Hey! For the past 13 weeks, I have spent my Saturdays at William Tennent High School conducting research on fruit flies as a part of the TRIP Initiative, and let me tell you, I enjoyed every minute of it! Over the weeks, I learned a plethora of things. I faced failure, challenges, hours of planning, and finally, the sweet smell of success. For the first few weeks, I started off learning how to make fly food, augment the flies’ diet with a drug, give them head trauma, and much more. As a girl with a huge fear of all things creepy-crawly, I had my doubts; it would not have been surprising if I ran out of the room the very first day we started sorting flies. I suppose I had more of an iron stomach than I previously thought because I faced my fears and now flies are a walk in the park! The fifth week of the program, we were faced with our first presentations. One thing you should know about me is that I love to talk and present, so I was very comfortable with the assignment. But, even though I was confident in presenting, I had never given a scientific talk before, so I learned a great deal about how to present findings, engage the audience, and give a successful academic talk. I am hoping to use these skills I learned to deliver a great talk about my independent project at the final symposium next weekend!
Speaking of my independent project, let’s take a trip down memory lane… in my last blog post I explained my project, so here is a quick recap: Based on some studies I read in journals online, I decided to test if nicotine can increase memory and cognitive functioning in disoriented flies, with Alzheimer’s in mind as the human application. Over the span of about 8 weeks, I conducted this project. My first day, I hit a challenge: how was I going to get the nicotine? I started with nicotine gum which crashed and burned as only the mint coating came off of the pieces. I then worked with Dr. Purdy and Miss P to figure out another way to get the nicotine. We ended up soaking the nicotine out of the tobacco in cigarettes and… SUCCESS! I then moved on to the actual assays. After three trials of larval memory assays, I found that nicotine caused a slight improvement in memory in the heat shocked, stressed flies (YAY!). I then tested the question of how long can the benefits outweigh the negative effects of ingesting nicotine through the negative geotaxis assay which measures general activity levels. I found that too much nicotine significantly slows down the flies. In the future, I hope to be able to continue my research and determine the perfect benefits of nicotine which would maybe outweigh the negative effects in hopes of finding a treatment for memory loss!
Finally, I want to dish about my experience in the TRIP Initiative. I LOVED IT! As a science-lover, it was the perfect environment for me. My labmates had the same interests as me and were super supportive. I am so glad I was able to meet them and become friends! The teachers were awesome too! They are so knowledgeable and I learned so much from them. Yet, the program did not feel like a class or a chore. The teachers and my labmates made it so enjoyable. We were goofy, made jokes, took crazy random pictures, and it felt like a happy family. Whether it was watching Dr. Purdy try on my sunglasses, blasting rap music with Miss P, drawing with Dr. Gardener, or testing our sometimes questionable math skills with Dr. Leystra, the TRIP Initiative was an amazing experience and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in it!