Category: Recent News

GPGG Student on Winning Russek Day Achievement Award

May 29th, 2014 in Recent News

Hila Milo Rasouly is the recipient of this year’s 20th annual Russek Student Achievement Award and a student in the Graduate Program for Genetics and Genomics. While working in Prof. Munnich’s Medical Genetic Clinic and Research Unit, she had the opportunity to discover the field of nephrology in genetics with Prof. Corinne Antignac. She has been a student host for the Genome Science Institute (GSI), inviting renowned geneticists to give lectures at GSI seminars and meet with students and faculty at Boston University. Hila was also offered an opportunity to be involved in graduate education development as a student representative in the GMS committee for the development of a revised curriculum for doctoral students (2011- FiBS I: Foundations in Biomedical Sciences). During the summers of her PhD program, she mentored two undergraduate students (GMS SURP program) and a high school student (BU RISE program). Both undergraduate students presented their research at the 2011 and 2012 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and one of the SURP program students won a national award for her poster. Hila also enjoyed being a Teacher’s Assistant for the GMS course “Principles of Genetics & Genomics” (GE 701).


Below, she answers a few questions on winning the award and about her goals within the program.



1. Tell us a bit about your research.

The aim of my thesis is to identify a new gene involved in kidney development. My research began with a human syndrome leading to an increased risk for congenital kidney anomalies. Since the role of the gene causing this syndrome (i.e. Zeb2) during kidney development was unknown, we decided to specifically knockout this gene in the kidney and characterize its phenotype.

In the frame of my PhD thesis, I identified a new gene causing glomerulocystic kidney disease: Zeb2. I am now characterizing the embryological defects leading to this phenotype.

2. What would you say sets the Program for Genetics and Genomics apart from other departments?

The program in Genetics and Genomics is special in the sense that it includes faculties from many different fields who share their love for genetics and genomics. For the students, this program is a great place to know people who can give an input in your work from the genetic perspective without the biases linked to the specific field of research. In addition, we are a small group of students so everybody knows everybody and we enjoy a personal attention from the program directors and the faculties.

3.  What is the significance of this award to you?

For me, this award is a great combination of having the opportunity to present my work to a broad audience outside my department and the money will enable me to subsidize my traveling to an international meeting outside Boston.

GPGG Student Publishes In PLOS Genetics

May 5th, 2014 in Recent News

PhD Candidate, Andy Hoss Publishes in PLOS Genetics

The Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics (GPGG) at the Boston University School of Medicine has a history of attracting successful students who go on to make significant contributions to the field.  We thought we’d take an opportunity to sit down with one student – in light of his most recent academic success – to ask about what makes him tick.

1.     What made you choose GPGG?

I worked at the Broad Institute of MIT in the genomics platform for some time before deciding to work towards a doctoral degree. While I was there, I started off in the core facility. Here, our group was tasked to sequence large mammalian genomes using Sanger sequencing, the same technology used to sequence the human genome. These projects required enormous expensive, support, and automated laboratory equipment. The human genome cost something like $3B. The year following my start date, I witnessed the rapid transition from large scale Sanger Sequencing to next generation sequencing technologies. In the next years, the cost of a large genome dropped to $10K. I observed first hand what could be done, leveraging these amazing technological advances to advance genomics.


2.     Tell us a little about your research in the program.

In the Myers lab, we study the genetics of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. For my dissertation project, I’m comparing the gene expression patterns of diseased and non-diseased human brain using next-generation sequencing of large and small RNAs, to attempt to understand the molecular mechanisms that may be involved in Huntington’s disease pathology and progression.


3.     You recently published in PLOS Genetics. Tell us a little about your article?

Huntington’s disease is an inherited fatal neurological disorder that commonly affects people in midlife. Past studies have implicated abnormal patterns gene expression as a candidate for causing the death of the brain cells affected in HD. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small molecules that regulate and usually reduce the expression of genes. We measured the levels of miRNAs, as well as the levels of gene expression (mRNAs) in twelve HD and nine control brain samples. We found five miRNAs that were greatly increased in their expression in the HD brains, including three that were not expressed at all in the normal samples. Four of these were related to important characteristics of the disease expression, including the age at disease onset, and the age at death of the individual. We examined which genes these miRNAs target for regulation and many of these were also altered in their expression in the HD samples. Surprisingly, most of these had increased expression. One of the miRNAs, miR- 196a-5p was previously implicated in enhancing the survival of brain cells in HD, and it may be that other miRNAs that we identified may also promote neuron survival and may hold new clues for treatments in HD.


4.     Now that you’ve successfully published this research, do you have plans for another project(s)?

Since the study was published, we’ve double our study size, which has allowed us the power to observe many more genes that are altered in expression in HD brain.  In the next months, we will attempt explain the functional relevance of these genetic changes using HD cellular models.


5.     What would you say to any students looking to apply to the Graduate Program for Genetics and Genomics (GPGG)?

In my experience in GPGG, I’ve had the opportunity to learn statistical genetics, bioinformatics and cell biology. It’s been comprehensive and extremely useful in my research. Also, being on the medical campus, you have the ability to perform translational studies and direct contact with the clinic, if that’s what you want.


6.     What’s your favorite part of being a BU student?

I’ve found the BU community to be extremely collaborative. It’s filled with pretty much any resource you’re looking for. The quality of the seminars has been fantastic. The school is very urban. And I love Boston!


Andy’s publication can be found here:


GPGG Student Gives Russek Day Talk

May 5th, 2014 in Recent News

Russek Day Pic 3

MAY 2nd 2014 – GPGG Student Receives 20th Annual Russek Day Achievement Award

Graduate Program for Genetics and Genomics (GPGG) student Hila Milo Rasouly, was one of a small, select group of graduate students to win a Russek Achievement Award at this year’s event. Russek Student Achievement Day celebrates students who have distinguished themselves not only as gifted researchers in their mentor’s laboratory but also as dedicated members of their department, program, or surrounding community. As a first prize winner, she delivered a talk, outlining her important exciting research. Her success in and dedication to the Program is proof of the quality of genetics and genomics education and research at BU, as well as the caliber of students and faculty within the Program.