Patricia Wittkopp: Fresh eyes on flies

Credit: ® Roy Ritchie" /> Credit: ® Roy Ritchie By the end of high school, Patricia Wittkopp was so over fruit flies. They had sparked her passion for genetics, but as she shopped around for an undergraduate research project at the University of Michigan, Wittkopp wanted more. "I remember thinking to myself, 'We already did a fruit fly lab in high school, and I want to do something else'," she says.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant
Sep 30, 2008
<figcaption> Credit: ® Roy Ritchie</figcaption>
Credit: ® Roy Ritchie

By the end of high school, Patricia Wittkopp was so over fruit flies. They had sparked her passion for genetics, but as she shopped around for an undergraduate research project at the University of Michigan, Wittkopp wanted more. "I remember thinking to myself, 'We already did a fruit fly lab in high school, and I want to do something else'," she says.

Reluctantly researching Drosophila again, Wittkopp identified hidden genetic variation lurking in otherwise phenotypically identical wild fruit flies. Now an associate professor at the University of Michigan, she continues to pursue fundamental biological questions, and more than a decade after she thought she was done with them, the fruit fly is still her model organism of choice. "Clearly I had much more to learn," Wittkopp concedes.

"She had done a lot of interesting and surprising work" as an undergrad, says Sean Carroll, a University of...