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Student Spotlight

We R Arts and Sciences: Alesha Figueroa-Falcon

Alesha Figueroa-FalconAlesha Figueroa-Falcon is a person that cannot be stopped. She faced a lot of hardships growing up, but that did not stop her from tackling AP English, AP Biology, Honors Trigonometry, and Honors Physics in high school. She has won awards for her efforts, such as the Overcoming Adversity Award, given to her by the ... Read more ... Read more ...

Nicole Pope

Posted at 9:32 a.m. April 11, 2013, in Featured Student

My research focuses on screening DNA fragments that guide gene expression. Organs in our body develop from a single layer of epithelial cells. These cells are instructed to express different genes in sub-populations of cells (a process called tissue patterning) and consequently drive the formation of organs. I use egg development, oogenesis, in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, as a model system to study how genes are expressed non-uniformly. Specifically, I focus on the patterning of follicle cells (FCs), a layer of epithelial cells that surround the developing oocyte. While FCs’ patterning has been vastly documented, our understanding of genes’ regulation is very limited. To find regulatory domains, I screened a large collection of fly lines that represent the dynamic expression of ~20 genes. Since gene regulation is a complex task, I have screened 230 unique fly lines. I was very excited with each new line that gave me a positive expression. 

Overall, about 25% of the tested lines expressed the GFP reporter in the follicle cells. I have been very happy to discover that about 25% of the positive fly lines showed a partial or full expression pattern of the corresponding endogenous genes. I am currently using a new technique, RNAseq, to localize the regulatory information of genes to certain positions in the genes’ locus. Finally, the flies that I found in my screen were already used by me and other students in the Yakoby Lab to mutate genes in sub-populations of epithelial cells.