Cruzan Lab - Portland State University - Biology

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Research is the primary mechanism for the discovery and accumulation of new information.  Undergraduate students in our lab work with graduate students and the PI to develop their own project of original research.  Students conducting research attend weekly lab meetings and engage in lab activities.  Completed studies are published as parts of larger projects or completely on their own. 

NSF REU Opportunities - Summer 2016

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Plant Ecology and Genomics

We are looking for two enthusiastic students interested in enhancing their research skills and experience in plant ecology, genomics, and bioinformatics in the Cruzan lab at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

Successful applicants will become part of a research team working on dispersal and gene flow in upland prairie plants in Oregon and Washington under pressure from climate change. Dispersal is critical for colonization, gene flow, and range expansion – it is one of the most important but least understood aspects of the ecology of plants. Our research utilizes genomic techniques to detect the effects of dispersal over different spatial scales. This is an integrative research program that includes field work, wet lab preparation of genomic DNA for next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics processing of sequence data, and analysis of patterns of gene flow using GIS and landscape genetic methods. Students will be exposed to a wide range of methods and are expected to develop an independent research project within the scope of the larger research program. 

Students will be fully supported for 10 to 12 weeks during the summer of 2016. Funding is provided from an REU supplement to our National Science Foundation Macrosystems Biology grant. Housing will be provided on campus along with a daily allowance for food and a $500 weekly stipend. The start of the REU is negotiable with optimal start dates between May 1 and June 17.

To apply please email us an updated copy of your CV (including GPA) and a short (one page) statement of your research interests and experience, as well as goals for your education and career. Students with experience in computer programming and/or bioinformatics are encouraged to apply. Application deadline is 29 February 2016. Feel free to email us with questions.

Pam Thompson, Postdoctoral Research Associate:

Mitch Cruzan, Principle Investigator:

Research Experiences for PSU Undergraduates

Is research a good choice for me?

It's a big commitment to become engaged in a research project.  Here are some of the things you should consider:

  • It takes a lot of time - Successful undergraduates work an average of ten hours per week for a year or more.
  • It takes a lot of effort - Your classes come first, so consider whether you will have the time to commit to research and still keep up with your studies.  Undergraduate research engagement is recommended for students with greater than 3.0 GPA.
  • Don't wait too long - It's best to start looking for a lab to work in during your sophomore or junior year.  If you are already a senior it may not be too late as long as you plan to commit to continue your project after graduation.

What do I get in return for all that work?

  • This  may be the best experience of your undergraduate career - The rewards of conducting original research are enormous.  It is something you will remember for the rest of your life.
  • If you are thinking of applying to graduate school, engaging in undergraduate research can be the key to a successful graduate career.  Research experience will bolster your applications and your mentors will be able to write much stronger letters for you.
  • Biology research credit (Bi401).  You can apply up to 6 credits to your graduation requirements.
  • Biology Honors Thesis - is a great option for students starting research during their junior year. 
Interested?  If the answer is yes then contact us at to get more information.  If your interests are not a good fit for our lab then we will help you find an appropriate place to pursue your undergraduate research career.  For more information on department-wide opportunities visit the Biology Undergraduate Research web site.

Some examples of published undergraduate research (undergrad student is underlined):

Marchini, M.L, N. Cole Sherlock, A.P. Ramakrishnan, D.M. Rosenthal, and M.B. Cruzan. 2016. Rapid purging of genetic load in a metapopulation and consequences for range expansion in an invasive plant. Biological Invasions 18:183-196. (doi: 10.1007/s10530-015-1001-5)

Taylor, L. A. V., E. A. Hasenkopf, and M. B. Cruzan. 2015. Barriers to invasive infilling by Brachypodium sylvaticum in Pacific Northwest forests. Biological Invasions 17:2247-2260. (doi:10.1007/s10530-015-0871-x).

Cheeke, T. E., B. A. Pace, T. N. Rosenstiel, and M. B. Cruzan. 2010. The influence of fertilizer level and spore density on arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of transgenic Bt 11 maize (Zea mays) in experimental microcosms. Fems Microbiology Ecology 75:304-312.

Ramakrishnan, A. P., T. Musial, and M. B. Cruzan. 2010. Shifting dispersal modes at an expanding species’ range margin. Molecular Ecology 19:1134-1146.

Ramakrishnan, A. P., D. M. Rosenthal, T. Musial, and M. B. Cruzan. 2008. Isolation and characterization of nine microsatellite markers for Brachypodium sylvaticum (Huds.) Beauv., a recently invasive grass species in Oregon. Molecular Ecology Resources 8:1297-1299.

Baucom, R. S., J. C. Estill, and M. B. Cruzan. 2005. The effect of deforestation on the genetic diversity and structure in Acer saccharum (Marsh): Evidence for the loss and restructuring of genetic variation in a natural system. Conservation Genetics 6:39-50.

Handy, S. M., K. McBreen, and M. B. Cruzan. 2004. Patterns of fitness and fluctuating asymmetry across a broad hybrid zone. Int. J. Plant Sci. 165:973-981.

Morris, A. B., R. Baucom, and M. B. Cruzan. 2002. Stratified analysis of the soil seed bank in the cedar glade endemic, Astragalus bibullatus: Evidence for historical changes in genetic structure. Am. J. Bot. 89:29-36.

Where are they now?

Samantha Hopkins - Assistant Professor of Paleontology, University or Oregon

Regina Baucom - Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Michigan

Matt Heard - Assistant Professor of Biology, Winthrop University.

Chuck Price - Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Western Australia

Sara Handy - Research Scientist, US FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Allison Fortner - Research Scientist, Oak Ridge National Lab

Bryan Benz - Forest Service Botanist, Umpqua National Forest

Kristin Anton - Science Teacher, Traverse City Area Public Schools

Paul Sochacki - Technician/ Statistical Consultant, OHSU Pathology Core Lab

Heather Machado - PhD Candidate, Stanford University

Trieste Musial - PhD Candidate, Emory University

Jennifer Lawson - Environmental Assessment Crew Manager

Brian Pace - Masters Candidate, the Ohio State University

Ann Rasmussen - PhD Candidate, University of Mississippi