396 Undergraduate Research Project Application Form

INSTRUCTIONS - PROFESSORS: Fill out Sections A & B then submit this form online. (You will receive an email copy of the form. The Office for Undergraduate Research in Science will also post the project online, indicating whether the project is open for students to apply or taken.) DONE.
INSTRUCTIONS - STUDENTS: You may receive this form by email, or you may download it after it has been posted. Either way, print this form. Complete and sign Section C on the hardcopy. Ask your supervisor to sign Section D. Take it to the department corresponding to the course number in Section A (this may or may not be your own department). Do not register for a '396' course on Minerva until you receive departmental permission.
INSTRUCTIONS - DEPARTMENTS: After the unit chair/director/designate approves (or not) this project, notify student. If approved, please give student permission to register on Minerva, and fax this form (with signatures) to the Office for Undergraduate Research in Science at 514-398-8102.
QUESTIONS OR FEEDBACK? Contact Victor Chisholm by email, or phone 514-398-5964.
Name: Prof. Boswell Wing
Email: boswell.wing [at] mcgill.ca
Phone: 514-398-6772
Supervisor's department: Earth and Planetary Sciences
Course number: EPSC396 (Earth and Planetary Science)
Term: Winter 2008-2009
Project start date: January 20, 2009
Project end date: April 14, 2009
Project title: In silico isotopic tracking of the metabolic evolution in the sulfate-reducing microbe D. vulgaris
Project description: The history of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere can be read in the variation of sulfur isotope ratios in ancient rocks. Variations in these isotopic tracers are taken to reflect differences in the global vigor of sulfate-reducing microbes. These differences, in turn, are taken to reflect variability in oceanic sulfate abundances. The final step in the deductive sequence links oceanic sulfate levels to weathering rates of sulfide minerals through a direct proportional relationship mediated by atmospheric oxygen. Despite the importance of this chain of logic to current thinking on the history of atmospheric oxygen levels, the critical link that ties it all together - the isotopic effect associated with microbial sulfate reduction - remains empirically validated but mechanistically obscure. This research project aims to make clear the specific metabolic controls on isotopic fractionation during microbial sulfate reduction, with the broader goal of revealing the co-evolution of microbial sulfate reduction and Earth's surface environment.

The specific objectives of this research project will be to: (1) use MATLAB to reproduce a recently published in silico model of the genomically-constrained core metabolism of the sulfate-reducing microbe Desulfovibrio vulgaris; (2) modify the model to include the thermodynamic fractionation of sulfur isotopes at key metabolic steps; and (3) explore the range of net sulfur isotope fractionations produced by biologically-relevant variations in the control parameters for the D. vulgaris metabolism.
Prerequisite: 1 term completed at McGill + CGPA ≥ 3.0; or permission of instructor.
Other prerequisite, if applicable: If applying from the biological sciences, a strong desire to quantify biogeochemical processes. If applying from the physical sciences, a strong interest in the nuts-and-bolts of the history of life. MATLAB experience would be helpful.
Grading scheme (The final report must be worth at least 50% of final grade): 50% of final grade based on participation in lab meetings and 1-on-1 meetings with advisor; 50% of final grade based on final report
Other project information: The published model we will be using as a basis for this project is reported at http://www.nature.com/msb/journal/v3/n1/synopsis/msb4100131.html. (Note: access is limited to the mcgill.ca domain).
Project status - This project is: Open to applicants
How students can apply: Other
If other, please specify: Send me an email indicating your interest. We can set up a meeting to discuss the project.
Ethics, safety, and training
Which of the following, if any, is involved? None
Animal subjects [ ]
Human subjects [ ]
Biohazardous substances [ ]
Radioactive materials [ ]
Handling chemicals [ ]
Using lasers [ ]
Supervisors are responsible for the ethics and safety compliance of undergraduate students.
McGill ID:  
Email (first.last [at] mail.mcgill.ca):  
Program (E.g., B.Sc. Maj. Chem. Min. Biol.):  
Level (U0 / U1 / U2 / U3):
Student signature - I have not applied for another '396' course in this term:  
Supervisor: I give my permission for the student identified in section C to register for this project under my supervision.
Supervisor's signature:  
Unit chair/director/designate: I certify that this project conforms to departmental requirements for 396 courses.
Unit chair/director/designate's name:  
Unit chair/director/designate's signature: