Fireflies

Among Indiana University’s stifling heat lies a flurry of winged mandible-equipped exoskeleton-bearing arthropods. Ranging from the West Nile-carrying mosquitos to the Lyme disease-transmitting tics to the Amy-stinging wasps many of these bugs inhabit our 39-day experience.

Yet among these vermin, pests, and infectious agents lies the firefly or the Lampyridae. Absent from my Los Angeles hometown, these beetles dot the tall grass with their bioluminescence. Their streaks of yellow-green raceways are the results of the enzyme luciferase, which produces light in the presence of ATP and Magnesium. But I’m not here to bore you with the biochemical mechanisms of this enzyme*.

*But, if you really want to know here is a summary: luciferase is widely used in biotechnology to mark proteins of interest. Genes that code for luciferase are introduced into our studied cells, which eventually allows the researcher to visibly track the expression of a pathway using a luminometer or modified optical microscopes. These oxidoreductases are also commonly used to track transcriptional activity and levels of cellular ATP.

It’s the second to last Sunday here at the Summer Science Program. Through our advancement in MOE, Pymol, Scan Gene, and lab technique, we all have acquired a lifetime’s worth of scientific knowledge. I will leave it to the other participants to explain the fascinating things we have learned and the tedious but enchanting process to get where we are now. Today, I am writing about my most cherished experience so far, which coincidentally occurred exactly 3 weeks ago. 

On our first Sunday (6/19/22), we played our first volleyball game (IU>Purdue). Although we had a slow, awkward start, sand and laughter were quickly kicked into the air (with the former largely due to Sanjay’s legs). Everyone seemed to be enjoying each other’s company and away from their oftentimes stressful and accoladed, future-driven academic worlds. 

And in the background of this game that marked our new beginnings lay a performance of these bugs. In the dim forest enveloping our court, you could see…… 

Fireflies
Every night when I go out to roam
I see the fireflies from back home
The common bugs are somewhat dull
But tonight they seemed quite beautiful
Like the lights in my darkest night ever
I wish that I could see this forever 

Josephine

And if there is only one thing that I am able to take into the depths of my life from this unique research program is this grass-inhabiting, night-dwelling community of beautiful, radiating, intelligent, amiable

people, researchers, faculty, professors, TAs, teammates, and friends.

To all,

Thank you and I will miss you.

Love,

-Jonathan