Friends since the first grade, now published scientists


Delaney Walts and Shan Lateef have been neighbors and friends since the first grade. In middle school, they ventured into a science fair project together, and worked to discover the effects of UV radiation on the common fruit fly, and the effects of antioxidants on radiation.

Their work…after many, many edits and rewrites…was published last month in the Journal of Emerging Investigators. In 2017, their regional science fair project received the U.S. Public Health Service Award. 

In the 2018-2019 school year, based on suggestions by the journal’s editors, they edited their paper to be published.

Walts says common fruit flies share 75% of the genes that cause disease in humans. 

“We found that ultraviolet radiation caused mutations in the genome of the fly and caused tumors that we could physically see on the fly and antioxidants did mitigate these effects,” said Walts.

So what does this mean for humans? First, lather up with the SPF at the beach. There’s another option, too: Lateef says the pair used turmeric to treat radiation on their fruit flies. “It’s a spice in Asia that’s been used for long periods of time for health benefits,” said Lateef. “So incorporating turmeric into everyday dishes would help treat UV radiation.” 

Walts and Lateef also studied the mutations that occurred in the offspring of the flies exposed to radiation. “Not much can be seen with flies that directly receive the UV radiation, but when they reproduce, and they have the baby, the baby can have mutations,” said Lateef. “This is very applicable to human studies because you may not see something in the parent but when you have the baby something might appear.” 

Walts is a rising junior at Colgan High School, and Lateef is a rising junior at Thomas Jefferson High School. 

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