Drosophila melanogaster… aka fruit flies. I am going into science nerd mode briefly here to talk about… hox genes. Of course, you can check Wikipedia (see below). One of the miracles of life is how we all start from a single cell. When looking at different animal and insect models for research, it is impressive how alike we are in our embryonic development and the pattern formation. Hox genes assist in laying out the body plan.
Alrighty. So what about working in a lab filled with fruit flies? How did that research experience influence me personally and professionally? Here was an opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth was and demonstrate my hard work ethic. Here was an opportunity for leadership. Ironically, the means of me finding out about the position was through my student leadership experiences and networking. Technically, even a middle-school aged student could do what I did. However, what was most important was repetition and understanding the value of seeing things through. I fortunately had this type of experience through distance running in high school on the Cross Country and Track & Field teams.
The overarching plan and experiments were pretty neat, though the activities necessary were mundane. What I appreciated was the ability to understand exactly what needed to be done and simply act upon that. For example, I would use a microscope to check if the fly was male or female. Or I would prepare a “food cook” batch following the recipe. Or I would carefully add 10 female flies to a specific box. Or I would clean equipment.
I enjoyed being able to listen to music or chat with peers during this time. In fact, one of these conversations about bucket lists was what spurred me to run a marathon. Most of all, I appreciated the lab manager recognizing my abilities.
I did not personally see much in myself. When recruiting lab leaders for the following year, he told me, “We need talent.”
Fast forwarding to my final quarter ever during my senior year, I was left in charge of the lab on the weekends, equipped with the lab key and my lab manager’s cell phone number should any problems arise. Out of everyone, he entrusted me to oversee the team and his experiments while he cared for his family, especially his newborn daughter. To my surprise, by doing my thing and not being too bossy, the weekend team ended up being more productive than the weekday team. Needless to say, the lab manager expressed extreme gratitude at the opportunity to write a letter of recommendation for me.
Below is a video where I explained a bit more about how much my lab manager played a major role as my mentor during the admissions process for Physical Therapy school. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve grown a lot since this was aired on Facebook live so we shall see if Berg and I follow up with another video in the future!