Department of Biology

Current Research Projects

Currently there are several ongoing research projects in the Department of Biology. 

Student involvement in these and any other research projects in the department is always encouraged either on a volunteer basis or as scheduled research hours. Competition for these research "spots" is high and depends both upon your GPA and receiving a favorable recommendation from one or more Biology faculty. If you are interested in participating in one of these projects and are willing to put in the quality work that is required, contact the appropriate faculty member.

Faculty Projects

Huisache Project

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Dr. Kathleen Wood is heading up the huisache project.  This project has several parts to it:  using ISSR-generated data to look at genetic diversity between breeding populations of huisache; investigating the timing of secondary meristem development; using molecular and biochemical techniques to identify the Rhizobium species colonizing the nodules found on huisache roots; investigating a possible allelopathic interaction between huisache and mesquite.

Gene Hunting

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Dr. Andrew Woodward is studying the formation and function of peroxisomes, organelles of the cell that are necessary for the breakdown of fats and several other vital functions.  He uses mutant plants (Arabidopsis thaliana) to study the developmental defects that result from faulty peroxisome function.  After isolating and characterizing a mutant, he uses a technique called recombination mapping to locate the mutant gene and then sequences the DNA to identify the mutation.

Snail Genotyping

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The Snail Project under Dr. Wood’s supervision has both a field and lab component. Snail collection and identification at various sites around Bell County will be used to broaden a preliminary terrestrial snail survey completed in spring 2014. Students preferring a more molecular focus will choose one or more snail species to extract DNA from, followed by PCR and sequencing of those PCR products.

The Algae Project

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The Algae Project under Dr. Wood’s supervision includes collecting wild algae from the environment and then going through a series of isolation and identification procedures to produce uni-algal cultures that can be submitted to the UTEX Algae Collection in Austin for curation.  Some students may want to only work on this aspect of the project.  Others will want to characterize and optimize growth conditions for the uni-algal cultures we obtain.  Another aspect to this project will be more molecular in nature -- PCR cloning pre-determined sequences for sequencing and bioinformatic analysis of ISSR PCR.

Everyday Microbiology

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Dr. Joni Ylostalo heads the everyday microbiology projects that look at the microbes living around us, on us, and even in us.  Typical microbiology techniques such as staining, growth measurement, and biochemical assays are used to study some common microbes and their effects on our lives.

Gene Expression Data Analysis

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Dr. Joni Ylostalo heads the gene expression data analysis projects utilizing information available in meta-data repositories.  This project uses numerous bioinformatics and biocomputing tools to parse through complex gene expression data sets in search of novel genetic regulatory networks and pathways to aid in characterization of cells and diseases.

Departmental Contact: Dr. Kathleen Wood (
Address:  900 College Street, UMHB Station Box 8432, Belton, TX 76513
Phone: (254) 295-4214