MCPHS grad student and PhD candidate, Steve Richards, ran a wonderfully successful genetics workshop at Think Tank this Spring semester. The workshop, titled Genetics: The Fly Room
, was inspired by the work of Thomas Hunt Morgan, a famous scientist who played a crucial role in the shaping of modern genetics.
Morgan established the Fly Room at Columbia University with a group of students in the early 20th century. The Fly Room served as a vital hub for genetic research that influenced every generation to follow. Morgan was known for his democratic and socially dynamic approach to academic science. He encouraged and nurtured the acceptance and collaboration of ideas regardless of degree or status.
In a similar fashion, Steve encourages his students to ask questions and creatively investigate the object of study. He introduces the concept of his genetics workshop with the following excerpt from the class forums:
Drosophila melanogaster is the most genetically well known, and most common model organisms in the science community. Their short lifespan, fast reproduction time, and degree of current knowledge that we have about them makes the flies perfect for the young geneticist. Over the length of the course we have identified many of the common phenotypes for genetic mutations of interest, and also took a look at some of the mutants we will be working with.
The flies we have been using are very much lab quality flies. What this means is that they are genetically designed to be able to carry desirable mutations. Since scientists often work on genes of interest that may not have a visually distinctive phenotype, we need another way to easily identify flies that have a specific mutation. This is where “markers” and “balancers” come into play. Without going into too much information many of the flies used in the lab are “balanced” and have “markers” built into their genes. This gives the flies easy to identify traits, and also ensures their genetic stability.
Continue reading Steve's Fly Room write up HERE.