The next generation  pg. 2

Under the guidance of postdoctoral fellow Hwei-Jan Hsu, Ph.D., Pham studied a family of transcription factors called FOXO. These proteins regulate insulin’s effect on cell growth by turning genes on and off, but their effect on egg production is largely unknown.

During her seven-week-long research project, Pham counted eggs produced by normal flies when they were given protein-rich and protein-poor diets, and eggs produced by mutant flies, in which the genes for the transcription factors had been “knocked out.”

Normally, flies lay many eggs on a rich diet and only a few on a poor diet. If FOXO were required to repress egg production on a poor diet, Pham hypothesized, the mutants without FOXO should not respond to dietary changes.

However, she found that the mutants did, in fact, produce fewer eggs when given a poor diet, indicating that FOXO is not necessary for the response of the fruit fly ovary to diet.

For her research project, Pham was recognized last fall as one of seven Tennessee semifinalists in the prestigious Siemens (formerly Westinghouse) Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

“Uyen is participating in research which is often reserved for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Glenn McCombs, Ph.D., director of the School for Science and Math. “She exemplifies what we envisioned would be possible for students attending the school.”

Accepted into Vanderbilt’s class of 2012, Pham wants to major in biology, and is contemplating a career in developmental biology.

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