Yeipyeng Kwa '23 Presents at Biology Conference

March 22, 2023
Yeipyeng C Kwa '23 in the Davis Lab

Biology major Yeipyeng Kwa '23 presented research at the Society of Integrative & Comparative Biology conference in Austin, Texas, earlier this year.

Kwa attended the conference with Associate Professor of Biology Greg Davis, in whose lab she does research.

"It was a pressure cooker with a packed room," says Davis of Kwa's presentation. "She did a fantastic job. The first question from the audience was 'where are you going to grad school?'"

Kwa started doing research in Davis's Lab in the summer of 2021 through the Summer Science Research program and has continued to do research in the lab since then. 

"The Summer Science Research program is a great opportunity for students who want to pursue a career in research to gain some experience and mentorship," says Kwa, who plans to continue to do research post-graduation while applying to medical school and graduate school.

Yeipyeng's talk represented the lab in general, and so she was presenting her own work as well as the work of former students. The abstract from her talk is below:

Induction of Reproductive Fate in the Pea Aphid 

Contributing lab members: Yeipyeng C Kwa '23, Maiko Sho '19, Julia E Frederick '20, Rebecca Y Li '22 and Gregory K Davis 

The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, exhibits remarkable developmental plasticity in response to seasonal changes in photoperiod. In spring and summer, aphids reproduce asexually and are viviparous, yielding large numbers of genetically identical female offspring. The longer nights accompanying the fall induce these asexual aphids to produce sexual males and females, which mate to lay frost-resistant eggs. These eggs diapause through the cold winter months and hatch into asexually reproducing females in the spring, founding new clonal populations. Among other aspects of the reproductive polyphenism, we are interested in the process that specifies sexual versus asexual fate during embryonic development. Although previous evidence has implicated juvenile hormone (JH) as playing a role in specifying asexual fate, we present evidence suggesting that neither maternal JH nor the JH pathway in embryos mediates this process. This result has implications for the mechanism by which pea aphid strains from the southern United States fail to produce sexual progeny in response to changes in photoperiod, an evolutionary loss of plasticity which we also describe. 

The Department of Biology is an interactive community of undergraduates, faculty, and staff who work together to better understand the nature and significance of living systems The department's members share a common commitment both to biology as a scientific discipline and to the importance of biology in broader social and cultural contexts. The Biology curriculum is designed to introduce students to unifying concepts and broad issues in biology, and to provide the opportunity for in-depth inquiry into topics of particular interest through coursework and independent research.