Biology Faculty Member Receives Grant Funding from Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council

August 9, 2023 |

Jill Schweitzer, Assistant Professor of Biology, was awarded $17,817 in funding from the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council, part of IU Foundation Affinity Giving. This year, the IU Foundation’s Affinity Giving Awarded more than $456,000 in grants, which supported a wide range of projects, from improving health care and education, advancing transformative research and creativity to supporting diversity and multicultural initiatives.

portrait on gray backdrop of Jill Schweitzer
Jill Schweitzer
Assistant Professor, Biology & Biochemistry

With the funding from the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council, Schweitzer will implement a semester-long course-based undergraduate research experience in her Molecular Biology Lab course. This project will allow all students in the class to conduct a research project of their own, using a model organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, more commonly known as budding yeast. 

“Budding yeast is the perfect model organism for conducting molecular biology research with undergraduate students”, Schweitzer said. “Yeast grows quickly, is safe to handle, and still has many genes of unknown function that students can study.”

As part of their research project, students will investigate one yeast gene of unknown function (GUF) throughout the semester. First, they will use bioinformatic techniques to learn about potential functions of their GUF based on the gene sequence. Then, they will use molecular biology techniques to knock out their GUF and devise an experiment to examine the behavior of their knockout yeast strain. Near the end of the course, students will present their findings at a research poster presentation on the IU East campus. The grant also provides support for students who will travel to conferences in order to present their findings and for students who will publish their findings.

Indiana University East’s offers programs in Biology, Biochemistry and Human Life Science. Students in all three programs will benefit from this undergraduate research experience.  Markus Pomper, the Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, explained that one third of undergraduate students at Indiana University East are the first in their family to earn a bachelor’s degree.  Many of them have obligations outside of their classes and therefore cannot commit to participate in multi-year research projects with a mentoring faculty member. 

“Course-embedded undergraduate research projects, such as this one, allow students to be active participants in research, and garner valuable experience to bolster their resume for admission to competitive graduate programs”, Pomper said. “We are grateful to the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council’s generosity in supporting our students.”