We invite you to "Get to Know" Brittany Lasseigne, a Ph.D. student who is working on her dissertation in the Myers lab. The daughter of an Air Force officer, Lasseigne never stayed in one place for long, but feels right at home in Huntsville – and here at HudsonAlpha, where the doctoral student is focusing on kidney cancer.

How did you wind up at HudsonAlpha?  
My husband, Josh, and I dated all through college (Mississippi State University) and married the summer after graduation.  We wanted to live in a city where he would have plenty of job opportunities and I could continue my education. We decided on North Alabama and I was accepted in the Biotechnology Science and Engineering Ph.D. program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In the spring of 2009, I did a rotation in the Myers lab and when it was over, I didn’t want to leave!  I stayed to do my dissertation research here at HudsonAlpha.

What is your key area of research?
One of the research interests of the Myers lab is using genomics tools to discover what molecular changes happen in a cell with disease, including cancer.  I am currently looking at kidney cancer through the lens of methylation and copy number changes.

Why is this so important?
Over 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with kidney cancer and the yearly incidence is on the rise.  Approximately half of these patients will die from the disease.  So many families are affected by cancer and I think the technology explosion we have experienced in genetics and genomics in the last few decades can help us understand what is happening in the cancer cell and point us in the direction of earlier and less invasive diagnostic tests and new treatments. All this information can help patients and doctors make more informed medical decisions.  It is an exciting time to be in cancer research.

What sparked your passion for science and what keeps it strong?

I have always been fascinated by science, particularly biology.  I find the complexity that makes life possible, and the genome’s role in it, both elegant and amazing.  I love tackling a complex problem, especially one with the potential to help people, and learning something about how life works that no one else has discovered before.

How do HudsonAlpha labs differ from others you have seen?

The collaborative spirit from lab to lab at HudsonAlpha is unique.  You don’t have the same pressure to outshine your neighbor and that fosters an environment of constructive feedback and a willingness to help one another.  Also, there are so many windows!  Most of the labs I have previously worked in were in old university building basements.

Can you tell us something about you we might be surprised to know?

I am an avid reader and enjoy writing (though I don’t currently have much time between school and my 6-month-old son, Patrick).  A few of my poems have been published and I hope to someday write a novel.