What Does it Mean to be a Scientist?

Much of the information and activities on this website were made possible by research in the Sekelsky Laboratory (2012 members shown at left). Before you learn anything about their research, you need to know that being a scientist (especially in the Sekelsky lab) can be awesome! Not all scientists wear lab coats and goggles to work everyday! And although their work is time-consuming and challenging, it's can also be really cool to discover new things about the world

So What Does a Real Research Laboratory Study?

The Sekelsky Lab uses fruit flies as a model organism to study recombination. But what does that mean? Well, DNA is the material that encodes all of our genetic information (like what color eyes you have). Unfortunately, sometimes DNA can be damanged and break! This can be caused by things like UV rays from the sun, or it can happen naturally in our bodies. Luckily for us, our cells have ways of repairing this damage. Some of these ways of fixing or repairing DNA involve recombination. Recombination is, essentially, an exchange of DNA. To use recombination in repair, a segment of DNA from a normal strand will replace (or be exchanged for) damaged DNA on another strand.

Why Should I Care?

The research done by the Sekelsky lab plays important roles in our understanding of cancer and disease. We know that UV rays, like those from tanning beds, can cause cancer. This is because the rays cause DNA damage and breaks. Since the Sekelsky lab studies pathways of repairing this damage, their research is linked closely with cancer research (and that of other diseases). For example, one of the diseases they study is Bloom's Syndrome. People with this disease are at high risk for all types of cancers, because their DNA is unstable (it breaks easily). By studying flies with Bloom's syndrome, members of the lab are able to better understand what is going wrong with DNA repair in these flies and how normal repair is supposed to work. Eric Stoffregen (shown at left) in the Sekelsky lab, who is an HHMI-FT mentor and SPIRE fellow, works closely with this disease.

Check out the Sekelsky lab page for even more information about their research!