Studying Slime Mold Yields Insight into Cellular Behavior
August 19, 2010
It may sound like something out of a Far Side cartoon, but it’s serious science. Amherst College biology professor David Ratner and several of his students have spent this summer examining how Dictyostelium discoideum—a cellular slime mold—behaves. The bigger goal is to explore the research frontiers of gene expression and protein degradation. It all adds up to an intense summer research experience for students and professor alike, as well as insights into how the degradation of proteins influences the division of all cells, whether normal and healthy or mutated and malfunctioning.
In this video, Ratner, along with students Benjamin Garmezy ’11 and Elizabeth “Molly” Scott ’13, discuss their research, the altruistic qualities of the slime mold and the considerable advantages of studying science at a liberal arts college such as Amherst.
“In the Lab: Tracking Air Pollution in the Pioneer Valley”—Karena McKinney, two faculty colleagues and several undergraduate researchers set out this past summer to learn how a nearby coal-fired power plant is affecting mercury levels in the environment.
“In the Lab: Fighting Obesity by Studying the Brain”—Obesity is an epidemic that ravages individuals and weighs upon society as well. At Amherst College, John-Paul Baird, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, has spent the last year eight years exploring neural networks and brain chemicals that impact eating behavior.