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Professor Shingleton wins $400K NSF grant

Omid Saleh Ziabari ’15 was fully immersed in biology research this summer thanks to a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant won by his former advisor.

Associate Professor of Biology Alexander Shingleton was awarded the grant to study phenotypic plasticity in Drosophila, aka the common fruit fly. Phenotypic plasticity is the phenomenon where changes in environment—including nutrition, temperature, and oxygen level—affect morphology, physiology, or behavior.

To look at specific changes across genomes, Ziabari reached out to the international fruit-fly community to locate different twins groups to speed up the research. “We have different individual mutants from labs in Spain, Canada, and the U.S.,” said Ziabari, who hopes to go to graduate school and, eventually, earn a PhD so that he can focus his career on medical research.

This opportunity to continue the research project he worked on as an undergrad will help Ziabari stand out on graduate school applications, Shingleton said. Working alongside Ziabari, Pegah Nabili ’18 sorts fruit flies to run a gene expression analysis—“a technique we’re trying to develop better in our lab,” Shingleton said. Nabili chose Lake Forest College specifically for the opportunity to do research as an undergraduate. Like Ziabari, she hopes to go to graduate school and eventually earn her PhD.

“In trying to maneuver the research on our own and in having to be independent, to learn how to troubleshoot, how to think about the problems you encounter, and what direction you want to go—there’s a lot of room for us to be able to explore what we’re interested in,” she said.