Project Topics

Your biology or health teacher has assigned a project—research or report—and you would like to do something that puts you on the front line of science.

Here are some ideas, all taken from current research at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, that may get you going.

Nature’s origami: protein folding mistakes and diseases

For millennia, people thought that evil spirits caused disease. In the nineteenth century, scientists proved that very often the culprits are germs—bacteria and viruses. In the last century, scientists began to understand how genetic mistakes are the source of still other afflictions. Recently, scientists have determined that some of those genetic diseases result in a disease process that sounds very simple—mistakes in the folding of proteins. And, very recently a team of ONPRC scientists has discovered that the cause of a rare form of is a mis-folding of a protein that functions as a receptor in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain.

Smallpox: are we protected?

U.S. officials and bioterrorism experts say several groups and governments may possess smallpox weapons and may be more likely than ever before to use them. Fortunately, over 90 percent of Americans older than 35 have already been vaccinated. They were vaccinated, however, a long time ago, before the World Health Organization announced the disease was eradicated in 1980. (The United States stopped routine vaccination in 1972.) Are these people protected?  Learn more about smallpox

Got sleep? How the brain controls biorhythms

Feeling sleepy in class? Ever get the winter blues? Ever take melatonin for jet lag? Alternations of light and dark in our environment play a large role in setting our internal clock that resides in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. This clock establishes the rhythms of many physiological processes including sleep.

A team of center scientists conducts research on how neurons in the hypothalamus are affected by light and dark and how they control the release of certain hormones that, in turn, determine when we sleep and when we wake up and how active and energetic we feel.

Embryonic stem cells: Hope for curing diseases?

Several teams of center scientists have been studying assisted reproductive technologies. Their advances have led to promising breakthroughs in directing embryonic stem cells to differentiate into specialized cells that might someday be used to cure diseases such as diabetes, depression and Parkinson’s disease. Learn more about stem cells