Hi everyone, welcome back! Just wanted to let you know I’m not really sure why I’ve made so many song references, but I like it. Anyway, you might be wondering what’s happened since the last blog? Well, LOTS. We’ve made food vials, stressed vials, ran assays (fancy word for test), analyzed data, presented our information, and have even drawn to get us ready for our graphical abstracts.
Instead of just starting out independent research projects from day one, we began with screens to help us learn and improve upon skills we would need in order to be successful in the lab. My screen was intended to test the impact of Rhodiola (an herb that grows in cold regions that has been used to treat depression and fatigue) and constant darkness on social space. The assay measured the distance between flies, the closer the flies, the more social they are, flies naturally are very social so it was no surprise to find the control flies (no drug, no stressor) right next to each other, but it was interesting to see that Rhodiola and constant darkness canceled each other out.
As our screens come to an end, it is now time to start thinking of what we signed ourselves up to do on a Saturday (pretty crazy right, going to school even on a Saturday). For my independent research project I had a few ideas floating through my head, does Coca-Cola tremendously impact fly health, does oregano oil helps with sickness, does cinnamon help with memory? All these questions were racing through my head, but I wanted to do something that mattered, something that I could relate to my life. Something like memory. Memory has always intrigued me. How is it that we can remember every lyric to a song from five years ago, but can’t remember the Trig integrals that are needed for a test next period? It’s mind-boggling how amazing our memory really is. But eventually that memory isn’t as great as it used to be, first it’s where did I leave the keys, then it’s what day is it, and eventually, it might even be who are you to a loved one. Cinnamon according to my sister has an amazing impact on memory, so much so that her coffee usually tastes more like cinnamon than coffee. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the impact of cinnamon on larval memory, to see if a spice really does help, to see if I should start eating cinnamon buns on a daily basis? (Hopefully the results say yes!)
It seems like only yesterday since I walked into this program, but time flies when you are having a good time. Despite my incessant yawning every morning for the past 4 weeks (sorry, Dr. Purdy), I am so far having an immense amount of fun and learning a whole lot with my peers.
In order to eclose out of my rookie shell, I had to go through a couple steps of learning about fruit flies, assays, lab materials and techniques, and presentation skills. This was all encompassed in my first experiment: testing the effect of valerian and constant darkness exposure on the social behavior of fruit flies. I created four vials with fly food, two of which contained a small dosage of valerian - a drug that causes drowsiness and reduces stress. One of the vials with the drug and another without the drug was wrapped around with tinfoil to cause constant darkness. A week later, I used the Social Space Assay to determine the average distance between the flies in each treatment group. The closer the distance, the more socially active and happy the flies are indicated to be. It was interesting to see that the flies who were treated with the drug were in fact, on average, closer to each other compared to those who were not treated with the drug. I then presented my findings and tips about my assay to my peers, which was good practice for the final presentation that I will have at the end of this program (please come to the Symposium!!).
Now as a p”woo”pa, I am mature enough to design my own independent project that I will be working on for the rest of the program. I wanted to address a growing concern of the juuling/vaping epidemic that is prevalent especially among students in high school. Despite the claims that it does not have a negative influence on their physical health, I wanted to investigate how the addiction could have a correlation to impulsive behavior and irrational risk-taking actions. In order to test something that can counter this addiction, I am also planning on using the drug haloperidol. Haloperidol can bind to certain dopamine receptors that are related to impulsive behaviors, preventing them from being activated by dopamine released due to nicotine.
Although these plans are not finalized, that is my initial plan for the future. I hope you keep following up on my story to the end!
Hi again! I’m back to tell you all about my experiences so far in TRIP and my upcoming independent project.
So far, TRIP has been an amazing experience from the new people I have met to the cool things I have learned. At first, the piles of fruit flies we had to sort were pretty disgusting but I think I’m pretty much desensitized to the sight now. The first assay I did was the negative geotaxis assay where I tested the effects of head trauma and ginkgo biloba on the flies. The experience has taught me a lot about how to handle the flies, research techniques, how to effectively communicate my ideas, and overall made me more curious about research. I can’t wait for the coming weeks when I can test out and answer my own questions!
For the next several weeks, I will be trying to answer the question: How are fly activity and memory affected by constant darkness and can adrafinil reverse these effects? Commercial and military pilots often have to endure long flights causing disruptions to their circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. As a result, some pilots opt to take a prescription drug called modafinil that essentially makes them more alert and focused. However, because I don’t have access to modafinil, I want to see how adrafinil -- which is similar to modafinil but has decreased effects and acts more slowly -- would work to counter the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm. This topic is important because it is critical that pilots stay awake and alert at all times (as you probably know), so it is necessary to find a variety of dietary/drug supplements that can keep pilots focused on the job.
I will test the effectiveness of adrafinil through the use of a negative geotaxis assay to analyze the relative activity levels of the flies. I will also perform an adult fly memory assay to see the effects a disrupted circadian cycle and the drug on the memory of the flies. We’ll see how it goes!
For my independent project I was stuck between two ideas: testing addictions on flies and testing how certain substances affect female fertility and embryonic development. After contemplating each idea, I decided to combine them. The question I ended up creating tests if fenugreek, a natural remedy, can ameliorate the negative impact of caffeine on fertility. Among the top ten addictions in the United States is coffee. Did you know that an average American drinks 3 cups of coffee each day? A 8-oz cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine, so 3 cups of coffee contains 285 mg of caffeine which is almost 75% of a lethal dose (400 mg) of caffeine! When I was researching, I read that caffeine consumption above 200 mg during pregnancy could potentially lead to birth defects in the child. On the flip side, fenugreek is a natural herbal remedy that is traditionally used to increase fertility. I decided to test a natural remedy rather than a medication because it’s a part of my culture and I wanted to incorporate a part of myself into my research. In the Indian culture we use a variety of spices in our foods and many of which have tremendous health benefits, like turmeric and fenugreek.
To test whether fenugreek will lessen the harmful impact of caffeine on fertility and development, I will use the female fertility assay. The female fertility assay quantifies the number of embryos laid per female and the percent of embryos that hatch into larvae. Comparing these results with the control will tell me how each substance or combination of substances impacts the beginning of the life cycle. I hypothesized that the effects of caffeine wouldn’t completely vanish, but the addition of fenugreek into the diet will lessen the extent to which caffeine decreases oogenesis and embryogenesis. If my hypothesis is correct, the caffeine+fenugreek experimental group should lay less embryos per female and a fewer percent of embryos should hatch than that of the control.
Who knows what my research will hold for me and how the results will come out? I can’t wait to get started on my independent project, conquer my failures, and learn a lot throughout the next twelve weeks! Stay tuned for the results!
My name is Mia Downs and I’m a 15 year old sophomore at Council Rock High School South. I’m super excited to be able to participate in the TRIP program, as science is definitely my favorite subject. I’m still deciding what branch of science I want to go into in the future; currently, I’m interested in the field of medicine. Last summer, to get an ounce of exposure, I spent time volunteering at Abington Hospital doing Patient Transport. I felt pretty official with my hospital volunteer shirt, ID card, and designated duties. At the same time, I was working two jobs: one at a local toy store, and the other at Rita’s water ice. Can you tell I like staying busy?
My interests are varied and diverse. I sing in my school choir, participate in my school’s Latin Club, and am a member of the Music Honors Society. I love animals, especially my cat, and have volunteered at local animal rescue groups. Each Fall, I manage my own walk team, Mia’s Magicians, to raise funds for the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and I am CPR/AED certified. In terms of frivolity, I paint my nails a new color just several times a week, I can watch one rerun after another of The Office for hours, and I bake a decent gluten free brownie. I was on a diving team for a few seasons, took some gymnastics and dance classes, and I love to travel, having been to Ireland, Greece, Rome, and many US states. By far, I’m the biggest night owl in my family-- in the summer, I often go to bed as the sun is rising.
British physicist Stephen Hawking once said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” These are words I think about as I navigate through experiences, and TRIP is a program which fits right in: promoting wonder and engaging students’ curiosities as we work hard and learn more about scientific research. Any education and experience I can gain in the field of science brings me closer to setting and realizing my goals. I have two autoimmune conditions, Type 1 diabetes and celiac. There are scientists out there right now researching in labs in to find cures, and the impact of their work will impact millions. Science changes lives. Someday, I know it will change mine.
Other than science, I enjoy reading fantasy and (sometimes) dystopian novels, I play tennis, and I love video games; Oh, and watching Netflix and YouTube. I also enjoy daydreaming about random things, and I really like mechanical drafting pencils.
The reason I applied to TRIP is because I wanted to be able to do research of my own, be exposed to the scientific world, and learn. Although it’s only been two weeks so far, I’ve already learned a lot about fly biology and I’ve started my first experiment on fruit flies! It’s a ton of fun, and it’s only going to get better from now on!
Apart from band, I am involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life team at my school, as well as debate, FBLA, DECA, and the tennis team! I love listening to artists and bands like the Beatles, Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Modern chill rock and 80’s music are some of my favorite types of music I have recently delved into. My favorite TV shows are The Office, Parks and Recreation, and The Good Place.
I am involved with the TRIP Initiative because I have a passion for research. Thus far, I have been involved with the AP Research program, in which one largely does social science research and data analysis due to the lack of lab availability opportunities. However, I was eager to find an opportunity where I can expand on my research skills into a scientific lab-based setting. I think that applying science is our chance to build a sustainable future for our planet and I am intrigued by the vast possibilities. I am currently researching public perception of artificial intelligence; I’m trying to see if I can correlate a level of public knowledge of AI with the likelihood of the coming of a theory known as the Technological Singularity, which, as described by computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, is when technological intelligence merges with human intelligence. I am excited to be able to learn more about lab-based science and I value this opportunity of being able to experiment with different ideas and research projects in order to foster academic growth. I hope to be able to go into lab-based sciences as a career ( I know it’s super broad, but hopefully this program will help me narrow that down)!
Hi, my name is Logan Meritz, and I am a 10th grader at William Tennent High School. I decided to apply to TRIP because I wanted to get involved in a science-oriented, after school activity that wasn’t at school. That didn’t really work out as I planned because now I’ll be going to school on Saturdays along with Monday through Friday as TRIP is at William Tennent. Anyway, I liked how we are going to learn how to use lab equipment properly and work with people who we haven’t met before. I love meeting new people, especially who I share common interests with like science! My love for science began in middle school when we first started to go into depth and learn about science in a full-length class. In 6th grade, I remember being fascinated about black holes (we were learning about space at the time) and how people in the scientific community had many unknowns about them. My old, narrow minded self used to think that we knew everything about the world. It didn’t even occur to me that the the uncharted view of the world outside of myself was there. After my 6th grade year I had a different view of the world and a different view for all types of science.
Some of my favorite classes in school are Physics, Biology, and a new subject I started taking this year, computer science and programming. We worked a little with HTML and I hope to learn a lot more within my high school career. In school, some clubs I participate in student government, Key Club, Girls Who Code, and Athletic Council. At William Tennent, I play two sports: volleyball in the fall and softball in the spring. In my free time, I like to sleep, learn songs on the piano, workout, watch Netflix, and hang out with friends. None of my friends are into science as much as myself, so I am really excited to get to become friends and learn with all the people at TRIP who share my passion!