Undergraduate Research Program

Abby von Hagel

von Hagel, Abby
Major: Biology (Molecular, Cellular & Developmental) ; Neurobiology
Mentor: Tom Daniel, Biology

Contact: aavh9@uw.edu

Current research project: Measuring Timing and Activation of Flight Muscles in Manduca sexta through Electromyography (EMG) and High-Speed Infrared Video


Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance:

Very little is understood about the sub-cellular dynamics of muscle contraction. Using the moth, Manduca sexta, we are exploring muscle dynamics during flight. With a combination of electromyography (EMG) and X-ray diffraction techniques we are able to resolve changes in muscle at the angstrom-level (one ten-billionth of a meter). This enables us to better understand timing of activation, muscle deformation, and fluid forces during a contraction. Additionally, the muscles of Manduca are similar to the muscles of the human heart allowing us to make predictions about impacts of muscle dynamics on cardiovascular diseases.

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?

I got involved with undergraduate research as part of a Marine Research Course at Friday Harbor Laboratories my sophomore year. I was inspired to explore research due to a presentation by Undergraduate Research Leaders in my FIG. I have now been involved in several research projects ranging from marine intertidal ecology, deep-sea fish biomechanics, to neuromuscular dynamics insect flight control. My diverse research experiences have allowed me to develop a wide variety of skills and explore interests in multiple fields. I am constantly honing in on questions that excite me.

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?

I would advise someone interested in undergraduate research to look at their perceived inexperience as an opportunity for growth. Being a first or second year student allows mentors to invest in your training and provides you time to grow in your role within the lab. Potential mentors are often impressed when undergraduate students find their work interesting and are interested in discussing their publications. Do not be afraid to reach out to professors you admire and ask other students about their research work. Embrace your inexperience as an opportunity to develop your skills and motivate your growth.