Emma Jensen

I come from the beautiful city of San Diego, where I have three brothers and a very old dog. I’ve always loved being outside in nature, whether I’m swimming out deep in the ocean, exploring beaches and caves, or hiking through the wilderness. I moved to the bay in 2012 to attend UC Berkeley and study Molecular and Cell Biology.

I began working in the Patel lab in August of 2013. I believe that biological research is of the utmost importance and I’m thrilled to be even a small part of it. My research focuses on developmental genetics and macroevolution. In the Patel lab, I work with Heather Bruce on Drosophila melanogaster. Our project focuses on how Hox protein evolution relates to morphological change.

Insects do not have limbs on their abdomens while crustaceans do. Posterior Hox genes like Ubx have been shown to repress abdominal limb development in insects but not in Crustaceans. Therefore changes in Ubx have been suggested as the cause of the morphological change. However, there are two alternative hypotheses for the changes in morphology. Either there could have been a mutation in the Ubx protein sequence, or there could have been another mutation somewhere else, such as in genes downstream of Ubx or potentially in a Ubx cofactor.

If there was a mutation in the Ubx protein sequence, then Parhyale Ubx without the mutation inserted into Drosophila would result in leg growth on the abdomen. Since the Drosophila would have mutation free Ubx, their abdominal limbs would no longer be suppressed. But if Parhyale Ubx in Drosophila still resulted in abdominal limb suppression, a Ubx protein mutation would not be the cause of the changes in morphology. In this case, genes downstream from Ubx or Ubx cofactors could be the cause of the morphological changes. Our project hopes to uncover which of these two alternative hypotheses are true and what causes the abdominal leg suppression in Drosophila.

I love working on this project and spending time doing research in the lab everyday. Being a researcher in the Patel lab is an amazing experience where I have the opportunity to work with some of the greatest and brightest individuals in Berkeley. Through doing research in the Patel lab I hope to provide a unique contribution towards the field of Molecular Biology. After I finish college, I hope to work in the field of biotechnology.

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