BPRI Lab Swap: Interdisciplinary Training for Trainees

Overview of the program

The Behavioral Plasticity Research Institute (BPRI) Lab Swap Research Program aims to facilitate interdisciplinary research exposure and expertise among BPRI graduate and postdoc trainees across partner institutions. Funding is available for all trainees and there are two options:

  1. Lab Swap I allows trainees a 1-2 month-long engagement in integrated interdisciplinary research at any BPRI host lab, or a lab that facilitates research and collaboration with regard to the 10 key BPRI research themes.
  2. Lab Swap II allows trainees a 1-week long immersive exposure to an affiliated BPRI lab.

Trainees are encouraged to do their Lab Swap with any BPRI-affiliated lab conducting research projects that align with the following program objectives:

  1. Learning new methods and core concepts to advance future career and research interests.
  2. Participating in collaborative research activities within the BPRI network.
  3. Engaging in integrative projects in collaboration with BPRI institutional PIs and trainees.
  4. Providing opportunities for cultural exploration and networking, with organized outings and social functions to complement the academic components.

Note. While participation is voluntary, all graduate (master’s and PhD) and postdoc trainees are encouraged to take advantage of this enriching opportunity to expand their research and project management skills within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Application Process

Please follow the BPRI Lab Swap Proposal Call Document for application.

BPRI provided interdisciplinary research experience to a graduate student from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Alexis Acoff, a graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville completed her BPRI lab swap program at Texas A&M University.  She spent nearly two months at Texas A&M University and was co-mentored by Dr. Brittany Peterson, Prof. Spence Behmer, and Dr. Maeva Techer. During her stay, she got the opportunity to work with BPRI locust colonies and advance her research on examining possible associations between gut bacteria with locust gregarious behavior. Alexis describes her experience; “My lab swap was the highlight of my graduate experience so far.” She noted that working with different lab groups pushed her out of her comfort zone in research. The experience helped her to identify her disciplinary competence in her major field and her abilities to work independently and collaboratively with diverse research groups. She encourages her fellow students saying, “I’m so grateful for the opportunity and would recommend interdisciplinary work to any and every student in research.”

Learn more about Alexis’s research work

Drivers or passengers: What impact do gut bacteria have on the behavior of Schistocerca gregaria?

Locusts undergo solitarious-to-gregarious phase change, allowing them to swarm and cause plagues resulting in immense destruction. The mechanisms driving phase change are complex with visual, tactile, dietary, and olfactory cues playing roles. In other animals, gut microbiota impact their host’s diet preference, response to environmental cues, and mate finding. Thus, it is plausible that the gut microbiota play a role in locusts’ phase change. For my lab swap project, my primary objective was to investigate the role of gut bacteria have on Schistocerca gregaria behavior. To do this, I fed S. gregaria nymphs antibiotic-treated wheat grass throughout their development. Then in the 4th instar, I assessed the behavior of these antibiotic-treated locusts compared to a control group fed water-treated wheat grass. Then I dissected the guts of these locusts to determine the impact the treatment had on the gut bacterial community. Using this method, I aim to identify key bacteria that may be associated with locust gregarious behavior. While running this experiment, I collected the feces and dissected the guts of lab-reared final instar nymphs for S. americana, S. cubense, S. picefierons, S. gregaria black, and wildtype S. gregaria species. These samples will be used for gut-to-feces microbiota comparison and species-to-species microbiome comparison.

BPRI Lab Swap is an interdisciplinary research training funded by National Science Foundation project 2021795.