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Preview: Fruit fly mind control to accompany advance screening of “The Fly Room” with the UO Doe Lab

Geneticists don’t usually have the opportunity to see a movie about their field of study, but on Oct. 26, Dr. Alexis Gambis and members of the University of Oregon’s Doe Laboratory will host two free advance screenings of The Fly Room at the Bijou Art Cinemas at 7:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. The film, directed by Gambis, is not set to be released until spring of 2016.

The showing will be accompanied by a demonstration presented by Dr. M.H. Syed and Matt Q. Clark, PhD student, that will allow members of the community to control the minds of fruit flies.

“We are using transgenic fruit flies to demonstrate optogenetic and thermogenetic ‘mind control’ experiments,” said Clark, a PhD student working in the Doe Lab. “In essence, of the roughly 100,000 neurons in the adult fly, we can turn on small groups of neurons that can trigger very specific behaviors, such as aggression, feeding and courtship.”

The Fly Room is Alexis Gambis’s first film, and it’s being followed largely by the genetics community because he himself has earned a PhD in genetics from Rockefeller University. He then attended the New York University Graduate Program to begin his 10-year project, The Fly Room.

“The movie is set between [world] wars in a lab called the fly room, where all the discovery of modern genetics was done,” Gambis said. “It’s a mainstream film with a layer of science in it.”

The story follows Calvin Bridges, a geneticist working in the fly room, and the relationship with his daughter, Betsy Bridges.

Both the Doe Lab community and Gambis are passionate about science outreach, presenting science to the public without overwhelming them with information.

“I, along with my colleague Matt Clark, have done lots of outreach events where students have visited our lab and performed experiments or we visited local schools,” said Dr. M.H. Syed. Next year, they plan to take their outreach to an international level by having a two week neuroscience workshop in Ethiopia.

Gambis has created his own non-profit organization, Imagine Science Films. Its mission statement is “to bridge the gap between art and science through film, thereby transforming the way science is communicated to the public and encourage collaboration across disciplines.” Gambis’s The Fly Room will be the first mainstream feature film of the organization.

A reception before the screening at 7:30 p.m. will be held at 7 p.m. where free pizza and and other treats will be available. Gambis will host a Q&A session after the film, and for the 9:15 p.m. screening he will have a presentation before the movie is shown.

The 7:30 p.m. screening is already full, but space is available for the 9:15 p.m. showing at the Bijou Art Cinemas at 492 E. 13th Ave. on Oct. 26.

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Mike Mendoza

Mike Mendoza