STem Applied Research and Training Projects

Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria

Project Mentor:
Dr. Brian S. Nunez - [email protected]
Greg Johnson - [email protected]

Dr. Nunez

Dr. Nunez's Project: (This project is full for the spring 2021 semester)

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 that 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.


Mr. Johnson's Project: 

Antibiotic resistance is the ability of bacteria or other microbes to resist the effects of an antibiotic MRSA and other strains of bacteria are resistant to multiple types of commercially available antibiotics.  This project is designed to find novel antibiotics that are produced in the environment by bacteria and fungi.  Such antibiotics might help combat MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria.

Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson

Aquatic Flora and Fauna

Project Mentors: 
Dr. Luc A. Dunoyer - [email protected]
Mrs. Melinda Gibbs - [email protected]

In this project students will help identify which fauna (invertebrates: crayfish and aquatic insects) and flora (trees, bushes, etc.) species are populating streams found in Wake county. This project will involve literature reviews, wading in streams (to sample invertebrates and water quality) and walking along the stream banks (to sample the flora) in riparian zones. Although waders and nets will be provided, this is field work, therefore, students should expect to be outside for four hours at a time wading in cold water or walking in the forest. This project is the perfect opportunity to learn some real field skills as well as being exposed to what an environmental consultant job is all about. Finally, students will learn how to identify invertebrates and plants, determine water quality, and learn more about population ecology and the natural world by exploring it themselves. 

Dr. Luc A. Dunoyer Photo

Dr. Luc A. Dunoyer


Dr. Luc A. Dunoyer Photo

Melinda Gibbs

Geology Field Guide of North Carolina

Dr. Jessica Kelley Photo        Mr. Ian Brown Photo

Project Mentors:
Dr. Jessica Kelley - [email protected]
Mr. Ian Brown - [email protected]

Project Title: Geology Field Guide of North Carolina

Students in this project will use Google Earth (online mapping software) and online resources to create a Geology Field Guide of North Carolina which will be geared towards introducing geology students to the wide variety of geological features of our state.

This project will involve becoming familiar with Google Earth, literature reviews of state geology, and the creation of 1) a virtual ‘tour’ of North Carolina geology in Google Earth and 2) a companion document displaying the locales and descriptions featured in the virtual tour.

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 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

Quantitative Assessment of Science Education Resources ( Full for the spring 2021 semester)

Project Mentors: 
Mrs. Erin Doughney - [email protected]
Dr. Asli Mutlu - [email protected]

In the Fall of 2020 we created and evaluated an online lab manual for Biology 110.  In the spring of 2021 I will be piloting it.  We would like to create both a quantitative evaluation accessing learning objectives outcomes as well as a qualitative survey accessing student experience.  This Mixed method research will start with my and my START student creating the assessments, submitting the IRB, and then administering it.  In the future semester the data will undergo statistical analysis comparing the lab manual to our current lab platform.

Special Topics in Geosciences

Dr. Jessica Kelley Photo

Project Mentors:
Dr. Jessica Kelley - 
[email protected] and Mrs. Stephanie Rollins - [email protected]  

Students in this project will design a research project with a Geoscience topic of interest. Topics may include but are not limited to climate change, planetary science, biological evolution, and natural disasters. Students will propose, conduct, and present the findings of their project at the end of the semester. 

Using Chemistry to Investigate Real World Issues

Project Mentor:
Dr. Ajit Dixit - [email protected]

Dr. Dixit has two concurrent projects in his lab group.

Project 1: Statistical Design of Experiments (DOE) and application to research is a tool designed to screen out variables that affect a certain result and is a screening tool for research. DOE requires significantly reduced number of experiments required in a lab or industrial research. The tool is very powerful for planning experiments. It allows for multiple input factors to be manipulated, determining their effect on a desired output (response). By manipulating multiple inputs at the same time, DOE can identify important interactions that may be missed when experimenting with one factor at a time. All possible combinations can be investigated (full factorial) or only a portion of the possible combinations (fractional factorial).  

Project 2:  Something funky is appearing in the chiller system on the Northern Wake Campus.  Students will use chemical analysis to determine what this mystery substance is and help facilities to control this mysterious substance.  


Using Gamification to teach Geology

Project Mentor:
Dr. Sara Rutzky - 
[email protected]

Note:  This project requires that you are either currently enrolled in a geology course or have previously taken a geology course.

tMinecraft and the open-source version, Minetest, are multi-player online immersive world games in which players can create, explore, and manipulate worlds that contain oceans, islands, caves, minerals, and molten rock.  Unfortunately, the rules for how natural materials work within these games are not true to the real natural world.  Since Minetest is open-source, we could code modifications to the game to incorporate real-world rules.  For instance, to make water erode and transport sediment and therefore change the shape of the land.  If these changes could be created, the resulting game could be used to enhance geology instruction at the college and for STEM-based outreach.