Newswise — CHICAGO, IL – March 10, 2012 -- The Genetics Society of America (GSA) and the Drosophila community of geneticists are pleased to announce the six student winners of the Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards, which were used by these students to attend the ongoing 53rd Annual Drosophila Research Conference in Chicago. These students, all juniors or seniors in college are:

• Selma Avdagic, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri• Samantha Galindo, University of Wisconsin–Madison• Kenneth B. Hoehn, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina• Emily Hsieh, University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle• Jacqueline McDermott, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York• Mohammad Siddiq, Indiana University, Bloomington

“It is inspiring to see these undergraduates conducting cutting-edge research so early in their scientific careers,” said Adam Fagen, Ph.D., GSA executive director. “We at GSA have no doubt that the future of genetics is strong with such talented young people leading the field.”

This is the first time these students have attended a professional scientific research conference where they are describing their research to doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and principal investigators from research laboratories all over the world. The experience, described by one student as “both exciting and intimidating,” is an opportunity for them to explore the field of genetics research as a possible career.

“Victoria Finnerty was an outstanding scientist and a dedicated teacher and mentor who conveyed her passion for Drosophila genetics in her creative approaches toward undergraduate education and research. We view this award as an important way to encourage our young scientists to pursue research careers and become our future scientific leaders,” said Elizabeth Gavis, Ph.D., president of the Drosophila Board of Directors and professor at Princeton University.

The Victoria Finnerty Undergraduate Travel Awards were established last year in memory of its namesake, who was a long-time GSA member, a dedicated undergraduate educator at Emory University for 35 years, and an active member of the Drosophila research community and the genetics community at large. The six undergraduates are the first to receive this funding to attend the annual Drosophila Research Conference. A list of the students’ research projects, a brief description of each and the name of their mentor (principal investigator) of the project, is attached.

ABOUT THE GSA DROSOPHILA RESEARCH CONFERENCE: At least 1,500 researchers attend the annual GSA Drosophila Research Conference to share the latest research using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and other insect species. Many of findings from these model organisms have broad application for the study of human genetic traits and diseases. For more information about the conference, see

ABOUT GSA: Founded in 1931, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) is the professional membership organization for scientific researchers, educators, bioengineers, bioinformaticians and others interested in the field of genetics. Its nearly 5,000 members work to advance knowledge in the basic mechanisms of inheritance, from the molecular to the population level. The GSA is dedicated to promoting research in genetics and to facilitating communication among geneticists worldwide through its conferences, including the biennial conference on Model Organisms to Human Biology, an interdisciplinary meeting on current and cutting edge topics in genetics research, as well as annual and biennial meetings that focus on the genetics of particular organisms, including C. elegans, Drosophila, fungi, mice, yeast, and zebrafish. GSA publishes GENETICS, a leading journal in the field and a new online, open-access publication, G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics. For more information about GSA, please visit Also follow GSA on Facebook at and on Twitter @GeneticsGSA.

2012 Victoria Finnerty Awardees

Title: The actions of gonadotropic hormones on the development and mature function of a defined neural circuit in Drosophila melanogaster. (671B) (Poster)Description: Sexually determining hormones affect the development of the neural circuit in DrosophilaAuthor: Selma Avdagnic, Parag Bhatt, Wendi Neckameyer Principal Investigator: Wendi Neckameyer, Ph.D.Institution: St. Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri

Title: Role of Piccolo homolog Fife in synapse assembly and function.Description: Researchers found a gene which they think is responsible for the release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical signals which enable brain cells to communicate with each other and transmit nerve signals.Author: Sam Galindo, Joseph Bruckner, Scott Gratz, Jessica Slind, Richard Geske, Kate O’Connor-Giles (971B) (Poster)Principal Investigator: Kate O’Connor-Giles, Ph.D.Institution: University of Wisconsin–Madison

Title: Premature Stop Codon Mutations and Evolution in the Drosophila pseudoobscura Complex. (482B) (Poster)Description: How mutations causing loss of gene function may have affected the evolution of different Drosophila species.Author: Kenneth B. Hoehn, Mohamed A. F. NoorPrincipal Investigator: Mohamed A. F. Noor, Ph.D.Institution: Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Title: Birth, death, and replacement of importins in Drosophila. (483C) (Poster)Description: This study advances understanding of the rapid evolution of genes involved in the cell import system. This system is both rapidly evolving, but also highly conserved across diverse organisms.Author: Emily Hsieh, Nitin Phadnis, Harmit MalikPrincipal Investigator: Harmit Malik, Ph.D.Institution: University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle

Title: The regulation of fat storage by Mio in Drosophila. (730A) (Poster)Description: When fat was decreased in flies’ diet, a decreasing amount of fat was stored in each cell and the number of fat cells did not decrease.Author: Eric D. Sassu, Jacqueline E. McDermott, Brendan J. Keys, Justin R. DiAngeloPrincipal Investigator: Justin R. DiAngelo, Ph.D.Institution: Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York

Title: Mitochondrial-nuclear incompatibilities are worse when temperature accelerates the rate of life. (503B) (Poster)Description: How mutations affect energy-related traits across temperature.Author: Mohammad Siddiq, Luke Hoekstra, Kristi MontoothPrincipal Investigator: Kristi Montooth, Ph.D.Institution: Indiana University, Bloomington

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53rd Annual Drosophila Research Conference