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Ryan O'Donnell
2010-2011 Honors Student

Name: Ryan O'Donnell 
Honors in: Biology 
Hometown: Succasunna, NJ 
Major: Biology

Title of project: The effect of multiple bang-sensitive mutations on Drosophila melanogaster

Abstract or Brief Description: Bang-sensitive mutations cause the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to seize and become temporarily paralyzed upon mechanical stimulation (being “banged” against a hard surface, such as a test tube wall). Using traditional genetic techniques, new bang-sensitive mutants, which have multiple bang-sensitive mutations, were created. Double bang-sensitive mutant flies which were constructed had the genotypes of: eas;sda, tko;sda, bss1;sda, and bss(isoCS);sda (bss1 and bss(isoCS) are the same mutation, however the genetic backgrounds are different). All of the X-linked mutations resulted in the same or lower percentages of flies seizing when combined with sda, compared to the same mutations alone. The bss1;sda and eas;sda had a higher percentage seize than sda single mutants, while the tko;sda and bss(isocs);sda double mutants had a lower percentage seize. All of the double mutants had a shorter duration of paralysis and seizure than their eas, tko, bss1, and bss(isocs) single mutant counterparts. However, the double mutants all displayed longer durations of paralysis and seizure than did the sda mutation by itself. The refractory periods—the time period after initial seizure and paralysis before the flies can seize and become paralyzed again—of the double mutants were longer than those of all of the single mutants. Flies with the bang-sensitive mutations exhibited a decrease in life expectancy compared to wild type. It was not clear from the results whether multiple bang-sensitive mutations in the genotype lower life expectancy relative to the single mutations. Overall, the number of seizure and paralysis events a fly experienced during their lifespan did not have an effect on lifespan.

How did you get interested in your topic? I have always had an interest in biology and genetics, so I wanted to do a project in this area. I chose to narrow down my project to focus on Drosophila because they can serve as a model organism, and their bang-sensitive mutations because they are now used to study epilepsy in humans

Do you intend to research your topic further? If so, how? I do not intend to research my topic further.

How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? I felt as though the full-year research that I did provided me with invaluable experience for future endeavors in the medical field, which I hope to go into.

How has the department (or faculty advisor) prepared you for the future? My faculty advisor was very helpful throughout the whole process, helping me to answer questions and giving me great suggestions along the way.

What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? I would tell them that although it is very hard work, it is an invaluable experience that they should take advantage of.