Major: Intended: Neuroscience and ACMS (Scientific Computing and Numerical Algorithms)
Mentor: John Tuthill (Physiology and Biophysics), Brandon Pratt (Physiology and Biophysics)
Current research project: Understanding the neural circuitry of proprioceptive control and body position in Drosophila melanogaster
Srinidhi is a sophomore intending to major in Neuroscience and Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences and minor in Architecture and Neural Computation and Engineering. In high school, she began computational neuroscience research in the Baccus Lab at Stanford University, using experimental and theoretical methods to study mathematical models used to predict and explain the output of visual processing in the retina, such as adaptation, image statistics, and the detection of moving objects. Since the summer before her freshman year at UW, she has worked in the Tuthill Lab, studying how proprioceptive signals are detected and integrated in the central nervous system, and how proprioceptive feedback is used to guide movement and behavior. She is also a part of Grey Matters as co-design-director, editor, and production assistant. Outside of research, she is a part of the UW rock climbing team and enjoys running, spending time outdoors with friends, and occasionally jumping into the Montlake cut.
Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
The lab I work in studies proprioception, which is how the nervous system senses the body in space, and how proprioceptive signaling in the fruit fly’s central nervous system is used to inform and guide adaptive kinematic motor control. I’m currently working alongside my mentor to answer the main question of how hair-plates (a type of proprioceptor that rapidly correct movement error) are involved in enabling a fly to move through space. To answer this question, we are using a split-belt treadmill set up that serves the purpose of delivering controlled pertubations to the fly– the fly is running on a treadmill, and the left and right sides of the treadmill change. This disrupts the fly’s coordination pattern, and allows us to observe the efficacy of the hairplates. Essentially, we are trying to understand how animals adapt to perturbations in their environment in a naturalistic way.
When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research during my sophomore year of high school in the Baccus Lab and was fortunate enough to have a very positive research experience and wonderful mentors. In high school, I was always intrigued by the idea of research, and through attending various high school outreach events, I had the opportunity to network with graduate students in the neurobiology department and speak with them about their research experiences. I then spent a few months cold-emailing professors in neuroscience-related departments and eventually got into my lab. I continued research at that lab throughout the last three years and summers of high school. The type of interdisciplinary learning that research provides is unique and irreplicable in the classroom from doing research in high school, I knew that gaining valuable research experience in undergrad was an absolute priority for me. I see research as something that informs my academic goals, and now as a research assistant in the Tuthill Lab, I’ve been able to expand my knowledge in a meaningful way and build on my understanding and what it means to be a scientist.
What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Let go of any preconceived ideas of what skills you think you need to apply to a lab, and just go for it! Make a list of professors and labs whose work you find interesting, and start cold emailing. It may feel nerve-wracking at first, but the more emails you send, the more comfortable you will become with presenting yourself as someone eager and interested in research. Don’t have a fixed mindset towards any lab, and don’t hesitate to ask questions to everyone (not just your mentor and PI). Get to know the people in your lab, and as long as you are open to learning, receiving constructive feedback, and improving your skills, you will be fine. Be sure to advocate for yourself and take the time to figure out what you hope to get out of your experience in the lab. Working in a lab is an absolute privilege and a valuable experience, so make the most of the opportunities around you, and have lots of fun!