MAY 23, 2023 – Mckenzie Mitchell, a junior at a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) high school, recently was honored in the 61st annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) for her research on depression in flies.
JSHS is a Department of Defense-sponsored event administered by the National Science Teaching Association which encourages students to conduct original research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Out of the 227 students recognized in this competition, McKenzie’s research was awarded second place.
McKenzie studied how female flies were affected differently than male flies when exposed to uncontrollable vibration stress, which can cause depression-like symptoms.
“Depression can be studied in flies if they are exposed to uncontrollable vibration stress, in response to which flies’ brains and behaviors parallel depression,” McKenzie explained. “However, this has only been researched in male flies, so I investigated the differential impact of this procedure on female flies compared to males in terms of their walking activity and survivorship.”
As a result of her research, McKenzie found that female flies were less affected by uncontrollable vibration stress than male flies.
“This initial finding is important because it demonstrates the continued need for research in this field, because there is a large gender-based disparity in diagnosis, treatment efficacy, and depression severity, and if gender differences are explored then treatments and diagnostic criteria may become more effective,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie will continue her education in STEM and is particularly interested in a career working in molecular biology and genetics. She hopes her future research will allow her to use genetic engineering to advance knowledge of human processes.
“My success in this competition strengthened my confidence that I will be able to succeed in a research environment beyond high school if I demonstrate grit and have the courage to try,” she said.
As a result of her hard work and dedication to this project, she was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from the Pacific regional JSHS competition as well as an additional $8,000 scholarship at the National JSHS.
JSHS is a Department of Defense-sponsored STEM program (U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force) that encourages high school students to conduct original STEM research in a variety of STEM disciplines, from environmental sciences and computer science to mathematics and biochemistry.