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When flies played football !

Deepti Trivedi

Deepti saw little fruit flies buzzing around in their little bottles during her post graduation, and followed them for doctoral and post doctoral work. She joined the Fly Facility at National Centre of Biological Sciences as a technology scientist. Her current interest is to develop fly genetics and molecular biology methods. Inspired by the following initiative, she hopes to engage more with students and teachers in the years to come. Write to her at fly[at]ncbs[dot]res[dot]in

Deepti With Students And Teachers
Deepti With Students And Teachers 

With technology at fingertips there is enough information available to students, in every field imaginable. The need of the hour, however, is to develop critical thinking that can scrutinise regularly fed incorrect or partially correct information. A teacher’s task thus expands from just imparting information-based knowledge to developing skills. One way to achieve that is to involve students in scientific experiments – a way to unbiased, critical thinking based on a set of observations. 

We at the Fly Facility, National Centre of Biological Sciences in collaboration with Mount Carmel college organized a two day faculty training program on March 1st and 2nd, 2018. The idea was to devise simple, curiosity-based experiments for college students. Our ulterior motive was to guide them in the scientific concepts of reproducibility, statistics, controls, and unbiased methodology! Faculty from the department of zoology, botany, chemistry, physics, electronics and mathematics were included. The title of our interdisciplinary initiative was — Drosophila, a teaching tool to understand the fundamental concepts of biology.”

On the first day at Mount Carmel College we had interactive presentations from myself (Deepti Trivedi, Drosophila Technology Scientist, Fly Facility) and Aman Aggarwal (graduate student in Prof. VijayRaghavan’s lab, NCBS). It was followed by a brief introduction highlighting the simplicity of Drosophila melanogaster as a tool for understanding the fundamental principles of biology. We also visited the various departments of Mount Carmel to look at the experimental possibilities using existing resources.

On the second day, sixteen faculty and six students joined us at NCBS. They were introduced to Drosophila, its genetics and modern tools and assays used to understand complex biological phenomena (neurobiology, development, and disease). Students and teachers dug into the climbing, crawling and flight assays — they were mesmerized by flies playing football! All of them caught on to the hands-on experiments and were eager to introduce flies into their curriculum. Prof. VijayRaghavan (Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India) shared some of his insights regarding public science outreach and initiatives at the college level during one of the sessions.

The fly and the football experiment:

The fly tries to hold onto and move on the surface. Here the wings of the fly are stuck to the slide and its legs are in the air. When introduced, it quickly latches onto the styrofoam bead and tries to walk on it. However, since the fly itself is stationary, the bead moves. A simple assay like this can used to study the brain and muscle of the flies.

This was our first such initiative and we mutually benefitted during the process. We learnt that simple experiments (without the requirement of a fancy equipment) can be used by college and school students to learn about biological phenomena. We also realised that experimentation strengthens the abilities of scientific rigour, critical thinking, observation and hypothesis building. 

We regularly train young scientists starting into research. However, we strongly feel that developing the interest of public and young minds to scientific methods is fruitful for raising future citizens. We invite teachers of high schools and colleges to approach us for workshop and/​or demonstrations. Please contact us at fly@​ncbs.​res.​in.

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