Graduate Student, The Larracuente Lab
You work in a laboratory. What are you currently researching?
I study meiotic drivers -- selfish genetic elements that are able to unfairly bias inheritance so that they are inherited far more often than they should be, and spread through populations. My research focusses on investigating which factors allow a meiotic driver to spread through a population, or how populations are able to stop selfish drivers from spreading. I specifically study the Segregation Distorter meiotic drive system in Drosophila melanogaster, using genetic engineering and large-scale fly experiments to investigate what stops populations from evolving immunity to the selfish Segregation Distorter.
What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?
I got into meiotic drive research because of my interest in synthetic drive: artificially created meiotic drive systems that are capable of spreading beneficial genes like malaria immunity through wild populations of disease-spreading insects like mosquitoes.
What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?
The best part of my U of R experience so far has been how much the University genuinely cares about the students. U of R has tons of fantastic resources available for students, and it really shows how much the faculty and professors care about creating the best possible environment to study and research in.
What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?
I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far is how to be flexible and adaptive in research. Things don’t always go exactly according to plan, but running into roadblocks is a great opportunity to learn what techniques or strategies work and which ones don’t, and helps you plan better and better experiments after each change of plans. Since the department has so many experts in different kinds of research, it's always possible to learn some new technique or some new way to approach a problem, which gives students here a really deep toolbox of different ways to approach research.
How do you think our biology department stands out in comparison to other universities?
The bio department here has an incredibly diverse set of research specialties and methods, which gives students a fantastic opportunity to learn many different approaches to research and pick up a wide range of skills across molecular biology, evolutionary biology, genetics, genomics, ecology, computational biology and more.