CLEMSON — Tatum Sass, a Clemson biochemistry and genetics junior, has successfully created an assay that was published on April 20, 2020, in JoVE, a leading peer-reviewed video journal of experimental techniques.

Tatum Sass in lab

Tatum Sass, biochemistry and genetics junior
Image Credit: Pete Martin/College of Science

The full title of the video is “High-Throughput Method for Measuring Alcohol Sedation Time of Individual Drosophila melanogaster.”

While participating in a 2019 summer research program at the Center for Human Genetics in Professors Trudy Mackay and Robert Anholt’s lab, Sass was given the opportunity to brainstorm, troubleshoot and construct an assay that helps measure sensitivity to acute alcohol exposure in the fruit fly model.

Mackay and Anholt use the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as a model organism because many genes are conserved between humans and fruit flies; findings revealed by analyzing the Drosophila genome can be extrapolated to human health and disease.

Q: What did you study?

Sass: “Essentially I was studying fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. By looking at how alcohol can affect genetic material, it became evident that drinking alcohol when you are pregnant can affect not only your offspring, but future generations, as well.”

Q: What impact does this assay have?

Sass: “It’s a huge accomplishment for me to be published as a first author in a scientific journal and improve a technique used on fruit flies, especially because the results of this assay show potential for future human studies. Because the results are translational, our findings using this assay can be brought into human research later.”

Q: What was the best part of conducting this research?

Sass: “My favorite part about constructing this assay was being creative. I feel like sometimes in science, a majority of what I’m doing is following protocols that have already existed. I was able to use my imagination to create and troubleshoot something new.”

Q: How did you learn to do this work?

Sass: “I definitely want to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity. Graduate student Rebecca MacPherson taught me all there is to know about fruit flies, and my research mentors, Dr. Mackay and Dr. Anholt, were incredibly supportive.”

Q: What are your future plans?

Sass: “Although I was selected to participate in the UT Southwestern undergraduate research fellowship program this summer, it was cancelled due to COVID-19. After graduating from Clemson, I plan to continue in the field of research and pursue a PhD in immunology.”