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Nicole George wins 2012 Journal of Experimental Biology Outstanding Paper Prize
Date:11/21/2012

her words, a muscle with a temperature gradient could serve multiple functions.

Intrigued by the physiological implication, George embarked on stage two of her thesis. 'We wanted to look at what consequence this would have for mechanical power output as a function of the muscle temperature, and that is what led to the 2012 paper', she says. Working with postdoc Simon Sponberg, George ironed out all of the technical challenges that she faced before measuring the power generated by the muscle over temperatures ranging from 25 to 40C. She found that the muscle produced impressive power outputs in the region of 100 W kg1 at the highest temperatures. However, as the temperature dropped, so too did the power output, until at 30C, the power output became negative. The cool muscle was either storing or absorbing energy; which didn't make sense. 'It doesn't help the moth to fly,' says George. And when she repeated the experiments with the top and bottom sections of the muscle, she found that the warm bottom segment which produces positive power could power flight by pulling on the thorax cuticle to push the wing down during the first half of the wing beat. However, the cooler slowly contracting top segment could be acting as a damper to stabilize the system or as an elastic energy storage system to help raise the wing during the relaxation portion of the contraction cycle at the end of a downbeat. 'All at once you have multiple functions within one single muscle because of the temperature gradient', explains George.

Outlining George's commitment to the demanding work, Daniel says 'I have a slide about every student that defends their thesis in my lab that has three words that I think characterise the student, and the three words for Nicole are; diligence, focus and creative spark'. Giving an example of her impressive work ethic, Daniel describes George's ability to focus, regardless of distraction. 'Nicole would come into the lab and you know, you
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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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