Mutations: Unlocking Humanity's History

This past month, scientists from Cornell University published a paper in the journal GENETICS that detailed a new tool for identifying groundbreaking events in the history of humanity's evolution. This tool also serves to hone in on the origins of mutations, or permanent changes, in genes, the working subunits of DNA. By determining the source of genetic mutations, scientists can come closer to understanding and treating the origins of numerous diseases.

Making a Difference Through Hard Work

The Journal of Young Investigators is an amazing organization as well as an oddity. Over ten years after its original founding, JYI is still going strong. What is surprising to most is that JYI is run almost exclusively by undergraduate students. Over the course of a month, one hundred or so undergraduates work together to produce numerous news and features articles, in addition to assisting other undergraduate students in publishing their scientific work. Furthermore, this is all happening while taking class, conducting research, and in some cases, working various jobs. There is no doubt that JYI has made a difference in the lives of many students across the world, whether it be by encouraging our readers to start doing their own research, or by exciting students to actually join the organization. But, how can an organization like this exist under these circumstances? What does it take to make a difference not only on the organizational scale, but also on the individual scale? Let me give you three thoughts to consider as you try to make a difference with your undergraduate education and research.

A New Paradigm for Cell Motility in African Trypanosomes

Trypanosoma brucei is the causative pathogen for the fatal human disease African sleeping sickness. For over 160 years, cellular propulsion in Trypanosoma brucei has been considered to be in an auger-like motion and current understanding of the motility states the cell moves using left-helical waves which propagate along the flagellum. In contrast to the uniform flagellar beats laid out by the traditional model, we find that the frequency was lower at the posterior end compared to the anterior end, suggestive of an alternative and unique mechanism of motility exhibited by Trypanosoma brucei. Our new studies are significant in pioneering a new direction and providing important insight into the actual model of Trypanosma brucei’s movement. As Trypanosome motility is central to disease pathogenesis, parasite development and disease transmission, this investigation provides a requisite step in efforts to exploit cell motility as a target for disease control in African sleeping sickness.