Ethereal Expression

My image, Ethereal Expression, was included as a semi-finalist in the University of Illinois Image of Research (2017). The entries represented a diverse set of fields including Math (honorable mention) and Library and Information Science (winner). Its wonderful to see the variety of research here at the university!

Two stickleback eggs - the left egg is transgenic and glows red under UV light while its sibling is unaffected.

Two sibling fish eggs sit next to each other, preparing to hatch in the coming days. Immediately after fertilization, the left egg was genetically modified so its cells would fluoresce red when they use a particular gene. All of the cells in this embryo are using that gene, but once the fish matures, only a few select cells will. By using this technique, I can track when and where genes are active without harming the fish. Since I study behavior, social interaction, and aggression, this is especially valuable – I can examine whether a specific gene is active when the fish decides to do a behavior I’m interested in, and I get to measure that same individual repeatedly. Importantly, the fluorescence only happens when the fish are illuminated by a special lamp, so there’s no concern that it’s stressful, nor that it has any effect on their social interactions in a naturally-lit environment.

This image was taken while I was learning how to do CRISPR knockdown in Craig Miller’s lab at UC Berkley. A huge thank you to Priscilla Erickson and Nicholas Ellis for teaching me their technique.

See all the images on instagram.