Mitchell Young and Seth Bybee, Department of Biology
Mutation rates may differ from organism to organism. Therefore, many species that are not model organisms are difficult to use in evolutionary studies, especially those focused on genomic scale questions. The focus of this project is to provide 1) inference of mutation rates for several previously unstudied insect species across 12 orders, and 2) comparison of estimated mutation rates with the genetic patterns in each species to test for correlations between genetic architecture and increased rates of evolution.
While working on the project this year, I have been able to spend time with Anton Suvorov. Anton is Dr. Bybee’s doctoral student and a skilled biostatistician. He has helped me gain experience on how to retrieve and analyze genetic data, including learning about different software and data analysis techniques available to interpret entire genomes and other large amounts of information. I have been able to complete some phases of the project, but the entire project is not yet complete.
Because of unforeseen challenges in obtaining the needed data from enough species, results have so far been inconclusive. The analysis portion of my project, therefore, is incomplete. I need to identify comparable, paralogous genes from each species that have not undergone duplications, as well as identify some genomic files that may hold insufficient data before using analysis software to determine the number of mutations, and thereby, determine the mutation rates of each species.
Over the course of this year, my mentor has challenged me to solve many problems on my own before receiving his help. I’ve been able to learn many things on my own, make many mistakes, and become a better researcher. While progress has been slow, I am encouraged that the project is moving forward. As I continue to finish this project, I anticipate that my individual research will be able to be used in presentations at a scientific conference, as well as used in larger-scale projects done in our lab.