Category Archives: Uncategorized

Riya Gohil wins Poster Award at the UNC Genetics Retreat

Riya Gohil won an award for Best Poster Presentation at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Genetics Department Retreat! The annual retreat was held in the mountains of North Carolina in beautiful Ashville. The retreat includes members of the Genetics Department and Ph.D. students in two programs, the Curriculum in Genetics & Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Congratulations on winning this award!

Benjamin Kornegay receives Graduate Diversity Enrichment Program (GDEP) award from Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Benjamin Kornegay, a graduate student in Jill Dowen’s Lab, is the recipient of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund 2023 Graduate Diversity Enrichment Program (GDEP) award. Selected from a pool of exceptionally talented applicants, Benjamin will receive financial support, mentorship opportunities, and access to invaluable resources throughout his academic journey via this award.

More info here:

BWF Celebrates Recipients of the 2023 Graduate Diversity Enrichment Program Awards

Jill Dowen Lab research spotlighted in BCBP Department

Gabrielle J. Dardis, a PhD Student in the Al Baldwin lab did a spotlight on our research group.

Check out the youtube video and article she put together!

Article text also shown here:

Dr. Jill Dowen’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC Chapel Hill studies the spatial organization of the genome, and how this affects gene expression in both healthy and disease states. Dowen, who grew up in Iowa and attended the University of Iowa, started her research lab at UNC in 2016 following her graduate work at the University of California San Diego and postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, and was recently promoted to associate professor with tenure.

The Dowen lab is interested in uncovering how DNA is compacted, organized, and regulated to allow for cells to function – and how this process can go wrong and lead to disease. Using a variety of cutting-edge approaches like CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering and spatial genomics techniques, students address different facets of this big-picture question in their own independent projects.

“I think what fascinates me the most is that if you take DNA from a single cell and stretch it out, it is six feet tall – and that needs to fit inside the nucleus of a cell,” says third-year student Riya Gohil. In her graduate work, she is developing new cell lines to study various proteins and how they govern DNA compaction and genome structure.

In addition to understanding healthy biological processes, the lab harbors an interest in dysfunctional events in genome organization. Natalie Rittenhouse, a fourth-year student, is focused on an important DNA compaction protein called cohesin, and aims to identify novel interacting partners that might contribute to disease states.

In fact, Dowen considers the biggest downstream impact of the lab’s research to be defining the earliest molecular defects that happen in the disease process: “We don’t yet understand the earliest molecular or cellular problems that are the tip of the iceberg that leads to all the downstream disease pathologies, so we hope to make important contributions in this earliest step of understanding human disease.”

Second-year student Geoffrey Fox is particularly interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying gene regulation that go wrong in disease, and ultimately believes, “the biggest impact that could come of that is better informing therapeutic development and the development of preventative measures for disease.”

When reflecting on why they chose to attend UNC, Gohil, Rittenhouse, and Fox echoed their partiality for the collaborative environment. Beyond an excellent cast of Principal Investigators conducting world-class research, the supportive community at UNC and in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department was cited as both a draw and a continued benefit by all three students. Further, Dowen says her proudest moments are seeing the people in her lab grow and succeed both during and after their graduate training.

The Dowen Lab is currently accepting applications for interested graduate students, and the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department additionally houses an excellent cohort of labs specializing in genetics and molecular biology.

Author: Gabrielle J. Dardis, a PhD Student in the Baldwin lab.

Jill Dowen promoted to Associate Professor with tenure

Congratulations to Jill Dowen, Associate Professor in the Biochemistry & Biophysics Department and the Biology Department, who received tenure as a UNC faculty effective January 1, 2023!

Dr. Dowen received her BS from the University of Iowa, her PhD from the University of California San Diego, and she completed her postdoctoral studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Dowen joined UNC in 2016 as a faculty member in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department and the Biology Department. Dr. Dowen is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Integrative Program for Biological and Genome Sciences.

Research in her lab focuses on the link between genome organization and transcriptional control of cellular identity. Her lab is particularly interested in the proteins, DNA sequences, and molecular processes that link three-dimensional organization of the genome and spatiotemporal gene expression. The Dowen lab applies cutting-edge technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and high throughput sequencing-based chromosome conformation capture assays to interrogate the function of long-range DNA interactions on chromosomes during health and disease.

Since coming to UNC, Dr. Dowen has assembled and trained a very active lab of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers. She’s received funding from the NIH and a Sidney Kimmel Scholar Award. She is a Reviewing Editor for Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences Genome Organization and Dynamics and is the Well-being Liaison for Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

(This news blurb is cross-posted with the UNC BCBP Department News.)

Nicole selected as nominee for the Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award

Nicole Arruda was selected as the nominee from the Genetics and Molecular Biology PhD Program to compete for a Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award. The Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award recognizes the highest level of graduate student scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill, highlighting the original and innovative work of our doctoral candidates and graduates.

There are 4 total awards given out each year, 1 in each of these 4 areas:
– Biological & Life Sciences (applicable for Nicole’s thesis work)
– Humanities & Fine Arts
– Mathematics, Physical Sciences & Engineering
– Social Sciences

We are wishing Nicole well during the competitive selection process and hope her phenomenal accomplishments will be recognized with an award by The Graduate School at UNC.

Alex and Audra win “Best Talk” awards at UNC Genetics Department Retreat

A huge congratulation goes out to graduate student Alex Stutzman and postdoctoral fellow Audra Bryan for giving excellent research talks at the 2022 UNC Genetics Department Retreat. The retreat was held Sept 14-16 in Wilmington, NC and was full of exciting research and scientific discussions. Both Alex and Audra received “Best Talk” awards in recognition of their terrific presentations. Way to go!

Nicole and Audra receive Science Mentoring Awards!

Two members of the Dowen Lab receive recognition for their outstanding mentoring from the UNC Office of Graduate Education!

Our very own Audra Bryan has received an Outstanding Mentor Award for her terrific efforts as a mentor in our lab, and especially for her work with Geoff during his fall rotation. Her planning, leadership, and time commitment were outstanding. She struck the right balance of hands-on guidance vs allowing for independence, which can be hard to achieve. We appreciate you going the extra mile as a mentor in our lab. Congratulations for earning this amazing award!

Our very own Nicole Arruda has received an Outstanding Mentor Award for her dedication to always helping others learn new techniques and analyses, providing constructive feedback/advice, and making our lab environment so fun and supportive. Congratulations Nicole! We appreciate you.