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Physics and Astronomy
Completed Project

Dynamic Diffraction Analysis of C. elegans

Physics and Astronomy, and Biology
Clara Alivisatos ’17, Miranda Hulsey-Vincent ’19, Jenny Magnes (Physics), and Kathleen Susman (Biology)

Understanding the motion of living organisms can serve as a gateway to understanding an organism’s behavior. Caenorhabditis elegans are model organisms for studying simplified nervous and musculoskeletal systems. This organism shares many cellular characteristics with humans and other more developed organisms, making these nematodes ideal study subjects in a variety of fields. One field of research aims to study the interaction between environmental stimuli and muscle movement to better understand how motion is effected in advanced organisms. However, current methods of motion analysis require time-consuming steps such as recording and processing video images to effectively trace two-dimensional motion. We are developing a method using light diffraction that will allow for time efficient three-dimensional tracking. Using a Helium Neon laser, optical set up, Picoscope digital oscilloscope, and frequency analyzer, we investigated the frequency of C. elegans’ swimming motions using laser light diffraction and observed the resultant diffraction patterns.

Our optical setup allowed for the time-varying diffraction patterns of a swimming worm to be observed on an amplified photodiode sensor. This signal was analyzed using the Picoscope. We collected voltage versus time graphs that in real-time reveal the dynamics of the worm’s movement, especially the frequency of the motion. Specifically, we observed the thrashing frequency of OH7543 “rollers” C. elegans. This laser diffraction technique is different from other methods available to researchers who analyze microorganism motion. Further development of the technique would be beneficial for future research of worm motion and allow for a new type nematode identification process.