Kimberly Hobbs hails from the Windy City. While she is a long way from Chicago, she feels right at home doing research in Huntsville at HudsonAlpha.

Q: What led you to HudsonAlpha?   
I am a student at UAHuntsville in the biotechnology science and engineering Ph.D. program. Thanks to the relationship between the school and the Institute, I am able to conduct my dissertation research at HudsonAlpha. I joined Dr. Devin Absher’s lab in the summer of 2010.

Q: What is your role in the lab? 
My work focuses on epigenetic changes that occur to something known as cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor genes (Cdkn2a/b) and their relationship to cardiovascular disease. We look at these genes with high-throughput sequencing and methylation arrays, hoping we will be able to use this research to determine susceptibility risks for myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks. I am also interested in how age contributes to methylation and disease state.

Q: Why is this research important?
Overall, cardiovascular research is a very important area to study because of the number of individuals affected.  In the United States alone, nearly 16 million individuals have some form of cardiovascular disease and about 8 million have suffered a heart attack.

Q: What is your educational background? 
I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University in Alabama in Huntsville. My graduate thesis project focused on oxidative stress in the central nervous system and how nitric oxide contributes to that stress. Overall, I have a broad range of research training.  My most recent experience was serving as a research intern at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago within the neuroscience department.  I conducted human clinical research with a focus on circadian rhythms and sleep medicine. I mainly focused on how sleep and circadian rhythms change with age.

Q: How did your previous experiences prepare you for work at the Institute?
Collectively, all of my research experiences have prepared me for the research-intensive environment at HudsonAlpha. Because of my previous lab experiences, I was able to come in and train on various research techniques that are critical for my project. Needless to say, conducting research at HudsonAlpha has helped me in so many ways, giving me a whole new set of skills, particularly those related to data analysis.

Q: What sparked your passion for science and what keeps it strong?
My initial spark for research happened the summer after my freshman year in college. I participated in a summer internship and was able to work on a project related to prostate cancer.  It was my first hands-on research. From then on, I knew I wanted to incorporate research into my career. Science is an ever-changing field and I am fascinated by how research has evolved. We are making great progress toward some of the most fatal human diseases and I know that there are more discoveries to come. The idea that my research, along with others, may contribute to the quantity and/or quality of someone’s life definitely keeps the drive strong.

Q: What do you like best about working at HudsonAlpha?
I can’t say enough about the people. I have received so much advice related to my career and research. HudsonAlpha is definitely an environment that fosters learning, new discoveries and scientific networking. I appreciate the dynamics of the Institute for not only its cutting-edge research, but also the educational component.

It is very important for other individuals to share in the growing genetic knowledge that we all experience here.