Helios Scholar working to learn the canine genome
Alexandra Nazareno, a computer science major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has worked as a Helios Scholar at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) for the past two summers and was mentored by Muhammed Murtaza of TGen.
“I learned about next generation sequencing and high performance computing techniques to process, organize and analyze large amounts of raw DNA sequencing data,” Nazareno said. “I created a workflow of aligning raw sequence reads to the reference canine genome and assess quality of sequencing results.”
In her work, she is learning more about the dog genome, how cancers develop in dogs and leverage this knowledge to develop better treatment options for dogs and for humans.
She is currently working on identifying genetic alterations in cancer tissue and in blood samples.
“One of the biggest challenges of working with sequencing in dogs is determining what genes and molecular pathways are affected by the mutations we find, since there is little previous study on the canine genome.
Growing up, Nazareno’s primary interest was in healthcare and life sciences. After taking her first programming class in high school, she wanted to continue learning computer science and engineering, which led her to the Fulton Schools.
“I loved the idea that computing technology is so relevant in any field, including health, so all through college I’ve looked for ways to combine my two passions in research and projects. In genomics research, computer scientists/bioinformaticians are needed to help the biologists produce, manage, and analyze, all the data that comes from sequencing.”
TGen, located in downtown Phoenix, is a non-profit research institute with a focus on studying human diseases at the molecular level, including individual genomes, in order to develop precision treatments and therapies for patients.
“I have been very grateful to work at TGen with its scientists, professors and education and outreach team, all of whom help provide experience in awesome research, as well as professional development within the scientific community,” said Nazareno.
Erik Wirtanen, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering