School of Sciences

Secondary Student Research Program

The School of Sciences Secondary Student Research Program (SSRP) is a paid summer research opportunity for high school students entering their junior or senior years the following fall.  Students are mentored under the direction of an AUM faculty member in Biology and Psychology.  Students will learn the basics of scholarly (library-based) research to establish the appropriate contexts for their investigations, and they will be trained technically in the performance of laboratory and/or field research.  Finally, they will present their work to the AUM academic community and other interested persons.  Students accepted into the program will be paid a stipend of $1,500 upon successful completion of the experience.  Links to the application materials may be found below.  Please contact the program coordinator, Dr. Pete Haddix, Associate Professor of Biology, at 334-244-3333 or with any additional questions or concerns.

 Congratulations 2014 SSRP Participants!  
  • Ms. Jayme Williams, Jefferson Davis High School, Mentor-Dr. Stacy Parenteau
  • Ms. Hydenia Boswell, Brewtech, Mentor-Dr. Pete Haddix
  • Ms. Joanna Schmidt, Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, Mentor-Dr. Rolando Carol
  • Ms. Emily Ryan, Wetumpka High School, Mentor-Dr. John Aho
  • Mr. Ikenna Okeke, Brewbaker, Mentor-Dr. Tim Kroft


Secondary Student Research Program Faculty

Dr. John Aho, Ph.D 

  • Dr. Aho is an animal biologist. Animals are known to exhibit ‘personality’; they possess individual behavioral differences that are consistent across time and/or situations. A measure of personality of interest to behavioral ecologists is ‘boldness’. Boldness can be defined as the tendency of an individual to take risks; individuals can vary from reacting to novel stimuli by becoming active (bold) or retreating from novel stimuli or becoming vigilant (shy). Investigations of shy-bold behavior have been conducted on a variety of animals and have been associated with behaviors including general activity, aggression, mate selection, habitat use, dispersal, invasiveness, foraging and anti-predator behavior. However, few have explored the relationship between boldness and fitness correlates. His work will use female mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) to examine whether reproductive traits (e.g., maturation status, fecundity) are correlated with boldness. Once established, he plans to assess the impact of parasitism on boldness using a larval parasitic nematode (Eustrongylides ignotus) as the focus. This nematode uses mosquitofish as an intermediate host requiring a predator-prey interaction to successfully complete its life cycle in a fish-eating bird. Infection may change the ‘state’ of an individual, and thus, possibly the expression of its personality. 

Dr. Tim Kroft, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Kroft is a biologist specializing in genetics. He is interested in learning about how sperm and eggs communicate with each other before and during fertilization. He uses a small (~1 mm) nematode worm, C. elegans, as a model organism to study this process. Worms are treated with chemicals that generate mutations in their DNA, and then worms that produce unfertilized oocytes instead of fertilized eggs are isolated. Genetic crosses are performed to discover which gene is mutated in each case. Once we know the gene that is responsible for the infertility defect, our next goal is to find out how that gene works. We do this by making changes in the gene and then asking whether the resulting protein still works. We put the mutant genes back into worms and follow the genes by marking them with green fluorescent protein. Worms that glow green have the functional gene and protein. Student projects in Dr. Kroft’s lab will involve performing genetic crosses and counting progeny to see the effects of changing specific parts of proteins on fertility. By learning more about how these proteins work, we hope to improve the ability to diagnose and treat infertility in human patients.

Dr. Pryce L. “Pete” Haddix, Ph.D.
SSRP Coordinator

  • Dr. Haddix is a microbiologist with research experience in both pathogenic and environmental bacteriology. His current research involves the environmental bacterium Serratia marcescens and prodigiosin, a red pigment it produces. Dr. Haddix’ 2008 work, published in the Journal of Bacteriology, has shown that prodigiosin is involved in the bacterium’s ability to produce the energy-storage compound ATP. Work this summer will continue to define both positive and negative roles for prodigiosin in cellular energy management.

Dr. Stacy Parenteau, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Parenteau is a psychologist.  Her research interests include examining 1) the relationship between religiosity and mental and physical health; and 2) the relationship between racial discrimination and mental and physical health. She is currently working on a study exploring the relationships among racial discrimination, religious coping, and health outcomes, as measured by substance use and depression. She predicts that experiencing racial discrimination will be associated with more substance use and depression. Positive religious coping may help to buffer, or modify, the negative effects of discrimination. Students will participate in data entry and data analysis and will contribute to the development of a manuscript for publication.

Dr. Rolando Carol, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Carol is a psychologist.  His summer research project will explore the potential effects of rapport-building during an interview on witnesses’ working memory capacity, benevolence, and altruism. Some potential benefits for summer research students working with him will be experience with a psychological experiment first-hand, having an in-depth look at the scientific method and all of the lesser-appreciated important steps (e.g., data collection, data entry, participant interactions, experimental controls and methodologies, etc.), and a general understanding of investigative interviewing techniques.