Identifying chemicals (terpenes) and their roles in plants

Our lab is interested in unravelling the biosynthetic pathways of natural products in various plants and fungal organisms.

Position 1_ Research Independent Study Credit: Plants produce an array of chemicals for adaptation to their ecological environment. These specialized metabolites have been adapted for use as pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. Our research includes identification and biochemical  characterization of the enzymes to decipher biosynthetic pathways of interest (with a focus on terpenes) and incorporation of protein engineering to understand the mechanistic basis of enzymes of interest. The position will be for class credit during the semester for at least 6 -10 hours for sophomores. Long-term commitment to the project (through graduation) is expected. Research in the lab over the summer is encouraged. Members of the Commonwealth Honors College will be eligible for research-based fellowships.

Position 2: Research Paid Work Study Required: To help us towards this goal, the lab is seeking undergraduate lab assistants for Fall 2023 to perform lab organization and maintenance duties . This includes media, stock solution preparation, watering plants and assisting in laboratory experiments as necessary. This develops a solid foundation to embark on individual undergraduate projects if desired.



Name of research group, project, or lab
Mafu Lab
Why participate in this opportunity?

Undergraduate research opportunities train students not only in the practice of science but expand their professional network and prepare them for a productive career in science.

- Learn a set of  technical tools that help to answer a scientific question

- Develop science communication skills  (oral and written) that are essential in any career

Logistics Information:
Subject Category
Molecular Biology
Plant Biology
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

A willingness to learn



Time commitment
5-7 h/wk
8-10 h/wk
Position Types and Compensation
Research - Ind. Study Credit
Research - Paid, Work-Study Req.
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Molecular Biology: PCR; DNA and RNA extraction

Chemical analysis: GC-MS; HPLC; rotovap use

Lab responsibilities: autoclave handling; media making

This project will use a Mentor-Student contract.
Contact Information:
Sibongile Mafu
Name of project director or principal investigator
Sibongile Mafu
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 17 appl.
5-7 h/wk (+1)
5-7 h/wk8-10 h/wk
Project categories
Microbiology (+2)
MicrobiologyMolecular BiologyPlant Biology