What a time it’s been! Some quick notes about my accomplishments during the past five weeks: I’ve learned more about fruit flies than I could ever have expected to in a lifetime, I’ve said the words “gut bacteria” about 263 times, and I can’t take any pictures on my cellphone at the moment because I’ve filled my storage with videos of my flies exploring 55 mm petri dishes. In all seriousness, though, I think I’ve gained some invaluable knowledge and experience by participating in the program, and I can’t wait to see how I’ll use it during my future endeavors.
Prior to participating in the TRIP initiative, I was a little apprehensive about quite a few things. I knew I would soon be developing an independent project, but I kept wondering -- would I be able to create an interesting one? Would my project be impressive? Would I be able to successfully carry it out? I guess in the midst of my concern, I overlooked the fact that I’d soon be immersed in such a supportive and fulfilling scientific environment, led by instructors who put immense effort into helping their students succeed, and filled with fellow students who are equally supportive and entertainingly frazzled. My concerns left me as soon as I entered the lab for the first time, and I was able to face every challenge with an open mind and an excited outlook.
As far as how my independent project went, the results were pretty interesting, and were not what I expected. In testing the effects of quercetin (found in quinoa) and açaí berry extract on fly activity and the gut microbiome in order to explore the science of superfoods, it turns out that while high concentrations of quercetin and low concentrations of açaí extract produce more active flies, low concentrations of quercetin and high concentrations of açai extract yield a more diverse gut microbiome. If I could do the experiment over again, I think I’d like to test a wider variety of concentrations of the different superfood representatives in order to get a better idea of how these trends play out. I came up with the idea for this project as a result of my interest in how health claims about certain foods, when combined with advertising and social media, can lead to these foods becoming immensely popular trends in our diets. At the conclusion of the project, I think I can say that while some of these trends are pushed on the public to quite the extreme extent, these claims aren’t based on nothing. Activity and bacteria diversity were improved with the superfoods!
By the end of this program, I think my skills regarding designing an experiment and facing challenges throughout the process have considerably improved. I also really appreciate the experience I’ve gained with the communications aspect of the program, where I had the opportunity to create a graphical abstract representing my project. While learning how to use Google Drawings was quite the hassle, I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about communicating scientific concept and discoveries to the public. In addition to gaining skills regarding design, communication, and implementation of an experiment as a result of this program I can’t leave out the fact that I’ve met some really great people along the way -- and I’m excited to see what they achieve in the future! I can’t think of a more fulfilling way to have spent my summer, and I’m so glad to have gotten this opportunity.