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Brooke Keim (Lancaster, Pa.), a junior biology major, took a close look at a tiny fruit fly in an intensive research project during the January interim session between semesters. Working as an EXCEL Scholar with Elaine Reynolds, assistant professor of biology, Keim examined the effects of aging on a mutant, “bang-sensitive” drosophila fly.

“Their life span is altered, and we investigated the mechanism behind this alteration in the mutants,” says Keim, who also used the experience to become more confident in studying small subjects in the laboratory. She plans on continuing the research in a senior honors thesis next year.

The bang-sensitive fly is a mutant of the average fruit fly that goes into seizures when it is “mechanically shocked” by, for example, rapping on a table. The fly recovers from that state after about two minutes, according to Reynolds, who says the behavior is often compared with epilepsy.

“We know that the paralysis gets worse with age and that they also have a shortened life span,” says the professor. The two might be related, she says, because both the bang response and shortened life span are caused by defects in the mitochondria of the fruit fly’s cells.

With ambitions of going to medical school, Keim expects that down the road, she will need the skills that she acquired in the lab.

“I have enjoyed my two-and-a-half years at Lafayette and definitely think the time went way too fast,” adds the student. “In my research, I have learned a tremendous amount so far.”

As a sophomore, Keim held her own in Reynolds’ 400-level biology course. “She is very bright and I expect she’ll do well,” says Reynolds. “As someone going toward medical school, it’s always good to have an idea of how to conduct a research project and to understand basic research. So much medical knowledge comes from that.”

A graduate of Conestoga Valley High School, Keim is a member of Delta Gamma sorority, serves on the Panhellenic Council, and volunteers with the Adopt-a-Grandparent program. She also works in Kirby Sports Center.

Categorized in: Academic News