Hi! It’s Anya again! I have now spent six weeks in the TRIP Initiative and I love it! It’s like Disney World for science-lovers like me. I made some great new friends and love hanging out in the lab. I’ve learned so many new things and I’ve gotten up close and personal with the flies...maybe a little too much for my liking. Regardless, along with all the science I am learning, TRIP is definitely helping me get over my fear of creepy-crawlies!
For my initial project in the program, I tested Vitamin B6 on flies given head trauma since B6 is supposed to support the nervous system. I used the negative geotaxis assay to quantify how far the flies crawled up the tube in 3 seconds to determine overall activity level. To my dismay, I found that Vitamin B6 does not reverse effects of head trauma, so my hopes of becoming a professional football player are crushed (just kidding...I would get run over by the players in seconds). During this process, I learned how to make fly food, prepare stock solution, and sort flies. I also numbered more pupal cases than you can count! When I conducted my geotaxis assay I learned somewhat of an unconventional technique… To take proper pictures, the phone must be kept at the same angle every time, so I ended up putting my phone in a beaker to keep it upright! Who knew beakers could be used as makeshift tripods! One of my favorite things so far was the rough sketches we did with Dr. Gardner about Victoria’s project. There were cows and cannibalistic flies everywhere! Finally, I presented my findings for the first time which was a lot of fun because I love presentations and public speaking. It was amazing to see everyone else’s finished projects as well!
Now that the initial project is over, it is time to start my independent project. One thing you should know about me is that I LOVE psychology and neuroscience. Therefore, it was only fair that my project relates to the brain. Many brain diseases include memory loss and a decline in speed of processing (ex. Alzheimer’s). This led me to think to test whether some substance can increase memory and speed in the brain, and what better to test than nicotine right? Now you may be thinking “Anya, isn’t nicotine the stuff in cigarettes? Aren’t those horrible for you?”. Well, yes you are correct there. But studies have shown that the inhalation of nicotine and chemicals as smoke is what is harmful, and that nicotine itself is a stimulant, just like caffeine in coffee! So as you can see, I promise I am not promoting smoking! Anyway, back to the experiment. Since I am testing the effects of nicotine on memory, I am conducting a larval memory assay to quantify the level of retention in the flies. Dr. Purdy, Abbie, and I are pioneering this new assay so I am pretty excited about it! I am going to train the larvae to be attracted to a certain smell, heat shock them, and then test their retention of the previous training. Hopefully nicotine in a non-smoked form can increase memory! Stay tuned for more updates to later!