2018 Spring LC Magazine

Andrew is a neuroscientist who is interested in how different genes and gene mutations influence nervous system development and function. When he arrived at Lycoming in 2015, cell and molecular biology major Courtney Hannum ’18 was a student in his first genetics class. She quickly impressed him, so he invited her to spend the summer working in his lab. With the help of funds from a Lycoming Professional Development Grant and two Haberberger Summer Research Grants, Hannum and Zachary High ’18 worked with Andrew full-time for the duration of the summer. Andrew studies genes that cause intellectual disabilities when mutated in humans. One of those genes produces Fragile X syndrome (FSX), which is the most common single gene cause of intellectual disability. Many individuals who have FSX are also on the autism spectrum, and one of the diagnostic criteria of autism is repetitive behaviors. “We have fruit flies that are mutated for the FSX gene, and when we were observing them, we noticed that they groom over and over and over again,” explains Andrew. “A normal fly will groom, but in our experimental set-up, normal flies are grooming about 10–12 percent of the time, and FSX flies are grooming in the 20-30 percent range, so it’s quite dramatic.” For the past two years, Andrew and Hannum have explored the role of genetics in that grooming behavior. Information sharing within the fruit fly research community gives them insight into observations of the same behavior in a variety of fruit fly lines. “They are all genetically related, but distinct from each other,” says Andrew. “If you find behavioral differences between lines, you can correlate them with differences in the genome. We’re building this as a potential model of a new way to study autism.” For Hannum, conducting research has been at the center of her Lycoming experience. “From the start, Dr. Andrew treated me as a professional colleague,” she says. “When I first began doing research, I expected to simply complete tasks. I had no idea I would participate in all aspects of research — from protocol design to professional presentations.” Their work won second place in the STEM category at an undergraduate research poster conference held at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, and she won a travel award to present at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in Washington, D.C., among 30,000 neuroscientists from 80 different countries. Her work also led to a competitive internship at Penn State Hershey’s Medical Campus. “No lecture can teach the things I have learned through research or provide the confidence I have gained,” Hannum says. “The best aspect is knowing that I have so much support on campus from the biology department, the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences, and Dr. and Mrs. Haberberger. Dr. Andrew has acted not only as a research advisor but also as a role model, and for that I am extremely grateful.” Hannum plans to pursue a career in genetic counseling so she can help families who have children with developmental disorders. “As a first-generation college student, I was unsure about college, and especially graduate school,” she says. “After conducting an independent study that I will soon defend as an honors thesis, I am confident that I will succeed in grad school.” This is the potential Andrew envisioned when he came to Lycoming. “Research internships help students build their career paths,” he says. “That helps everyone. It helps us as a college, and it helps me to produce science so I can provide opportunities for future students.” elieve it or not, those tiny bugs that swarm around the fruit in your kitchen share hundreds of genes with humans. What that means for David Andrew, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, is that he can study connections between genetics and the nervous system using fruit flies. No lecture can teach the things I have learned through research or provide the confidence I have gained . . . “ “ 31 www.lycoming.edu