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Senior Kathleen Devlin (Holland, Pa.) is seeking insights into epilepsy by examining the possible role that antennae play in fruit fly seizures.

A biology major, she is attempting to discover if an important gene is found in antennae of the Drosophila fruit fly. She is working in an independent study led by Elaine Reynolds, assistant professor of biology, to remove the antennae and chart fly reactions.

Reynolds has mentored several Lafayette students in fruit fly research in recent years, some of whom were invited to present their results at the Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science and National Conference on Undergraduate Research. She has published her own findings in International Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. She is a recipient of the Delta Upsilon Distinguished Mentoring and Teaching Award, which recognizes faculty for distinctive and extraordinary teaching through mentoring.

“I’m very fortunate to be working under the supervision of such a qualified and enthusiastic faculty member,” says Devlin. “After talking to Dr. Reynolds about different research possibilities, her excitement over these particular projects made me interested in pursuing them.”

Devlin has been working with two types of mutant flies, “easily shocked” and “bang sensitive,” as well as a control fly. Under normal conditions, she says, the first two will go into paralysis and then seizure response after a ten-second mechanical stress. But after their antennae are removed, the mutant flies no longer seize up, and recover almost immediately.

“These experiments are all performed to find out whether the antennae play this crucial role in the flies’ sensitivity to mechanical stress,” says Devlin. “Next semester, we plan on testing for temperature sensitivity and the Drosophila response.”

According to Reynolds, Devlin is undertaking “a particularly interesting project” that is part of ongoing studies of ways in which the flies interact with their environment.

“I’m hoping that she will learn how to generate experimental design,” says Reynolds. “There’s a lot to learn about setting up experiments and putting controls in them. But it will help her down the road in lots of careers.”

Devlin says she has always loved hands-on experiments and considers this one “possibly the best opportunity to gain both knowledge and technical experience.”

“I get most excited when, after a discussion of techniques and options, I then get to go into the lab, carry out the experiments, and actually see them take shape and see results.”

Devlin likes the close-knit atmosphere at Lafayette that forms a bond between students and professors. “There is something special about having each of your professors know who you are and being able to go to them when you need help with coursework or anything else,” she says.

She is a member of Lafayette Arts Society and an usher at Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts. A former lacrosse player, Devlin also has been a DJ for the campus radio station.

Categorized in: Academic News