+ Research and Honors – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \

Undergraduate Research

More than 60% of our biology students are actively engaged in a research or field study project each semester, both on-campus in state-of-the-art labs and off-campus with local scientists and doctors, getting the hands-on experience that makes them stand out in the job market.

Hobart and William Smith students benefit from the Colleges’ long and valuable relationship with Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, located right in Geneva. Our students work and study alongside Experiment Station scientists during the school year and summer, gaining significant exposure to applied research while making important contributions to experiment station projects.

Students interested in pursuing careers in medicine also have access to clinical internships, skill training and direct patient care experiences through a special partnership with Finger Lakes Health, a local health system with 75 staff physicians and a broad range of primary and specialty services located just one mile from campus.

Here’s a recent sampling of what some of our students are working on:

  • Elizabeth McAnaney ’19: Macroinvertebrate Communities Across Three Sites in Castle Creek
  • Charmaine Chung ’19: Comparison of de novo and reference-guided assembly in the characterization of the chloroplast genome of Gelsemium sempervirens
  • Meredith Fennell ’20: Resolving phylogenetic relationships of Apocynoideae (Apocynaceae) using genome skimming
  • McKenzie Frazier ’20: The effect of Round Goby on benthic macroinvertebrate lake communities
  • Susan Garber ’19: Identifying the critical amino acids required for protein binding between Sobp and Sine oculis, a transcription factor required for the formation of the Drosophila eye
  • Andrew Herrmann ’19: Assessing anti-cancer potential of newly synthesized staurosporine analogs containing a 3-furan-2-one group
  • Gurpawan Kang ’19 and Minna Kim ’19: Evaluating the effects of Xyzistatin and Vorinostat on U937 cells
  • Marissa McFadden ’19: Synthesis and Reactions of Tetramic and Tetronic Acids
  • Nhung Nguyen ’19: Round goby diet composition in various water temperatures as a reflection of biological energy requirements
  • Ifunanya Okeke ’19: Does the transcriptional regulator Teashirt-2 function in the specification of the Xenopus retina
  • Alvin Randall ’19: Researching D. melanogaster genes required for antenna formation to determine possible H. virescens male antenna gene pathway
  • Morgan Ross ’19: Phylogenetic relationships of waxy milkweeds (Asclepias)
  • Parke Schweiter ’19: Threats to Ash Trees and The Future of The Understory
  • Chris Stedry ’19: Molecular evolution of the plastid accD gene in milkweeds (Asclepias; Apocynaceae)
  • Meredith Steinfeldt ’20: Plastome phylogenomics of the common milkweed clade of Asclepias (Apocynaceae)
  • Jonathan Thrall ’19: A molecular analysis of the Grape Berry Moth’s navigation through a noisy chemical environment

Biology Research Profile:
Grace Marshall ’19

Grace Marshall '19

Hometown: Petoskey, Michigan
Major: Biology and Philosophy double major
Honors Project: Personality-Based Movement Behavior in Plethodon cinereus

This project aims to better understand dispersal patterns of terrestrial organisms and how human interference with the landscape has influenced those patterns. Grace’s work has been focusing on how movement behavior changes under stressful environments, including collecting information on risk that salamanders take on when dispersing.

“Don’t be afraid to take on a research program(s) that are not directly related to your post-graduate aspirations. The important things about research are the skills you learn and the knowledge you gain about a particular topic. Be brave, take risks, and most importantly, have fun.”


Under the guidance and mentorship of Biology professors, students may choose to perform Honors. Most will complete a summer of research followed by research in their senior year. The work culminates as a written and defended Honors thesis, and the work is often presented at conferences or published as scientific articles.


  • Alessandra Bryan (Adviser: Cosentino): Effects of Urbanization on the Evolution of Coat Color in Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)
  • Katherine Foley (Adviser: Cushman): Competition for Food Resources between the Native Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) and Invasive Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus)
  • Brianna Hurysz (Adviser: Mowery): Assessing Anti-cancer Potential and Mechanism of Action of Novel Staurosporine Analogs
  • Rizky Kafrawi (Adviser: Straub): Investigating the Interplay between Chloroplast and Mitochondrial Genomes in Asclepiadoideae (Apocynaceae)
  • Allie Seminer (Adviser: Cushman): Mercury Bioaccumulation in Fish Food Webs of New York State Finger Lakes’ Tributaries


  • Madison Cullinan ’19 (Adviser: Straub): Evidence of a mitochondrial insertion in the chloroplast genome in the genus Alyxia (Apocynaceae)
  • Anna Leffler ’20 (Adviser: Droney): Variation in Exploratory Behavior of Red-Backed Salamanders
  • Grace Marshall ’19 (Adviser: Cosentino): Relationship of Movement Behavior to Water Balance in Red-Backed Salamanders
  • Penelope Murphy ’19 (Adviser: Brown): Fraternal Twins: The Food Webs of Two Neighboring Ponds
  • Carl Wagner ’19 (Adviser: Straub): Further Resolution of Phylogenetic Relationships Within the Temperate North American Clade of Milkweeds (Asclepias, Apocynaceae)


  • Rachael Best ’18 (Adviser: Brown): The Influences of Taxonomic Composition and Environmental Factors on Methylmercury Concentrations in Zooplankton in Seneca Lake, NY
  • Banan Otaibi ’18 (Adviser: Cosentino): Adaptive Evolution and Population Genetic Structure of a Woodland Salamander in Regenerating Landscape


  • Kayleigh Buffington ’17 (Adviser: Brown): Methylmercury Bioaccumulation and Tropic Position of the Non-native Bloody Red Shrimp (Hemimysis anomala) in the Finger Lakes (New York)
  • James Cooper ’17 (Adviser: Carle): CD28 Induces Metabolic Fitness in Multiple Myeloma via a NF-kB/IRF4-Dependent Signaling Axis to Promote Survival
  • Noland Michels ’17 (Adviser: Cushman): The Ecological Effects of the Invasive Neogobius melanostomus in the Finger Lakes
  • Namita Neerukonda ’17 (Adviser: Mowery): Biological Evaluation of Simplified Analogs of Protein Kinase C Inhibitor, Staurosporine
  • Madison Sutton ’17 (Adviser: Deutschlander): Is Mass Gain in Migratory Warblers Influenced by Sex, Season, or Arrival Date?


  • Nicolette Andrzejczyk ’16 (Adviser: Cushman): Histological effects of Endocrine Disruptors on Male Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys atratulus) in the Seneca Lake, NY Watershed.
  • Alexander Gatch ’16 (Adviser: Brown): Age and Size as Predictors of Mercury Accumulation in Lake Trout from the Finger Lakes.
  • Kathryn M. Mendez ’16 (Adviser: Brown): The Potential Use of Environmental DNA for Detection of Hemimysis anomala.
  • Lauren Walter ’16 (Adviser: Straub): Comparative genomic analysis of Apocynaceae plastomes.


  • Stephanie L. Cramer ’15 (Adviser: Mowery): Examining the Amino Acids in Bacterial Motility-like Receptors.
  • Bridget E. Logan ’15 (Adviser: Kenyon):Examining Protein Interactions of Candidate Genes Implicated in Branchio-oto-renal (BOR) Syndrome.
  • Alison J. McCarthy ’15 (Adviser: Cosentino):Do Edge Effects Impact the Behavioral Traits of Red-backed Salamanders in a Fragmented Forest.
  • Caitlyn E. Mitchell ’15 (Adviser: Carle): Testing Xyzistatin, a Novel Depsipeptide, for Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Activity on Cancer Cells.
  • Amanda L. Rappaport ’15 (Adviser: Droney): Mating decisions: Alternate Courtship Strategies and Sexual Conflict in Drosophila sulfurigaster (tropical fruit flies).
  • Carly E. Rolph ’15 (Adviser: Mowery): Biological Evaluation of Simplified Analogs of Protein Kinase C Inhibitor Staurosporine.
  • Kaitley A. Wozer ’15 (Joint Honors in Biology (Mowery) and Dance (Davneport):
    Viral Bodies: Socially Conscious Bio-Specific Choreography.