UROP Project

Toxicogenomic techniques to assess effects of pollutants on aquatic organisms



Jan Müller

Program Director UROP


+49 241 80-90299


Key Info

Basic Information

Project Offer-Number:
UROP Abroad
Organisation unit:
University of Saskatchewan: Toxicology Centre and School of the Environment and Sustainability
Language Skills:
Computer Skills:
Excel, Word, Systat or SPSS
2 Students
Prof. Markus Hecker


Most current approaches in environmental toxicology require a priori knowledge of the type of stressor and its interaction with biological functions, and thus, are often limited in scope. On the other hand, the past decade has witnessed a large increase in activities using novel “omic” (genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic) technologies to investigate the specific mechanisms by which stressors such as chemicals can interact with molecular pathways. These technologies have the potential as powerful tools that enable linking biochemical and physiological responses with parameters of demographic relevance (survival, growth, reproduction). The work to be conducted under this UROP project is part of a larger research initiative to establish and validate predictive models that enable the assessment of risks to fish species native to Canada and Europe associated with human activities by defining and validating “adverse outcome pathways” (AOPs). Specifically, the applicants, two undergraduate students in Biology / Environmental Sciences from Germany, will participate in the investigation of the molecular mechanism by which environmental chemicals of concern such as endocrine disruptors, heavy metals and dioxin-like compounds interact with fish. They will learn the preparation and conduct of gene expression analysis including the preparation of samples, extraction of RNA, design of primers and probes, and the actual quantification of mRNA using Q-RT-PCR. Furthermore, the students will be given the opportunity to participate in advanced genomic analyses including the conducts of gene arrays, and other open platform technologies such as sequence by synthesis analysis. They will apply these methods to characterize the potential impacts of selected environmental chemicals of concern to native fish species, namely northern pike (Esox lucius) and fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). The students will work under the supervision of two post-docs (Dr. Steve Wiseman and Dr. Xiaowei Zhang) and one principal investigator (Prof. Markus Hecker) while at the University of Saskatchewan (UofS). It is expected that the studies conducted by the applicants will result in the publication of a minimum of one joint scientific manuscript with the undergraduate students as authors. Overall duration of the stays will be between 2 and 3 months beginning in July/August 2011.


The applicants will acquire Q-RT-PCR gene expression and other state-of-the-art molecular analysis techniques, and will apply these methods to fish tissue samples obtained during exposure studies that were conducted at the UofS or the RWTH Aachen.


The applicants should be student in Environmental Sciences / Biology with a background in ecotoxicology. We prefer applicants having interests in combining the UROP stay at the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor thesis at the RWTH Aachen University. Applicants with some background experience in molecular biology are preferred.

Full Address

University of Saskatchewan
44 Campus Drive
SK S7N 5B3 Saskatoon