Jessica Lu '21
Griffith Lab, Department of Biology
Fellow Reflection: Conducting Research During a Pandemic
My research is on the “Impact of Mutations at CaMKII Threonine Sites on Drosophila melanogaster: Short-term Memory and Sleep Behavior.” CaMKII is suggested to play a huge role in both short-term and long-term memory and sleep behavior. My research is to see if the mutation of amino acids at the three-threonine sites where autophosphorylation of CaMKII occurs: Threonines 286, 305, and 306 will affect the short-term memory and sleep behavior in Drosophila. All of my experiment involves working in person with Drosophila to collect data. One of the first steps for my research is to successfully create the mutant Drosophila that contains the desired changes. There will be 7 different mutant flies created: (T287T (control), T287A, T306A & T307A, T306D & T307D, T306S & T307S, T287A & T306A & T307A, T287A & T306S & T307S). The second part of my research is to test these mutant flies in learning and memory assays. For the learning and memory experiment, we will place each group of different transgenic flies in a T-maze. There will be 2 different odors being released OCT and MCH. I will electrically shock the flies that go into one of the chambers. I will compare the behavior of the transgenic flies with control flies using the learning index. Lastly for my experiment, I will conduct a sleep study on the transgenic flies and compare the results to control wild-type flies. I will measure the activity of the flies for 3- 5 days and measure sleep time and architecture.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 this year I am unable to work in the lab this summer. I live out of state and I am unable to move back on campus to work in the lab. I am coming back to campus this fall semester and will immediately begin working on my research. Although I am not able to work on my research in the lab I still am engaged in my research. I have been attending weekly lab meetings and I have been reading countless research papers on various methods for conducting short-term memory and sleep behavior on Drosophila. There are many parallels between these research methods and my research methods. One of the methods I have been researching, olfactory shock conditioning, is one of the methods I will be using to determine CaMKII effects in short term memory. In one of the experiments, olfactory shock conditioning was measured in three different memory spans: short-term memory, middle-term memory, and long-term memory. (Malik & Hodge, 2014). The short-term memory was measured immediately after administering one cycle of shock-odor training. The results from the experiment, the CaMKII mutant genotypes (T287D, T287A, and TT306/7AA) showed no statistical difference in short-term memory between CaMKII genotypes with wildtype. With this research, I can compare the data from this experiment to my experiment containing different CaMKII mutant genotypes (T287T (control), T287A, T306A & T307A, T306D & T307D, T306S & T307S, T287A & T306A & T307A, T287A & T306S & T307S). In other research papers, researchers used different types of methods to test short-term memory and sleep behavior on Drosophila. Courtship conditioning was used in one researcher paper to conduct short-term memory on Drosophila. Researchers taught flies complex information using natural fly behavior and measured the reduction of courtship behavior. The results showed that courtship conditioning in mutant T287A CaMKII memory scores was similar to the control group (Mehren & Griffith, 2004). I will also be using mutant T287A CaMKII Drosophila and it will be interesting to compare how short-term memory is impacted in olfactory shock conditioning compared to courtship conditioning. In the last part of my experiment, I will conduct a sleep study experiment to observe the effects of mutant CaMKII in Drosophila.
Many research papers have shown that CaMKII structure and functions are similar in mammals and Drosophila. CaMKII plays a crucial role in inducing sleep. In one study, researchers concluded that knockout CaMKII mice had shorter sleep duration than the control (Tatsuki et al., 2016). Since the biological conservation of the CaMKII structure and functions of the kinase in mammals and Drosophila are similar. I can compare the effects of CaMKII mutant genotypes in mice with that of Drosophila.
This summer due to the coronavirus I was not able to go back to the lab and work on my project. Instead, I spent my summer volunteering and helping the people around me. I first started to help the people around me, the coronavirus impacted my grandparents a great deal. Since my grandparents are in the high-risk group, they are no longer safely able to go buy groceries and other necessities. I have been helping them by shopping and delivering their groceries and anything they need. Additionally, they have been lonely from not being able to go to their adult daycare center. So, I have been visiting them a couple of days a week to keep them company. This summer I have also been taking care of my little brother while my parents are at work and helping him with his summer homework from school. Along with helping people around me, I have also been volunteering virtually. I usually volunteer at Boston Children's Hospital; however, due to the coronavirus they currently do not have in-person volunteering. I have been doing virtual volunteering with Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine promotes creative expression and socialization in pediatric patients in hospitals across the United States. The second virtual volunteering I have been doing this is 7 Cups. 7 cups provide anonymous emotional online therapy and free support to people experiencing emotional distress. On 7 Cups people can freely talk about their emotions and problems without feeling judged. The third virtual volunteering I am doing is with Be My Eyes. This organization helps connect volunteers to blind and low-vision people through video assistance calls. Giving back during this time is extremely important because many people are under immense pressure mentally, physically, and financially from the coronavirus. I am glad I was able to help people who needed help and support. Virtual volunteering has helped me gain new insight, knowledge, and skills to better communicate with people virtually.