Student NameChristian Couch
Faculty Mentor NameDr. Caroline Storer
CollegeFlorida Museum of Natural History
Research InterestsSilk Genetics, Bioinformatics
Academic AwardsMurphey Entomology and Nematology Undergraduate Scholarship 2020, Emerging Scholars Program 2021
OrganizationsEntomology Club
VolunteeringVolunteered at the Kawahara Lab for about 1 year before beginning research there. Volunteered within Dickinson Hall for Paleontology during spring 2020.
Hobbies and InterestsCollecting and preserving insects. Golfing.

Research Project

Examining Silk Gene Function In The Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) Using Gene Editing

To study how silk genes control silk production, I will knock out the silk gene light-fibroin, which is known to be responsible for silk fiber properties such as strength and adhesiveness. CRISPR-Cas9 is an enzyme-RNA complex which allows geneticists to edit parts of the genome by altering sections of DNA sequences. This gene editing tool will allow me to directly observe and quantify physical variation in silk when silk genes are altered. Under the mentorship of Dr. Caroline Storer, I will inject P. interpunctella eggs with guide RNAs designed by Dr. Storer’s graduate assistant Bryce Shirk to knock out the light-fibroin silk gene. To validate the success of editing I will extract DNA from gene edited moths, amplify the knockout region in PCR, and sequence to confirm knockout success. Additionally, I will compare silk production and fiber properties in experimental knock-out moths and wild type moths. This research will improve our understanding of silk evolution and how genetic variation contributes to silk diversity.