Current Research

Zack Valdez
Zack Valdez

Advisor: William Hockaday

My dissertation research involves evaluating carbon cycling in switchgrass agriculture along with a team of colleagues from Rice University and Michigan State University. Switchgrass is a low-maintenance, high biomass perennial that holds promise as a bio-energy crop. I collected ~100 soil cores from switchgrass field trials located at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which I returned to Baylor University to study changes in carbon storage and soil organic matter biochemical composition. My analyses use both traditional methods in soil science and advanced chemical spectroscopy such as nuclear magnetic resonance and differential scanning calorimetry.

During his first year at TIE3s, Zach was awarded a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, providing three years of support. Zack has also received a Future Leaders in Science Award from the Agronomy, Crop Science, and Soil Science Societies of America. Through this award, Zach spent a week in Washington, D.C., engaging with congressional policy-makers to raise awareness and support for science, technology and research funding. Currently, Zack is participating in a year-long science policy immersion program through the Congressional Science Fellowship awarded by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). His preliminary research is published in the journal BioEnergy Research.

 Will Brewer
Will Brewer

Advisor: Joe C. Yelderman Jr.

I work with Dr. Joe Yelderman in the Hydrogeology Lab within Baylor's Department of Geosciences. My research is mainly focused on the Brazos River Alluvium Aquifer and other shallow groundwater systems in Texas and around the United States. I hope to learn about how carbon is transported through these systems and how they might play into the global carbon cycle. I sample water on a regular basis from wells and springs and spend a good deal of time in the field using Baylor's geoprobe rig. I look forward to understanding how groundwater functions as more than just a water source and to learning more about how to best conserve this important resource.

Chi-Yen Tseng
Chi-Yen Tseng

Advisor: Cole W. Matson

Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have proven uniquely suited for assessing contaminants in the Great Lakes and evaluating biomarker responses in birds to contaminants including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and furans, pesticides, toxic metals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). My primary research includes a series of transcriptome-wide gene expression projects initiated by USGS and funded by The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. RNA-Seq analysis was carried out in nestlings collected from a subset of Areas of Concern (AOCs) with interesting contaminant profiles.

The approach attempts to connect gene expression to contaminants exposure, biomarker responses, and underlying altered biological mechanistic pathways. The goal is to determine the contaminants driving the change in gene expression and then select a subset of genes for future monitoring. My previous project was to determine how salinity affects the toxicity of silver nanoparticles to Fundulus grandis embryos. I found embryos were susceptible to silver nanoparticles exposure at both low and high salinity, which could be used to modify current risk assessment models of nanoparticles.

Anand Chaudhary
Anand Chaudhary

Advisor: Kevin Gutzwiller

My research interests include conservation biology, macrosystems ecology, landscape ecology, and human dimensions to wildlife. I am particularly interested in how major forces affecting global biodiversity interact across spatial scales (large regions to small landscapes) to affect birds. My current research questions look at how regional-scale climate may affect the influence of local-scale factors (e.g., human socioeconomics, exurbanization, invasive species and agricultural land use) on birds.

Jingyu Wang
Jingyu Wang

Advisor: Thad Scott

My research interests are mainly related to phytoplankton ecology, with an emphasis on how phytoplankton respond to nutrient stoichiometry. I am also interested in using numerical models to describe hydrodynamic and biochemical processes in lakes. Currently I am working on experiments related to phytoplankton's photoacclimation, seeking to find patterns of interspecific and intraspecific variations of short term acclimation for cyanobacteria, which is the most notorious source of harmful algal blooms.