Doris Bachtrog, Professor

Closed (1) The role of sex chromosomes in aging: does the Y chromosome contribute to a shorter male lifespan?

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

This project aims to assess whether the presence or absence of a Y chromosome contributes to a shorter male lifespan, using Drosophila as a model species. It has been observed that heterochromatin (the compacted, silenced portion of the genome) is frequently mis-regulated during aging. Previous work in the lab has suggested that the Y chromosome, which is highly heterochromatic, results in different distributions of chromatin in males relative to females. This project will aim to determine whether the Y chromosome influences lifespan, and whether males have greater levels of heterochromatin mis-regulation during aging.

Undergraduate researcher will primarily be involved in conducting lifespan assays in Drosophila. The researcher will also perform qPCR assays and RNA extractions. The student will become proficient in fly husbandry, and will learn about current research in aging and epigenetics.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Emily Brown

Qualifications: Student must be interested in learning both husbandry and molecular techniques. The student must be well-organized and highly reliable to run the lifespan assays, which require careful attention to standardized time points. Basic molecular biology skills and/or experience with Drosophila are a plus, but not required.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/bachtrog/

Closed (2) The genetics of behavioral isolation in Drosophila

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Understanding the genetic basis underlying the process of speciation, and ultimately biodiversity, is a major goal in evolutionary biology. However, despite recent progress identifying genes contributing to postzygotic isolation and thus maintaining species boundaries, little is known about the genetic basis and evolutionary forces that are important driving the initial evolution of reproductive isolation and thus speciation. In Drosophila, mating behavior is well understood, and males and females use a complex repertoire of chemical, visual and auditory signals to either accept or reject a mate. Species-specific courtship songs play an important role in evolving prezygotic, behavioral isolation in closely related Drosophila species. This project aims to characterize courtship songs among closely related Drosophila species, and their hybrids, to identify the underlying genes contributing to behavioral isolation between closely related species.

Undergraduate researcher will primarily be involved in conducting courtship song assays in Drosophila. The researcher will also perform fly crosses and maintenance. The student will become proficient in fly husbandry, and will learn about current research in speciation and the genetics of behavior.

Qualifications: Student must be interested in learning both husbandry and molecular techniques. The student must be well-organized and highly reliable to run the courtship song assays, which require careful attention to standardized time points. Basic molecular biology skills and/or experience with Drosophila are a plus, but not required.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/bachtrog/

Closed (3) Mechanisms and evolution of heterochromatin formation in early development

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Heterochromatin is a tightly packed and coiled form of DNA, important for silencing harmful repetitive sequences or transposable elements. While much progress has been made in characterizing the structure of heterochromatin biochemically and via its effects on genes and transgenes, very little is known about how heterochromatin formation is initiated. This project aims to uncover the mechanism and evolution of the initiation of heterochromatin formation. We use Drosophila miranda as a model to answer this question as it has a neo-Y (recent new sex chromosome caused by fusion of a Y chromosome to an autosome). The D. miranda’s neo-Y chromosomes is the earlier stages of becoming fully hetrochromatized which allows us to characterize DNA sequences responsible for heterochromatin formation and initiation.

Undergraduate researcher will primarily be involved in the collection of embryos of Drosophila miranda. The student may also be asked to help with various tasks (fly maintenance, washing embryo collection cages, etc). The student will be proficient in embryo collection and gain background knowledge about the in different aspects of hetrochromatin.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Carolus Chan, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: Student must be interested in learning about early development and genetics. The student must be well-organized and highly reliable to run the lifespan assays, which require careful attention to standardized time points. Basic molecular biology skills and/or experience with Drosophila are a plus, but not required.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/bachtrog/research/research.html

Closed (4) Speciation genetics and evolution of reproductive incompatibilities in Drosophila

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Understanding the genetic basis of speciation requires identifying the genetic changes that lead to reproductive incompatibilities. For nearly a century it has been recognized that the sex chromosomes play an important role in speciation and that hybrid males derived from inter-species crosses tend to have reproductive problems. This project aims to characterize the level of reproductive incompatibly between a number of different Drosophila species pairs and identify the underlying genetic mechanism causing hybrid problems.

The undergraduate researcher will primarily be involved in conducting crossing experiments between species of Drosophila and characterizing levels of hybrid sterility. The undergraduate researcher will perform fly dissections and learn how to identify ovaries, testes and quantify sperm production. Ultimately, the dissected tissues will be used to characterize gene expression differences between sterile and fertile hybrids in an attempt to determine the genetic basis of incompatibility. The undergraduate researcher will also get experience doing RNA extractions. The student will become proficient in fly husbandry, and will learn about speciation genetics and Drosophila reproductive biology.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Emily Landeen, Post-Doc

Qualifications: Student must be interested in learning about speciation, genetics and development. The student must be well-organized and may need to tend to experiments up to 5 times a week. Basic laboratory skills and/or experience with Drosophila are a plus, but not required.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: http://ib.berkeley.edu/labs/bachtrog/research/research.html
Related website: http://ryanbracewell.weebly.com/