Ayushi Dave

Major: Biology


Title:Investigating the Role of Effete in Border Cell Migration in Drosophila melanogaster

Effete is an E3 ligase, which is involved in the protein degradation pathway. The Proteins degradation process marks and degrade unwanted/damaged proteins in the human body. By studying the role this gene plays in the fruit fly, we can determine its role and apply that to human homologues. To determine the role this gene/protein plays, I will use the tools available already to manipulate transgenic flies (mainly through RNAi, overexpression, and fluorescent imaging).

Who is your mentor for your project?
My mentor is Dr. Starz-Gaiano, from the Biological Sciences department. I found Dr. Starz through a summer internship. I was one of the 2 students nominated from HCC to be part of a 8 week Summer Internship (Stem Build) at UMBC. I had read the abstracts of all the professors whose labs were participating in this summer internship, and Dr. Starz’s research interested me the most. Dr. Starz lab has a strong foundation in cell biology and genetics. Cell biology happened to be my favorite class; I loved the material that was taught, and developed a strong interest in that field and knew it was something I was ready to dive deeper into. I reached out to Dr. Starz asking more questions about her research, the kind of lab techniques her lab focuses on, and conveyed I was strongly interested in joining her lab. In my head I was worried everyone is going to pick her because this is clearly the best out there, so I wanted to do everything in my power to make the cut.

Dr. Starz’s research sparked an interest in me for many, many reasons. Firstly, the topic of cell migration is extremely fascinating. Cells are traveling to the right place at the right time, in this extremely controlled way. When you cut yourself, within 2 days there will be a scab and new skin will have already started growing. How did your cells know to do this? They don’t have a brain like us humans to think consciously about where to go, yet they have chemoattractants and other cues they follow to migrate in a controlled way. When cell migration becomes uncontrolled, it is known as cancer. By understanding the mechanisms of cell migration, we can apply that knowledge to larger applications like cancer progression and provide ways to reduce cancer metastasis.

What was the most unexpected thing about being a researcher?
The most unexpected thing about being a researcher to me was reading scientific articles. I didn’t know that’s how researchers learnt new information. Another thing that came to me as a surprise is that waiting time in research. It is not a quick in and out, “oh I found my answer”. You are constantly going down rabbit holes, building from unexpected results, and much more. The process of research is very different from anything you may have encountered before.

What has been the most rewarding part?
Looking back, my research journey as a whole has been a rewarding experience. I work closely with Ph.D. students, who constantly teach me new things in the lab. I used to have a lot of difficulty differentiating between a male and female fly, but today I can think of multiple different characteristics of each. I try to identify the different parts on the flies off a large chart in the fly room outlining many differences between the flies. In research you are constantly learning new information, and connecting everything you know to apply that. Working with people who are experts in this field is a privilege in my opinion because they are constantly molding and enhancing my knowledge in the wet lab, and theory based.

I attend lab meetings with my Professor, doctoral students, undergrads and this taught me how to work in a lab setting. Attending weekly lab meetings, answering questions, presenting, has taught me a lot. It has tested my confidence, and also allowed me to develop skills I wouldn’t have otherwise.

What gives me the most joy while doing research is when I find some exciting things in my work. When I image the egg chambers and I see a lot of cell migration delay I get excited because that is indicating that the gene I am studying is important in cell migration. This motivates me to keep going till I have reached the bottom. 

How will you disseminate your research?
I will be presenting my research at URCAD online this spring.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Think about what class you enjoyed the most. Not the teacher, but what material in the class really resonated with your interests. What topic interests your curiosity to dig deeper, play around and learn more about? Once you discover this, talk to a professor that you really like, who inspires you, is an expert in your field, and who you trust to help steer you in the right direction. For me this was my cell biology professor at Howard Community College. Once you know what you want, reach out to the professors, and be persistent. Tell them why you want to work with them and their lab, and don’t give up till you get your chance.

What are your career goals?
I aspire to be a physician in the future


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