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Transfer Scholars

For the 2021-2022 academic year, there will be a special cohort of Emerging Scholars that is specifically for incoming transfer students who are interested in biology and mathematics research.  Details about this Transfer Scholars Program are slightly different than the regular Emerging Scholars Program, so read below for more details!

Students in Transfer Scholars participate in the typical activities of the regular Emerging Scholars Program, including:

  • Work 4-7 hours per week as a research assistant for a faculty member.
  • Join a community of student scholars and peer mentors.
  • Get support as they transition to their first year at KU.

 

Click here for the Transfer Scholars application.>>

 

Timeline for Transfer Scholars Program:

  • Application opens: June 1, 2021
  • Priority Deadline: August 8, 2021
  • Note: there is no final deadline, applications will remain open until all spots are filled.  We expect to admit students throughout the summer, with final decisions going out by the week before classes.

 

Eligibility for Transfer Scholars Program:

  • To be eligible to apply for the Transfer Scholars Program, you must be a degree-seeking, transfer student at KU who will have their first semester at KU in the fall 2021 semester. Transfer students are defined as those who are admitted to KU through the Transfer application.  Students apply for this program the summer before they start at KU.  Current KU students are not eligible.
  • Students must be enrolled full-time (12 credit hours) at KU for the Fall 2021 semester.
  • To participate in the program, students must accept a $2,000 Federal Work-Study (FWS) Award for the upcoming academic year at KU. If you're not sure whether you have Federaal Work Study as part of your financial aid pacakge, you can check your financial aid in Enroll & Pay. To request to have Federal Work Study added to your financial aid package, you can fill out the Federal Work Study Open Request form>>; for questions about eligiblity or work study in general, email Mandy Annas at acannas1@ku.edu.  Students can apply and be accepted to the Transfer Scholars Program before they accept a Work Study award, but they must have the award before they can start working.

 

Job descriptions for Transfer Scholars:

If you are selected as a Transfer Scholar, you will work with a professor as a research assistant. In order to provide you an opportunity that best meets your interests, you'll need to review the job descriptions below and rank your top three choices for your application.  Note that since this is the first year of the Transfer Scholars Program, it will take place in a single lab under the direction of Prof. Rob Unckless (unckless@ku.edu). We hope to expand into additional labs and additional fields in the coming years.

 

Position #1: Identifying genotypes resistant to genetic conflict in wild insects

Position #1: Rob Unckless

 

Mentor name: Rob Unckless, Molecular Biosciences (with a courtesy appointment in EEB)

 

Job/project title: Identifying genotypes resistant to genetic conflict in wild insects

 

Project description: Organisms are constantly adapting to challenges in their environment. Less appreciated is the fact that organisms also must constantly adapt to intragenomic parasites that bias their own transmission without regard to the fitness of the host. Transposable elements are probably the best studied intragenomic parasites, but meiotic drive elements that break Mendelian laws of segregation are also ubiquitous and have the potential for catastrophic consequences to their hosts. A better understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved in meiotic drive systems would inform how they evolve, what aspects of gametogenesis they target, how the genome fights back, and how they contribute to important evolutionary processes including reproductive isolation, chromosome evolution and even extinction. Furthermore, our understanding of natural meiotic drive systems will inform the use of synthetic gene drives for pest control.

            Our goal is to gain an understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved in both sex-ratio meiotic drive and resistance to drive in Drosophila affinis and to understand the genomic consequences of meiotic drive. Meiotic drive is loosely defined as any process that selfishly cheats during gametogenesis to produce a non-Mendelian distribution of gametes. In males, this often occurs after meiosis during spermiogenesis and is particularly striking when the driving machinery resides on a sex chromosome. This sex-ratio meiotic drive usually occurs on the X chromosome and results in males that sire mostly daughters. Sex-ratio meiotic drive is found in plants and animals. We study sex-ratio meiotic drive in D. affinis and previously identified an excellent candidate meiotic drive locus as well as Y chromosomes that are resistant to meiotic drive. An intriguing aspect of the D. affinis system is that males without a Y chromosome are fertile, and in such males, the sex-ratio X chromosome kills itself resulting in all male offspring.

 

Potential student tasks and responsibilities: Scholars will collect wild flies. They will learn to identify D. affinis morphologically and learn about how distinguishing characteristics have important biological function. Through a series of crosses to in the lab, Scholars will identify deviations from the strongly female-biased sex ratio consistent with resistance. Scholars will then perform several crosses to determine whether resistance is Y-linked or autosomal. The level of sophistication of this project can grow with the Scholar. For example, Scholars could begin to map autosomal resistance genes.

 

Student qualifications and characteristics: Students should be interested in genetics and evolutionary biology, but need not have taken either class. Some ability to get around (drive a car) would be helpful, but not absolutely necessary. This project has the potential to involve field collections from Minnesota down to Texas, but that would be optional and probably in spring/summer 2022.
Position #2: Y chromosome population dynamics in the wild and lab

Position #2: Rob Unckless

 

Mentor name: Rob Unckless, Molecular Biosciences (with a courtesy appointment in EEB)

 

Job/project title: Y chromosome population dynamics in the wild and lab

 

Project description: Organisms are constantly adapting to challenges in their environment. Less appreciated is the fact that organisms also must constantly adapt to intragenomic parasites that bias their own transmission without regard to the fitness of the host. Transposable elements are probably the best studied intragenomic parasites, but meiotic drive elements that break Mendelian laws of segregation are also ubiquitous and have the potential for catastrophic consequences to their hosts. A better understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved in meiotic drive systems would inform how they evolve, what aspects of gametogenesis they target, how the genome fights back, and how they contribute to important evolutionary processes including reproductive isolation, chromosome evolution and even extinction. Furthermore, our understanding of natural meiotic drive systems will inform the use of synthetic gene drives for pest control.

            Our goal is to gain an understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved in both sex-ratio meiotic drive and resistance to drive in Drosophila affinis and to understand the genomic consequences of meiotic drive. Meiotic drive is loosely defined as any process that selfishly cheats during gametogenesis to produce a non-Mendelian distribution of gametes. In males, this often occurs after meiosis during spermiogenesis and is particularly striking when the driving machinery resides on a sex chromosome. This sex-ratio meiotic drive usually occurs on the X chromosome and results in males that sire mostly daughters. Sex-ratio meiotic drive is found in plants and animals. We study sex-ratio meiotic drive in D. affinis and previously identified an excellent candidate meiotic drive locus as well as Y chromosomes that are resistant to meiotic drive. An intriguing aspect of the D. affinis system is that males without a Y chromosome are fertile, and in such males, the sex-ratio X chromosome kills itself resulting in all male offspring.

 

Potential student tasks and responsibilities: Males D. affinis in the wild lack a Y at appreciable frequencies but these studies were too small to make any inference about frequencies. Additionally, there is variation in Y morphology in the wild, but sample sizes were too small to determine whether there were spatial or temporal patterns to the variation. Therefore, Scholars will collect wild D. affinis and either screen for the presence/absence of a Y or use cytology to characterize the morphology of the Y. This allows a Scholar to examine whether there is seasonal or spatial variation in the frequency of the Y.

 

Student qualifications and characteristics: Students should be interested in genetics and evolutionary biology, but need not have taken either class. This project could easily develop into more of a bioinformatics project with students characterizing genetic differences on the Y chromosomes.

Position #3: Population genomics of the Y chromosome

Position #3: Rob Unckless

 

Mentor name: Rob Unckless, Molecular Biosciences (with a courtesy appointment in EEB)

 

Job/project title: Population genomics of the Y chromosome

 

Project description: Organisms are constantly adapting to challenges in their environment. Less appreciated is the fact that organisms also must constantly adapt to intragenomic parasites that bias their own transmission without regard to the fitness of the host. Transposable elements are probably the best studied intragenomic parasites, but meiotic drive elements that break Mendelian laws of segregation are also ubiquitous and have the potential for catastrophic consequences to their hosts. A better understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved in meiotic drive systems would inform how they evolve, what aspects of gametogenesis they target, how the genome fights back, and how they contribute to important evolutionary processes including reproductive isolation, chromosome evolution and even extinction. Furthermore, our understanding of natural meiotic drive systems will inform the use of synthetic gene drives for pest control.

            Our goal is to gain an understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved in both sex-ratio meiotic drive and resistance to drive in Drosophila affinis and to understand the genomic consequences of meiotic drive. Meiotic drive is loosely defined as any process that selfishly cheats during gametogenesis to produce a non-Mendelian distribution of gametes. In males, this often occurs after meiosis during spermiogenesis and is particularly striking when the driving machinery resides on a sex chromosome. This sex-ratio meiotic drive usually occurs on the X chromosome and results in males that sire mostly daughters. Sex-ratio meiotic drive is found in plants and animals. We study sex-ratio meiotic drive in D. affinis and previously identified an excellent candidate meiotic drive locus as well as Y chromosomes that are resistant to meiotic drive. An intriguing aspect of the D. affinis system is that males without a Y chromosome are fertile, and in such males, the sex-ratio X chromosome kills itself resulting in all male offspring.

 

Potential student tasks and responsibilities: We have amassed a set of Y-chromosome replacement lines over several years and we are currently working to collect more Y chromosomes. For Scholars particularly interested in genomics, we will develop a project to compare the contents of the various Y chromosomes. We will then work together to determine how the different Y morphs differ in content, sequence, etc., to differentiate resistant from susceptible chromosomes. Scholars might also do RNA-seq or small-RNA-seq experiments.

 

Student qualifications and characteristics: Students should be interested in genomics and  evolutionary biology, but need not have taken either class. Students interested in computational aspects of biology should apply and some experience with computer science would be useful, but is not necessary.

Position #4: Population genetic mathematical models of sex-ratio meiotic drive

Position #1: Rob Unckless

 

Mentor name: Rob Unckless, Molecular Biosciences (with a courtesy appointment in EEB)

 

Job/project title: Population genetic mathematical models of sex-ratio meiotic drive

 

Project description: Organisms are constantly adapting to challenges in their environment. Less appreciated is the fact that organisms also must constantly adapt to intragenomic parasites that bias their own transmission without regard to the fitness of the host. Transposable elements are probably the best studied intragenomic parasites, but meiotic drive elements that break Mendelian laws of segregation are also ubiquitous and have the potential for catastrophic consequences to their hosts. A better understanding of the genetic mechanisms involved in meiotic drive systems would inform how they evolve, what aspects of gametogenesis they target, how the genome fights back, and how they contribute to important evolutionary processes including reproductive isolation, chromosome evolution and even extinction. Furthermore, our understanding of natural meiotic drive systems will inform the use of synthetic gene drives for pest control.

            Our goal is to gain an understanding of the genes and mechanisms involved in both sex-ratio meiotic drive and resistance to drive in Drosophila affinis and to understand the genomic consequences of meiotic drive. Meiotic drive is loosely defined as any process that selfishly cheats during gametogenesis to produce a non-Mendelian distribution of gametes. In males, this often occurs after meiosis during spermiogenesis and is particularly striking when the driving machinery resides on a sex chromosome. This sex-ratio meiotic drive usually occurs on the X chromosome and results in males that sire mostly daughters. Sex-ratio meiotic drive is found in plants and animals. We study sex-ratio meiotic drive in D. affinis and previously identified an excellent candidate meiotic drive locus as well as Y chromosomes that are resistant to meiotic drive. An intriguing aspect of the D. affinis system is that males without a Y chromosome are fertile, and in such males, the sex-ratio X chromosome kills itself resulting in all male offspring.

 

Potential student tasks and responsibilities: Scholars will construct mathematical models to describe the evolution of sex chromosomes in natural populations. These models will explore aspects such as the ability of new sex chromosomes to invade populations, the equilibrium frequencies of different sex chromosomes and extinction of sex chromosomes. Students will gain experience using Mathematica and/or R for mathematical modeling.

 

Student qualifications and characteristics: Students should be interested in genetics and evolutionary biology, but need not have taken either class. A general comfort with mathematics would be preferred as would some experience with linear algebra.

 

Transfer Scholars FAQ:

  • Can I apply for the regular Emerging Scholars Program as well as the Transfer Scholars Program?  Yes, if you are a first-year transfer student, you are eligible to apply for both programs, though you would only be admitted into one.  Note that the application deadlines and job options are slightly different.
  • I am a current KU student who wants to get started in research.  Can I apply to this program?  No, the Transfer Scholars Program is only open to incoming transfer students. If you are a current KU student, visit the Getting Started page on our website to learn more about how to get started!

If you have questions about the Emerging Scholars Program, contact CUR (cur@ku.edu). If you have questions about the scientific projects for Transfer Scholars, contact Prof. Rob Unckless (unckless@ku.edu)


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