Fourth Place - Justin Cassidy


Graduate Student, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Inside each living cell is an organism's complete set of genetic information, or DNA. Segments of DNA, known as genes, are activated or deactivated depending on the cell type (heart cell vs. fat cell) and the organism's ever-changing external environment. This process is called gene expression, and it’s controlled by a complex network of signals. Using fruit flies, Cassidy, a graduate student in Dr. Richard Carthew's laboratory, is studying how a set of genes known as microRNAs help control gene expression by deactivating genes when necessary. This image depicts a properly developed fruit fly retina. Each honeycomb-like structure, outlined in red, represents a collection of several cells. The bluish-green areas denote where one of these genes, microRNA-7, is present. The fruit fly retina presents an easy way to observe malfunctioning regulatory networks, as one error in development would disrupt the otherwise perfectly patterned structure.