James S. McDonnell Department of Genetics
The Department of Genetics is at the forefront of the rapidly developing field known as genomic (or personalized) medicine, in which genetic and epigenetic analysis coupled with clinical information enables treatments to be tailored specifically to the individual patient. The rapid evolution of sequencing technologies, genome engineering, automated cellular imaging and mass spectrometry methods to rapidly perform proteomic and metabolomics studies, coupled with powerful computational tools, is revolutionizing the biological sciences. Investigators in the department are developing new methods of genomic analysis — including technology and software, epigenomics and copy number variation as well as studies of disease pathways using model organisms — to identify and study the genes responsible for human disease and treatment responses.
The department supports a broad program of preclinical and graduate instruction in genetics, with research opportunities that include studies of transcriptional networks, population genetics, protein evolution, neurological disorders, developmental genetics, models of human disease, genome architecture, statistical genetics and computational biology, genome technologies and infertility.
A significant portion of the first-year course in basic medical sciences is devoted to human and clinical genetics, with emphasis on how genomic information will transform the practice of medicine. This includes specialized selective courses in addition to the core genetic curriculum. Advanced training in clinical genetics and in genetic research is available from the faculty in the Department of Genetics and from geneticists with principal appointments in many other departments within the School of Medicine.
Advanced courses and seminars are offered that focus on the genetics of complex disease, gene expression, genome engineering, induced pluripotent stem cells, single-cell genomics, molecular genetics, genetic epidemiology, computational biology, developmental genetics, microbial genetics, cancer genetics, and population and evolutionary genetics. Extraordinary opportunities for research training and experience are available in all of these areas and at all levels. The programs are tailored to meet the needs of medical students, graduate students, and both MD and PhD postdoctoral fellows pursuing advanced training in biomedical research.
Genetics Research Electives
During the fourth year, opportunities exist for many varieties of advanced clinical or research experiences.
Barak Cohen, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 4308
Functional genomics in yeast; gene regulatory networks, complex trait genetics, and synthetic biology studies of cis-regulation.
Joseph Dougherty, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 6316
Our laboratory utilizes a variety of techniques spanning from human molecular genetics and informatics to mouse behavioral neuroscience and neuroanatomy. We develop and employ mouse models of psychiatric disorders, particularly those that mimic genetic variations that we have identified in human patient populations, with the goal of trying to understand the cellular and molecular underpinnings of these disorders.
Susan K. Dutcher, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5301
Studies of the role of centrioles and basal bodies in ciliary signaling, assembly, and motility using molecular genetics and computational and biochemical approaches.
Gabor Egervari, MD, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 6313
Our lab combines genomic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches with animal behavioral models to understand how metabolic fluctuations influence gene expression in the brain, particularly in the context of substance use disorders and neurodegeneration.
Sheng Chih (Peter) Jin, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5206
We use human genetic, genomic, and bioinformatic approaches to identify mutations underlying human diseases and their molecular mechanisms.
Tristan (Qingyun) Li, PhD
McDonnell Medical Sciences Building, 8th Floor
Our lab is broadly interested in neuroimmunology, with a focus on microglial biology. We combine cutting-edge, single-cell genomic technologies with in vitro and in vivo genetic, molecular, and cellular tools to investigate microglial functions in the establishment of the nervous system as well as how changes in these functions contribute to neurological diseases.
Michael Meers, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5308
The Meers Lab studies how transcription factors interact with and overcome barriers presented by chromatin landscapes to specify developmental and disease outcomes. To do so, we develop cutting-edge epigenomics techniques to map transcription factor binding and chromatin structure in the same context at high resolution.
Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 6306
We are performing Cas9/CRISPR activation and repression screens in iPSC-derived neurons together with single-cell transcriptomics analysis to evaluate the causal effects of genetic variants associated with neuropsychiatric diseases. We are also studying how metabolism influences the axonal/glial interactions important for proper nerve function. We use genetic and metabolomic analysis to identify molecular mechanisms of axonal degeneration, a self-destructive process that plays an important role in many neurodegenerative conditions, particularly motor neuron diseases like ALS and peripheral neuropathy.
Rob Mitra, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 4301
Our focus is on systems biology, gene regulation and technology development. Projects in the lab fall into three general categories: (1) understanding the molecular logic of transcription factor cooperativity; (2) mapping the gene regulatory networks that control developmental processes and using this knowledge to reprogram fibroblasts into useful cell types; and (3) developing novel technologies to more efficiently achieve the first two aims.
Samantha Morris, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 3316
This lab strives to engineer cell fate to generate clinically valuable cell populations via stem cell and developmental biology. Our research focuses on dissecting the gene regulatory networks that define cell identity, using the developing embryo and tissue regeneration as a guide to engineer fate in vitro. We apply insight from these analyses to generate clinically relevant populations by differentiating cells from a pluripotent state or by directly converting cells between mature fates. We employ a combination of computational, single-cell transcriptomics with cell and developmental biology approaches.
Michael A. Province, PhD
Farrell Learning and Teaching Center (FLTC), 6th floor, Suite 605
Development and evaluation of novel statistical genetics methodology, especially as applied to genomic identification and validation of variants for human complex quantitative traits, such as heart disease, cancer, pulmonary function, diabetes, and human longevity.
Nancy L. Saccone, PhD
Farrell Learning and Teaching Center (FLTC), 6th floor, Suite 606
Statistical genetics and psychiatric genetics; development and application of analysis methods for studying the genetics of human disease and complex traits.
Tim Schedl, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5305
Our lab studies germ cell development in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. The major focuses are control of the decision to proliferate or enter the meiotic pathway, control and coordination of meiotic prophase progression and gametogenesis, and control of meiotic maturation and ovulation.
James Skeath, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 6315
Identification of the genes and the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the early events of Drosophila central neurogenesis; illumination of the mechanisms that form, pattern and specify the individual identities of the progenitor cells of the Drosophila embryonic central nervous system.
Gary D. Stormo, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 4208
Computational biology of protein-DNA interactions, RNA folding, gene and promoter finding; biochemical analysis of DNA-protein interactions and gene regulation.
Tychele Turner, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5302
The focus of the Turner laboratory is the discovery and characterization of genetic etiological factors involved in neurodevelopmental disorders. We utilize both computational and experimental approaches to explore this genetic architecture.
Ting Wang, PhD
Couch Biomedical Research Building, Room 5211
Our lab uses genomics and epigenomics approaches to investigate how epigenetic factors determine cell fate. We study cell fate in normal development, differentiation, and regeneration; cell fate in tumorigenesis and epigenetic therapy; and cell fate in evolution.