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Student Highlights: Jarrod Shilts

SyBBURE Student Highlight


Jarrod Shilts, Molecular & Cellular Biology and Neuroscience, Class of 2017

Jarrod Shilts

“Looking across at Jarrod at a SyBBURE meeting, either giving a presentation with articulately designed graphics or pondering on an intricate problem, you might imagine that Jarrod always knew he would be a ‘scientist-engineer’…and you would be right. From rudimentary electronics and Legos in elementary school, to genomics and genetic manipulations in college, Jarrod has shown outstanding skills in scientific research.

Jarrod’s introduction to SyBBURE was directly linked to his leadership of Vanderbilt’s iGEM lab, where he developed techniques for generating resistant, synthetic DNA and designing systems for directing the evolution of biological functions and sequencing DNA at high speeds among other smaller projects. Before summer 2017, Jarrod spent time in a lab that used targeted genetic modifications in fruit flies to test how the nervous system develops. His primary project was the creation of a new genetically-engineered line of flies that mimicked one of the key characteristics of models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Through this project, Jarrod made tremendous progress by determining how a particularly significant ASD pathway gave rise to defects in neural development and proposing an alternate mechanism that may suggest new drug targets. While working as a SyBBURE fewllow for summer 2017, Jarrod switched paths to work in a bioinformatics / genomics lab which studies the biology of human tumors as compared to healthy tissue. He is discovering exciting information about the different type of cancers by characterizing the changes in the biological clock of cancer cells compared to normal cells using a new statistical technique. This project has the potential to generate hypothesis about how cancer cells cause uncontrolled proliferation and this will break barriers in the fight against cancer.

Jarrod has the mind of a ground-breaking scientist, and we can only wait to see his phenomenal contributions to his chosen field. He summarizes the SyBBURE experience as one that can whatever you make it to be, with all the opportunities and pitfalls that come with so much potential.

As to his future career, Jarrod see himself definitely working in science with a mentorship role in either academia or industry. He proceeds to Cambridge to work for the Sanger Institute, an institute which is at the forefront of genetic research and will be sure to revolutionize the genomics industry as we know it. The Sanger Institute held a lot of promise for Jarrod because of its unprecedented research in genomic sequences and highly collaborative culture.

About mentor Kendal Broadie: Kendal Broadie studies the development, function and adaptability of the nervous system using genetic approaches. He focuses on the information transfer and information storage in cells of the nervous system. Working with the Broadie lab gave Jarrod an invaluable experience and the knowledge that he wanted to pursue genetics. 

About mentor Jake Hughey: Jake Hughey uses machine learning and multi-scale analysis to improve understanding of biological systems related to human health, including gastrointestinal disease and circadian rhythms. Jarrod worked on a project that investigated the correlation of gene expression timing in normal and cancerous cells, identifying a variety of hypothesis about cancer causing genes. This experience gave Jarrod computation skills that he will use in future endeavors.

With all certainty, Jarrod will be an incredible addition to all his future teams! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, Jarrod! Go ahead and conquer the world of genomics research!”


Somto Dimobi

Written by: Somtochukwu Dimobi, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Class of 2019


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