Kaia Miller ’18 Studying Immune Responses in Fruit Flies
This summer, Kaia Miller ’18 is working in the Silverman lab at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the Division of Infectious Disease, studying the immune responses and pathways in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies). Her internship is supported by the Sandra Solomon Internship Fund, managed by the Career Center.
As a biochemistry major, Miller wanted to use the summer to gain experience in this field and has enjoyed learning about the biological pathways that make up life. “This opportunity to get an in-depth look at the immune system really interested me,” she said.
At her internship, Miller is working on an independent research project to study the IMD pathway, which is an innate immune response pathway in the flies. The goal of the research is “to knock down genes for specific enzymes involved in the pathway (which prevents those genes from being expressed) to determine which ones are important in catalyzing the appropriate immune response,” explained Miller.
So far, Miller has acquired knowledge that goes beyond her specific research topic, such as the operations of a research lab and how to conduct her own research. “The various techniques and biological assays I have learned how to perform are vital processes in a lot of scientific research,” she said. “The biggest thing I’ve found is that research rarely goes as planned. I have run into challenges and unexpected results in every single step of my project, and I have had to troubleshoot these issues and alter my procedure so that I can achieve successful results and move forward with the experiment.”
Despite the frustration that is to be expected in the lab, Miller appreciates “putting [her] schoolwork to use,” as some of the actions she performs during her research were originally tried in the classroom at Hamilton, such as running PCR and gel electrophoresis.
Miller is on a pre-med track and plans to go to medical school after Hamilton, although she may return to work in a lab before beginning medical school to do research that “pushes forward the fields of science and medicine.”