Teresa Puthussery, Professor

Closed (1) Studying the impact of photoreceptor degeneration on retinal synapses

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration lead to photoreceptor death and visual impairment. However, the retinal neurons downstream of photoreceptors do not degenerate and are thus promising targets for vision restoration. The success of many treatment strategies relies on normal communication and connectivity between the remaining retinal neurons. In this study, we will use a mouse model to determine what happens to synaptic proteins in the retina after photoreceptors degenerate.


The candidate will learn to make sections of fixed retinal tissue with a freezing microtome, perform immunohistochemistry on retinal sections, image and quantify neuronal expression using advanced microscopy methods including confocal microscopy. The candidate will also learn basic wet lab techniques such as pipetting, microscopy, solution preparation etc. Immunohistochemical experiments typically require a time commitment of at least 2-4 hours for each of two consecutive days. Scheduling is more flexible for microscopic imaging and analysis.


Qualifications: A strong interest in cell biology or neurobiology and attention to detail are essential. Some prior basic biology lab experience is desirable but not required.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Closed (2) Using semi-automated image analysis to classify the output neurons of the human retina

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

The neural output from the central human retina is dominated by two major cell types called the midget and parasol ganglion cells. Midget cells underlie our fine spatial acuity (eg. reading small print), whereas parasol ganglion cells are critical for motion processing. In addition to these well-studied cell types, there are at least 20+ human ganglion cell types which have not yet been functionally characterized. We are currently developing a novel approach to produce a complete classification of the output neurons in the human retina, including these “missing” cell types. The approach combines immunohistochemistry, a technique used to localize proteins within tissue sections, with semi-automated image analysis and data mining.

We are looking for candidates to work on either the biological aspects and/or image analysis end of this project. On the biology end, the candidates will learn to make sections of fixed retinal tissue, perform immunohistochemistry and acquire images using advanced microscopy methods. The candidate will also learn basic wet lab techniques such as pipetting, solution preparation etc. On the analysis side, candidates will work with open-source software packages to develop a work-flow for semi-automated image analysis. Immunohistochemical experiments typically require a time commitment of at least 2-3 hours for each of two consecutive days. Scheduling is more flexible for imaging and analysis. We are particularly interested in recruiting students who are sophomores or juniors and have an interest in a multi-year commitment.

Qualifications: A strong interest or background in biology is desirable for the experimental aspects. Bioengineering or computer science majors with experience with image processing and/or data mining would be ideal applicants for the analysis aspects.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated