UMaine Upward Bound

Upward Bound is a federally funded program which assists qualified students to improve their skills in high school and to prepare to enter and succeed in college. The Connell Lab has participated in the program for several years and helped mentor students working on a variety of projects. Learn more about the UMaine Upward Bound including program history, application information, forms and FAQs.

View outreach publications from NOAA-funded Maine SeaGrant

Examining RNA Levels of Alexandrium using different methods of preservation / Chhayheng Chhoeu (2012)

Harmful algal blooms (HABs), such as those of the species Alexandrium fundyense, are dangerous to marine life and humans. HABs can cause destruction in marine life and millions in economic damage. To detect harmful algae in open ocean water, scientists must collect samples and bring them back to the lab. However, finding the best method to preserve the algae RNA sample from degrading is difficult. It was hypothesized that preserving algae at -20ºC without any additive agent will be the best method to preserve the RNA. Alexandrium cells were used in RNA quantification with a fluorescent quantifying machine (Picofluor). Each sample of algae was stored at -20ºC, 4ºC, and 25ºC and some were given RNAsecure and formaldehyde treatment. The results of the experiment showed that simply storing the algae at -20C without any treatment provided to highest concentration of RNA per microliter. [VIEW CHHAY'S POSTER HERE]

Adaptation of Yeast / Heidi Ortiz (2012)

The purpose of this procedure was to test the stability of yeast against a full light spectrum. The theory of panspermia is that life originated on Earth from dust particles from outer space. Space has a harsh living environment, which would make it difficult for organisms to live. One of the conditions is sunlight. If the yeast can survive the exposure to light, then it is likely that organisms have a possibility of surviving in space. In this experiment there were ten different species of yeast used: two sets, one in full exposure to light and the other hidden in the dark. The color of the yeast can determine if the yeast can adapt to the light. When the yeast in full light becomes darker than the one in the dark that shows that the cells can produce melanin, which can protect them from the light. The data concluded that there were some yeast in the full light that did show they were able to adapt to the light, by producing melanin, in order to protect themselves. [VIEW HEIDI'S POSTER HERE]

The Life Cycle of Red Tide Algae: RNA Extraction / Megan Young (2011)

The food chain presented in the universe is a very complex figure, with many complications through the way it functions. One of these complications involves red tide. Red tide is a marine algae, consisting of 60 species diverted throughout the world, some of which are toxic. When red tide is consumed by clams, shellfish, or other marine organisms, a toxin is released into the organisms body, then when a human eats that organism, the toxin is carried over with the consumed meat, releasing

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Many organal complications follow along with the consumption of the poisoning, leaving individuals with serious illness for months, or even death. Two of the most common toxic red tide species in the New England location are Alexandrium ostenfeldii, and Alexandrium tamarense. By counting the cells, and extracting the RNA of these two Alexandriums, the growth rate that these two algae posses, and the concentration of the RNA throughout the life cycle can be calculated. While analyzing the data received from this project, conclusions had come out to be that the results failed to reject my null hypothesis. The life cycle of both Alexandriums were very unstable during the first couple of weeks, then by the third week of the growth, the algae both showed a rapid increase in the number of cells possessed in the cultures. The RNA concentration is not available at the time, with technologcal malfunctions, however previous studies have shown the RNA increases as the algae grows, then as the algae experiences its "adult years" the RNA takes a standstill concentration, reaming like that for the majority of its life.

Antarctic Yeast Isolate Identification / Melissa Trotter (2010)

Yeast are eukaryote living micro-organisms, part of the Fungi Kingdom, that live in soils, consuming glucose and are also considered a fungus and/or a mushroom. But what species of yeast are impo

rtant to learn about are ones growing in harsh environment soils in Antarctica. How these species of yeast are growing in one of the worlds “harshest environments” is the big question. To figure out how these yeast are growing in these harsh environments the first step is to know what type of species of yeast are growing. Laurie Connell’s work at the Microbiology Lab at the University Maine is to identify many different species of yeast. There some Antarctic yeast are stored, put through many protocols to obtain the yeast DNA, sent to the DNA Sequencing Lab, and then identified. By doing so we’ll be able to know the yeast genus, what environment the yeast used to grow in before being covered in glaciers, whether the yeast was or is a mushroom or fungus, and if this yeast can be found elsewhere other than Antarctica.

Effect of Gelatin Pre-treatment on DNA Extraction from Clay Soil / Michael Zalatin (2010)

At the present time there are no good methods to extract/isolate genomic DNA from clay soil samples. This is a problem for who scientists who work with clay soils. The paper is about the testing of a new method for isolating DNA from clay soil. This method used gelatin, which was tested against a current method of isolation. The goal of the experiment was to try to develop better methods for the isolation of DNA from clay soils. The gelatin has been used before but never tested on clay soils in this way.

The Genetic Characterization of a Softshell Clam Population in New Brunswick, Canada / Tom Phan (2009) - Best Project Award Softshell clams are important commercial bivalve species in the north Atlantic coast. A number of populations have developed a DNA mutation that makes them resistant to the saxitoxin produced by Alexandrium spp., a species of dinaflagellate. A genetic population study is used to observe the spread of the mutation. In a population of clams from Beaver Cove, New Brunswick, Canada 77.78% were found to be resistant and 22.22% were foudn to be heterozygous with no sensitive genotypes observed.  Beaver Cove is an area with high annual red tides. This supports the hypothesis that the higher the frequency of red tide, the higher the frequency of clams with the mutant gene.


Algae Mutation / Trinh Nguyen (2008)Algae is a type of plant that can be found anywhere throughout the ocean. Under the right conditions, Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) can occur and cause the algae to keep on multiplying. Pseudo-nitzchia is a type of HAB that can cause harm to both aquatic organisms and humans. Because this tyoe of algae is harmful to humans and can cause mortality, we study the mutation in the DNA of the algae, so that, scientists can invent a type of device that can tell whether or not the water is contaminated. In this project, I looked at 3 different cultures of algae, and found its sequencing. The reason I did that is to find out what species they are, and whether or not their toxic by comparing it to already known sequencing. One of the samples I used did not have DNA and for the other two samples that had DNA, the sequence did not come out clearly. So I substituted cox1 with primer ITS, and I was able to analyze the sequencing. From a program called Genbank, it indicated to that both of the samples that I had were Pseudo-nitxchia delicatissima, which are toxicated algae.

Identifying sub-Antacrtic Yeast Species by Sequencing their DNA / Lissette Santiago (2008) Yeast and Fungi are exttremely important in the world. Yeast is found mostly everywhere. The goal of my experiment was to find the name that fit my yeast. For my hypothesis I wanted to compare other yeast to mine and see their differences. The six different experiments I did during the summer was Cell Media Preparation, DNA Extraction, Getting the DNA concentration, PCR and Gel Electrophoresis, DNA Gel Electrophoresis, Purifying the DNA samples, and Sequencing Analysis.  My experiment came out really well. Both my yeast isolates were in the Rhodotorula genus.

The Explosive Five of Volcanic Yeast and Fungi / Heather Young (2007) This paper talks about different yeast and fungi samples that were collected from the active submarine volcanic seamount called Vailulu'u. Twenty samples were collected and were run through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to identify which geneus each sample belonged to.  However, not every sample came out with a clear identification of which genus it belonged to. As part of the project, the yeast and fungi were cloned and then grown on bacteria to see if it would show a better sequence than PCR did.

Yeast and Fungi from an Underwater Volcanic Seamount / Abulkadir Ali (2007) Yeast and fungi have important roles int he community, from breaking fown organic matter to being a food source for other organisms. There are many types of yeast have been discovered around volcanic area.  About twenty samples of yeasts and fungi collected from underwater volcanic seamount, Valilu'u, in American Samoa. Most of yeasts and fungi were successfully identified. But three of them had a bad DNA sequence. The purpose of my experiment was to try a different method of amplifying the DNA of yeasts and fungi to see if we can get a better sequence.

Elizabeth Ige

Eat That Mussel, Don't Move a Muscle / Elizabeth Ige (2006) - Best Project Award Alexandrium tamarense is a red tide alga that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, a marine toxin disease that is caused predominantly by the consumption of contaminated shellfish. The shellfish are contaminated when A. tamarense blooms in the water. The marine animals that are affected by the A. tamarense bloom are those that filter their food from the water. According to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, PSP toxin acts within minutes. and the victim may feel a tingling in the lips, a burning sensation in the gums and tongue, and a numbness that spreads from the face to the neck, arms and legs. Water contaminated by A. tamarense is a public health problem because the contaminated areas have to be closed, and the people who depend on shellfish to run their businesses suffer. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine if a shellfish is contaminated without a chemical test. In order to test if a water sample is contaminated with A. tamarense, it can be viewed under a microscope or visualized after a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The purpose of my experiment was to sequence DNA and design primers to detect red tide algae Alexandrium tamarense in a water sample. My hypothesis was that using PCR is a more effective method of detecting red tide algae Alexandrium tamarense in water samples, which was supported by my results

©  2012, Laurie Connell - University of Maine - A Member of the University of Maine System