The Biology Department is emphasizing the importance of research experience for all its students. Ben Thornton, Ph.D., teaches one the research-based classes, Ecotoxicology, where they study how pesticides affect non-target species, such as fish and amphibians. They also look at the ways these toxins affect humans.
Naomi Jackson, 2013 biology graduate, became excited about research and decided to dig deeper into a specific topic. She found literature indicating that Vitamin C could enhance an organism’s ability to detoxify specific environmental toxins.
With Thornton’s help, Jackson exposed fruit flies to permethrin, a common chemical found in pesticides, and found that the male fruit flies that had been given Vitamin C were more likely to survive than females with supplemental Vitamin C or the control group, which included both males and females. Jackson presented her work at the Association of Southeastern Biologists during her junior year.
Brianna Taylor, senior biology major, is continuing the research. She is verifying the results of Jackson’s research by looking at the effects of Vitamin C on a family of detoxification enzymes (cytochrome P450s) that are responsible for detoxifying permethrin. She expects to find that Vitamin C enhances the activity of these enzymes in male fruit flies, but not in females.
“These findings have direct implications for humans because we have the same set of enzymes for detoxifying permethrin as Drosophila (fruit flies),” Thornton said. “This is just one of many research projects our biology students are working on as we grow the undergraduate research program in order to provide students with the best that biology education has to offer.”
To learn more about the research students are doing in the Biology Department.