Lab Research Overview

My research lab, run by Professor John Fondon, specifically worked on discovering the effects of different gene groups in pigeons based on previously linked genes in mice and chickens. We mostly looked at phenotypical variation as well as we have a menagerie of different pigeon species to work with.

I had two jobs in the lab, to create and manage the network of sensors in the lab and to perform my own research with my professors supervision.

First Labratory Experience Image

Basic setup for sensor array

The first job I had to do in the lab was to build and maintain a network of electronic sensors scattered to about the lab and linked to an arduino and to a computer that monitored light level, temperature, humidity, dust level, doors opening and closing and a system that would attempt to alert the researchers in the lab if the conditions drastically inside the lab. It took about a month of tinkering and working on the parts before all the soldering and programming were done.

The first aspect in the Lab: to research other phenotypical papers produced by other labs to search for viable candidates.

Primarily this meant looking for papers with other test animals, chickens and mice mostly. I would read through the papers repeatedly and write about the prospects for our labs own research in their papers. I would then submit the paper to our team lead or the professor directly to see if there was anything interesting that I or another research assistant found.

The second aspect in the Lab: to discover the viability of a link between known genotype-phenotype relationships and unknown genotype-phenotype relationships in our pigeons.

This would be a comprehensive test first looking at if it was possible for the gene to be linked at all, to looking at the effect the mutation had on the previous animals, to BLASTing the gene in the paper and the pigeon and looking to see if there were similar gene structures. The comparisons would take a while, and we would look into the protein alignment and the FASTA data and see if the pigeon genomes we had contained enough similarity to the genes in the other species to reasonably compare the two.

How melanogenesis works

Melanogenesis Pathways

I would look at the depth file and the SNP file we created to see if any of the bird species had the gene, and then look at the various genes that did exist and compare their phenotypical variation with the variation found in the depth file and SNP data.

The third aspect of the lab: we attempt to prove that the gene has an link to a specific phenotype in pigeons.

In order to do this we must take samples from all of the birds that we possessed and look for possible candidates to test. We would then prepare to isolate the desired genes and compare between two different birds with a gel electrophoresis. Depending on the results we could have a confirmed gene linkage and could write a paper!

However for my candidate gene, DCT, there was never any linkage that we could find and we would up no paper as my semester ended and I began working at a different internship during the summer.

Although I did not manage to confirm a linkage between two genes, I still learned a lot about the process of genetics and lab work as a whole and I hope to one day continue with my lab experience and learn more about research and the process in general.