It’s been quite a journey for Dr. Alex Flint,
one of the newest members of the Biology Department at The University of Southern Mississippi,
moving from New York City to Hattiesburg earlier this year. I was exposed to some very cutting
edge genetic techniques in my previous position and I’m taking the technologies here to USM.
Dr. Flint is using the fruit fly as a model system because of how it can mimic disease
progression in humans. Some of the genes that get disturbed in human cancers that are very
common things, the exact same mutations and things can cause cancers in fruit flies. Modern
biotechnology allows researchers unprecedented control over the fly, in fact, genetically
modifying the organism. While it may seem odd that a tiny insect would have so much
to offer researchers like Dr. Flint, he says the fruit fly has led to a number of discoveries
across the globe. There’s a very, very large international consortium of fruit fly researchers.
Some of the most powerful scientists in the country actually used these fruit flies in
their research. And while Dr. Flint is bringing his research from where he trained almost
twelve hundred miles away, his strong family ties are part of what attracted him to USM
to continue his career. My family is from Mississippi. My dad grew up here in Hattiesburg.
He was a USM graduate. He met my mother here at USM and she is also a graduate. And now,
years later, Dr. Flint is calling Hattiesburg home and will soon begin 2014 with research
projects aimed at understanding the genetic interactions that lead to human disease, one
fruit fly at a time. From The University of Southern Mississippi, I’m Layla Essary.