My undergrad degree was in anthropology and biology and I saw the field of anthropological genetics, in particular, moving towards the computational realm which is how I became interested in computational biology. Dr. Siepel’s lab is one of the best if you want to study comparative genomics. In a winter rotation in New York City, I met Dr. Chris Mason who had me working on the Nonhuman Primate Reference Transcriptome project. So Dr. Mason had this huge resource available and I thought it would be a well-timed PhD thesis to combine Dr. Mason’ project with Dr. Siepel’s expertise.
I study how alternative splicing relates to primate genome evolution. For my thesis, I am taking a systematic approach to identifying and quantifying splicing isoforms across primates that encompass more the 70 million years of evolution and am describing the selective process that drive alternatively spliced isoforms. In the end, I hope to gain insight into primate physiology impacted by alternative splicing. After the program, I would like to stay in academia because I love being able to answer questions that are unanswered about ourselves as species and about what makes humans unique; that drives me every day.
I have been competitively racing for about four years. I train indoors with a cycling trainer and it is easier to balance the training with my work because training is a lot shorter. In the winter, I don’t race at all so I can really concentrate on my research. This year (2015) the world championships are going to be held in Richmond, Virginia so competing in that race is a big goal of mine. I’m always trying to improve myself and that pursuit of excellence is something that I apply in both my research and in cycling.
For me, the main strength of the program is the flexibility. As a student, you have access to faculty at three very different institutions, which is unique to this PhD program. If you choose a lab in NYC, some of your stipend is covered by the CBM program so in that way you also have a lot more flexibility in choosing the adviser that you want. I am mainly on the Ithaca campus but I go to New York City about once or twice a month. It has been really easy because Cornell offers a campus-to-campus bus with Wi-Fi that drops you off right in front of the Weill Cornell campus.