The National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) 2020 Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate (MPS) bi-annual brochure highlighted research by Tomasz Skwarnicki, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and a team of his collaborators. The brochure featured the…
Transcript: Elizabeth Droge-Young Video
So right here we are looking at female reproductive tracks of females who where mated to two different males. So this area here is called the bursa. It’s where sperm comes in and also where eggs will come down this little tube to be fertilized.
My name is Liz Droge-Young and I am a Biology Ph.D. Candidate. And I study the evolution of reproductive traits and I use Flour beetles as my model system.
Flour beetles are a grain pest. They can be found all over the world; anyplace that humans store grain.
They are incredible promiscuous. They can mate multiple times in an hour. So that is something really interesting that I am looking at …why they are so promiscuous. They also, or I should say, we have special lines that we have created in collaboration with John Belote, who is a geneticist in the department, that have red or green fluorescently tagged sperm. We are able to mate a female to a red male and a green male and then see how those different sperm perform; and not as a question of red verses green. You can look at it correlated to other male traits. So say, your red males are larger than your green males. Then you can look and see, well, do if larger beetles have some sort of advantage over smaller beetles?
One of the main goals is to understand how it impacts biodiversity. So we are trying to figure out, why is it that they mate so much? Are there environmental reasons? And what are the downstream consequences of this extreme promiscuity?
I was awarded a dissertation writing fellowship from the American Association of University Women. It’s a grant that pays just for my living essentially. It means that I have an entire year that I can entirely focus on research and not have to worry about teaching, which is great in it’s own right, but definitely takes a lot of time out of the research that you are trying to get together as a Ph.D. student. So I have just the financial support and the freedom to just work on my research.
I actually didn’t realize how competitive the award was until I was awarded it. It was given to about 50 women this year across the united states in every field of research, whether that is science, whether that is the humanities…anything whatsoever.
“So what are you guys…what is the experiment you are doing today?”
I feel like I completely lucked out in landing a Ph.D. position in this department; and particularly in this lab. I have just the most fantastic collogues. We all study slightly different systems, but we are able to really support each other and collaborate and help each other out on experiments. On experiment days we just get everyone in the lab together to watch whatever insect is mating that day. In the department in general, I have been given good support for traveling for conferences and encouraged to really get my research out there and communicate with other scientists about that in other departments.
It’s a great joy for us to see our students recognized, nationally and internationally with these types of awards and prizes. So it’s a big honor and a great joy to the whole department. It also motivates students. Other students… it sort of energizes them that they should apply for these types of things.
Its wonderful. It’s a great time. I feel like I am cheating.