrows in Alaska, 2) using bird and plant surveys to examine habitat use, and 3) using genetic techniques to conserve endangered plants. These projects would provide students with experience in the analysis of genomic data using bioinformatics tools, the use of field survey techniques and the analysis of ecological data, and with laboratory-based methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gel electrophoresis. All of these skills would be valuable additions to graduate school or medical school applications. Students working on these projects will be co-authors on scientific publications and presentations.


and Further Study of Differing Light and Gravity Conditions on the Development of Physarum polycephalum and Differing Light Intensities on Spirolina / Arthrospira platensis Growth and Development

The establishment of species for long term space travel or for the establishment of colonies on other planets has been a long-term goal of NASA for some time. Several possible studies will be proposed for students to choose from. This study will investigate Gibberellic Acid (GA3) effect on germination and early development of the plants Brassica rapa which can be studied across different light sources and gravitational influences. The slime molds Physarum polycephalum and Dictyostelium discoideum can be utilized to determine the influences of light and gravitational effects on development giving insight to possible long-term space travel. The final species is Spirulina platensis, a cyanobacterium which is being utilized not only as a food supplement but can also be integrated into long term space travel by “scrubbing” Carbon Dioxide from the cabin of a space craft and generating Oxygen for the occupants. These findings can give insight into how a simple organism responds to environments necessary for space flight and how photosynthesizing organisms may respond to the conditions found in long term space flight or outpost establishment on another planet/moon.

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