Image of the Day: Sciency Sweater

An evolutionary biologist knits a festive homage to her research.

Dec 20, 2019
Emily Makowski
Drosophila sweater
EMILY BEHRMAN

Emily Behrman, a postdoc in David Stern’s lab at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, knitted a sweater inspired by her research for Janelia’s annual holiday sweater contest. Behrman studies the genetic and neuronal basis of how behaviors evolve in two closely related Drosophila species, D. melanogaster and D. simulans. This year, she worked on identifying genes involved in species-specific male courtship behaviors and studied how the same type of neurons can evolve to have new functions in different species.

The sweater’s pattern “is arranged in a hierarchy from the smallest, sub-cellular component (DNA) closest to the neck collar to the adult fly,” says Behrman in an email to The Scientist. A row of Drosophila eggs is visible directly below the DNA. The eggs are usually all white, “but the shape reminded me of Christmas tree bulbs, so I used artistic license and colored the eggs and kept the antennae white for contrast,” she explains. Fly brains with red- and green-labeled neurons are located below the eggs. Underneath the brains, adult Drosophila (female on the left, male on the right) with Santa hats add a festive touch.

“I had the sweater idea about a week before the contest, so I knit on the shuttle to work and during my coffee breaks,” says Behrman. Although her colleagues considered the sweater “too pretty for the ugly sweater contest,” it ended up winning first prize.

Behrman baked cookies for Janelia’s cookie contest that depict different Drosophila phenotypes.
EMILY BEHRMAN

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at emakowski@the-scientist.com.