Biology & Genomics of Social Insects Meeting

Visitor of the Week: Aridni Shah

aridni-shah

Meet Aridni Shah of the National Center for Biological Sciences, a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (India). Aridni is a member of Axel Brockmann’s lab, and she made her first trip to CSHL to attend the 2018 Biology & Genomics of Social Insects meeting where the graduate student presented a talk entitled “Egr-1, a candidate molecular player involved in time-related learning and memory processes in honey bees?”

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I am interested in understanding the molecular processes underlying behavior. Currently, I am working on honey bee foraging behavior to identify the different molecules that might underlie the learning and memory processes during this behavior. So far, I have identified a molecule, Egr-1 that seems crucial for foraging and foraging-related time memory.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
I was keen on understanding how behaviors are brought about by underlying molecules and a short training in the lab made me realize that honey bees are an excellent model to look at behavior and hence the molecules could be identified easily with such strong behaviors.

How did your scientific journey begin? 
My late father was my greatest inspiration. He loved science and, when we were young, used science to show us “tricks” like making a needle float or constructing a steam engine model for a science project. His inquisitiveness helped nurture mine and so I have been very fascinated by science from a young age and always wanted to get into the field to make new discoveries and to answer certain yet-to-be answered questions.  

Was there something specific about the Biology & Genomics of Social Insects meeting that drew you to attend?
Validation and feedback from the social insects community were my incentives for attending this meeting because it is a major meeting on the molecular basis and mechanism of sociality attended by eminent scientists and colleagues working on sociality. At this meeting, I had the opportunity to present my work and discuss it with an international community and get valuable feedback that would help me pinpoint any shortcomings in my current work plan. Also, I was also able to assess the impact of my work which is helpful when it comes to setting a more defined direction for further progress

What is your key takeaway from the meeting?
That social insects are very versatile - the level of sociality can range from solitary to subsocial to incipiently social to advanced eusocial, can have single queen or multiple queens, and can have various forms of reproduction like thelytoky and arrhenotoky - therefore, there is a system which can be used to study these variations and the genes involved with it.

What did you pick up or learn from the meeting that you plan to apply to your work?  
This meeting was extremely helpful for me in many ways. As my first meeting with the social insects community, I met a lot of colleagues with similar interests. I had enlightening conversations with Guy Bloch, Hagai Sphigler, Daniel Friedman, Mehmet Döke, and Manuel Nagel from whom I learnt of a new technique he is establishing, in situ sequencing, that I would like to implement in my future work as it will help me study multiple genes at a time. Discussions about my future work with Guy and Hagai on manipulations of the circadian clock has helped me refine my experiments that I hope will result in meaningful outcomes. 

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of this meeting asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
I would say that he/she should definitely attend the meeting. It is small but since it is attended by all the major scientists working in the field, it provides the right environment to get to know one another and each other’s work very well. The environment was very friendly and you can easily walk up to anyone and start a conversation. 
 
What do you like most about your time at CSHL? 
I enjoyed the meeting a lot. The place is beautiful, and the people are amazing. I was able to put faces to names whose work, until now, I had only read about, and I engaged in a lot of amazing conversations, both scientific and non-scientific, with people I met. And yes, the lobster was great!

Thank you to Aridni 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.