Florida Atlantic University student Keith Murphy recently won the Conference of Florida Graduate Schools (CFGS) 3MT Competition with his presentation, “Using Light to Control Meal Size.” The competition challenged participants to explain their research in three minutes or less to an audience with little or no background in their area of study. The competition was open to 3MT first and second place winners from 11 universities, including the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida State University and Florida International University.
Murphy, a Ph.D. student studying neuroscience, has been observing the eating behaviors of fruit flies for the past five years. His research uses light-sensitive molecules that are genetically encoded into cells that control the sensation of “fullness” in fruit flies, allowing him to artificially turn these cells on and off with light. When a fruit fly begins to eat, a machine detects this activity and shines a bright light on the insect. Murphy found that the fruit flies carrying the genetically encoded molecules stopped eating immediately, and that meal size and total food consumption decreased by 40 percent. Murphy hopes this research can be applied one day to human behavior.
“These findings suggest that we may someday be able to control how much we eat in a meal by simply applying light to the nerves that make us feel full,” he said. “This has large implications in the fight against the growing obesity epidemic.”
Aside from research, Murphy said that participating in 3MT has pushed him to become a better public speaker. He practiced his presentation around 30 times beforehand, paying close attention to the details.
“It’s not just about the words of a speech, but about body language, volume, tempo and passing enthusiasm for your work onto the audience,” he said. “You have to take your research, strip it down and find what is most interesting to people.”
For more information on FAU’s 3MT competition, click here.