Undergraduate research projects
Prof. S. DasSarma Laboratory, Columbus Center
Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Project 1: Understanding the evolution of photosynthesis (NASA)
We proposed that retinal pigments predated chlorophyll pigments on the early Earth and
affected their evolution (PBS Eons). This not only explains why chlorophyll pigments are
green, but also provides potential for a new biosignatures for astrobiology (DasSarma
and Schweitermann, 2018). The interested student would work on laboratory culturing
of novel microorganisms to test the purple earth hypothesis.
1. PBS Eons: https://www.pbs.org/video/when-the-earth-was-purple-acpjlv/
2. DasSarma S and Schwieterman EW. 2018. Early evolution of purple retinal
pigments on Earth and implications for exoplanet biosignatures, International
Journal of Astrobiology (Cambridge University Press),
Project 2: Nanoparticles for environmental diseases (NIH)
We showed that buoyant protein nanoparticles made by microorganisms may be
genetically engineered to display proteins on their surface (DasSarma and DasSarma,
2015). This system is being used for therapeutic applications and vaccine development
(e.g. Balakrishnan et al. 2016). The interested student would work in the laboratory on
producing and analyzing these novel nanoparticles for vaccines.
1. DasSarma, S., and DasSarma, P. 2015. Gas Vesicle Nanoparticles for Antigen Display
2. Balakrishnan, A., DasSarma, P., Bhattacharjee, O., Kim, J.M., DasSarma, S.,
and Chakravortty, D. 2016. Halobacterial nano vesicles displaying murine
bactericidal permeability-increasing protein rescue mice from lethal endotoxic
shock. Scientific Reports 6:33679.
Research will be conducted at the Columbus Center, 701 East Pratt Street, Baltimore,
Maryland, for up to 10 weeks (mid-May to late-August). Student may qualify to stay in
dormitories at the University of Maryland in downtown Baltimore
(https://www.umaryland.edu/housing/ ), UMBC (https://reslife.umbc.edu/ ), or in private
apartments nearby. Project 1 students may be eligible to apply for travel funds from
NASA. For additional information or to apply, contact Prof. S. DasSarma
([email protected] ).