Shoumita Dasgupta, Ph.D.

[Shoumita Dasgupta]

Shoumita Dasgupta, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Biomedical Genetics
Assistant Dean of Admissions, Boston University School of Medicine
Director of Graduate Studies, Program in Genetics and Genomics
Medical Genetics Course Manager, Boston University School of Medicine
Ph.D. University of California, San Francisco
M.S. University of California, San Francisco
B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 


Stanley L. Robbins Award for Excellence in Teaching

Scholarly Interests

The popular press has called the twentieth century “The Century of the Gene.” During this time, genetics came forward as a central discipline in biology, first with the rediscovery of the work of Gregor Mendel at the turn of the century, later with the elucidation of the structure of DNA by Jim Watson and Francis Crick, and more recently with the development of recombinant DNA technologies by Paul Berg and Herb Boyer. These scientific events revolutionized the way we thought about biological problems. Mendel’s contributions led scientists to probe the genetic basis of inheritance while Watson and Crick helped to define the molecular nature of this inheritance. Berg and Boyer developed the tools that allowed scientists to manipulate these molecules of inheritance to more deeply understand their functions. Each of these events has had far-reaching consequences because of the explosion of scientific inquiry it both allowed and inspired.

dasimageCurrently, scientists of the twenty-first century are poised at the brink of another genetic revolution, this time triggered by the genome projects of organisms from microbes to humans. With the availability of this data, it has become obvious that current computational tools alone are inadequate to fully mine this immense data set. Although the power of current genomic strategies is tremendous, they are not sufficient to determine gene function. Consequently, scientists are seeking to ascertain gene function using two main approaches. First, there is a great effort underway to create new technologies and computational tools to allow for large scale molecular analyses of complex systems. Secondly, these strategies are utilized alongside methods that take advantage of the powerful role of model organisms in helping to determine gene function, an important focus of the Genetics and Genomics department. This global perspective on the intricate networks that govern the machinery of life is causing a shift in the traditional paradigm of identifying the impact of individual genes on any given process. Instead, the revised concept that no gene acts in isolation is more easily explored with these new genomic and bioinformatics tools.

Graduate Education

The aim of our program in establishing graduate coursework in Genetics and Genomics is to teach our students to apply the approaches of classical genetics and modern genomics to investigations of the heritable basis of numerous biological traits, the relationships among genes, the regulation of their expression, and the elaborate mechanisms involved in supporting complex biological processes. We want our students to be adept at utilizing hypothesis-driven methods as well as discovery-oriented experimental design styles to explore these problems. The combination of these two tactics will allow our students to systematically and broadly make important contributions to many disciplines of biology. Moreover, it is our goal that our students will also be trained to function as active members of the scientific community who can clearly communicate ideas, critically evaluate biomedical research, and mentor others in scientific scholarship. Towards this end, we offer an array of courses and training opportunities that comprise the Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics. “Principles of Genetics and Genomics” is a core course that focuses on the use of genetic methods in model organisms for understanding complex biological processes. This course focuses on the ability to use genetic systems to probe these problems, and therefore heavily explores the experimental aspects of these investigations. In addition, we discuss the impact of the genome sequences on the practice of modern science. In this regard, the course will be aimed towards first year PhD students in the biological sciences, but the course is open to anyone wishing to study genetic approaches to biological research. In addition, we use a case study approach to investigate the rich variety of scientific insights gained through genetic studies. As such, it is a core course that serves a diverse, interdisciplinary group of students in many fields from genetics and genomics to bioinformatics to immunology, and many others. Further details on this course and our other exciting courses for graduate and medical students can be found on the course website. This course is one of the foundations for our Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics, which is designed to bring these same approaches to an entire coordinated curriculum. Our Graduate Program aims to bridge the disciplines of experimental biosciences with computational and genomic approaches. The program consists of laboratory rotations, advanced coursework, and journal clubs in the first year. Subsequently, graduate students will focus on their thesis research, qualifying exams, and a teaching requirement. Additional information on our graduate program can be found on the graduate program website.

Medical Education

The pace of genetic advances during the last century has been unparalleled scientifically, and these discoveries have already made and are poised to make an incredible impact on the practice of medicine. Currently, OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man) lists thousands of identified disease genes, and likewise GeneTests lists thousands of diseases for which there are molecular tests. In this course we explore the precise molecular determinants of medical conditions and of human phenotypic variation that are being elucidated on a daily basis. Clearly, a detailed understanding of the genetic basis of human disease will lead to more precise molecular assays and diagnostics, better-targeted treatments, and more efficient treatment plans overall. Moreover, these developments will certainly affect all clinical specialties of the medical field since genetic components have a clear influence on a wide variety of human traits and conditions, from height and developmental birth defects to cancer susceptibility and neurological degeneration. We consider how these rapid advances can be utilized appropriately in a clinical environment as well as what ethical, legal, and societal implications all of these developments hold. This course is offered to first year medical students.

May 7, 2013
Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine