Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

George Wang Rose Hills

Chemosensory Adaptation to Host Specialization in Herbivorous Drosophilidae

Herbivory is a key innovation that accounts for half of all insects and one-third of all living orders. It is believed that loss-of-function in chemoreceptor genes is the driving force behind the transition to herbivory in insects, but the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. One such chemoreceptor gene within the ionotropic receptor (IR) family, IR92a, mediates behavioral attraction of amines in microbe-feeding flies and mosquitoes through a population of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). I will investigate the hypothesis that in herbivorous flies, this chemoreceptor protein has diminished sensitivity toward amines, and that the number of OSNs expressing this chemoreceptor is lower than in microbe-feeding flies, due to olfactory specializations that entail greater emphasis on the detection of volatiles from living plants rather than on by-products of fermentation. Understanding whether S. flava has decreased sensitivity to volatile amines will shed light onto how the losses of chemosensory genes sensitive to these compounds have played a role in a major ecological transition, from microbe-feeding to herbivory, in insects.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you, Rose Hill Foundation, for providing this amazing experience for this emerging young scientist. Planning and executing an independent research project have been a fun and enriching experience for me. Not only has it given me an opportunity to expand my horizon in scientific research, but also has allowed me to develop important technical and analytical skills, engage in meaningful collaboration with the scientific community, and gain confidence in myself as an aspiring scientist through oral presentation. SURF has definitely allow me to see a career in the scientific field in the future. With the resources and newly gained experienced , I plan to apply for PHD program this upcoming cycle. Overall the SURF program has transform me in ways that I never thought was possible, allowing me to be more confidence with the findings that I made and prompting field of interests that I once found frightening but now fascinating. I wouldnt have been able to experience all of this so early on in my career if it wasnt for the Rose Hill Foundation. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity!
Profile image of George Wang
Major: Molecular & Cell Biology, Nutritional Sciences - Toxicology
Mentor: Noah Whiteman
Sponsor: SURF Rose Hills Independent
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