Highlight on Alumni

Patricia Thomson talks Bioinformatics

Julie Niemala, Class of 2010

Julie Niemala

“Working as a research technologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I became hooked on bioinformatics after analyzing my first set of microarray data, and, in doing so, discovering a disease gene for an inherited disorder of the immune system. I had never analyzed microarray data before, so I extemporized, using the internet to help me select 25 candidate genes, based on a data set containing 54,000 probes. Six months later, I had sequenced my way through 23 of the genes and was about to give up, when I finally found the disease causing mutation in a gene called NRAS. Realizing the power of bioinformatics and suspecting that the techniques that I had learned on the internet were just the tip of the iceberg, I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Bioinformatics in the JHU part-time program. I knew immediately that I had made an excellent choice. The wide variety of courses offered allowed me to streamline my course of study to best suit my needs and interests.

I have enjoyed all of my classes, including the core classes, and particularly ‘Microarrays and Analysis’ and Molecular Targets in Cancer’. Many of my professors have been experts in their field, and they have been enthusiastic and helpful. The student body is comprised of people of all ages and backgrounds, and it has been interesting and educational getting to know them, not to mention a great opportunity for networking. I plan to stay at the NIH after I graduate in 2010, but will focus more on bioinformatics, applying the advanced skills that I have gained at JHU. My course of study at Hopkins will have been four years very well spent.”

Houtan Noushmehr, Class of 2006

Houtan Noushmehr

Houtan Noushmehr is a cancer genomics researcher where he works at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. His academic training and research experience have provided him valuable exposure to many different areas of science including, human physiology and diseases, molecular biology, genetics and bioinformatics and biostatistics. After completing his Masters degree in Bioinformatics at Johns Hopkins, he pursued a doctoral degree in the area of epigenetics. Not only did these achievements lay the foundation for his scientific curiosity in the field of epigenetics (specifically DNA methylation), but also fulfilled an exciting collaborative experience. As a member of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), Houtan has worked closely with a number of different scientists around the nation allowing him a unique opportunity to share and discuss research ideas.

He has established an expertise in data integration and analysis in understanding regulatory elements as well as epigenetic alterations associated with Cancer. He co-authored and developed a number of statistical methods (many deposited as bioconductor packages or in house ‘R’ scripts) to assist in his bioinformatic analyses. He credits his current career and success to his education he received at Johns Hopkins.