Meet Doris Ling of Washington University in St. Louis. The graduate student is a member of the Barani Raman Lab which studies the insect olfactory system; as well as the Yehuda Ben-Shahar Lab which studies the genetic basis of behavior. Doris returned to CSHL to take part in the annual course on Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits & Behavior.
What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in how the brain encodes complex sensory information – currently I am researching this in the fruit fly brain and how it represents chemical information such as smells.
How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
My background is in engineering and in a previous life I was interested in developing artificial chemical sensors. I quickly came to realize that man-made chemical sensors tend to fail in complex odorant environments but natural chemical sensors, such as our noses or a fly’s antennae, easily deal with these complexities. So why not study how nature builds such robust chemical sensors?
How did your scientific journey begin?
Growing up, I had great teachers whose enthusiasm for teaching and the sciences made it easy for me to get excited about science too.
Was there something specific about the Drosophila Neurobiology: Genes, Circuits & Behavior course that drew you to apply?
I applied to this course because I wanted to learn more laboratory skills specific for studying the fruit fly nervous system. Learning such hands-on technical skills from leaders in the field has been truly invaluable in ways that I am not sure I would have been able to obtain anywhere else.
What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work?
This course has provided me with such a breadth and wealth of knowledge regarding everything from the developmental neuroscience to the genetic tools available in fruit flies. It was also great to learn from people with such diverse academic backgrounds. I hope to channel everything I’ve learned to ask more informed and interesting questions about Drosophila neurobiology!
What is your key takeaway from the course?
Flies are awesome. Even though their brains only have 100,000 neurons (compared to humans which have 100 billion neurons), they are still capable of so many interesting and elaborate behaviors. And considering how many biological processes are fairly conserved throughout the animal kingdom, the fly is a necessarily simple but sufficiently complex model that can teach us a lot about ourselves.
How many CSHL courses have you attended?
Just this one, and I attended the Neurobiology of Drosophila meeting last fall.
If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Do it! This course has been invaluable to me in terms of the experimental skills I have learned, the conversations I’ve had, and the people I’ve met. The instructors are so knowledgeable, but more importantly, ever so patient and kind teachers. It has been a great opportunity to get to know them and to have them on our team.
What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The people I met at CSHL during the course are nothing short of amazing. Their company has brought me countless laughs and gave me an unwavering faith about the future of the field. I already miss our late-night conversations and gossiping about science at every coffee break. I hope that I may one day be as motivated, diligent, and ambitious as they are.
Doris received a fellowship from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Doris, thank you to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.
Thank you to Doris for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.