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STEM Fellows: Fragile X Syndrome in Fruit Flies

By Jenny Deveaux and Samantha Sarafin, VI Form

Peripheral Nervous System Deficits and Social Behavior in Drosophila FMR1 Mutants

1.1 Abstract

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Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a trinucleotide repeat mutation in the FMR1 gene, occurring in one in 4,000 males and one in 8,000 females. The syndrome is characterized by a variety of social, learning, and cognitive deficits specific to each patient. The pathways surrounding the expression of the fragile X phenotype are largely unknown, and there is no current treatment for the disorder. Numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the role of the central nervous system in developmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome; however, there is a lack of studies focusing on the role of the peripheral nervous system. In our study, we developed a line of Drosophila melanogaster, using the GAL4-UAS system, that expresses the dFMR1 mutation only in the olfactory sensory neurons, a vital part of the Drosophila’s peripheral nervous system. We conducted aggression and courtship assays to test the social behavior of the peripheral dFMR1 mutants. We compared these behavioral results with the results of control wild-type flies and with Drosophila that have the dFMR1 mutation in their entire anatomy. Our preliminary results suggest that both aggression and courtship should be further researched, as it was found that specific characteristics of each social behavior were impaired in some way. The most noteworthy data that was collected was significantly lower courtship index in the experimental line and a complete lack of dominance of the experimental line in the aggression assay. Because the Drosophila that were genetically crossed using the GAL4-UAS system had the dFMR1 gene silenced in their olfactory sensory neurons, the flies had an abnormality in their ability to detect pheromones, which studies show are the basis of Drosophila social interaction and behavior. (more…)

Artifact of Learning: What Is Cancer?

By Gillian Yue, V Form

Artifact of Learning: What Is Cancer?

Editor’s Note: This video is from the following assignment in Advanced Biology

Click Image for Video

Charge:  Create an Artifact of Learning* that will clearly explain to someone not in this class: What is Cancer? And How Does it Arise? Your artifact should synthesize the content from this unit (DNA Structure & Replication, The Cell Cycle, Mitosis & Cytokinesis, and Control of the Cell Cycle), as well as integrate new information that you have researched to better make sense of this disease.  Your answer should not be a review of EVERYTHING examined; rather you should selectively integrate elements of each topic that help to explain what cancer is and how it arises. Note:  This assignment does not ask – how do we treat cancer, detect cancer, prevent cancer, etc.  Simply – What is Cancer?

Click here for video.

*Scroll to bottom for definition of an “Artifact of Learning” (more…)

Moral Obligation…in Hamlet & a Fetus

By Lulu Eastman, V Form

Moral Obligation…in Hamlet & a Fetus

Hamlet, a Shakespeare play, follows the tragic tale concerning a deeply troubled Danish prince of the same name. Hamlet is forced to confront his traitorous mother and uncle in order to avenge his murdered father, who, as a ghost, has requested Hamlet takes his uncle’s life in order to bring him justice. However, Hamlet is distressed by the thought of committing such a bloody deed. As he wavers through indecision regarding his proposed mission, he also struggles against the drowning weight of his depression, as the toxic environment of the palace causes him to lose faith in the goodness of people. In the novel, Nutshell, by Ian McEwan, the story of the fetus is based off of Hamlet. With the reflective fetus entangled in the plotting of his traitorous mother and uncle, he finds himself in a predicament similar to that of the Danish prince. Although he has yet to even experience life for his own, the fetus has already lost hope for the vitality and decency of humanity. Every moment of his being is spent listening to conversations that only reveal more and more of the villainous and duplicitous ways of his mother and uncle, Trudy and Claude. Both Hamlet and the fetus reach a point where they contemplate committing suicide, as it seems to be the only way to put an end to their pain. However, both decide to live instead. Though both Hamlet and the fetus have cynical views of the world, and both consider suicide, they continue living through their suffering because they have moral obligations, beliefs, and fears that bind them to life. (more…)

Letter to the Editor: Native American Policy

By Mo Liu and Jamie Lance, V Form

Letter to the Editor: Native American Policy

Dear Editor Jackson,

It occurs to me that there is much attention raised among the general public regarding our government’s policy towards Indians, and therefore in writing to you, I, as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners, want to clarify my position. Indians cannot be entirely excluded from our picture as a nation. However, the Indian society is not a cultivated society likes ours. One of my colleagues, who is experienced with Indian affairs and always provides us with elaborate information about the Indians, says their tribes are corrupted by “idleness, improvidence, and indebtedness”. The lack of private property or land and the underdevelopment of laws mark the Indian society as barbarous and inferior to ours. Because of this difference, since 1871 Indian tribes are no longer considered sovereign nations. Governments before us circumvented the Indian dilemma by relocating and establishing reservations west to the Mississippi River, yet now with a closed frontier and western migration, conflicts between settlers and the Indians are inevitable. The issue is pressing. (more…)

Math Modeling: Using Math for Flight Path Safety

By Kate Sotir, Cooper Sarafin, Anderson Fan, Shep Green, VI Form and Mo Liu, V Form

Math Modeling: Using Math for Flight Path Safety

Part 1:

The problem at hand is to create a model, a rating system, that would inform potential flyers of the safety of a particular flight. Our solution includes a mathematical equation that gives us a number between 1 and 100, depending on the inputs. Although the values themselves indicate the safety level of flights, we do not want to our audience to read into the numbers: a flight with a safety index of 63 should not be considered a more dangerous flight than a flight with a safety index of 67. Therefore, to make our model directly presentable to our audience, we classified the possible outcomes into ratings. A safety index ranges from 1 to 20 would have a rating of ★, from 20 to 40 would have ★★, 40 to 60 would be ★★★, 60 to  80 ★★★★, and finally, 80 to 100 would have the highest rating of ★★★★★, and flights that fall under this rating would be the safest choice based on our model. (more…)

1-Take Video on Cyanide: The Mystery of the Seven Deaths

By Lindsey Dumond and Sada Nichols-Worley, V Form

1-Take Video on Cyanide: The Mystery of the Seven Deaths (click here)

Editor’s Note: After completing a deep examination of the process of Cellular Respiration, Advanced Biology students were randomly assigned to small groups (2-3) students and tasked with tackling a case study. The case of “The Mystery of the Seven Deaths” examined the true story of cyanide poisoning that occurred in the early 1980s. This case study required students to analyze data, make conclusions, and explain mechanisms of action. The students were then required to present the case to a lay person in 3 minutes through a 1-Take Video. A 1-Take Video is exactly what the name implies: a video shot in 1-take. This entire assignment was completed in an 80-minute block.

Click on the image below for the video!