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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (Riley Lab)

Our competitive Research Intensives program places high-achieving high school students in professional working labs alongside distinguished faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

Research Intensive in the Antimicrobial Drug Discovery Lab (Riley Lab)

The focus of the Riley Laboratory is the identification if novel bacteriocin-based antimicrobials for use in human health and agriculture. Bacteriocins are protein toxins produced by most species of bacteria that serve to mediate bacterial population and community dynamics. We take advantage of 2 billion years of bacterial evolution, which has resulted in a large and diverse family of bacteriocins as we screen for anti-infectives that act selectively on our pathogen targets. In contrast to conventional antibiotics, bacteriocins show relatively narrow target specificity, often able to kill only members of the producing species' close relatives.

Students will engage in one of several antimicrobial screens currently running in the laboratory. These screens are searching for novel antimicrobials for use in human health and aquaculture. The human health project is focused on identifying novel treatments for diseases caused by Gram-negative bacteria, such as Klebsiella and Pseudomonas.The aquaculture project is focused on identifying antimicrobials to prevent or eliminate infectious disease in oyster, shrimp and finned fish farming.

Summer 2023 syllabus:

  • Week 1. Introduction to sterile technique, media preparation, and your bacterial genus
  • Week 2. Introduction to bacteriocin screening
  • Week 3. Bacteriocin screening and more screening
  • Week 4. Introduction to data analysis
  • Week 5. Introduction to bacteriocin characterization
  • Week 6. Introduction to lab reports and poster presentations

The Riley lab can host up to 15 students. Learn more

Program Overview

During this program, high school students will assist UMass faculty and graduate students in research labs while learning about research methodologies and contributing to ongoing research studies. Each student will create and present a research poster to faculty, fellow students, friends and family at a poster session at the end of the program.

Students will come away with an introduction to the field of Biology, firsthand experience with university-level research, and an understanding of opportunities that exist for undergraduate students at a major R1 university such as UMass Amherst.



For all Research Intensives applications: In your statement of interest, please include 3 lab choices from our list of available labs along with a brief explanation of your interest in each one.