I don't have much free time, but I am currently working on two personal, but scientifically relevant projects.

 

First, I am working on a book that describes the importance of the fruit fly in research. I have used fruit flies (technically called Drosophila melanogaster) for years and slowly learned to appreciate their fundamental role in science. Given the quizzical looks that my own family members or friends gave me when I first told them that much of my scientific work was conducted using a small insect I decided a few years ago to write a book that would explain the uses and advantages of fruit flies in research. This has been a slow process given that I knew very little about book publishing, but over the last five years or so I learned how to put together a book proposal and how to approach book agents to get the book formally published. More recently I also learned that the classical book publishing model is evolving so that it is also possible to publish independently rather than using a traditional publisher. Both models have their pros and cons, and for now I am not sure which path will end up getting my book published. This has been a slow process given my lack of time, but keep your eyes peeled for the book sometime in the medium to long term. As I get closer to completing the book I will start posting more information, including the tentative title of the book.

 

Second, I am compiling a list of all Drosophila gene names to publish a history and evolution of gene naming in the fruit fly. Unless you are familiar with fruit fly gene names I will need to give you some context, so here goes. The fruit fly has been used for over 100 years to study genes, or small "packets" of cellular information that tells cells how to do everything they do. As different genes were discovered and studied, they were given unique names so that all scientists could keep track of the progress. Interestingly, since the very beginning, fruit fly researchers decided to give these genes fun names that were easy to remember. Nothing scientific (and by "scientific" I mean boring or serious) here. Examples of fruit fly genes are drumstick, Ken and Barbie or happy hour. Indeed you will notice that they are very colorful and not very "scientific" by classical definition. Regardless, there are now somewhere on the order of 2000 named genes (still working on the exact number), each as unique as the next. With so much variety, for some time now I have been curious to see how the naming has evolved over the last century. I have noticed anecdotally that the names are getting much more complex as new generations of scientists become more sophisticated, which eventually gave me the idea of looking into this more formally. Ultimately I would like to publish a small scientific paper that the fruit fly community (the collection of scientists that work with fruit flies) can enjoy. This is something that I plan to do in the short term so keep your eyes peeled for this as well.