If you work in a lab long enough, a lot of strange things start to look human.
Rhode Island College sophomore Raquel Villot has been working in the lab of geneticist and Associate Professor of Biology Geoff Stilwell for the past two semesters. The charmingly quirky sophomore disclosed that the first thing she does upon entering the lab is check on her children – fruit flies – the lab’s model organism.
“We’re always looking at them under the microscope,” she says, with a deeply dimpled smile, “and the more you look at them, the cuter they get. They’re like my kids.”
Villot’s brood is kept in what looks like an old fridge. It’s actually an incubator, with the temperature kept at a warm 73 degrees Fahrenheit. She pulls open the heavy steel door and a fruit fly escapes, along with the musty odor of a fridge that has sat unplugged for too long. Villot takes a look inside. There are thousands of them.
The flies are kept in corked vials arranged in rows on trays. Some of them cling to the glass walls of their cloisters; others seem to shiver, suspended in midair; while others feed on a mixture of corn meal, dry yeast, sucrose and agar at the bottom of their vials.