Hi again!! Last time we spoke I had already completed my introductory experiment. Here, we were assigned a question to study and given the plan to do so, with my question asking if St. John’s wort affects mood following circadian rhythm disruption. I hypothesized that St. John’s wort, which is seen as a natural remedy for mild depression, would help stabilize mood in flies who’s circadian rhythm had been disrupted, while creating negative effects in flies who did not have this disruption. My reasoning being that St. John’s wort is used to help bring back mood to a normal level, so administering it to animals with an already normal mood would create adverse effects. My data showed ‘mood swings’ in the non-stressed flies, with their sociability going up and down over time- very interesting to see!
At this point in the program, we have already chosen what we want to study for our independent experiment, designed and planned out several weeks of experimental plans, and completed two weeks of actually carrying out this experiment!! I have decided to study blue light and how it affects learning in developing brains. Ever since March 2020, kids in grades Pre k to 12th have been completing all of their learning at home, on a screen that emits blue light. While everyone has heard of the dangers of blue light on your retinas, or perhaps the effect it can have on your sleep, there's not much information out there on how blue light can affect learning.
For this reason I am choosing to study blue light and its effects on learning on developing brains, as our brains are still developing and will continue to do so until we are around 25 years old. To carry out this study, I am using the larval memory assay which uses Pavlovian style conditioning to teach larvae (whose brains are still growing) to associate a scent with reward (sugar!) and later test if they successfully learned and remembered this association. There will be three conditions: a control (to compare results to), one vial in which it is exposed to blue light only while it is learning, and a third that is exposed to constant blue light during its entire waking hours (12 hour cycles of off/ on light). I chose to have a vial with constant blue light since we aren’t solely exposed to blue light while learning, but rather throughout the day via different devices for entertainment. I hypothesize that exposure to blue light will negatively affect learning, with the groups exposed to blue light all throughout the day having a worse result. So far I have seen promising results, although I cannot conclude anything because it’s too early on in the experimental process.
See you in the next blog where I’ll be back with a conclusion to my study!! <3
Hey everybody! I can’t believe we’re already entering Week 8 of the TRIP initiative! Time is quite literally flying by! (sorry for the bad pun!). Over the last 8 weeks, I have met so many new people and made new friendships. I’ve also slowly gotten over my fear of bugs and other flying animals- the fruit flies and I are besties now. Dr. Purdy and Dr. Leystra have been such great mentors, and I’ve learnt so much- not only about research, but about critical thinking, presentation, and having fun amidst a crazy workload!
It’s exciting to see my independent project come together, since the topic is one that is very personal and relevant to me. Through TRIP, I have the opportunity to study the effects of Vitamin D and isolation on fruit fly behavior. This topic is important to me because like several others, I spent the beginning of quarantine holed up in my room watching Netflix. The effects of this isolation could be seen in my behavior because I slowly became more snappy, moodier, and less willing to interact with other people. My family advised me to spend some time outdoors since the weather was getting nicer, but I never truly understood the effects of being outside on people living in isolation. Was it the Vitamin D in sunlight? Was it the warmth of the evening sun on my skin? Or was it the mere presence of fresh air and an outdoor surrounding?
I wanted to test the effects of Vitamin D, a key nutrient, as well as isolation on a fly’s ability to interact. I believe this topic is integral to the world because many people have spent the last year (wow, one year, look! - time flew again!) in isolation due to lockdowns and quarantine across the world. It would be interesting to understand the effects of this prolonged isolation on future interactions and human behavior as the pandemic nears to an end.
I’m super excited to see what my research leads me to, and to continue building friendships and learning more at TRIP!!
As we wrap up the 7th week of TRIP, I still can’t believe how quickly time has gone by as I go through the initial phases of planning out my independent project. Hey everyone! It’s me, Matt Tang, back again to tell you all about my journey here at TRIP and what I’ve been doing. When I initially joined the TRIP community, I was completely lost about what experiment I wanted to conduct later on. I knew that I was interested in the mind and how the brain functioned, but the ultimate trigger of inspiration came from being a student in a virtual environment.
Just like the isolated pupae in the image above, quarantine definitely makes me feel more lonely at times. School life is especially more challenging and that made me wonder if missing out on that “in-person” experience and learning through screens all day has obstructed my studying in any way. Though virtual school is still in session, the absorption of new material just isn’t the same as it was before, so I’m curious whether factors of quarantine (and their impact on my mentality) are the reason for my increased struggle. This led me to the question: “How does screen time and/or being raised in isolation impact stress levels and memory in adult flies?” So how does one exactly test all of this? I set up over 40 vials (yes that’s right… OVER 40) and placed pupae inside all of them. The “isolated” vials would contain only one pupa in them while the “non-isolated” vials each held three. From there, I had to bring ALL of these vials home and expose some of them to screens. I even had to troubleshoot by placing some toilet paper at the bottom of my vial racks so that the pupae would be directly exposed to the screen.
Back in the TRIP lab, I performed the Centrophobism Assay which will let me see whether my flies were stressed or not. With other peers performing the same assay, I felt reassured as we bounced ideas off of each other and collaborated as a team. Even though we all had different experimental questions, it was encouraging to see how students and the scientific community as a whole need to work together in a laboratory setting. A student in the morning session developed her very own adult memory assay and I look forward to working with her as well in the future to strengthen the development of a new experiment!
To wrap things, I can’t exactly say that I recommend labeling over 40 vials, isolating pupae one by one, or making annoying tiny, little cotton balls to plug each vial. However, I can say that the support of both friends and mentors alike at TRIP definitely makes the whole process more enjoyable. I’m learning so much about experimental technique and with these amazing people, my time here every week goes by in an instant. I guess that proves how time really does “fly” by when you’re having fun. I’m excited to see the results of my experiment and can’t wait to share my findings with the scientific community!
After numerous hesitations about some researched topics (and multiple road-blocks over me getting the necessary materials), I finally decided to organize my research on studying the effects of prolonged exposure to the commonly used pesticide (2,4-D) on the development of larvae and female fertility. I settled on this specific pesticide due to just how common it is in its application and how easily accessible it is for the general population.
Since I missed the Week 6th class, I fell behind and had to start from the very beginning (sorting the flies and setting up my pesticide concentrations) while other students were already moving onto their experiments. I spent the week prior to my return to the lab in sheer panic and concern over the smallest things that may or may not occur (but that’s my general disposition to reacting to anything new). Yet all of my concerns were dispelled when I actually started my experiments. Thanks to enormous patience and extensive assistance from Dr. Leystra and Dr. Purdy, as well as the accompaniment of my peers, I regained my excitement over the project!
I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks of this experiment!
After learning these things, I decided to research whether vitamin D can improve the health of flies whose microbiomes were altered by antibiotics, which are known to disrupt gut health. To gather data, I am conducting the negative geotaxis assay, which quantifies activity levels, and the microbiome assay, which quantifies the number and type of bacteria in flies’ guts. Higher mobility levels are an indication of better overall health, and specific data about the microbiome will allow me to better understand the effects my drugs are having on gut health. I’m super excited to continue conducting my experiment and to see what surprises my data may yield!
As a shy person, talking to people I’ve never met before is out of my comfort zone. I was initially nervous about meeting new people at TRIP. Now, I look forward to each session and working with all the friends I’ve made at TRIP as well as the instructors.
TRIP has taught me so much, both about myself and research. In just a few short weeks, I’ve learned skills such as sorting flies and making solutions. I’ve also learned that I enjoy research and biology, would like to improve upon my public speaking skills, and can never pour water out of a beaker accurately (I’ve accidentally overpowered my water so many times, I had to remake my solution twice on the first day). Like learning to fly, in research you make mistakes. Again and again, you fall out of the sky, but each time you take off again, you know a little more, and fly a little further.
Hello again! It's hard to believe it but it’s almost Week 8! My introductory fly experiment presentation went well, and I finished early, so no taking away of the clicker. Now, I’m two weeks into my independent research project and the lab is starting to get less scary. I feel like I’ve gotten to know everyone better now, and being in the lab is so much fun! I’ve become much more efficient in making my fly food, and thanks to Dr. Leystra’s concentration wizardry I only needed to make two drug stocks for each of my conditions.
Speaking of my experimental conditions, I’ve chosen my independent research project! I decided to test the effects of lead poisoning on fruit flies gut microbiome. I did some additional research and found that vitamin C and iron-rich diets were sometimes used to remove lead from the human body, so I used both as drugs. My working hypothesis is that lead will decrease microbiome diversity, and that iron and vitamin C will restore it. If you’ve done the math, you might have noticed that would mean I have 8 vials to make and test every week. And you would be correct. Do I regret my decision? Depends on how Week 8 goes, but so far no. I’ve managed to create an assembly line system to make all my water solutions for my fly food, which cuts down on that step by almost half. Last week, however, I ran into the issue of having no functional pens to label my vials with. After sending over 10 pens to their demise though, I finally found one that worked! I also found out there is a drawer full of brand new pens in the prep room, only a couple of feet from where I was attempting to label my vials. Fun! I also decided to lower the number of flies in my vials from 60 to 30, which makes my sorting time as low as a four vial experiment.
All that time saving is necessary because for my experiment as I am doing the microbiome assay, which is complicated, to say the least. It requires five males from each of my vials to be put in separate microcentrifuge tubes. After that, you need to drown them in ethanol for one minute to kill external bacteria that will interfere with the results. The problem with microcentrifuge vials is that there is no way to knock the flies out once they wake back up. I found that out the hard way when one of my CONTROL vial flies escaped as I pipetted in the ethanol. I guess you could say I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the flies. Even in death, they manage to be annoying, as two of the CONTROL vial flies managed to fall out of the tube when I flipped it over to air dry. Luckily, it was smooth sailing from this point on, as all you need to do is crush them up into MRS broth and then dilute into a 1/50 mixture. Pipette it into the MRS plate, and then boom, done! If I did that step correctly, I now have data! If I didn’t, then yes, I do regret having 8 experimental vials.
Time flies when you are having fun! While half of TRIP has gone by, I met so many intelligent and humorous people who I can work, talk, struggle, and have fun with. Dr. Purdy and Dr. Leystra are both incredible mentors that guided us through many procedures as well as provided us with the opportunity to cultivate our interest in science. With all these preparations, my journey of exploring a field of my interest has begun.
During the first few weeks of TRIP, we were each assigned a drug, a stressor, and a formulated question to investigate. There were many protocols to follow throughout the experiment, such as controlling micropipettes, making drug stock, differentiating the gender of flies, sorting them, executing the assays, etc. They all had their own challenging parts, but I definitely enjoy the process and had so much fun working with different people. Nita and Lizzy are awesome partners to work with when we perform the negative geotaxis assay (where flies’ mobility is measured). Out of which, I was the most nervous about our presentation since my English is not totally fluent, and I lack confidence in presenting analyzed information on my own. After the presentation, I thought to myself: “wow, that must be the worst presentation of all day.” I received a lot of professional feedback and encouragement from my friends and Dr. Purdy and Dr. Leystra. TRIP feels like a big family to me, I never feel helpless or like an outcast after talking to them.
Every week, millions of high school students have numerous tests and quizzes to face, along with dozens of homework, studying, and extracurricular activities in the after school hours. This often leads to around 73% of high school students not getting enough sleep after their busy day. Thus, we often rely on energy beverages such as caffeine or sport drinks to “redeem” for our loss of sleep. Thinking that the 500mL bottle of drink would suddenly boost different elements of our body as the sweetening, tender liquid supply into our body. However, does this actually work? In what way does energy drink help/does not help with our body’s cognition after the disruption of sleep? So, I decided to take this question into my independent project in TRIP.
I brought in Pocari Sweat, a popular energy drink in Asia, which is always consumed whenever someone has a fever or is in the middle of a sports game. I also decided to shine some of the fly vials with constant light in order to disrupt their sleep. I predict that Pocari would have a positive effect on the cognition of the larvae, while the disruption of sleep would have a negative effect on the cognition of the larvae. So far, from the observation of the fly vials, surprisingly there are more larvae produced in each vial that have Pocari in it. Looks like it does have an effect on fertility (potential topic to discover). As of testing the memory of the larvae, we will get some data on that next week in TRIP!
Lastly, I want to give my praises to Nita, who got into Boston University! Just wait for one more year and we hopefully will be in the same area in no time <3
I never knew I could learn to love a bug, but somehow, it happened.
So far I have loved working in the TRIP lab and it’s really opened my eyes to the full process of research, from coming up with an idea, or several, that is doable and intriguing, to actually planning out the experiments themselves and collecting data. The first few weeks have already passed by so quickly and I feel as though I've learned so much. I’ve definitely gained a newfound respect for the fruit fly, they are fascinating creatures. I never knew I could learn to love a bug, but somehow, it happened.
Another one of the great experiences that thas come from these weeks has been the other students that I get to work with. Everyone is extremely friendly and always open to share what they are doing when asked. At first, I was a little nervous meeting so many new people and I honestly felt like I was the only person lost at certain points, but after talking to everyone during the program, I learned that we all feel the same way at times and it definitely made me feel more comfortable in the lab. We are always willing to help each other and once our independent projects began, it really emphasized the point that this was a group experience that we all share.
One of the biggest challenges that I've faced has been coming up with a topic to study for my independent project. I spent a lot of time researching different drugs and how to induce specific effects, like reducing the senses of taste and/or smell, in my flies. I knew I wanted to do something with sensation because being able to monitor the effects the loss of certain senses has on behavior could potentially influence how doctors treat their patients based on their behavior patterns. After help from the amazing instructors, I’ve shifted the focus of my project towards pain tolerance and how the painkiller Aspirin affects the bravery of the fruit flies. I decided to go with this topic because finding a connection between pain tolerance and risk-taking behaviors could lead to predictions in human behaviors and whether they would need extra assistance in activities like physical therapy, possibly being too afraid to do it by themselves because of the pain. Additionally, I started noticing that those who are more outgoing tend to have a lot of body modifications like tattoos and piercings, so I’m excited to see if there is actually any correlation or if my experiments prove me wrong completely.
It’s been a while since my last blog, and you’re probably dying to ask: what’s up with Arnav? Well, I’m here to tell you just that!
As I talked about in the first blog, I testedthe effects of valerian (a perennial flowering plant) and high temperature on anxiety for my initial experiment. To do this, I set up four different vials, each with different experimental conditions, and did the Open Field Test assay on the flies treated. Aside from once again staring at fly butts to sort males and females, I was introduced to so many new procedures and experiences in the lab. I learned how to stress the flies (...until they all died in the incubator), read and follow an assay, use ImageJ software for data analysis, present my findings, and so much more! Although presenting in front of people whom I had only met a couple weeks ago was a little intimidating at first, I’ve become very close with my TRIP family and the feedback I’ve received on my presentation and experiments have helped me in the lab and outside of it, too! I’m super excited for future presentations at TRIP.
After finishing this project, we were tasked to come up with an idea for our independent projects. If you know me, you probably know that I take forever for decisions… and this was the case with my project proposal! Having multiple medical conditions that have affected me in the past (and present), I initially thought about testing allergies, asthma, and eczema by drugging flies with the medications that I used. Obviously, I couldn’t test every single one of these conditions in the lab time that I have, so I decided to go with asthma, because it’s the one that most severely affects me and would be something new/interesting to design and test in the lab. I wanted to test anxiety, because usually after I use a strong inhaler or a nebulizer, I feel a bit jittery and anxious. Currently, my experimental question is: What are the short-term and long-term effects of levosalbutamol, budesonide-formoterol, and budesonide on anxiety? How do these bronchodilators affect adult viability?
With some help from Dr. Purdy and Dr. Leystra, I was able to devise a plan to have the flies inhale the three types of nebulizer medicine which are outlined in my research question. Although this planning took me an extra TRIP session, cutting into my independent project time, I think that it was 100% worth it and necessary to take this time in the beginning of the process. Drug calculations were a bit of a horror story, but I was able to use solutions and dilutions formulas to obtain drug stocks for the fly dosage of inhalation medicine. My setup, which takes place in the chemical hood, includes the nebulizer machine (which converts the liquid medicine to a gas), tubing, some more pipes, parafilm, beakers, the drug itself, and of course—flies! After some more planning and practice with exposing the flies to the gases, I finally was able to start my project.
On the second day of independent projects, I wasn’t expecting to almost completely rework my weekly plan. But, reordering a couple tasks helped me prioritize, manage, and structure my time in the lab as efficiently as possible. I started by making agar plates for the Open Field Test. While I waited for the agar to solidify, I drugged my control flies. I then went back and set up the rest of the assay but once again hurried over to the hood to drug my next set of flies. Then, I tested the first flies in enough time to begin exposing the third vial right after. And the process repeated until after all of my tests were complete...which is when I had to sort the flies :) I’m honestly not sure if it was tennis tryouts or those four-and-a-half hours in the TRIP lab, but wow my legs are sore!
I’ve had a blast so far in the lab with my friends and TRIP mentors, and I’m very grateful for everyone who made TRIP possible this year. I can’t wait for next Saturday, and I’ll keep you updated in my next blog!
Welcome back! I can’t believe how much time has passed so far. The past 7 weeks have been very eye opening in terms of learning to conduct various experiments and really getting the sense of the true lab experience. Despite the distance, I have really gotten to know all of my peers very well and truly have found an amazing family at TRIP with which we all share a common interest in science. I have also learned and developed so many experimental and presentation skills that will definitely be beneficial to me in the future from the preliminary assay that I completed on the effects of ginkgo biloba and head trauma on fruit fly locomotion. As I have mentioned before, I am very interested in Neuroscience so I was able to make a deeper connection to this assay especially after discovering that ginkgo biloba stimulates brain function. I hypothesized that ginkgo biloba will enhance the flies' activity.
After learning to make fly food, sorting many, many flies, creating drug vials, and recording and analyzing developmental data, I conducted the Negative Geotaxis Assay to determine how active the flies were after being placed in their different conditions. This assay measures fly activity and locomotion and the activity was measured based on how many flies were found in a particular region. If flies were found in the 0-4 region, they were determined to be inactive and if flies were found in the 4-8 region, they were determined to be active. Overall, this entire experience was extremely intriguing and taught me many lessons to keep in mind for the future.
Regarding my independent project, I decided to delve deeper into how classical music will affect adult fruit fly memory after a traumatic brain injury. Being a musician, classical music has been a huge part of my life. Through personal experiences and research, classical music has been proven to stimulate brain activity. Focusing on neurological disorders/brain impairments, I wanted to find out if music can really stimulate memory and brain activity in an impaired brain and see if this can be related to how music could be used as a therapy to rejuvenate the deactivated senses. I think it would be very intriguing to explore this topic and see how the results expressed by the flies could relate to similar conditions in humans. What’s even more exciting is that I will be performing a unique memory assay, called the Proboscis Extension Reflex (PER) Assay, which has never been tested before in the history of TRIP. While it's a little nerve-wracking, I am very excited to take on this new endeavor and see where it leads me. I can’t wait to further challenge myself and see what results come out of this experience! I’ll check back with you all soon!