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Biology
2021 Project Proposal

Studying chromosome evolution in Drosophila using comparative genomics

Project Type – A - Remote-only:  Student participants will not live on campus.

One of the unusual features of eukaryotic genomes is the discordance between genome size and the complexity of the organism. The smallest chromosome in Drosophila melanogaster is chromosome 4 (also known as the Muller F element), with an estimated size of ~5.2 Mb.  While the F element has maintained a similar size in many other Drosophila species, it is substantially larger in at least four Drosophila species (i.e., D. ananassae, D. bipectinata, D. kikkawai, and D. takahashii). For example, the D. ananassae Muller F element is more than 18.7 Mb in size. The goal of this study is to examine the factors (e.g., transposon density) that have contributed to the expansion of the F element in these four Drosophila species, and assess the impact of this expansion on gene characteristics (e.g., codon bias, intron size).  This is a collaborative project with the Genomics Education Partnership, involving hundreds of undergraduate students from around the country, to produce coding region and transcription start site annotations for F element genes in D. ananassae, D. bipectinata, D. kikkawai, and D. takahashii, as well as for genes in a euchromatic reference region derived from the Muller D element.  Comparative analyses using these datasets will provide insights into the evolutionary impacts of changes in chromosome and gene size. 

Prerequisites: BIOL 108

How should students express interest in this project?  Students do not need to contact me before or after applying.  After reviewing all the applications from students who have expressed an interest in my project, I will reach out to the subset of applicants who I am interested in interviewing.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31