Bio 371-374 Independent Research
Bio 379 Thesis Research

Hales Lab, Davidson College

Research focus

In the Hales lab we perform genetic analysis with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to explore the molecular mechanisms by which mitochondria are moved and shaped in cells. Mitochondria are the organelles often referred to as the "powerhouses of the cell," since they are the sites where energy from food is stored in ATP. In many cell types with unusual energy needs, mitochondria move (in a regulated way) to be close to energy-requiring structures such as flagella or ion pumps. In addition, mitochondria often undergo regulated fusion and division, sometimes existing as a single large network in the cell, and sometimes as many individual units. We speculate that such changes may contribute to the efficiency of ATP generation in certain contexts. In Drosophila melanogaster (as in most other higher organisms), mitochondria undergo a dramatic series of shape changes during spermatogenesis. Through the identification of male-sterile mutants with alterations in mitochondrial morphogenesis, we can isolate and characterize genes whose protein products function in this process. Make an appointment to talk with Dr. Hales if you are a Davidson student interested in pursuing a project and would like to learn more. The formal application process to initiate Biology independent research in a professor's group is through Handshake. 

Information/requirements for students enrolled in Independent Research for credit during the academic year:
(Thesis students have additional expectations)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the research experience you will be able to do the following: 

• Design and carry out experiments to explore the molecular basis of mitochondrial movement and shaping in developing fruit fly sperm cells. 
• Follow up on past work by proposing new experiments and troubleshooting techniques.
• Perform basic techniques of fly husbandry, microscopy, and/or recombinant DNA technology.
• Deliver clear and coherent verbal and written presentations of your project.
• Find, dissect, and analyze relevant papers from the research literature.


There are no official textbooks. I will initially provide a background reading list of articles and excerpts from books that are in the lab. Throughout the semester you will read journal articles that we will analyze together during our weekly meetings. You will perform literature searches and collaborate on paper selection in preparation for these journal club-style discussions.


--A two page project proposal at the beginning of the semester.     
--Attendance at weekly lab meetings.     
--At least ten hours a week of research time in the lab. The ten hours do not include time in lab meeting or time filling out your time sheet.
--Formal presentation of your results (with powerpoint) every 2-4 weeks during lab meeting.     
--Weekly submission of a progress summary indicating daily activities, achievements, troubleshooting, and goals.
--Frequent one-on-one informal conversations with me as needed.     
--Literature searches and background paper reading as applicable to your project.     
--Poster creation and subsequent presentation at the Verna Miller Case Research and Creative Works Symposium.
--A write-up detailing your methods and results.

Grade basis

Your grade mainly depends on your effort, persistence, engagement, and development as a scientist. Your grade has little to do with whether your experiments "work," as long as you are carrying them out with focus and care, and as long as you respond to unexpected outcomes with an analytical mind. Science is unpredictable and protocols can be finicky, so your grade can't depend on things out of your control. The specific grade breakdown is as follow: Proposal 5%; Overall effort, analysis of results, and designing new experiments 45%; Data presentations 15%; Journal article analysis 15%; Poster 10%; Final methods and results writeup 10%.