The Faculty of Life Sciences is at the forefront of fly research thanks to a unique scheme from Dr Andreas Prokop. Alongside Cambridge University’s John Roote, Dr Prokop has created the first ever basic training package for research using Drosophila, also known as the fruit fly. It’s hoped that more researchers will be encouraged to use the humble fly when studying conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Faculty is host to one of Europe’s biggest fly facilities. It provides temperature controlled rooms for storing fly stocks, dedicated work spaces to sort the flies, and high tech microscopes for training and experiments. The facility is currently used for various studies, with subjects ranging between evolution, cancer, sleep patterns, and drug tolerance.
Drosophila have been used for scientific research for over a century, but many scientists remain unaware of their value. To combat the difficulties that newcomers to flies may face because of this, Dr Prokop put together a training package for undergraduate students. The material assumed no prior knowledge of flies and took students back to basics.
Together with John Roote, Dr Prokop has now taken the student manual to the next level, developing it into a four part training package for all scientists. This includes an introductory manual, a practical session on gender and marker selection, a PowerPoint presentation, and a training exercise in mating scheme design. Sanjai Patel, who manages the Faculty’s Fly Facility, has already seen the impact of the training package:
“I was spending a lot of my time training students how to use the flies for their research. They would struggle with some of the basic concepts and kept coming back with questions. The training manual is self-explanatory. After they’ve been through it they’re usually confident enough to start using the flies.”
The training package has received positive feedback from all who have tested it so far. With the help of this new knowledge, it is hoped that more scientists will be encouraged to make use of the versatile fruit fly in their crucial research in the future.