Research Labs

Faculty and staff throughout the School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering manage labs that produce cutting-edge research and discovery, and offer students real-world professional and scholarly experience.



Under the direction of Engineering faculty, Dr. Michael Frye, the Autonomous Vehicle Systems (AVS) Lab is undertaking ongoing research in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as part of the Phase II UIW and CPSE UAS Partnership. In Phase II of the partnership with CPS Energy, the lab team has transformed 2D images to 3D maps using images capture from multiple UAS flights as well as the ability to teach software to detect the components of a powerline using artificial intelligence.

In the Lab, an autonomous UAS platform can now detect a transmission line and navigate autonomously to the powerline. Each quarter, the team continues to develop new innovations using supervised and unsupervised learning and 3D mapping with geographical information systems (GIS).


Acosta Lab

The Acosta Lab utilizes an annelid model system, Lumbriculus variegatus, to study wound healing and regeneration within the central nervous system (CNS). Under the direction of Biology faculty Dr. Veronica Acosta, the lab is investigating the cellular and molecular events triggered by injury within the (CNS) which promote regeneration and recovery of function. Projects will utilize immunofluorescence, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), proteomic and behavioral approaches to characterize the regenerative process.

The lab is also developing genetic tools for Lumbriculus and other annelids. Students will use confocal imaging along with western blot analysis of candidate protein epitopes to determine their contributions at different regenerative time points, will carry out (TEM) to identify ultrastructural changes detected at the wound site and identify candidate genes for use in genetic expression analyses, including RNA sequencing and in-situ hybridization. The lab is also interested in the study of photoreception in the annelids.


Ford Lab

The Ford research laboratory explores mechanisms involved in kidney cell injury in diabetic nephropathy with an emphasis on oxidative stress due to the production of damaging compounds called oxygen radicals. Students master mammalian tissue culture and use various molecular methods such as real time PCR, western blotting, immunocytochemistry, ELISAs, and enzyme activity assays to identify factors involved in podocyte and mesangial cell injury using an in vitro model system mimicking the diabetic environment. The overall goal Dr. Ford has for all trainees is to apply what they learn in the classroom to ask scientific questions in the quest to become independent and creative thinkers.


Vallor Lab

Research in Chair of the Department of Biology Dr. Ana Vallor’s laboratory is focused on the investigation of environmental interactions of mixed microbial communities and their potential use of their metabolic activities and products in the promotion of human health.

Currently the lab is focused on the screening and comparison of the efficiency of carefully selected fungal and bacterial soil species that would promote metabolic biotransformation of previously inactive forms of anti-parasitic drugs to metabolically active forms. These studies are part of an ongoing collaborative effort with faculty at the University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy and University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Her laboratory is particularly interested in the molecular identification of fungal pathways and molecules that belong to them which are involved in this biotransformation activity at the genetic level. nowledge of what metabolic activities are responsible for this biotransformation phenomena, will make screening and selection of new fungal species much more efficient.

In addition to this project, Vallor’s laboratory has initiated a study to isolate and screen for soil microorganisms, obtained from natural and superfund sites located in South Texas that display antimicrobial activity against a select panel of clinically relevant human pathogens. These studies not only train students in microbial, molecular and biochemical techniques for identification, isolation and purification of potential new antimicrobials but also are contributing to the greater field of scientific crowdsourcing across the globe.