Experimenting With Life in the Lab

NYUAD experiment puts fruit flies under the microscope to monitor their reactions to different diets.

Shaikha al Neaimi isn't officially a freshman at NYU Abu Dhabi - she begins her studies in September - but has already developed a pretty good sense of what it's like to study in the campus science labs on Saadiyat Island.

While closing out her days as a senior at Abu Dhabi's Glenelg high school, al Neaimi got wind of a rare opportunity to participate in a biology workshop at NYUAD studying fruit flies, and jumped at the chance.

"We studied flies in biology class and there was a question on a practice exam that we all got wrong. I was really curious and wanted to understand why. When Ms. Gerdef told us about the opportunity at NYUAD I knew I had to go."

NYUAD Biology Professor Justin Blau led the two-part workshop for 11 advanced high school biology students. A short study was conducted that exposed fruit flies to four unique diets of increasingly sweet nectar and different cycles of light to see how it affected their natural circadian rhythms.

Students worked with microscopes to sort female and male flies and hypothesize what would happen to the flies under these experimental conditions. A week later, they returned to NYUAD to analyze the results and report on their findings.

Surprised by the outcome, al Neaimi noted, "Things didn't turn out quite as I expected. I thought since they’re fruit flies that they would thrive on a diet that was higher in sugar, but those were the flies who died first."

More surprises are likely on the horizon as she prepares to meet her new NYUAD classmates and teachers at Marhaba Week in late August.

I am really excited about joining NYU Abu Dhabi this fall. I can’t wait.

Shaikha al Neaimi, future NYUAD freshman

The fly experiment workshop was organized by NYUAD's Office of Primary and Secondary Educational Engagement, which creates opportunities for local youth to participate in learning activities on campus.