For Travis Blum ’10, antennal dissections, DNA isolation and gene cloning are all in a day’s work. The biology major is spending his summer months working alongside Assistant Professor of Biology Kristy Kenyon in a collaborative project with scientists at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES).
Headed by Charles D. Linn and Wendell Roelofs, members of the entomology department at NYSAES, the team is studying the development of tobacco budworms, an agricultural pest species that affects crops throughout the United States. They hope to better understand the neurobiology of olfactory processing, including the role of pheromones in mediating mating behavior among related insect species.
Kenyon’s involvement with the project stems from her interests in understanding how organisms create functional sensory organs during development. Relatively little is known about the developmental state of the embryonic tissue involved in the transplantation experiments.
“We want to identify the key genes that control the generation of specific cell types in the developing antennae,” explains Kenyon. “Ultimately, our goal is to understand how developmental events influence behavioral differences among related moth species. This work will hopefully provide insights into the evolutionary connections in olfaction among a diverse range of organisms.”
“I appreciate the chance to work together with Professor Kenyon,” says Blum, who hopes to pursue a career in biochemistry. “The ability to connect on a personal level with my professors is something I wouldn’t be able to do at other schools.”
“The procedures I’m doing in the lab right now are based on those I practiced as part of my course work,” he says. “My classes and professors have absolutely prepared me for this research. It feels like everything I’ve learned at HWS is coming together.”