On Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Genetics
As our nation struggles to find our way out of darkness and towards a more just society, we scientists, clinicians, and educators seek ways to turn anguish into action. We must unite to condemn racism, but that response alone is inadequate. We must also empower our community to acknowledge privilege for those who benefit from it and to help disseminate tools to dismantle structural racism. Some of that will come in the form of the educational communities to which we contribute. Geneticists are in the unique position of being able to underscore our common humanity with evidence from our collective genomic history. It is up to us to create inclusive training environments where these topics are explored and used to shine a light on systems of care in our country.
Towards that end, we highlight below some BU community events and resources for further exploration.
- Friday, June 26th (2-3pm): The GMS graduate students in MISO (Minority and International Scientist Organization) with support from the GMS DEI office invite you to “A Discussion on Race & Inclusion at GMS”. Share your experiences and thoughts for how we can continue to work together to ensure racial equity at GMS and across the campus. This is organized and hosted by students. Have your voice heard.
Understanding Race: a module that introduces the genetic foundations that underscore our shared humanity.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
Although it may seem like the title gives away the story of Rob Peace, this important book still has you hoping, right up until the end, that you were wrong, that things will turn out differently for Mr. Peace. The fact that Rob Peace, Yale alum and mentor to inner city youth, is the same person as Shawn Peace, brother to all, son of a convicted felon, and small time drug dealer, is the basis of this gripping narrative. The backdrop of this narrative is two entirely separate settings, the inner city and the world of the privileged few, with an intersection of one, Robert DeShaun Peace. And you just keep turning pages, waiting for the other shoe to drop, hoping against hope that you’re wrong.
Superior by Angela Saini
“[This] is a case of science being retrofitted to accommodate race. The data, the theories, the facts themselves, are rotated and warped until they fit into a racial framework we can relate to. This is the power of race. It is the power to twist science to its own ends.” This powerful book chronicles the holes in the “biological science” of race and details how these pseudoscientific ideas have come to prominence once again. It’s an important read for the times, to help us understand how science can be viewed and manipulated outside of the ivory towers.
Dr. Dasgupta will be hosting an online Q&A with Ms. Saini, and the details will be added here.
On Nov 25th, 2019, all current GPGG students were able to make it out for a day trip to explore the human body at Boston's own Museum of Science BodyWorlds Exhibit. The students got to see a variety of systems up close and personal while enjoying the science in an interactive space. This was a great opportunity for students to observe how genetics and genomics affect the body in a 'big picture' setting while also getting a refresher of how the human body works outside of their focused area of research.
The Graduate Program in Genetics & Genomics is proud to have 2 students successfully defend their thesis in the month of November 2019! A huge congratulations goes to both of them and the GPGG wishes them the best of luck on their job hunt!
Barry K. Horne Jr successfully defended his dissertation thesis “The Roles of Interferon Regulatory Factor 5 and Interleukin-1 Receptor-Associated Kinase 4 in Lupus Pathogenesis” on Nov 18, 2019. Barry was a member of the Bonegio laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and during his third and fourth years at BUSM he also completed a two year academic “Immunology Training Program” (ITP) Predoctoral Fellowship. Barry’s doctoral research focused on the contributions of two suspect genes to the pathogenesis of the autoimmune disease Lupus.
Barry is passionate about science in general, and he greatly enjoys teaching, advocacy, and policy. His long-term goal is to take the scientific knowledge, critical thinking abilities, and multiple communication skills that he acquired while working on his PhD and translate them into a career in either education, politics / science policy, scientific public outreach, or science advocacy.
Check out his defense here!
BU Profile: https://profiles.bu.edu/Barry.Horne
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2770-6719
Dr. Barry Jr. Horne on the far right
Jiayi Wu Cox presented on “Genetic and Environmental Prediction of Opioid Cessation Using Machine Learning, GWAS, and a Mouse Model” on Nov 22, 2019.
Jiayi Cox defended her thesis titled “Genetic and Environmental Prediction of Opioid Cessation Using Machine Learning, GWAS, and a Mouse Model” on Nov 22, 2019, after 4 years of her Ph. D research. Jiayi was a founder of BU MED Campus Biomedical Machine Learning Community and the student representative of the section of Biomedical Genetics at Boston University. She received a full scholarship from Transformative Training Program in Addiction Science (TTPAS), this program prepares doctoral students to apply diverse approaches to addiction research using both population genetics and animal model. Jiayi did two internships doing her doctoral research, one at Biogen as a statistical geneticist intern and one at an MIT startup as a machine learning engineer intern.
Jiayi loves exploring different machine learning approaches and analyzing various data to tell stories. She currently works at Kintai Therapeutics as a machine learning scientist.
Check out her defense here!
Dr. Jiayi Wu Cox with her thesis defense council
Have you participated in a Clued Upp Detective Day before? On October 19th, 2019 a handful of the GPGG students were able to make to participate in a day of investigation and had the opportunity to put their critical thinking skills to use! The group got to explore downtown Boston and take a stroll through history as part of this fun, explorative activity. Using facts that they acquired from various landmarks, and clues given from a variety of witnesses, they were eventually able to crack the case. There was some trial and error but eventually they solved the murder!
Keep your eyes peeled for our next student social activity - you'll never know where you'll find us next!
The GPGG students presenting on their research to first-year PiBS students (2019)! There's lots of hustle and bustle regarding a wide-range of interesting topics.
For the first time in GPGG history, the Graduate Program in Genetics & Genomics is now able to provide laptops for student use throughout the lifetime of earning their PhD! Through the co-sponsorship with the Genome Science Institute at Boston University School of Medicine, we are proud to be able to aid students in our program with the tools and resources that they need to best facilitate their research. Starting as of June 2019, each new student joining the Graduate Program in Genetics & Genomics will be administered a brand-new, University-owned laptop for the duration of their Ph.D.!
Check out how excited our newest Ph.D. candidates are about the new student laptops!
Top Row (Left to Right): Megan Snyder, Stefanie Chan, Shoumita Dasgupta
Bottom Row: (Left to Right): Taylor Matte, Barry Horne, Gian Sepulveda, Emily Piontek
The Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics had a wonderful kickoff to summer with a group outing to Trapology in downtown Boston, which is a local Escape Room with various storylines. Utilizing real analytical thinking, the group was able to successfully escape the room with 7 minutes and 10 seconds to spare in a storyline that had only a 25% success rate! It was an extra special social activity due to the fact it was the first outing to include our newest GPGG students - Megan Snyder and Taylor Matte! A warm welcome to these new students and we are looking forward to more fun in the future at our next group activity.
Big congratulations are in order for the recent promotions of two GPGG faculty members - Dr. Hui Feng and Dr. Valentina Perissi! On May 15, 2019, it was announced that they each have been promoted to Associate Professor status.
The formal BUMC announcement notes each of their research focuses and accomplishments:
Hui Feng, MED, Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Medicine, established the Zebrafish Genetics and Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory using zebrafish to genetically screen for potential therapeutic targets for human cancers, based on tumor suppressive phenotypes. Dr. Feng's research studies how cancer cells adapt to cellular and microenvironmental stress and evade immune surveillance in zebrafish. Dr. Feng also collaborates with chemists to develop small molecule compounds to inhibit MYC-driven cancer aggressiveness. Current extramural funding includes an existing R01 and foundation grants (including one from the American Cancer Society) and has published articles in high-impact journals such as Nature, Nature Cell Biology, Cancer Cell and Leukemia.
Click here for more information on my research and background!
Valentina Perissi, MED, Biochemistry, is a molecular and cell biologist whose NIH- and DOD-supported work investigates the interplay between inflammation and metabolism in the context of breast cancer and obesity-induced insulin resistance and diabetes. Dr. Perissi’s research investigates the mechanism of its actions in adipogenesis and has uncovered a critical, non-transcriptional role for GPS2 in regulating the enzymatic activity of the TRAF2/CIAP1/Ubc13 ubiquitin conjugating complex. The Perissi lab uses tissue-specific mouse models to study how the different components of the NCoR complex contribute to broadly regulate the cellular responses to external stimulation by acting in different cellular compartments to modulate hormonal and inflammatory pathways. Dr. Perissi is also the Co-Director of the Adipose Tissue Biology and Nutrient Metabolism Core in the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
Click here for more information on my research and background!
The Graduate Program in Genetics & Genomics is very proud to have members that are dedicated to advancing genetics and genomics research while also recognizing them for their vast, overall accomplishments. We can't wait to see what your futures have in store and look forward to your future scientific accomplishments!
On April 26th, we celebrated Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day 2019, and the Russek Award Nominating Committee and the Russek Executive Committee announced the winner of this year’s Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics award! We want to start by thanking the nominating committee for their efforts, and we especially want to thank all of the applicants and presenters for their contributions.
Genetics and Genomics Program
1st Prize– Stefanie Chan; Dr. Perissi’s Lab
Stefanie Chan is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program for Genetics and Genomics and was selected for her 1st place prize at the Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day 2019 with her research on “The Role of GPS2 in the PI3K/AKT Pathway in Breast Cancer.”
The Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics is proud to recognize Stefanie for being a 2019 Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day first prize award recipient.
Congratulations, Stefanie, and our additional students who presented posters, Gian (poster #62) and Jiayi (poster #15)!
Russek Day 2019 Posters!
GPGG student Gian Sepulveda presenting his research at Russek Day 2019
GPGG Student, Stefanie Chan, with Dr. Shelly Russek
Guest Speaker, Dr. Xiowei Zhuang, an HHMI Investigator from Harvard presented “Illuminating Biology at the Nanoscale and Systems Scale by Imaging”
Stefanie Chan presenting her research that won a 1st place prize for the Graduate Program in Genetics & Genomics at Russek Day 2019!
On March 31, 2019, the Graduate Program in Genetics and Genomics took out the students for a genetics and genomics related social activity! They started out the day with lunch at a local Irish pub, The Asgard, and later made their way to a performance at Central Square Theater, called Photograph 51. This play illustrated the challenges that women in science have faced in the past and the present, and discusses the constant competitive race to publish. In the performance, Dr. Rosalind Franklin's "DNA discovery leads to the Nobel Prize – not for her, but for three men: Francis Crick, James Dewey Watson, and Maurice Wilkins" and highlights the chase to map the DNA molecule. This production tastefully promoted conversation on the challenges of gender bias in the scientific community and even delved deeper into the #MeToo movement. Overall, the outing was a success with good food and good company, topped off with stimulating conversation.
August 26, 2018
A current GPGG Student, Jiayi Wu Cox, has had the amazing opportunity of an industrial internship with Biogen Cambridge where she was able to apply her genetics and genomics education in a workplace setting. Her duties incorporated performing statistical tests on human DNA mutations to infer disease-causing variants, fine mapping the disease-causing loci, finding the impact of human mutations on gene expression level change, differential gene expression profiling, and network analysis. For more information on her experience, check out her blog post about it here!