Georgetown Scientific Research Journal GSR Journal
Kaitlyn Reynolds is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in Neurobiology and minoring in Spanish. Kaitlyn is also a pre-medical student who intends to pursue a gap year before medical school to earn a master’s degree in Neuroscience.
Involvement in Research:
As a future healthcare professional and descendant of a Jamaican immigrant, Kaitlyn takes a strong interest in understanding the complex factors that promote healthcare inequities among first world and underdeveloped nations. This includes not only the stark differences in technological and monetary resources but also the variance in prominent ailments that exist within specific regions around the world. Such interests inspired Kaitlyn to get involved in research in the Department of Biology within The Armbruster Laboratory in the Fall of 2018. Under the direction of Dr. Peter Armbruster, she studies the processes of phenotypic evolution and molecular bases of adaption in natural populations of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, by performing an array of studies, including field ecology, quantitative and population genetics, molecular physiology, and functional genomics approaches. Aedes albopictus is considered among the most invasive mosquito species in the world. It is also of considerable medical importance as a vector of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Zika, and several other arthropod-borne viruses, especially in tropical populations that are traditionally poor and remote. During the Summer of 2019, Kaitlyn undertook an independent project that sought to continue the work of one of her predecessors by determining how changes in day length, as it relates to variations in temperature and climate, impact the timing of Aedes albopictus egg-laying within Washington, D.C. Female mosquitoes are photosensitive, and when exposed to short (autumnal) day lengths, females produce diapause eggs that undergo developmental arrest as a pharate larva; however, changes in climate during the mid-summer to early-fall months would force pregnant mosquitos to lay their eggs later into the winter months and miss the upcoming mating season in the spring, thus leading to an exponential reduction in population.
What she has been able to take away from the work that she has done in The Armbruster Laboratory is that within the United States, and other first world countries, we often take for granted the abundance of medical advancements that protect us from infectious diseases that are otherwise obsolete in our communities. However, this is not a luxury that those in countries of lower economic standings possess. As such, she believes that we have a responsibility to utilize our cutting-edge technologies, vaccines, and treatments in order to aid in the relief of those geographic areas that are susceptible to such diseases. Moreover, the physical ramifications of these diseases, as it relates to the brain, are innumerous, including the deterioration of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), development of microcephaly or encephalitis, and interruption of the central nervous system (CNS). Therefore, by isolating the ultimate molecular and physiological bases of evolution within Asian tiger mosquitoes, such neurological disruptions can be prevented.
Written by Danya Adams, Orion Gangopadhyay, and Nesreen Shahrour