Sciences: Neuroscience

Department: Biology

Supervising Faculty Member: Jay Hirsh

Specialization: Neuroscience

Research Focus: The Hirsh Lab is primarily concerned with the role that the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin have on behavior, and compensatory mechanisms that come into play when these transmitters are lacking. Through genetic manipulation of our dopamine-deficient strains of the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, we have revealed an unexpected phenotype that rescues behavior to non-Dopamine-deficient levels. Investigating this “dopamine bypass” phenotype and uncovering potential genes required for its expression are the current focus of our laboratory.

Position Description: One of the most widely-utilized model organisms, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been in use for almost a century. Inexpensive and easy to maintain, they also possess a short generation time, allowing for long-course genetic experiments to be carried out in a relatively minimal amount of time. Compared to more complex organisms, Drosophila are simple in that they have a small chromosome number; however, many Drosophila genes and biological processes are conserved with higher vertebrates and humans, allowing for critical insights into human disease states. Additionally, since the Parkinson’s model of Drosophila is strikingly familiar to the human disease state, Drosophila is an ideal candidate for the study of this disease. Using our ability to manipulate the Drosophila genome, the student will be an active participant in uncovering new genes and pathways with potential relevant to human disease.

Required skills: Attention to detail including the ability to follow lengthy, multi-day protocols. Understanding of basic lab techniques and measurements will be helpful. Ability to interpret data and make assumptions based on the disease models and potential experimental outcomes.

Computer software: We will provide training in proprietary software and necessary instruction in coding languages such as ‘R’.

Training/certification: No

What you will learn: Student will have the opportunity to perform and engage in a wide range of skills and laboratory techniques ranging from basic lab skills such as making solutions, pipetting, microdissection, and simple molecular biology techniques such as PCR and primer design, and DNA and RNA extraction. More advanced techniques could include training and use of specialized equipment, HPLC, confocal microscopy, use of image analysis software, immunohistochemistry, and data analysis using ‘R’ or ‘Mat Lab’.

Web site link to research: http://bio.as.virginia.edu/people/jh6u