June 1, 2023


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OU Doctoral student’s research on fruit fly behavior earns award at international conference

Credit: Preston Larson Mehrnaz Afkhami, a doctoral biology student at the University of Oklahoma, was...

Credit: Preston Larson

Mehrnaz Afkhami, a doctoral biology student at the University of Oklahoma, was awarded the graduate student poster award at this year’s 62nd Annual Drosophila Research Conference. She was selected for this honor among hundreds of posters, beating out the two runners-up from Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University. The conference was held as part of the international meeting (known as the Fly meeting) of the Genetics Society of America, which serves as one of the premier research conferences for geneticists who use fruit flies for their research.

Born and raised in Tehran, Iran, Afkhami holds a bachelor of science degree in animal biology and a master of science degree in animal biosystematics, both from the University of Tehran. Her master’s thesis focused on intertidal crabs. At OU, she works in the lab of John “JP” Masly, associate professor of biology and director of graduate studies in the Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, where she is doing research on female behavioral response to a male novel trait in the fruit fly Drosophila. Specifically, she examines female fruit fly behavior from genetic and neurobiological aspects.

In the poster she made for the Fly meeting, Afkhami presented data from her thesis about the genetics of coevolution between males and females and the effect of mechanosensory signals on female reproductive decisions.

“I’ve used Drosophila in my own research for many years, and so I have had the pleasure of attending the Fly meeting several times,” said Randall S. Hewes, dean of the Graduate College on the OU Norman campus and professor of biology. “It draws thousands of people, and the quality of the science represented in the posters even considered for awards at that meeting is incredible. Previous winners have gone on to distinguished careers in the field. Mehrnaz’s recognition at this year’s meeting is truly extraordinary.”

“These awards at the Fly meeting are incredibly competitive,” Masly said. “Receiving the Best Poster Award is reflective of the importance that Mehrnaz’s research has among several areas of genetics and the excitement that the community has for the creative approach that she takes to understand the molecular bases of animal behavior.

“The vast majority of participants present posters, and only a handful present platform talks,” Masly added.


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