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11 undergraduates win travel awards to present research at fruit fly conference

BETHESDA, MD (December 2, 2013) -- The Genetics Society of America (GSA) and the Drosophila research community are pleased to announce the winners of the Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards. The awards will be used by the students to attend the 55th Annual Drosophila Research Conference in San Diego, March 2630, 2014. These 11 recipients are college juniors, seniors, or post-baccalaureates conducting academic research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism.

For most of the recipients, the 2014 Drosophila Research Conference will be their first opportunity to participate in an international professional scientific research conference. The Finnerty Award winners will be presenting their research to more than 1,500 other undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, university faculty and others.

"A fundamental part of science is the presentation of one's work to fellow scientists. This travel award enhances the research experience of undergraduates by giving them the opportunity to present their work at the annual Drosophila Research Conference," said Helen Salz, PhD, Chair of the Finnerty Award review committee and a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. "It was inspiring to read these applications. The number of extraordinary undergraduates conducting significant research far exceeded the number of awards we had available," said Dr. Salz.

Adam Fagen, PhD, Executive Director of GSA, added, "We look forward to the opportunity these talented undergraduates will have to present their research to an international audience at the Drosophila Research Conference and we hope to hear much more from them at scientific conferences in the years to come."

The Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards were established in 2011 in memory of its namesake, who was a long-time GSA member, a dedicated undergraduate educator at Emory University for 35 years, and an active member of the Drosophila research community and the genetics community at large. This is the third year the Victoria Finnerty awards have provided funding for undergraduates to attend the annual Drosophila Research Conference, having already provided more than $10,000 to enable 16 undergraduates to attend GSA's Annual Drosophila Research Conference.


2014 Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Award Winners:

Daniel A. Friedman, senior, University of California, Davis
Poster Title: "Evolution of sex comb enhancers of the HOX gene Sex combs reduced"
Description: I research the role of regulatory DNA sequences in the evolution of a sex-specific trait.
Authors: Daniel Friedman, Olga Barmina, Artyom Kopp.
Principal Investigator: Artyom Kopp, PhD

Nancy J. Levansailor, senior, The State University of New York, Fredonia
Poster Title: "Visualization of Sqd-grk Interactions in Live Drosophila Oocytes Using Tri-molecular Fluorescence Complementation (TriFC)"
Description: I am developing a new technique to visualize interactions between protein and RNA in living cells.
Authors: Nancy J. Levensailor, Steven J. Gangloff, Alicia R. Watson, Dane M. Buenton, Nathaneal R. Terwilliger, Scott B. Ferguson
Principal Investigator: Scott B. Ferguson, PhD

Katharine Majeski, senior, Kennesaw State University
Poster Title: "Live Imaging of Muscle Development in Akirin Mutants"
Description: I am using live time lapse microscopy to view muscle development in a novel Drosophila mutant.
Authors: Katharine Majeski, Fatima Ali, Scott J. Nowak
Principal Investigator: Scott J. Nowak, PhD

Aidan L. McParland, junior, University of New England
Poster Title: "Steroid signaling modulates nociception in Drosophila melanogaster"
Description: My research investigates if decreasing function of steroid hormone prevents pain in the fruit fly.
Authors: Aidan McParland, G. Vesenka, A. Panaitiu, G. Ganter
Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Ganter, PhD

Marvin Nayan, post-baccalaureate, University of Washington
Poster Title: "MicroRNA Processing by Dicer-1 Regulates Drosophila Sensory Neuron Morphology"
Description: I investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate dendrite morphogenesis.
Authors: Marvin Nayan, Jay Z. Parrish
Principal Investigator: Jay Z. Parrish, PhD

Trung T. Phan, senior, University of Washington
Poster Title: "Analyzing the Critical Role of Pskl, a Sperm Membrane Protein, in Drosophila Fertilization"
Description: Our research focuses the identification and characterization of sperm proteins that are required for successful fertilization in Drosophila.
Authors: Trung Phan, Harry Hunter, Barbara Wakimoto
Principal Investigator: Barbara Wakimoto, PhD

AnnJosette Ramirez, senior, Arcadia University
Poster Title: "Exposure of larvae to Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) causes dysregulation of the dTOR signaling pathway in Drosophila melanogaster"
Description: My research focuses on the effects of the environmental toxicant Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) on growth, survival and gene expression in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.
Authors: AnnJosette Ramirez, Edward Wolff, Trisha Zintel, Amber K. Weiner, Ashley Parker, Kristin Johndreau, Kara Bennett, Caroline Rachfalski, Sheryl Smith
Principal Investigator: Sheryl Smith, PhD

Zachary L. Sebo, senior, University of Missouri, Kansas City
Title: "ER stress attenuates insulin signaling through Tribbles-mediated block of Akt activity"
Description: I am using the fruit fly as a model system to study molecular links between obesity and insulin resistance.
Authors: Zachary Sebo, Rahul Das, Leonard Dobens
Principal Investigator: Leonard Dobens, PhD

Letitia Thompson, senior, The College of New Jersey
Poster Title: "grk mRNA Alternatively Spliced During Oogenesis"
Description: Using Drosophila melanogaster, we are trying to understand how genes are expressed, in particular how proteins are made at the appropriate time and location within the oocyte.
Authors: Letitia Thompson , Amanda Norvell
Principal Investigator: Amanda Norvell, PhD

Daniel M. Wong, senior, University of California, Los Angeles
Poster Title: "The effects of hypoxia in determining larval size in Drosophila melanogaster"
Description: My research project focuses on characterizing how oxygen deprivation restricts cell, tissue, and organismal growth.
Authors: Daniel M. Wong and Julian A. Martinez-Agosto
Principal Investigator: Julian A. Martinez-Agosto, PhD

Chenling Xu, senior, University of California, Davis
Poster Title: "Comparative Genomics of Drosophila simulans endosymbiont Wolbachia in Natural Populations"
Description: I am looking at the genomic differences between two strains of symbiotic bacteria that live inside the cells of fruit flies and how those differences might cause them to affect the host reproduction in different ways.
Author: Chenling Xu, Chris Smith
Principal Investigator: Michael Turelli, PhD


Contact: Beth Ruedi
Genetics Society of America

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