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SOAR 2018 Robert John Scheirer ’20

Robert John Scheirer ’20

“Effects of seizure susceptibility on a complex behavior in Drosophila melanogaster”

Major/Minor: Biochemistry, philosophy
Hometown: Augusta, GA
Project Advisor: Dr. Christopher Jones

Describe your project.

I studied how Drosophila melanogaster, with bang-sensitive mutations, affect their behavior during courtship. For this project, I observed and analyzed the behavior of wild type fruit flies vs. fruit flies with certain bang-sensitive mutations. This was done by placing one female wild type fruit fly in a small arena with either one male wild type or one mutant fruit fly. These fruit flies were then filmed for about 25 minutes to one hour. This project was done single-blinded so I was unaware of which fruit fly was wild type and which was mutant until after each video was analyzed.

How did your project come about?

Dr. Jones had pitched this project to me when I asked him if he would allow me to participate in the SOAR program with him. It originally came from another student, Nicole Sabaliauskas, who had previously worked in his laboratory. Her work showed that at least one bang-sensitive mutant showed defects in behavior in courtship.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights has he brought to your project?

Dr. Jones is a great mentor and professor and I was honored when he allowed me to participate in the SOAR program with him. He is a very intelligent and friendly professor/mentor and was always there for me when I had a question or needed help during the program. Dr. Jones showed me how to conduct myself and do research in his field of study.

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What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

The biggest obstacle so far was trying to analyze the data from the videos I made and convert them into numbers onto an Excel spreadsheet.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I was able to experience what research was really like in the biological sciences. I learned how to conduct myself inside and outside the lab.

What was the result of your project?

During the summer, we improved the way to examine Drosophila melanogaster with a new type of Frame. We also decided to film the process instead of physically watching the fruit flies in person, which allowed us to go back and look at the data/film collected.

Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?

The SOAR program is an amazing opportunity and I feel honored to be a part of it. More students should take advantage of this opportunity because it provides undergraduate students some knowledge of what research is like in the real world.

Do you plan to expand upon your research?

I do hope to expand upon this research some more, possibly through an independent study, or by some other means.