STem Applied Research and Training Projects

Incorporating 3D Printing in Biology

Andrew Vinal Photo
Project Mentor: Andrew Clayton Vinal
[email protected]

Students at Wake Technical Community College are invited to work in groups in the STEM Lab involving biology projects that utilize the 3D printer to enhance their understanding of Biology and Anatomy & Physiology.  In Biology, students are challenged to describe the structure and function of any of any one of the 215,000 analyzed proteins in the PDB databank ( For Anatomy, students can study proteins, human anatomical structures and delineate and explored the structure and functions in 3D. Students in either project, accomplish their tasks by doing background research, download and manipulate the 3D structure for 3D printing (STL), learn how to print in 3D, then prepare a research paper describing the structure and function of the project protein.  Students can utilize the Honor Program to achieve additional recognition, receive a certificate of completion, and document on their resumes their upload of work to the NIH Print Exchange (

The work was made possible by a Grant #1400458 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Reference Codes: 1032, 9178, Smet S-Stem: Schlr Sci Tech Eng & Math, Advanced Tech Education Prog.

Model Science - 3D

Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria

Project Mentor: Brian S. Nunez
[email protected]

The focus of our research program is antibiotic resistance in bacteria (ARB). ARB is a growing problem in both community and health care settings, and its study is therefore very important to society in general. ARB is at its base a genetics problem, as changes in the genome of susceptible bacteria can lead to new genes which confer resistance to one or more antibiotics. In many cases, once a bacterium has developed resistance to an antibiotic, it can share this resistance with other bacteria. Therefore, ARB is both a clinical and environmental phenomenon. We use the techniques of microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry to exam how ABR develops and propagates. These studies will benefit society, in no small part by benefiting the students who conduct the research.


Using Algae to Study Biofuels

Project Mentor: Dr. Kim Fishback
[email protected]

Characterizing Dunaliella Salina, a project in collaboration with Dr. Karen O’Connell at NC State University

Producing economically feasible biofuel feedstock from green algae has been an applied research goal for over 40 years. Research with Dunaliella Salina may provide the missing link! Dunaliella Salina is salt-tolerant photosynthetic microalgae that are abundant around the world. One of the unique characteristics of Dunaliella is that it produces large amounts of lipids and by-products that may be useful for biofuel production. As a first step, we need to characterize the numerous strains available in open collections. For our part, Wake Tech students will have several research project options to choose from to help characterize these 70+ strains. Possible project ideas include: investigate division rates among the strains, conditions for growth (salt requirements, nitrogen requirements, and other nutrient omissions, bacteria “contaminants” effect on growth to name a few ideas.


The Mycology Mapping

Michael Stewart Photo
Project Mentor: Michael Stewart
[email protected]

Students will research fungi in order to map the mycological profile of Wake County. This on-going project will involve laboratory and field work; students will be expected to collect fungi samples, characterize them, categorize them, and find their DNA barcoding. Students involved will gain familiarity with how to identify wild mushrooms and fungi, as well as to perform basic DNA barcoding. A strong background in chemistry is not required for chemical testing, nor knowledge of mushroom identification.


Drunken Fruit Fly

Project Mentor: Erin Doughney
[email protected]

Is there a genetic component to alcohol tolerance?  The affectionately nicknamed “Drunken Fruit Fly Project” is trying to asses that question.  By testing nearly 200 different mutant strains of Drosophila we aim to see if some mutations affect the time in which ethanol affects the fly’s behavior.  With there being approximately 44% overlap in shared genes between drosophila in humans, we may be able to apply our knowledge to humans.  Along the way, research students get the chance to collaborate with engineering students on designing materials needed for the research and math students on data analysis.  Additionally, students evaluate our own methods to make sure our experiment is as controlled as possible.  Participating students gain authentic research experience that they can take with them as they transfer to other universities and/or into the job market.

Fruit Fly

Understanding the Neuse River Ecosystem

Maria Fadri Photo
Project Mentor: Dr. Maria Fadri
[email protected]

In Wake Technical Community College’s STEM lab, Dr. Fadri works with undergraduate students to understand urban biodiversity using camera trapping and molecular techniques like DND barcoding and e-DNA (environmental DNA) analysis. Using these approaches, Dr. Fadri and her students work to identify, characterize, and better understand the mammals, plants, and microbes of the Neuse River ecosystem.

Deer at night