Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Konnor von Emster L&S Sciences

Investigating the Role of RFamide and Taurine Neuromodulators on Cassiopea Behavior

The upside-down jellyfish, Cassiopea, is a model organism for sleep despite its decentralized nervous system (DNS). The nervous system consists of radially spaced, interconnected motor control nerve clusters, ganglia, that control Cassipeas pulsing behavior. Preliminary research indicates that a unique subset of these ganglia may command pulsing for days to weeks at a time instead of random command that current literature suggests. My research will be focused around answering the question: what molecular differences cause morphologically identical ganglia to have activity differences? RFamide and Taurine are neuromodulators known to exist in the ganglia and to be involved in behavioral control in other animals. By comparing quantitative antibody stains of these modulators to behavioral data I will attempt to determine whether or not these modulators are necessary and sufficient for ganglial control. Together, this will gain insight into the behavioral control of Cassiopea, building a foundation to understand why ganglia specialization occurs and how it relates to sleep in a DNS, which will inform research on sleep in a CNS.

Message To Sponsor

SURF has transformed the direction I am considering taking in my life. When I applied, applying to grad school had scantly crossed in my mind. I was enjoying the research I was doing, and saw SURF as a mechanism to continue my research through the summer. Little did I know, I would actually be applying to graduate schools in the fall, with much greater confidence and clarity than I could have ever imagined. I pushed and was pushed to extend my thought and limits beyond what I thought possible, all during one of the most stressful times in the world. The grant money saved me time from getting a job and allowed me to study what I was truly passionate about and I cannot thank the Pergo Fund and SURF Staff for this wonderful opportunity.
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Major: Economics, soon to declare MCB
Mentor: Yang Dan
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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