Dr. James Morris

Genetics and Biochemistry
College of Science

Area of Research:
Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology

249 LSB
Dr. James Morris

Proposed role for the Scholar as an undergraduate researcher in the Mentor's lab.
The Scholar will have several roles in the lab, including as a student developing their research skills while learning how to serve as an effective mentor to their peers. The first step in the process will be the development of a research plan that will include a short (1-2 page) written research proposal. I will guide the formation but will encourage the Scholar to resolve a question of their choosing related to the lab focus. Because the leading edge of what we know if often difficult to resolve, I will share ideas, reviews, and primary literature. This initial foray in scientific writing will provide a means of pre-assessment, to be compared with written summaries (or more ideally drafts of manuscripts) generated at the end of the program. To nurture mentorship skills, the Scholar will be paired with a new member of the team and will help to guide the development and execution of the new student's project. I will provide leadership ideas and support to the Scholar as they develop their management approaches.

Frequency and nature of the planned interactions between the Scholar and Mentor.
My extensive and productive experience (reflected by an honorable mention award for the Council on Undergraduate Research Biology Mentor Award) with undergraduate researchers indicates that some are more prepared than others to tackle the challenge of balancing their own research while serving as a mentor to another. My goal is to increase the Scholar's independence both as a scientist and a mentor, but my office is across the hall from the research space and I am available to provide advice in experimental design, data interpretation, and mentoring. Since learning how to communicate with others is a key skill required to be both a scientist and a leader, the Scholar will participate in weekly lab data meetings and in the Eukaryotic Pathogens journal club. Additionally, the Scholar will be encouraged to explore opportunities to share their data at undergraduate­focused research symposium (like the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences National Symposium for Undergraduate Research that one of my students recently attended), as these provide introductions to research meetings and other research institutions. Lastly, the Scholar will attend and present at annual meetings such as the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases meeting in Athens, Georgia. Our record of sending undergraduate researchers to meetings (through ASM travel awards, awards from the Clemson University Honors College, and supplements from the Clemson University Creative Inquiry program) has made an impact on career choices of students. These students tend to be those that pursue further education in prestigious graduate programs (for example, Oxford, Scripps, UT­Southwestern, Johns Hopkins), speaking to the importance of this opportunity.

Specific plans the Mentor will employ.
While a great deal of career advice will be shared through numerous casual interactions, more formal discussions about career choices, graduate school opportunities, and leadership approaches will be shared during a monthly one-on-one off-site lunch. My record of encouraging careers in science or medicine is reflected in the number of undergraduates that have matriculated from my lab and have gone on to pursue higher degrees in science, with 45 of the 53 students that have worked in my group now in science or medicine-related pursuits.

Active undergraduate researchers in Mentor's lab. 7

Total number of UGRS mentored to date: 53

Research in lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms employed by protozoan parasites for glucose perception and metabolism in order to exploit parasite-specific pathway components for therapeutic targeting.  Our efforts include projects involving the parasite responsible for African sleeping sickness, Trypanosoma brucei, and the “brain-eating amoeba”, Naegleria fowleri.  In both projects, we have usd molecular genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology approaches to characterize proteins involved in glucose perception and metabolism.  Several of these proteins have then been subject to screens to identify inhibitors with follow-on medicinal chemistry to improve the potency and anti-parasitic nature of the compounds.