What Fish Do in Shadows?

Collective behavior and self-organization are very common in living systems and exhibited across many different scales including cells, colonies of insects, schools of fish, and crowds of people. These systems, while familiar, are not well understood. Collective systems contain a large number of interacting components that exhibit complex dynamics. In nature, individuals benefit from the advantages of group living. It is expected that group behavior in animals often arises from evolutionary necessity. However, not much is known about the mechanics of these systems in nature due to their complexity. How do groups of animals work together to navigate complex environments? How does information travel throughout a group? We use computers and schools of fish to gain a more in depth knowledge of how and why collective groups organize themselves in such interesting ways.

Collecting Quantitative Data (Julia Giannini ‘18, Aawaz Pokhrel ‘19, Nicole Linard ‘20)


To investigate how individual interactions give rise to collective states, we use the apparatus above to observe the response of experimental schools to visual stimuli. This summer, we worked with two different species of schooling fish: Rummy-nose Tetra (left) and Golden Shiners (right). Both of these fish exhibit negative phototaxia, that is, they avoid bright regions in their environment. Therefore, we can project light gradients onto the tank and examine how they respond to both social and environmental cues.  Using infrared lighting and high speed cameras, we record videos and use lots of machine vision techniques to extract individual trajectories. This information gives us insight into the state of the group over time and how it relates to individual movement. By using both Tetras and Shiners, we compare the behaviors of different species under the same stimuli.

Here is a video of Golden Shiners tracking a noisy dark blob – we compare experimental results such as these with those in simulations to test theoretical models for collective behavior.


Simulation of Collective Behavior (Aawaz Pokhrel ‘19)

So, how do fish find the darkest (safest) spot in their environment?  Can they see the gradient (slope) of light and follow it to the safest place?  Or do they use emergent sensing (group level sense)?  We explore the answer to this with both simulations and experiments.

In the simulation, we use the Couzin model which has three different zones which dictates the movement of the fish on basis of the positions of neighbour fish in these zones. These three zones are zones of repulsion, orientation and attraction. One of the assumption of that we have in this model simulation  is that fish are not able to sense the gradient or the change of light field in any direction.

Here is a short  video of our simulation fish trying to follow the dark spot.

We amend this model by adding in a gradient sensing term which competes with the social-only Couzin model.  By turning the “knob” of this weight (how well the fish can sense the gradient), we investigate how it affects the performance of the fish in finding the darkest spot.
We see that the more amount of information they have about the gradient, the less they are able to track the dark spot. Following graph shows that for a given number of fish, their ability to track the dark spot decreases Ψ as the amount of information about the gradient increases.


Use of neural network in Collective Behavior (Nicole Wang ‘19)

Another difficulty with understanding and predicting collective behavior is that the interactions are not known.  And of course, it’s not possible to ask the fish how they are interacting.  So we must build models and compare with experimental data.  However, each model we build has assumptions about how the fish are interacting.  A widely used model the Couzin model uses zones (repulsion, alignment, attraction) to predict the behavior of individuals.  We are using neural networks to train a computer to learn how the fish are interacting.


As shown in above figure, the neural network uses an input layer which in our case is the visual field of nearby fish.  This input layer is connected with several hidden layers and finally a single output neuron telling the fish which direction to turn.  In our neural network, we use both convolutional and fully connected layers, which of course means — lots of linear algebra.  We test this approach on a simulation of a fish school (using the Couzin model) so that we can directly compare the output generated by the Neural Network with the known model.  Finally, we apply the NN-approach to our experimental data.  We’re still working out some of the details, but the NN seems to be working very well !!!






Snail Lab ~Exposed~

Snail Lab Exposed

The Life and Times of the Snail Lab and its Friends

Follow @snails_and_friends on Instagram for daily updates on

your favorite invert lab!


A Day in the Life of the Infamous Snail Lab:

Every morning the Snail Lab comes in, iced coffee in hand, and filled with hope for today’s snail experiments- no matter how disheartening yesterday’s were… In an aquatic toxicology lab, one must be prepared for failure, or perhaps put more positively, for an experimental revision, on the daily.

The lab’s main focus is on the effects of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and industrial chemicals on freshwater and marine benthic invertebrate communities, particularly on the freshwater snails Physella gyrina, the marine mud snail, Ilyanassa obsoleta, tropical snail Nassarius vibex and several species of tadpole–including Wood Frogs and American Toads.


If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try and Try Again: Snail Assays

Beginning with a well-founded plan and literary references to boot, the Snail Lab came into the summer with dreams of interrupting a predator induced escape response with the tropical snails Nassarius vipex (prey) and Fasciolaria tulipa (predator) with SSRI type drugs. Nassarius has been recorded to produce a very distinctive flipping response in order to escape the predatory clutches of the Fasciolaria, unfortunately, the Snail Lab never saw it… Without an escape response to begin with, there was nothing to interrupt with the drugs- the experiment was a bust.

Without disappointment however, the snail lab pressed on, beginning a new assay involving a host of different freshwater snails and looking for the time the snails would reach the air-water interface (the point where water meets the air in any given body of water or lab controlled finger-bowl in this case). The snails were tested before and after treatment with Prozac, but to no avail. The drug did not seem to be having a true effect on this aspect of Snail Labs favorite critters.

Next up, the marine mud snail Ilyanassa obsoleta, freshly collected from the vibrant shores of Lewes, Delaware, were brought onto the scene. Testing for the time it took these snails to reach a deliciously aromatic muscle on the half-shell placed in a specifically designed contraption (see left), the Snail Lab hoped to be able to quantify the effect of antidepressants on the snails’ ability to locate food sources. But again, it was a no go.

Ever the optimists, the Snail Lab continued forward, redesigning the food-find experiment to involve a symmetrical, large finger bowl with a muscle delectably placed in the center and a host of tropical marine snails, Nassarius, as the stars of the moment. When drugged with Prozac at 10-6 concentration, there finally seemed to be some significant effects on the animals in question.


The Other Side of Snail Lab: Tadpoles!!

Despite common belief, the Snail Lab does not only work with snails – tadpoles are their friends too! This summer, the lab has supervised the growing of Wood Frogs and American Toads, tested their willingness to be startled, and measured their growth, all in the name of determining any potential effects of an anti-fouling chemical by the name of medetomidine.

This summer being the second round of experiments on Wood Frogs, and the Am

erican Toads being a welcome addition to past experiments, the Snail Lab gang has been having a hoppining’ time working with these critters. Being highly sensitive to chemical pollutants in their infantile stages, these tadpoles are the perfect model organisms for testing this newer, and potentially environmentally harmful chemical.  Continuing with a similar setup as last summer, there are over 300set up in individual bowls for this summer’s experiments! Over 300! The tadpoles are separated into different concentrations of medetomidine and for different durations of time to test how the chemical will affect their development!

The Snail Lab recorded the tadpoles’ growth weekly using a common marker of tadpole development known as Gosner Stages. These allow the lab to quantify the differences in growth between the various sub-groups with different medetomidine concentrations. After metamorphosis is reached, however, the game changes – the tadpoles are now froglets. The Snail Lab then has to weigh the froglets and subsequently anesthetize them before preserving them, a process the lab refers to as “processing”. Following their processing, the froglets are removed from their preserving fluid and placed in an oven to evaporate any excess fluid. The remaining skin, bones, and tissue are what the Snail Lab weighs to get a dry mass of each of the fully metamorphosed tadpoles.


The Many Faces of the Snail Lab:

Mar-gotta-go-run Hoaglund

The Snail Lab’s resident Health Science major, Margot is the first person to ask if you ever need a recap on your anatomy lessons or need someone to type your blood. Margot can be found running laps around the competition as she races ahead of the pack at her Cross Country and Track meets or sipping her $4 bottle of kombucha (check your coupons folks!) out on Muss Beach with an Adirondack chair and the wind blowing through her perfectly curled hair. Margot has brought her love of exercise, the heartiness of any true New Englander, and a passion for her coffee to be as cold and black as her heart is not. Known for her killer playlists (peep her on Spotify @margotxoxo) and 20 minute 5k, Margot’s talents as a student, runner, and up-and-coming festival DJ are all but limitless.


Emily “MVP” Kurtz

Despite being a cat person, Emily loves working with the snails, almost as much as the tadpoles she views as her very own after changing the water in their containers so many times. Emily is the Snail Lab’s resident STEM scholar and food connoisseur – talk about getting a girl that can do both. Ask her about any restaurant within a fifty-mile radius of her hometown of Taneytown, MD, and she’ll be able togive you her honest opinion (except if it’s seafood). A rising sophomore and Biology and Environmental Science double major, you’ll never find someone as enthusiastic as Emily when they find an animal on the side of the road, whether it be a turtle or a kitten. Take a gander at her Apple Music and you’ll find a mix of old and new, rap and country, with an emphasis on Luke Bryan. Catch Emily feeding the animals in the Bio lounge fish tank, sporting her brand new Birkenstocks and contemplating if she should take a well-deserved nap before her shift at The Carriage House. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out her     nature-inspired photography instagram @naturescopek. This girl truly does it all, folks.


Olivia “Livin the Dream” Lambert

After being a member of the Snail Lab for almost three years running, Olivia is an expert on all things invertebrate. She even knows how to fully disembowel a tadpole while keeping it alive! As a rising junior with a Biology and French double major, Olivia adds an exciting splash of culture to Professor Fong’s lab. She is truly an exemplary cross-disciplinary student. In her free time, Olivia likes to go online shopping for ankle length skirts that she will be able to wear in her upcoming study abroad trip to Senegal! However, at any given time, you can also find this trendy New Hampshire girl sampling the large selection of breakfast items at Ug Mug. If you ever need some singing lessons or even advice on managing seven different Instagram accounts at a time, Olivia is your girl. There is no doubt that Olivia’s well-rounded personality will help her thrive even after summer in the Snail Lab has concluded.

Dr. Peter Fong

A pioneer in aquatic toxicology and dog enthusiast, Dr. Fong and his trusty golden retriever sidekick, Messi, enjoy frequenting small local Mexican restaurants (shout out to Tanya’s), casting a line at his top-secret fishing hot-spots, and avoiding mowing the lawn. Check out his some of his most recent work here.




Sounds of the Snail Lab: A Story Through Song

(all songs are property of the artist- not the Snail Lab)

Historical Map Comparator

Hi everyone! My name is Jannie Liu and I’m a rising senior, major in Computer Science. This summer I’m working with Professor Kann and Patrick Fu’18 on a historical map comparator web application. Professor Kann from Computer Science department always fascinated in world’s historical map. He and several formal CS students have already came out with some interesting web applications for comparing historical maps to the up-to-date GIS map (e.g. Google map, but here we are using Openlayers, since it’s open source.) But of course, there is no perfect software in the world, there is always things can be improved. So this summer, me and Patrick are focusing on 1)A standard UI(user interface) for all Professor Kann’s previous and future web applications. 2)Add more functionality to this program.

A typical day in CS lab is very different from other natural science labs I guess. The most frequent sound would definitely be pressing the keyboard and clicking mouse. Programmers need be alone:) There was not a lot communication going on. We all have different tasks and our code is quite independent from each other. We talk to each other because there is a bug that we don’t know how to fix or we want the other person to play the user role, asking “Hey, do you think this function is necessary?”, or “Which is the most expectable way to navigate a website?” We uploads our updated code on daily basis to make sure everyone is working on the newest version. I am very grateful to work with professor Kann this summer. First of all, he is very easy-going person, taking us to his home for Korean BBQ. Also, he never forced us to do anything that we are not interested in. I want pursing a master degree in HCI(human computer interaction) or UI/UX design. But our CS department didn’t offer a lot relevant courses. Professor Kann gave me hundred percent of freedom to design a standard layout for his series of web application. Although it involves a lot of self-learning process, since he is not an expert on UI(user interface) either. I’m very passionate and motivated about my job because that’s the stuff that I’d love to do in my future. Patrick on the other hand, loves coding and problem solving. He would love to be a hardcore programmer in the future. So his mission is to add more functions to our application.

The most exciting part of our research is having a great opportunity collaborating with Professor Allison Feeney from geography department in Shippensburg University. She wanted a software that is able to compare ancient Bermuda map to current GIS map in order to see how coast lines have changed through time. Thus, we customized our application and added some functions that she might need. Now, our application allows her to compare a historical map to a GIS map, or two historical maps. She can change the opacity of each historical map, since maps overlay on each other. We also add a slider, so she can draw lines between two maps and we are able to calculate the angle, the distance, and each points’ longitude and latitude. Of course, she can delete any unwanted lines. After she finish draws those lines, we are able to provide a integrated table with all useful data on it. We also gave her the ability to export these data to a csv (comma separate value) file that can be opened with Excel for her further calculation. We may write a paper about this program with her and we will attend to Pennsylvania Geographic Society conference that is held in Shippensburg this year. I really love this kind of cross-discipline collaboration because it shows how computer science can help other fields to achieve more.

Both of us would love to continue working on this project next spring. At that time we will be more interested in creating a more ‘general’ web application called “mapping stories” allow user to upload any kind of image maps and able to add some markers in order to share some thoughts about the associated points. Our goal is to let user share their personal reviews/ stories about some places.

This is a great summer, although doing research is so much tougher than laying on sofa or playing games(what I used to do in summer…), I guess it’s fun and quite meaningful. Hope all of you enjoy the rest of summer!

Ice Ice Baby

Drumlin Roll Please…

Hi everyone! My name is Marion McKenzie, I’m a rising junior pursuing a double major in Environmental Studies and Mathematics, and I’ve had the privilege of studying in Professor Sarah Principato’s lab for the last 8 weeks.

This summer has turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime for both my lab mate, Brittany Bondi ’19, and me. After spending the last 7 weeks analyzing our study areas with a bird’s eye view, we were finally able to observe the topography of our summer work in person by flying to Iceland.

Although streamlined landforms can be found in many valleys across Iceland due to its very active glacial history, the valley of Bárđardalur, my specialized research area, has a very large number of these landforms: 159 to be exact (or so I thought).

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 2.53.08 PM.png

My project focuses specifically on drumlins, streamlined sediment deposits left behind by glaciers, and for me, that glacier is the one that covered all of Iceland during the Last Glacial Maximum. These landforms are extremely beneficial to study, not only because they indicate the orientation and velocity of ice flows, but because they also allow us to know where else the glacier has been based on the types of till found. The sediments are deposited while the glacier is still over the land, and as the ice moves, these sediments are elongated to create the shapes we study.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 1.39.08 PMScreen Shot 2017-07-11 at 1.38.49 PM.png


Using Google Earth, I found landforms like the ones to the left and traced them using the polygon tool (shown to the right).


I then imported these shapes into ArcGIS and added long axes and short axes. These parameters were then used to analyze elongation ratios, density, packing, orientation, and a parallel conformity within the drumlin field.

The Tuesday of our stay in Iceland, we travelled to Bárđardalur to ground truth my findings and gather outcrop samples from some of my larger drumlins (also called mega-scale glacial lineations, or MSGL). We also anticipated the possibility of measuring the height, length, and width of the landforms using tape measures and altimeters, as well as leaving GPS place marks and recording latitude and longitude coordinates.

On the way to the site, we saw some of the landforms I had included in my landform data set. Without even leaving the car, we determined that many of the ones north of the main drumlin field were actually composed of bedrock and not sediment as we had originally thought. This discovery allowed me to adjust my data to become more accurate once we returned to Gettysburg.

After precariously parking the car on the side of a desolate gravel road, we began the long 2km hike up to the top of the MSGL visible from the road. The terrain was rocky at first and quickly became heavily vegetated as we reached a small stream.


After finding a way to cross the stream and climb our way through some thick moss, we reached the start of the rocky MSGL formation. While looking for striated rocks and boulders along the way, we conquered the many false peaks and finally reached the flat top of the land formation to see the drumlin valley below us.



Spending countless hours imagining what the view was going to look like still hadn’t prepared me for the sheer vastness of it all. Although I could only see two or three drumlins and a glimmer of the lake I’d used as a reference point, it was such a surreal experience to feel so small next to something I had been analyzing from a distance for so long.

The rest of our week was filled with completing the ring road around Iceland and learning all about the geologic history of the beautiful landforms we saw. This trip was absolutely incredible, and I look forward to the next opportunity I will have to return to Iceland to answer even more questions we formulated about landforms present there.

Cirque and Ye Shall Find

Hello, my name is Brittany Bondi and this summer I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Sarah Principato on a project involving a type of glacial landform called cirques. I focused specifically on a peninsula in northern Iceland, Flateyjarskagi, known for its high mountains and intertwining valleys. 


A 20-meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of Iceland with Flateyjarskagi highlighted in red.

Cirques are amphitheater or bowl-shaped depressions in the earth typically found in high-elevation areas. They are formed when glaciers occupy and erode small hollows, slowly making them deeper and more bowl-shaped. Glaciers are constantly moving through a process, called rotational flow, that is vital to cirque development. As snow accumulates on a glacier, the snow is pressed and becomes glacial ice. Because of its increased density, it slowly transitions to the bottom of the cirque. The ice in the glacier as a whole moves through this process.

Cirques are defined by three characteristics: their headwall, toewall, and cirque floor. The headwall is the steepest and typically highest point of the cirque, while the toewall is the steepest point at the end of the cirque. The cirque floor is the flattest area and is usually located in the middle of the cirque. Using these three characteristics, one of my main goals was to determine the paleo-ELAs of my cirques. The equilibrium line altitude (ELA) is the approximate place where ablation (area where the glacier is melting) meets accumulation (area where the glacier is growing). To define this, I used three methods: the cirque floor method, toewall-to-headwall altitude ratio (THAR), and minimum point technique. 


A profile graph of a cirque, showing the headwall, cirque floor, and toewall.

For my project, I utilized a combination of Google Earth and ArcGIS to map and analyze glacier-free cirques. After using Google Earth to map the locations of cirques, I used the 20m Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for the analysis within ArcGIS. A digital elevation model is a type of map that allows one to extract elevation data of a given area. I had to ignore glacier-occupied cirques because ArcGIS is unable to look at the bedrock below the glacier. If I were to extract the elevation of the cirque-floor of a glacier-occupied cirque, for example, I would merely get the elevation of the glacier, not the cirque formation itself.  After drawing three profile lines on each cirque, I identified their headwall, toewall, and cirque floor. For the cirque floor method, the paleo-ELA is assumed to be equal to the cirque floor. For the THAR method, I used the headwall and toewall to calculate an approximate paleo-ELA. Finally, I also drew polygons around each cirque, which allowed me to extract the “minimum point” in each cirque, a.k.a. the cirque floor/ paleo-ELA.  


Three profile lines on a cirque. The red dot represents the headwall, blue the cirque floor, and red the toewall.

After looking at other factors, such as aspect (or direction), distance to coastline, and length and width, I will statistically analyze these factors to determine what may play a role in why the cirques formed where they did. It will be interesting to compare these results to previous studies about other cirque-regions in Iceland (including those done by Gettysburg alumni!) and throughout the world. 

On July 1st, my lab partner, Marion, and I joined Dr. Principato in a week-long excursion to Iceland to ground truth some of our data. Although we could not visit any of my cirques due to their extreme elevations and steep topography, while on the boat to Grimsey, the island 40 km north of the mainland, we had magnificent views of my region. It was breathtaking to see the area I had been studying for the past 6 weeks! It was equally as inspiring to see the many other landforms/marks made by glaciers both past and present throughout the country that have yet to be studied.


On a boat to Grimsey, passing some of the cirques I studied!


The two of us with our professor, Sarah Principato! We’d like to give a big thank you to the Gettysburg X-SIG program for this opportunity, and to Sarah for all of her hard work and guidance this summer. Thanks for reading, everyone!

Explicit Moving Particle Simulation Algorithm for Free Surface Flow Analysis

My name is Yuki Sugiyama and I work with Professor Sato and our research focuses on the explicit algorithm to analyze incompressible fluid flow with free surface. This research is a continuation of a research conducted at University of Tokyo in Japan. I mainly work to take the simulation code that they have written and modify it in different ways. One aspect I am working on is to rewrite the code in parallel programming so that the code runs across multiples GPUs, making the code more efficient. Unlike majority of the students who work in the lab to perform experiments, my research is mainly performed on the computer. As such, my average work day is work on my computer for couple hours, meet with the professor for an hour to discuss the progress of the research, and work on my computer for couple more hours to round out the day.  This schedule is has its pros and cons such that the free schedule allows me to work on the research at my convenience but on the flip side, the free schedule makes it easy to procrastinate and stay on task. The first week was especially difficult as I did not have a routine to follow so I often worked late at night. Summer at Gettysburg is much more quiet than the normal school year for obvious reasons, but there are a lot of construction happening which ruins the quiet environment. There are many hosted events that still make the campus enjoyable and, honestly, I enjoy summer at Gettysburg more than I enjoy the normal school year as I enjoy my personal space. Another difference that I was surprised about was the weather at Gettysburg. Growing up in California, I am used to a dry atmosphere a little bit of shade and water can make a high 90s temperature bearable. On the other hand, the summer at Gettysburg is ridiculously humid and temperature in the mid 70s can make sweat trickle down my body. Overall, I am enjoying my time here at Gettysburg College over the summer as it is giving me a new experience in terms of weather condition and research opportunity.

Vibronic excitons in the FMO Complex

Hey! If you are reading this you probably know that I have spent part of my summer at Gettysburg College doing Summer Research, so let me introduce myself and talk about my research here and how I’m spending my summer.

My name is Adrián Navarro, and I am a rising senior (class of 2018) doing a theoretical quantum research on biophysics with Dr. Yoshihiro Sato.

We are examining the energy transfer that occurs when the Fenna-Matthews-Olson Complex (from now on FMO complex) gets excited using a light source. Why the FMO complex? In 2007, a paper by Dr. Gregory Engel and coauthors showed “Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems” (that is actually the name of the paper), being FMO the system mentioned. An electronic treatment is given to obtain the theoretical values.  There have been some studies in the past to determine some necessary constants for the simulation of this process. Using these, Dr. Sato and I will be performing a quantum simulation using both an electronic treatment and a vibronic one, including different vibration modes for the nuclei, trying to understand in both cases the half-time of the quantum coherence that we may be observing.

In order to perform this simulation, we need first a complete model of the quantum behavior of the FMO system and then write down the code for the simulation. In 2014, Dr. Sato and Brian Doolittle published a paper about a similar simulation on a dimer of the FMO complex (instead of the complete 8-site). This 8 weeks will serve us to first extend the theoretical calculations to polymer consisting of any number of heterogenic monomers, then to create new algorithms in Python that would work for any complex given the appropiate data and finally to perform the required simulations.

That’s the basis of what my research is about. But what does that mean on a day-to-day basis? My daily life is not really similar to most of the other students on the X-Sig programs. I hear from most of my frients that they are with their professors in the lab most of their time. In my case, Dr. Sato and I meet for less than 2 hours a day. We both work by ourselves in the morning, meet after lunch and then keep working individually. That is what I like the most about this research project: I can even work from my bed! I don’t need a specific place where to put all my notes and think, think again, and keep thinking until I come up with a new algorithm that works.

In addition to that, this summer has proven to be really successful in some other aspects as well: it may be just me, or not, but mental exercise makes me really hungry so I finally learned how to cook some really basic recipes. Also I started climbing at the climbing wall Gettysburg has at the gym, and me and my roommate got certified to belay other people as well so we could go climb together (belaying each other) when the workers were not there.

Thus, this summer I am working on a research that I’m passionate about, I made new friends with my fellow coworkers, learned how to cook and discovered how much I like climbing. Definitely a productive time at Gettysburg!

There and back again with the worm lab

All animals come in contact with and must survive a variety of stresses every day, from environmental conditions such as temperature or resource availability to encounters with pathogens. In the Powell lab, we examine how the (best) model organism C. elegans, affectionately known as the worm, responds to such stresses. You might be wondering what a worm, composed of a mere 959 somatic cells can tell us about other organisms, especially ourselves. In fact, there are a lot of conserved/homologous genes shared between worms and humans, so meet your 1 mm long, hermaphroditic, bacteriavoric, invertebrate relative.


This summer, Zoe Yeoh ’18 and San Luc ’20 are continuing to examine the worm innate immune response, the worm’s defense to pathogenic infection. Using a variety of different genetic tools, they are attempting to determine how different immune pathways interact to recognize and respond to infection effectively in order for the worm to survive. In particular, they are working on a facet of the innate immune system called the oxidative stress response, a system that responds to the reactive oxygen species produced by pathogenic bacteria in order to harm the host.  Meanwhile, Leah Gulyas ’19 looks at how worms respond to thermal stress, specifically acute cold shock, in which worms are plunged from a comfortable 20°C to the slightly less accommodating temperature of 2°C.

Meet the members of our lab and hear a bit about what we’ve been up to this summer!


Our fearless leader (Dr. Powell)

DSCN1769 redone 2

Hard on the grant-writing trail.


Zoe Yeoh ’18


I work on the relationship between a gene called skn-1, a master regulator of the oxidative stress response, and fshr-1 which is known to play an important role in the innate immune system. I am looking for possible interactions between these two proteins to better characterize how worms and other organisms respond to oxidative stress.

San Luc ’20


I am working with a gene called bli-3, which codes for the production of reactive oxygen species- an important mechanism in the worm innate immune system. My research looks at how this gene acts as part of the defense system, and how it interacts with the G-protein coupled receptor fshr-1, also crucial for the innate immune system.

Leah Gulyas ’19


Worms that are exposed to extremely cold temperatures undergo a set of predictable phenotypic changes that seem to have evolved as progeny investment technique. I am currently examining how vitellogenins, a class of proteins that are involved in lipid transport between the intestine and the germline, may be involved in this phenomenon, as well as how neuronal sensation and canonical stress response genes may also play a role in determining cold stress survival.


There and back again, a worm geneticist’s tale

We recently had the opportunity to attend the 2017 International C. elegans conference held in UCLA, with thousands of worm geneticists. San stayed back to keep the lab going, and while our lab was divided, we all kept extremely busy, having a productive week.

In California…

After a long and informative day of workshops and research presentations, we finished the day with a bout of bear wrangling (not Beorn).



Back in Gettysburg…

San cares for her worms.

In California…

We present our posters at one of the three poster session at the conference, and get to exchange experimental ideas and speak with scientists from all over the world.


Back in Gettysburg

San harvests her worms.


In California…

In a little bit of spare time, we make a pilgrimage to one of the greatest art museums in the world, the Getty, a mecca of history and culture.


Back in Gettysburg…

San feeds her worms.

sad san 3


In California…

We attend a scientist dance party.


Back in Gettysburg

After a long day’s work, San finally gets to take a nap in the peace and quiet of lab.

happy san