As you will see there is not a shortage of research ideas, and you, as students, should take advantage of the wonderful facilities that we have here at JSU and participate in some form of undergraduate research. It not only is a wonderful learning experience but will add a few things to your resume which may cause you to be chosen over other applicants for professional, graduate or employment opportunities. Please feel free to come by my office or contact me to ask about my research.
Bacterial degradation of polysaccharides
The primary focus of my research has been to study polysaccharide degradation by anaerobic bacteria. Some of my students explore cellulose degradation because of its potential as an alternative to fossil fuels. I also find it interesting to isolate and work with novel organisms that degrade either chitin (found in insect skeletons) or cellulose. There is so much that we do not know about microorganisms in our environment. For example, I bet that you as a student could isolate a cellulolytic anaerobe from the gut of a manatee (sea cow) and publish results in a regional journal. What if you were able to isolate a chitinase-producing organism from the gut of a shrimp and prove that the populations vary throughout the life-span of the shrimp? There are large numbers of crab and shrimp farmers that would love to be able to remove the piles of foul smelling shell mounds from their processing plants. The chitin degrading microorganisms could have uses in vast areas of biotechnology.
Bacterial Identification in Ticks
However, lately I have developed a partnership with Drs. Robert Carter and Christopher Murdock and established a Center for Tick-Borne Disease Ecology research where we are studying all aspects of ticks in the northeast Alabama area. We are looking into their transmission of disease, gut microflora using pyrosequencing, effects of controlled burning and developing methods for the rapid identification of specific pathogens in tick samples. So, if you are interested in Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness among others, JSU is the place for you.
I do not want to give student the impression that I am not open to the interest of the students. I am very much the type of person who is interested in learning more and more about more and more until I know nothing. To illustrate, I am interested in collaborative research with Dr. Mark Meade on probiotic treatment of fish. There are a number of game fish like red snappers that are declining in nature. It is believed that commercial hatcheries are the best way of increasing the numbers of these fish. The problem is that the fry hatched out in hatcheries have a very low survival rate. This is believed to be due to an imbalance in the intestinal bacterial microflora. I would welcome students to start a small project to see if we can increase the survival rate of certain fish fry by adding beneficial bacteria to the hatcheries. We have been working with a probiont that increases the growth rate of both catfish and tilapia fry. Since Dr. Chris Murdock has joined the department we have been collaborating on methods of identifying what effect the probiont is having on the fish.
Gut microflora (Bacterial communities located in the gut)
Gut microflora are of interest to physiologists, molecular biologists and microbiologists so the team of Drs. Meade, Murdock and Blair have worked with several students to perform microflora studies on sea urchins, salamanders, cave soil samples and currently frog verses tadpole. These experiments teach the students a number of techniques in genetics and sequencing that apply to real world jobs. I am fortunate to have many research partners and friends all around the country that are willing to collaborate with me on research projects. These include Dr. Matthew Fields of Montana State University among many others.
I should not ignore the photodynamic dye treatment of fish disease that may have applications to future cancer treatments.