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Studying Traumatic Brain Injury Effects via Fruit Fly Concussions


When Yeo Jean Song ’21 applied to take part in a summer research project, she hoped to come out of it with a better understanding of molecular biology.

After her project was complete, Song admitted that she had set the bar too low. “I came out of the lab with a lot more knowledge than I expected,” she said. “Including the many ways a western blot can go wrong and how difficult it is to actually cut off a tiny fruit fly head.”

Under the guidance of Professor of Biology Herman Lehman, Song and her team—including Urbana Anam ’21, Stephen Wisser ’20, Stephanie Kall ’19, and Farzona Muzzaffar ’18—worked to study the behavioral and molecular effects of traumatic brain injury.

Using the brains of fruit flies, they induced traumatic brain injury with the chemical tunicamycin before isolating the heads and studying them.                      

About Yeo Jean Song ’21

Major: Art History

Hometown: Fullerton, Calif.

High School: Orange County School of the Arts

read about more student research
 

“We studied the potential molecular and behavioral differences between the treated and untreated flies,” Song said. “Our focus was on the changes to learning, behavior and memory as a result of our treatment.”

Although the study was done using fruit flies as subjects, Song says that research like this can shed light on the potential effects of serious head injuries or brain damage—as well as what health practitioners can do to prevent it.

Song hopes that this research project will help her toward her goal of attending medical school after graduation. “I imagine that at the very least I’ll be putting my newfound pipetting skills to the test as I continue to take more lab science courses,” she said.

Now that Song is heading back home for the summer, she is satisfied with her research experience. “Besides learning the way a research lab functions,” she said, “I figured giving fruit flies concussions was as good a way to spend the summer as any.”

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