Undergraduate Biology student, Abe Arellano, doing research in the Eberl Lab.

Eberl Lab Research

Meet an Undergrad in the Lab: Abe Arellano

Research Description:

Dr. Eberl's lab focuses on auditory reception in fruit flies. He currently has four undergraduates ranging from first year to fourth year. When assigning a student to a project, Dr. Eberl likes to focus on the interest of the student and see if he has a project to match and enhance that interest. The lab group has weekly meetings. During the meetings, he likes to engage the students by testing their comprehension. For example, one challenge he assigned his students to use the up-goer method to explain their progress. This challenge demonstrates Dr. Eberl's commitment to developing his students' presentation skills and comprehension. Dr. Eberl enjoys watching his student progress during their time in his lab.

When did Abe start in the lab?

"I started in November 2016."


Biology with a concentration in neurobiology.

Background before Abe started working in the lab:

"I had no prior research background."

Why Abe chose this lab?

"I reached out to Dr. Eberl’s lab after looking on the University of Iowa Biology Department’s research page and looking under the neurobiology section of faculty. Later, I met with Dr. Eberl and felt my interest aligned with the labs. I also think the perception of sound is the best sensory organ."

What has Abe done in the lab?

"When I first started with the lab, I worked on regenerating a driver in the fly strains that had stopped working. After solving this problem, I have continued work on the driver by doing genetic crosses and using fluorescents. I work with the UAS-Gal4 system and a gene known as nompA. NompA or no-mechanoreceptor potential A encodes for a protein involved in mechanotransduction. This allows for specificity of UAS-Gal4 expression in the scolopale cell, the cell of interest.

UAS-Gal4 is a driver enhancer system. UAS or upstream activating sequence is a genetic sequence that when the driver Gal4 binds to it, it activates genes downstream from the UAS, hence the name. This allows us to control whether or not genes we insert downstream from the UAS get activated or not. So we’ll have one fly line that is NompAGal4, Gal4 expression specific to scolopale cells, and another line that is UASxGene. Now both these lines don’t express anything, but when crossed together the offspring inherit genetic expression of both UAS and the Gal4 resulting in the target gene being expressed. In our lab this target gene usually results in knockdown of the sodium potassium pump in the scolopale cell. Because ion levels cannot be maintained, the mechanical sound signal cannot be converted into a neuronal signal, and the fly is considered deaf.

The projects occurring in my lab have to do with understanding how the ion levels are set up in the scolopale cell, of which I am now doing research on something to detect potassium ion levels within the cell. Another focus has to do with genes that provide a protective effect against noise-induced trauma. Work in my lab has identified some genes where the genotype allows for flies to recover more quickly from short-term deafness due to loud stimuli. That project works to understand why these genes have a protective effect."

What Abe wants to do in the future:

"I have applied to a pediatric ophthalmology program. I hope to continue doing research in the program."

What Abe wishes he knew before starting in a lab:

"I wish I had gotten involved in research sooner. I really wish someone had told me earlier to get involved."