Endosymbiotic control and enhancement of leafhopper brochosomes

This project is closed. No applications are allowed.

Insects produce fascinating biomaterials such as silk and shellac. We are studying brochosomes, spherical nanostructures produced by leafhoppers that exhibit antireflectivity, superhydrophobicity, and other useful properties. Our aim is to genetically engineer bacterial endosymbionts that reside within and are inherited by these insects to study and enhance the properties of brochosomes. The Moran lab and Bugs In Bugs FRI lab study the interactions between bacteria and insects, while the Barrick lab and Microbe Hackers FRI lab engineer bacterial symbionts to control their insect hosts. We have student projects available characterizing the symbiotic bacteria of different leafhopper species, genetically engineering these insect symbionts, examining how symbionts colonize their insect hosts, and testing whether brochosome-coated surfaces have antimicrobial properties.

You must apply for this opportunity through the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) website:

Be sure to select our project at UT Austin in your application!


Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, provide one letter of recommendation, submit a personal statement describing their interest in research, and have availability from June 1st to July 31st 2020. Additional details can be found on the Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) application website.

Project Timeline

Ten weeks including June 1st - July 31st during Summer 2022.


Internships will focus on one of these areas: Synthetic biology: Including plasmid design, assembly, and bacterial transformation. Their engineered symbiont strains can be transferred into leafhoppers in other MURI labs to test whether they alter brochosome structure and function. Entomology and microbiology: This work will expand our collection of endosymbionts that we can attempt to engineer and use in leafhoppers. Biomaterials properties: Fabricating coatings and testing them for hydrophobic and antimicrobial properties.

Typical Time Commitment
40 hours/week
Desired Length of Commitment
Summer 2022


The Office of Undergraduate Research recommends that you attend an info session or advising before contacting faculty members or project contacts about research opportunities. We'll cover the steps to get involved, tips for contacting faculty, funding possibilities, and options for course credit. Once you have attended an Office of Undergraduate Research info session or spoken to an advisor, you can use the "Who to contact" details for this project to get in touch with the project leader and express your interest in getting involved.

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