In the 2018 spring semester, I took a class called Zebrafish Lab with Dr. Gwendolyn Lewis. In this class, we were split into groups and told to choose a chemical to treat zebrafish embryos with. Out of all the available chemicals, my group and I decided on BPA. We chose this chemical because it is used in the creation of plastics, which is accumulating in the oceans, and reportedly, people. After a semester of testing, we found BPA had negative effects on heart rate, body shape, pigmentation, axon formation, and Schwann cell formation. Because I enjoyed the class so much, I asked Dr. Lewis if I could continue the project into the coming year, so she suggested I sign up for OSCAR.
In this new iteration of the experiment, I am mainly looking for differences in peripheral axon development in zebrafish embryos after treating them with BPA. A tentative schedule is as follows: On Monday, I set up breeding cages for the zebrafiStSsh. On Tuesday, I collect the embryos that settle at the bottom of the cages and then mix three different concentrations of BPA in the water of the embryos. On Wednesday, if I choose to take body shape, pigmentation, or tail coiling measures, I remove the embryos from their eggs and do any or all the above analyses. If I instead choose to image the peripheral axons, I treat the zebrafish embryos with PTU, which prevents formation of pigment cells so I can get a clearer image. On Thursday, I would report my weekly findings to Dr. Lewis. On Friday, I would take care of the fish tanks and then image the zebrafish embryos, targeting the area where the peripheral axons exit the spinal cord. So far, it seems that fish treated with higher dosages of BPA had higher rates of ectopic (growing where they shouldn’t be) axons.
Overall, the OSCAR program has been a unique and engaging experience that will translate to my current goal, which is to become involved in clinical research. One of the most exciting experiences was being able to go to the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research as part of the OSCAR program, where we had an opportunity to share our research and learn about the huge breadth of other topics being researched by other students all over the country.