undergrad research opportunities at the Frost

We’ve recently organized a series of projects designed to bring undergrads into the realms of research and outreach. Check ’em out at the Office of Undergraduate Education’s Research Opportunities for Undergraduates website. I repost them here with a bit more elaboration. Contact me (adeans@psu.edu) if you’re interested! These projects are really just the tip of a gigantic iceberg of ideas we have. Here’s the full ad:

The Frost Entomological Museum research consortium seeks 3–4 undergraduate research assistants to assist with a variety of research projects related to insect biodiversity and evolution. Current projects focus primarily on specimen sorting, preparation, and curation, as well as how to capture and represent phenotype data (high resolution imaging and textual descriptions, for example). There are also opportunities for the development of museum exhibits and field guides. Possible projects include:

  1. Assembling pollinator display(s) for outreach events and for exhibition in the Frost Museum. Helpful skills to have: experience with crafts, excellent written English skills, attention to detail, interest in education and outreach. Skills to be acquired: insect collection and mounting techniques, effective display design, knowledge about local pollinators.
  2. Imaging insects under high resolution for diagnostic features, and aggregating diagnostic information for field guides/handouts. Helpful skills to have: photography skills, experience with Adobe Photoshop (or similar software), attention to detail, knowledge of LaTeX markup, ability to identify insect orders, knowledge of insect anatomy. Skills to be acquired: specimen handling, natural history collection informatics, knowledge of how to identify insects to family, photography of small objects, laser confocal or other microscopy.
  3. Digitizing specimen data, using the latest data standards and imaging tools. Helpful skills to have: accurate data entry (typing skills), attention to detail, knowledge of spreadsheets (MS Excel and Google Docs, for example), excellent communication skills. Skills to be acquired: specimen handling, natural history collection informatics, imaging methods (GigaPan photography and/or light micrographs, for example).
  4. Digitizing descriptions of new species. Images of specimens (holotypes in most cases) will be compiled and associated with original species descriptions. Helpful skills to have: accurate data entry (typing skills), attention to detail, excellent communication skills, information retrieval/library science (how to request an interlibrary loan, for example), knowledge of French and German. Skills to be acquired: image stacking methods, biodiversity informatics (especially phenotype ontologies), formal knowledge representation (OWL, for example).
  5. Adding and curating insect specimens in the teaching collection. The insect teaching collection needs to be expanded significantly and completely overhauled. Helpful skills to have: attention to detail, excellent communication skills, ability to identify insect orders, enthusiasm for field work. Skills to be acquired: insect specimen curation, knowledge of how to identify insects to family.
  6. 3D reconstruction of internal wasp anatomy. We have serially sectioned wasp specimens with a synchrotron and microCT and now need to annotate the slices and assemble them digitally into a 3D image (see example below, from this paper about treehopper morphology). Helpful skills to have: knowledge of anatomy, attention to detail. Skills to be acquired: 3D imaging techniques, exposure to Avizo software.

Students will receive research credit (1 credit for 3 research hours/week; up to 3 credits), training in relevant skills, and will participate in the activities organized by the greater Frost Museum community.

To apply, please send me (adeans@psu.edu) the following information:

  1. Your résumé, including relevant courses.
  2. Cover letter, including details about your research experience, current research interest(s), and career goals.
  3. Number of hours you are available to work weekly.

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