Undergraduate Student research


Extensive research opportunities are available for undergraduate students in the Hillyer Lab.  In the past seven years, 18 undergraduate students have performed original research in the Hillyer Lab in projects that range from the mechanics of heart contractions to the genetic bases of immunity in the mosquito hemocoel.

Usually, undergraduate students perform research under Biological Sciences courses BSCI280, BSCI283, BSCI286 and BSCI296 (see “teaching” webpage), with the general expectation that by the end of their undergraduate career students should have obtained sufficient data to graduate with Honors and publish a research paper.

More information on the research done in the Hillyer lab can be found on our “research” and “publications” webpages.  If you are interested in joining the Hillyer Lab contact me by EMAIL.  Underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

Peer-reviewed publications authored by undergraduate students (names are underlined):

  1. 1) Glenn, J.D., J.G. King, and J.F. Hillyer. 2010. Structural mechanics of the mosquito heart and its function in bidirectional hemolymph transport. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213(4):541-50. (PubMed) (PubMed) (Download FREE from JEB)

  1. 2) Andereck, J.W., J.G. King, and J.F. Hillyer. 2010. Contraction of the ventral abdomen potentiates extracardiac retrograde hemolymph propulsion in the mosquito hemocoel. PLoS ONE. 5(9):e12943. (PubMed) (Download FREE from PLoS ONE)

  1. 3) Coggins, S.A., T.Y. Estévez-Lao, and J.F. Hillyer. 2012. Increased survivorship following bacterial infection by the mosquito Aedes aegypti as compared to Anopheles gambiae correlates with increased transcriptional induction of antimicrobial peptides. Developmental and Comparative Immunology. 37(3-4):390-401.

    (Pubmed) (Download from Dev Comp Immunol)

  1. 4) Estévez-Lao, T.Y, D.S. Boyce, H.-W. Honegger, and J.F. Hillyer. 2013. Cardioacceleratory function of the neurohormone CCAP in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. Journal of Experimental Biology. 216(4):601-613.  (PubMed) (Article on JEB website) (Story in Inside JEB).

  1. 5)Chen, W., and J.F. Hillyer.  2013. FlyNap (triethylamine) increases the heart rate of mosquitoes and eliminates the cardioacceleratory effect of the neuropeptide CCAP.  PLoS ONE. 8(7):e70414.

    (Pubmed) (Download Free from the PLOS ONE Website)

  1. 6)Hillyer, J.F., T.Y. Estévez-Lao, and L.E. de la Parte. 2014. Myotropic effects of FMRFamide containing peptides on the heart of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 202:15-25.

    (Pubmed) (See it in GCE) (Email me for a pdf copy)

  1. 7)Boppana, S., and J.F. Hillyer. 2014. Hemolymph circulation in insect sensory appendages: functional mechanics of antennal accessory pulsatile organs (auxiliary hearts) in the mosquito Anopheles gambiaeJournal of Experimental Biology. 217(17):3006-3014.

    (PubMed) (See it in JEB) (Email me for a pdf copy)

  1. 8)Ellison, H.E., T.Y. Estévez-Lao, C.S. Murphree, and J.F. Hillyer. 2015. Deprivation of both sucrose and water reduces the mosquito heart contraction rate while increasing the expression of nitric oxide synthase. Journal of Insect Physiology. 74:1-9.

    (PubMed) (See it in JIP) (Email me for a pdf copy)

  1. 9) Suggs, J.M., T.H. Jones, S.C. Murphree, and J.F. Hillyer. 2016. CCAP and FMRFamide-like peptides accelerate the contraction rate of the antennal accessory pulsatile organs (auxiliary hearts) of mosquitoes. Journal of Experimental Biology. 219(15): 2388-2395. (PMID: 27247317) (See it in JEB) (Email me for a pdf copy)

  1. 10) Chintapalli, R.T.V., and J.F. Hillyer. 2016. Hemolymph circulation in insect flight appendages: physiology of the wing heart and circulatory flow in the wings of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae. Journal of Experimental Biology. 219: 3945-3951. (PMID: 27742896) (See it in JEB) (Email me for a pdf copy)


Awards and honors received by undergraduate students:

  1. 1)Vanderbilt University Founder’s Medal:

    a.  Sarah Coggins, 2011. (LINK)

  1. 2)Graduating with Biological Sciences “Honors”:

  2. a. Justin Glenn, 2009.

  3. b.Sarah Coggins, 2011 (Highest Honors).

  4. c.Weihan Chen, 2013 (Highest Honors).

  5. d.Dacia Boyce, 2013.

  6. e.Sushma Boppana, 2014.

  7. f.Ravi Chintapalli, 2016.

  8. 3)Vanderbilt University’s Department of Biological Sciences Research Prize:

    a. Sarah Coggins, 2011. (LINK)

  1. 4)Vanderbilt University Department of Biological Sciences Research Commendation:

    a.  Justin Glenn, 2009.

    b.  Jonathan Andereck, 2010.

    c.  Sushma Boppana, 2014.

    d.  Ravi Chintapalli, 2016.

  1. 5)National Science Foundation REU fellow:

    a.  Jack “Weihan” Chen, 2011. (LINK)

    b.  Sushma Boppana, 2012. (LINK)

    c.  Haley Ellison, 2013. (LINK)

  1. 6)Beckman Scholars Program:

    a.  Ravi Chintapalli, 2014-2015.

  1. 7)Vanderbilt University Summer Research Program Fellowship:

    a.  Jonathan Andereck, 2009.

    b.  Sarah Coggins, 2010.

    c.  Julia Suggs, 2015.

    d.  Charlotte Doran, 2016.

  1. 8)Vanderbilt University Joel Tellinghuisen Phi Beta Kappa Award for outstanding research:

    a.  Jonathan Andereck, 2010.

  1. 9)Vanderbilt University Merck Index Award (Chemistry):

    a.  Jonathan Andereck, 2010.

  1. 10)Speaker at an international scientific meeting:

  2. a.Sarah Coggins, 2010, 85th annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists, Colorado Springs, CO.  (LINK)

  3. b.Weihan Chen, 2012, Entomology 2012: the 60th annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Knoxville, TN. (LINK)

  4. 11)Award recipients at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Sciences:

    a.  Halley Ellison, first place in zoology section, 2013.

    b.  Talitha Jones, third place in zoology section, 2014.

  1. 12)Award recipients for “Best Presentation” in the entomology session of the Middle Collegiate Meeting of the Tennessee Academy of Science:

    a.  Justin Glenn, 1st place, 2009.

    b.  Sarah Coggins, 1st place, 2011. (LINK)

    c.  Weihan “Jack” Chen, 2nd place, 2011. (LINK)

  1. 13)American Society of Parasitologists Marc Dresden Student Travel Grant (funds travel to the national meeting):

    a.  Sarah Coggins, 2010. (LINK)

Life after Vanderbilt:

1) Justin Glenn, 2009: Johns Hopkins Graduate School.

2) Rachel Fogg, 2009: Cornell Veterinary School.

3) Jonathan Andereck, 2010: Vanderbilt Medical School.

  1. 4)Chance Panter, 2010: U.S. Army.

  2. 5)Sarah Coggins, 2011: Vanderbilt Medical School.

  3. 6)Imade Imasuen, 2012: Emory's Post-Baccalaureate Program (PREP).

  4. 7)Weihan “Jack” Chen, 2013: U. of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

  5. 8)Dacia Boyce, 2013: Uniformed Services Univ. of the Health Sciences.

  6. 9)Sushma Boppana, 2014: University of Alabama-Birminghan M.D./Ph.D Program.

  7. 10) Lauren de la Parte, 2014: London School of Public Health.

  8. 11) Ravi Chintapalli, 2016: University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

  9. 12) Julia Suggs, 2016: Washington University in St. Louis Medical School.

Research opportunities for undergraduates

Justin Glenn (top left) obtained a B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Vanderbilt University in 2009, with Honors.  His research on the structural and functional mechanics of the mosquito heart was published in Journal of Experimental Biology.

Sarah Coggins (above) obtained B.A.s in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Spanish in 2011. During graduation ceremonies, she was awarded the Department of Biological Sciences Research Prize, and earned the prestigious Founder’s Medal.  Her research on the immune response of culicine and anopheline mosquitoes to bacterial infection was published in Developmental and Comparative Immunology.

Jonathan Andereck (above) obtained a B.A. in Chemistry from Vanderbilt University in 2010.  His research on the role of abdominal contractions on hemolymph propulsion was published in the journal PLoS ONE, and netted him Vanderbilt’s 2010 Phi Beta Kappa Tellinghuisen Award for Research.

Sushma Boppana (above) obtained a B.A. in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2014. Her research on the physiology of mosquito antennal pulsatile organs was published in Journal of Experimental Biology.