Farewell My Flies! by Shakira Ali
It’s so sad to see the finish line of TRIP because it’s hard to imagine the amount of months and hours put into research and learning various techniques in our lab. Recalling the first time I’ve held a micropipette in my hand, the first time I set up my fly vials, and finally being able to express my creativity and passion in my independent research project, I realize the tremendous growth and development I had as a scientist and as a person here at TRIP. Though I wish we had more time to run more tests and ask more questions of my interest, I’m truly grateful for such amazing instructors, TAs, and classmates. When my teachers told me about this program, I was definitely a little concerned and nervous that I wouldn’t have the required skills and not be able to keep up with my peers, but as I do my experiments and run my test with new friends surrounding me, I know that I belong in a lab and hope to pursue a career of STEM one day in the future and expand my knowledge even more in fields I’m interested in.
After dipping our toes and attempting to experiment with environmental changes and exposure to different substances in our introductory projects, I became familiarized with the anatomy and behavior patterns of fruit flies. After a couple months of observing how the flies eat, act, and how they are affected by the environment around them, I realized that fruit flies are actually very similar to humans and that the substances I would not want to give to humans could in fact be tested with these small amazing creatures with faster results too!
As I communicated with Dr. Leystra, Dr. Purdy, and my TRIP friends, I began to discuss my interests and ideas with them, and received some inspiration from my family. I decided that I wanted to learn more about memory because as a sophomore, I completely understood the difficulties of memorizing tons of information for tests and I was fascinated to discover a more effective way to memorize and retain information. With the growing popularity of energy drinks, specifically Celsius, I wanted to see if caffeinated beverages, like energy drinks, can help enhance brain function and help people remember things to a better extent. However, memory also depends on how well we sleep, so with this in mind, I wanted to include a common sleep supplement many take, Melatonin, and learn more about the effects it has on cognition together with Celsius. I measured memory by taking the teenage flies, called larvae, and trained them to memorize a fruit scent (banana) with a food reward (sugar) and a different fruit scent (pineapple) with no reward, and later challenged them by testing them to see if they remembered which scent was associated with the sugar reward when given a choice between the two.
After analyzing my data, I expected to find out that Melatonin does not improve memory and can actually make it more difficult to remember things, whereas caffeine is an effective solution to boost cognition while not having any fatal effects on development. One thing for sure, I feel that time runs so fast in these labs and I definitely would have liked the extra time to repeat my tests more (now that I am a larvae memory expert). As the final symposium is creeping in, I am terrified yet excited to share my research with my community and cannot believe that this is the last time I’ll be blogging. Wow, it just hit me that the final symposium will be my last day here at TRIP, but I will cherish the memories and experiences that this program has brought me.
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