Get experience conducting cutting-edge research in a variety of FSHN research laboratories, working with cells, food, plants, animals, and humans. Your advisor can help you find departmental and college level research opportunities.

FSHN Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Updated Spring 2021

Students are encouraged to include the following when inquiring about undergraduate research opportunities: 1) when they are interested in doing the research (i.e. – current semester, summer, etc.), 2) undergraduate major, 3) what year in school they are 4) previous experiences, 5) availability, and 6) contact information.

Additionally, faculty members receive a large volume of e-mails. Students are encouraged to follow-up on first messages and inquire with faculty members again if they do not receive a reply. They may simply have not had an opportunity to respond to the initial message.

This is not an exhaustive list of opportunities. If you find a research area you are interested in working, do not hesitate to contact the faculty.

Explore Faculty Research Areas

Pratik Banerjee 

Food Safety and Microbiology

Dr. Banerjee’s laboratory investigates how different environmental sources contribute to the contamination and spread of food commodities. We use molecular methods (such as PCR and qPCR) to rapidly detect pathogenic microorganisms and their genes (conferring virulence or resistance to antimicrobials) or toxins. We are also developing biosensors for the rapid detection of these pathogens. We have ongoing research projects and looking to recruit undergraduate students interested in gaining basic and advanced molecular microbiology laboratory skills and related data analysis, bioinformatics, microbiome/metagenomics, and next-generation sequencing. The typical time commitment for these projects is 4-8 h/week, with interest for more than one semester (including summer). Openings start in April 2021.

Hong Chen 

Molecular Nutrition, Nutrient-gene Interaction

The Chen lab focuses on understanding how foods/nutrients are sensed by cellular metabolic, signaling, and epigenetic pathways and how these responses shape our body during early development, disease development, and aging. Specific training includes analysis of gene expression, histological imaging and analysis, and big data analysis of various tissues and cells in animal models, human specimens, and cell cultures. Currently accepting undergraduate students.

John Erdman

Biochemical/Molecular Nutrition, Clinical Nutrition

One focus of my laboratory has been to evaluate the effects of tomato and lycopene on the development and progression of prostate cancer using animal models. Another is evaluating the impact of lutein on brain and eye function. Will consider accepting undergraduate students.

 

Zeynep Madak-Erdogan

Clinical Nutrition

Dr. Madak Erdogan studies how obesity drives chronic diseases like cancer and metabolic syndrome. We are using analysis of big data sets from ChIP-Seq, RNASeq, metabolomics experiments and various public databases, mouse models, and basic molecular and cell biology techniques. Interview and complete biosafety training are required. Accepting 1 student who can contribute 10 hours/week that can commit for at least 2 years.

Manabu Nakamura 

Clinical Nutrition

Dr. Nakamura’s lab has been developing and testing a novel dietary weight loss program, EMPOWER to effectively treat obesity and associated comorbidities. Several undergraduate students have been involved with various aspects of ongoing projects. Typically, a commitment of 3-6 hours per week for 2 years is expected. There is no opening in spring, but positions will become available in summer and fall 2021.

 

M. Yanina Pepino

Ingestive Behavior

Research in Dr. Pepino laboratory focuses on the analysis of individual differences in human taste perception and preferences, with an emphasis on sensory control of food and alcohol consumption. Dr Pepino's overall goal is to establish a research program that integrates analyses of taste perception with nutrient metabolism and the impact of dietary choices on health and disease. By using a combination of psychometrically sound validated sensory assessment methods, and metabolic research methods, we are currently studying: a) the effects of bariatric surgery-induced weight loss on flavor perception, eating behavior and alcohol drinking; b) the effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on taste preferences and glucose homeostasis;c) fat taste perception;and d) taste dysfunction in cancer survivors. We are considering accepting students who will be committed to work for at least 8 hrs. per week, for at least two years. Interview and complete biosafety training are Required.

 

Melissa Pflugh Prescott 

Public Health Nutrition, School Nutrition, Food Waste

Dr. Prescott studies how policy, system and environmental strategies can improve diet quality and/or promote environmental stewardship. We currently have two projects for which we are seeking undergraduate assistance. The first opportunity includes participating in the evaluation of the Food Assistance and Well-Being Program and a literature review of implementation science in community nutrition settings. The second opportunity includes a literature review to aid in the development of an agent-based model to simulate the school meal environment. Interested students should send an email and their resume to, Shelly Palmer (smpalmer@illinois.edu) and copy Dr. Prescott (mpp22@illinois.edu). Please visit mpp.fshn.illinois.edu for additional information on research in Dr. Prescott’s lab. These opportunities are available starting immediately, with a typical commitment of 3-9 hours per week. Remote work is available during the Spring 2021 semester.

Yi-Cheng Wang

Food Safety and Engineering

Research in Dr. Wang’s laboratory focuses on developing engineering approaches to improving food quality and safety, mostly involving nanotechnology, bio-sensing, and smart packaging. We will provide students with training opportunities in engineering, chemistry, materials science, and microbiology in the course of participating in specific projects relevant to the above topics. Interested students should send their resumes when inquiring. Interview and complete biosafety training are required. We are currently accepting students who will be committed to work for at least 8 hours per week, for at least one semester.

Related resources

Learn about research opportunities available to undergraduate students in the FSHN department, and find a laboratory that fits a student’s interests and education goals. Guest faculty members present research opportunities in their laboratory and then give a laboratory tour for students to learn more about the research activities there. Approved for S/U grading only. Offered in the spring semester.

ACES Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program

A $500 scholarship plus up to $1,000 for research expenses. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis