Q: How and when did you wind up at HudsonAlpha?
I am a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the Biotechnology Science and Engineering Ph.D. program. Because of the relationship between the University and the Institute, I am able to conduct my dissertation research here. I am working in Dr. Devin Absher's lab and began here in the summer of 2010.
Q: What is your role in the lab? What specifically are you studying?
I am one of two graduate students in our lab. My work focuses on epigenetic changes that occur to cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor genes (Cdkn2a/b) and their relationship to cardiovascular disease. Our approach to looking at these genes is through high-throughput sequencing and methylation arrays. We hope to relate methylation changes at or around the Cdkn2a/b loci to susceptibility risks for myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). I am also interested in how age contributes to methylation and disease state.
Q: Why is this research important to you? The world?
Cardiovascular research on a whole is a very important area to study because of the number of individuals that are 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. I think it is a very important disease to study.
Q: What is your educational background?
I received both my Bachelor's and Master's Degree 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, Illinois within the Neuroscience Department. I conducted human clinical research with a focus on circadian rhythms and sleep medicine. I mainly focused on the how sleep and circadian rhythms change with age.
Q: How did your previous professional experiences prepare you for this role?
Collectively, all of my research experiences have prepared me for the research-intense environment here 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 my research here at HudsonAlpha has been very beneficial too. I have gained a whole new set of skills especially as it relates 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 project related to prostate cancer. It was my first hands-on research experienced and from then on I knew I wanted to incorporate research within my career. Science is an ever-changing field and I am fascinated by how research has evolved over the years. 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 is it the best part of your job?
The best part about being here at HudsonAlpha is by far the people. I have received countless advice and research training from the postdoc in my lab. I have communicated with others about research and received sound professional development advice too. The people here really want to see others succeed and I appreciate that.
Q: What do you like best about working at HudsonAlpha?
HudsonAlpha is definitely an environment that fosters learning, new discoveries, and scientific networking. I appreciate the dynamics of the institute for not only being
setup for cutting edge research but also the educational component. I feel
it is very important for other individuals to share in the growing genetic
knowledge that we all experience here.