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Biology Professor Presented Paper at International Conference

Posted on Monday, April 6, 2009

Dr. Katherine Robertson, Westminster College assistant professor of biology, presented a paper from her ongoing research at the International Conference for Comparative Cognition March 18-22 in Melbourne, Fla.

Senior biology major Sarah Cook, who assisted in the research and contributed some of the data, is co-author of Robertson's "Dark-reared Drosophila melanogaster Adapt to Their Environment by Acetylcholine-driven Changes in Olfactory Sensitivity."

Cook is a daughter of David and Marcia Cook of Tarentum and a graduate of Deer Lakes High School.

"I have been investigating whether or not the brain can change its morphology in response to changes in behavior or environmental stimuli," Robertson said. "I use Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. We have found that Drosophila do change their behavior when raised in the dark to compensate for their lack of vision, and that change in behavior is accompanied by changes in production of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. We are now investigating the role of acetylcholine in this phenomenon."

Robertson, who has been with Westminster since 2005, earned an undergraduate degree from Paddington College, U.K., and master's and Ph.D. from the University of London.

Contact Robertson at (724) 946-7213 or e-mail for additional information.

Dr. Katherine Robertson