For Christopher Hoyt, studying corn genetics isn’t anything new. Christopher, a soon to be high school senior, participated in SRAP last summer and worked on corn genetics with his mentor, Dr. Carolyn Rasmussen. This year, he’s back at it again, but with a variation on the area of focus.
“What we’re working on this year is a protein called tangled,” Christopher says. “The tangled mutant has irregular cell divisions. So, instead of them being parallel or perpendicular, they divide at a bunch of weird, awkward angles.”
Other studies on Tangled have led researchers to believe that the gene helps with how new cell divisions are placed. Christopher’s project this summer will add to this body of research.
“What I’m trying to do is figure out how the protein moves,” Christopher said.
To do this, he is using a technique called Fluorescence Recovery After Photo-bleaching (FRAP). The first part of the FRAP technique requires Christopher to zap part of a cell with a laser. This decreases the fluorescence and allows Christopher to then track the process of that part of the cell becoming fluorescent again. The current time-frame used is around seven seconds, requiring Christopher to be focused, fast and careful.
“This is technically a tough project,” says Dr. Rasmussen. “But, since I worked with Christopher last year, I thought ‘The sky’s the limit. We can do the most tricky project and I know he will pull it off.’”
In addition to his interest in the numerous techniques he can use in his project, Christopher is excited to get to know the other SRAPers.
“I’m most looking forward to learning more about the current SRAPers this year, because once I finally did get to know all the SRAPers last year, it was just fantastic!”
SRAP is a six-week intensive research program for high school students. It is based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.
By Robin E. Rasmussen and Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Robin Rasmussen