I can’t believe we’re coming to the end of TRIP. After weeks of setting up vials, writing experimental plans, and (accidentally) drowning flies in their food, I’m at the culmination of my investigation of how caffeine affects mood, and I can proudly announce that I have results! Yes, my endless toils haven’t all been for nothing. In this final blog post, I’m going to share a brief summary of my independent project, some closing reflections on the TRIP experience, and a reluctant goodbye to this wonderful family of scientists and fly enthusiasts.
Last time, I talked about the reasoning behind my experiment, which asks the question: How does caffeine influence our mood? Coffee, as a ubiquitous and often indispensable beverage for many of us, supposedly has some sort of impact on our emotions. Whether this impact is positive or negative varies depending on who you ask, but my experiment hopefully confirms one side of the debate, or at the very least shows one as more likely than the other. Turns out caffeine has a negative impact on mood; that is, unless you’re stressed in the first place. If you’re already stressed and then you drink coffee, it does cheer you up. Otherwise, grabbing that cup of coffee when you’re feeling completely fine might not be the best idea. I came to this conclusion after analyzing my data from my two assays: social space and centrophobism. For the most part, my results were actually the opposite of what I expected, which makes the exception—caffeine improving the mood of flies already under stress—all the more interesting. If caffeine on its own negatively impacts mood, why does it do the opposite when stress is already applied? How do the effects of pure caffeine differ from caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea? There’s plenty more to think about and test in this topic full of surprises and potential. Looking back on the past few months, I can’t believe how far we’ve all come. From not knowing how to use a micropipette to setting up large numbers of food vials, sorting flies, and performing numerous assays on the same day, I couldn’t have imagined that I could do it all by myself until I went through the metamorphosis that is TRIP. Like a lowly larva eclosing out of its pupal case and emerging as a stiff-winged adult, I have grown so much not just as a student of scientific research but also as a student of life—I’ve learned to do things efficiently by not dwelling on the tiny imperfections along the way, to always be punctual with my responsibilities, and to not let setbacks decide my future. If I had to sum it all up, I’d say that TRIP taught me to do the best with what I’ve got even when things don’t go my way. I’ve gotten more out of this course than I expected, and I’m sure every single person that was part of this unique experience has grown and changed equally. Now that I’ve grown into a big fly, I’m ready to spread my wings and fly into an uncertain but exciting future filled with more adventures in science and discoveries galore. So I guess it’s goodbye for now! However far I go, though, I’m always going to miss the deep friendships I’ve come to develop, the thought-provoking discussions and friendly banter that populate the lab with joy and laughter, and maybe even the smell of fly food. Or maybe not that, but you get the point.