Vista Sohrab

Upon entering UMass Amherst as a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major in Fall 2017, I began to further explore my interests within this vast field. After attending a seminar regarding the development of algorithms for biological research, I became particularly interested in pursuing a career that combined genomics and computer science. During the spring semester of my freshman year, I was fortunate to join Dr. Li-Jun Ma’s lab to conduct bioinformatics and computational genomics research. Access to excellent mentors, reading scientific papers and presenting in journal club, as well as attending and presenting in lab meetings have all been immensely helpful in shaping my scientific career. As a result of my research experience and flexibility in the BMB major, I decided to further my knowledge in data science by pursuing an informatics major.

During the summer of 2019, I joined Dr. Athma Pai’s lab in the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Medical School to work on the comparative analysis of recursive splicing in Drosophila. As an undergraduate intern, I focused on cleaning, analyzing, and visualizing genomic data. Computational research experience in the Ma Lab as well as BMB courses were all excellent preparation for my summer internship.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work on bioinformatics projects in the Ma Lab. Every day has been a great learning experience for me where I have been able to learn and use quantitative skills to better understand genomic variations that contribute to genome evolution. Dilay Hazal Ayhan, my graduate student mentor, and I developed a bioinformatics pipeline to identify transposable element insertion events in non-reference genomes. It has truly been an honor for me to contribute to this project that is now published in Genes. In addition to working on transposable elements in Fusarium oxysporum, my honors thesis project focuses on using comparative genomics to identify mitogenomic molecular markers that can be used for differentiating Fusarium oxysporum strains in the field.

The BMB department provides a wealth of academic resources and research opportunities while encouraging students to explore and pursue other complementary fields of study. Researching in one’s field of interest is truly fulfilling, and the field of molecular biology is evolving as it is filled with unanswered questions that invites us to continuously learn and construct better methods and approaches to answer biological questions.