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Summer Internships: Emma Schechter '23

July 20, 2022
Emma Schechter Lab

Name: Emma Schechter
Class Year: 2023
Major: Linguistics and Neuroscience
Hometown: Princeton, NJ

Internship Organization: The Sehgal Laboratory at the Smilow Center for Translational Research of UPenn
Job Title: Intern
Location: Philadelphia, PA

What’s happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

Currently, I am helping Cynthia Hsu conduct experiments and learn more about a sexual dimorphism in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) with gene-knockdowns that affect the sleep/circadian rhythms of the flies. Utilizing different crosses of flies, which I create and take care of, we examine sleep anticipation and latency in flies with different glia knockdowns in order to determine which glia in which subset of neurons in the Dorsal Fan-shaped Body causes this difference in sleep between female and male flies. Occasionally, to ensure that our flies have the correct genetic material, I will perform a PCR test on the fly’s wings and use the ones with the most RNAi to cross more flies. Sleep experiments for flies are all done in monitors that have beams to track how often a fly moves past the beam in its tube, all in an incubator and hooked up to a computer to collect the data. I have also been creating graphs to analyze the data and visually compare the sleep and activity of the flies given which software the data is put through. 

What I see in the microscope on the daily- the pale plump fly in the center is a female virgin (extremely important to making crosses), and the fly below it and to the right is a virgin male (less important, but cool to see)

Why did you apply for this internship?

I was interested in working with Cynthia Hsu, mostly to gain experience and knowledge of an overall lab environment. However, I have been rewarded with much more than just an understanding of lab dynamics; I have gained many friendships in the lab and have seen firsthand how interconnected and supportive the coworkers at a lab can be. The lab is very lively, and it seems that anywhere I go in Philadelphia I meet people that work in the Smilow building!

Was there anything special about how you found this internship?

Yes, I was graciously offered the opportunity to learn more about neurogenetics and Drosophila melanogaster toward the completion of a Drosophila Neuroscience Lab course taught by Cynthia Hsu during my Spring semester of 2022. In fact, the experiments I’m setting up are given by a pattern in sleep a fellow student in the course (Faye) observed in Repo-Gal4 RNAi flies. I was explaining my worries to her of not finding an internship for the summer, and she kindly gave me this wonderful chance to learn MUCH more about the research she conducts on a daily basis. Therefore, I was thankfully already comfortable around the flies and knew some basics when I entered the lab, all I had to do was make some human friends!

What has been your favorite part of this internship? 

My favorite part of the internship is the sense of community that Amita Sehgal’s lab has. Everyone is very caring toward one another – anytime it is someone’s birthday, someone else in the lab is sure to get sweets/treats for everyone else to celebrate, and almost every other weekend someone is planning an outing for anyone interested! After just my first week at the lab, I had an incredible time with several lab-mates skydiving in New Jersey after my first full week in Philly.

Emma Schechter Skydiving
From left to right is Mariela, Yongjun, one of Yongjun’s friends, myself, and Sara – all except Yongjun’s friend work in the Sehgal lab.

Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.