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Recent Graduates

Meet two of our successful alumni:

Anne Kwitek

Anne Kwitek

I am a 1996 alumnus of the Genetics Ph.D. Program, where I trained in the laboratory of Dr. Val Sheffield. My project involved the genetic mapping and positional cloning of a disease called Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS), a disease involving obesity, blindness, polydactyly, cognitive delay, and hypogonadism. My thesis work identified the first BBS locus, and determined that there are multiple genes causing BBS. At least 12 BBS genes have since been identified, and has been the subject of Dr. Sheffield’s long-standing research program in the identification and mechanistic studies of this syndrome.

After leaving the University of Iowa for a postdoctoral fellowship followed by an academic position at the Medical College of Wisconsin, I was fortunate to be recruited back here in 2007. My thesis work in the Genetics Program led directly to my current research focus - using genetics and genomics to identify genetic components of complex disease in rat and human. We use genome-wide approaches such as mapping, comparative genomics, transcriptomics, and high-throughput genotyping and sequencing to identify loci and genes involved in diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in both rat models and human populations. The field remains as amazing to me as it did when I was a graduate student; the more we learn about the genome the more questions there are!

Megan Ealy

Megan Ealy

UI Graduate College recognizes top scholars with dissertation prizes

The University of Iowa Graduate College has awarded its most prestigious dissertation prize – the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize in biological and life sciences – to Megan Ealy.

Ealy, who earned her Ph.D. from the Genetics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in 2011, completed the first genome-wide association study ever undertaken for any type of hearing loss. She identified the gene RELN's involvement in otosclerosis, a form of adult-onset hearing loss caused by an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. Otosclerosis affects 1 percent of humans.

This significant finding distinguished Ealy's dissertation, "Otosclerosis – Identifying Genetic Contributors to a Complex Hearing Disorder."

"We're trying to play with this gene more and figure out its role in bone," Ealy said. "It's very rewarding to open up a new avenue of research that can be conducted by a number of different labs."

The Spriestersbach Prize is awarded annually on a rotating basis in two of four broad disciplinary areas: humanities and fine arts; mathematical, physical sciences and engineering; biological and life sciences; and social sciences.

Winners of the Spriestersbach Prize also are the UI's nominees for the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/University Microfilms International (UMI) Distinguished Dissertation Award.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

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