Student doing experiment in genetics lab

Genetics, Endocrinology and Neuroscience Education (GENE)

Summer Research Experience

Dates: June 26- July 26, 2024
Researchers: Dr. Christopher Leary, Dr. Lainy Day, and Dr. Susan Balenger   
Department: Biology   
Cost: Grant-funded for select applicants   

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About the Program

Are you interested in studying the genetic underpinnings associated with variation in neuroendocrine regulation? Our GENE summer research experience may be exactly what you are looking for! Join us in a collaborative effort aimed at understanding how polyploidy (possessing additional sets of chromosomes) impacts regulation of gonadal hormones and stress hormones in the charismatic gray treefrog species complex, which possesses varying numbers of chromosomes. This summer research opportunity has two options designed for students with varying interests in gaining field and/or lab experience.

Field + Laboratory: June 26-July 26, 2024 
This option includes a field and laboratory experience that will span a 4-week period. With this option, you will have the opportunity to be involved in both local and out-of-state field excursions where you will gain first-hand experience with data collection from treefrogs in their natural wetland habitat. Frogs are nocturnal, so all field work will be done late in the evening.

Who can apply? All high school students with a genuine interest in being part of the GENE Summer Research Experience are encouraged to apply! Priority will be given to Mississippi residents and students that bring diversity to the field.

When not out catching frogs or in the lab, students will have the opportunity to experience college life on campus as part of the Summer College for High School Students (SCHS). Students accepted to the program will be housed with SCHS students in Residential College South. Adult staff, as well as selected collegiate student counselors who serve as mentors to the participants, will supervise students. For questions about experiences outside of the lab within the SCHS program, contact the Office of Pre-College Programs at 662-915-7621 or email

About the Researchers

Dr. Christopher Leary

Dr. Christopher Leary received his B.S. in Zoology from Auburn University where he also completed his M.S. degree focusing on interspecies communication and the evolution of vocalizations in anuran amphibians (frogs and toads). He earned his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Oklahoma where he focused on how hormones influence alternative mating tactics and behavior in anurans. He then did his postdoctoral work at the University of Utah focusing on neural processing of acoustic signals in anurans. He started his independent career at the University of Mississippi in 2011 where he has been focusing on neuroendocrine aspects of vocal communication and behavior in anuran amphibians.

Visit the Leary Lab website for more information.

Dr. Lainy Day

Dr. Lainy Day received her B.A. in Evolutionary Psychology at New College in Sarasota, Florida, where she studied ecological influences on navigation skills in humans. She completed her M.A. in Cognition and Perception at the University of Texas-Austin examining the evolution of laterality (left and right side of brain do different things) in humans. She also received her PhD from the University of Texas in Behavioral Neuroscience examining the evolution of brain regions involved in navigation in a variety of species including frogs, lizards, and rats. She completed two post-docs: one at the University of California, Santa Barbara and one at the University of California, Los Angeles, enjoying field work in Australia and Panama to study the evolution of brain regions involved in complex mating displays in birds. In 2006, Dr. Day joined the Department of Biology at University of Mississippi and founded the Neuroscience Interdisciplinary Minor in 2010.  Her research focuses on the evolution of brain regions involved in complex behaviors including navigation, procedural learning, and mating displays, mainly in birds, but also in frogs and other species. She also performs research aimed at understanding how to improve student learning.

Visit Dr. Day’s website for more information.

Dr. Susan Balenger

Dr. Susan Balenger is an evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist. She received her B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Maryland–College Park. She subsequently completed her M.S. degree at Towson University where she studied the relationship between songbird genetic paternity, plumage coloration, and parental care. She earned a Ph.D. from Auburn University where she studied the genetic mechanisms that underlie the evolution of disease resistance in finches. Susan performed postdoctoral research at the University of Turku (Finland) and the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities where she studied the evolution of behavioral and transcriptional plasticity in Hawaiian crickets. At the University of Mississippi, Susan conducted research on the population genetics of parasites and the evolution of disease resistance and tolerance in birds and crickets. She is now a researcher at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities where she studies the genetic and developmental bases of mating preferences in crickets.

Visit Dr. Balenger’s website for more information.