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Talk Fishy to Me [SURE Stories]

The following post was written by UHP student and SURE Award winner Simon Wentworth.

I have always had an interest in genetics, and when my Intro Biology professor freshman year mentioned he was going to be doing work sequencing and assembling the Genome and Transcriptome of the Fathead Minnow I decided to go up and talk to him about it. Little did I know right then that this would be the start of my research career. The next week Dr. Packer offered me a position taking care of the hundreds of fish he had under various treatment conditions. Shortly thereafter he asked me if I wanted to stay on longer term to head up the Transcriptome work for him. I immediately accepted and since then have spent the bulk of my time in the lab teaching myself the various software needed to assemble and annotate a complete transcriptome. Eventually I got access to Colonial One (GW’s supercomputer) and it was off to the races. I spent the remainder of my freshman year and the summer following working on establishing a high quality and stringently annotated transcriptome for a single reference organism of our fish. After working on my research for over a year it was finally ready to present, but the lab didn’t quite have the funds to send me to the conference.

Honors program to the rescue! I applied for and got the SURE Award which allowed me to fly to the American Physiological Society’s Grand Conference in Omics in San Diego to present my work, “Transcriptome profile of the gills of the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas),” over three days. While I was there I not only got the opportunity to share the work I had been doing, but I was also able to see what others were doing and what was considered at the forefront of physiological omics. Surprisingly enough, the keynote was working with other related fish doing much of the same type of research as I was. In fact, it convinced us to take the work we have been doing further to begin to look at the genetic changes which occur that allow the Fathead Minnow to acclimatize to a variety of different clines of environmental conditions.

It was a wonderful experience to be able to present among so many others at large conference and I am extremely thankful for the support of the UHP that made it possible for me to present there.