Even though it’s only been five short weeks, it is truly amazing how much I’ve learned throughout my time in the lab. Each and every one of my peers has come so far and it has been great to grow together. We’ve learned everything from learning about the life cycle of flies, to how to create drug stocks in the lab, to performing different assays based on what we would like to discover.
I decided to test the effects of artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Stevia on the fertility and gut microbiome of the flies. I have to say, I enjoyed performing the female fertility assay slightly more than the microbiome assay… To test fertility, I set up collection cages with grape plates and yeast paste, which encouraged the females to lay embryos on the plates. I then counted the number of embryos laid, and after a few days, I counted how many embryos had hatched. The microbiome assay was definitely more tedious – there was plenty of waiting around and careful steps that had to be followed, and I will admit that I missed a few steps the first few times I performed the experiment.
In the end, I didn’t find any drastically different results – from what I found, artificial sweeteners actually increased fertility, contrary to my original hypothesis. In addition, my results for the microbiome assay varied quite a bit from trial to trial, which I concluded means that there was not a big impact on the microbiome. At first, I was a little disappointed with these findings since I was hoping for a clear idea of what the effects of artificial sweeteners were, and I felt like I had performed an experiment that was insignificant. However, Dr. Leystra reminded me that just because my results did not necessarily show a clear trend, that did not mean they weren’t significant – in fact, isn’t it good that there don’t seem to be any adverse effects from the foods we’re eating?
I think the most important takeaways I’ve learned from TRIP are how to pay attention to detail to try to avoid mistakes, but also how to problem solve when a mistake inevitably occurs. I used to fear that my whole experiment would be rendered useless if I made a small error, but I realized there were ways to still obtain results without being 100% perfect (even though we should all strive to be as perfect as possible). TRIP was an amazing opportunity for me to gain experience in a lab/research setting, and I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned here to any future opportunities I have relating to the STEM field!