Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Genevieve Akponye SURF SMART

Timing is Everything: Bird-brained Ideas About the Importance of Melatonin for Reproduction

We will use wild-caught European starlings to explore where melatonin may be produced in the bird brain (outside of the pineal gland) by detection of enzymes involved in its synthesis. Generally, organisms strategically allocate energy among physiological processes, and these processes are highly sensitive to the environment. Species that reproduce seasonally utilize environmental cues to coordinate physiology at the proper time. These cues are translated into signals through neuroendocrine signals, leading to the production of melatonin in the pineal gland; however, the pineal gland has never been found to regulate reproduction in any seasonally reproducing bird species. How, and where, melatonin may be exerting a physiological effect on the reproductive physiology and timing of birds is wholly unknown but we hypothesize that the hypothalamus – a major part of the HPG axis – may produce it de novo.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you so much to the Johnson Fund for funding my summer research experience. It was truly incredible, and I enjoyed every moment of it. This was my first time conducting research and it was so informative and critical in my academic career. Due to this experience, I am now interested in working in research post-grad and potentially seeing if I would want to pursue being a research scientist alongside medical school. This experience has given me the confidence to actually see myself as a scientist and a person capable of conducting scientific research. I had so much fun and can’t wait to gain more laboratory experience.
Profile image of Genevieve Akponye
Major: Molecular Environmental Biology
Mentor: Mattina Alonge
Sponsor: Johnson Fund
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