Lovely Larvae

by Lorien E. Menhennett

On Thursday, I started my work in the Genetics research lab. Granted, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but given that I want to do an MD/PhD, this is the perfect way for me to spend six hours each week (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday).

Before beginning any actual “research,” my professor had me read two of his own published articles as background information. Both had been published in the journal Cell, which, if you’re not familiar with it, is quite prestigious. So his work has gotten some attention from the scientific community. He and his colleagues have been looking at olfaction (sense of smell) in drosophila larvaeDrosophila melanogaster larvae. In the first paper, they identified a set of genes responsible for olfaction in the larvae (previously, it had not been known which genes controlled the sense of smell in the larvae). This was really quite an accomplishment, and the methods they used were pretty amazing. (Don’t worry, I won’t go into the details unless someone asks!) In the second paper, they looked at behavior of the larvae in response to different organic compounds, both attraction and repulsion. I will be doing an extension of the second work, performing behavioral assays with the larvae and testing their chemotaxis response (that is, movement in response to chemicals). By the end of the semester, I will (hopefully!) have generated quite a bit of data, and will write a formal lab report about my progress.

In addition to doing the behavioral assays, I will also continue to read scientific articles, which will be great – I love getting exposure to more scientists’ work, techniques, etc. And there will be some freedom in the work I do as well – if I want to take the work in a particular direction not previously explored, I have the ability to do that, under my professor’s direction. Which is pretty amazing.

All in all, I look forward to this semester’s work. Who knows what we may find? That is the beauty of science.

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