Monday, July 20, 2009

FAMU Student Chosen to Study in Hong Kong

Huan Chen, a doctoral graduate student at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Environmental Sciences Institute (ESI), has been selected by an international panel of experts to attend an international course on Bioinformatics and Comparative Genome Analysis.

Bioinformatics applies computer and information technology to manage and analyze organism genomes and other biological data. It is heavily based on computer analyses and programming.

Only 24 individuals were invited to the course out of 138 applicants from around the world. No more than six individuals from one country are allowed to attend. Chen is one of only three applicants chosen from the United States. The highly selective course will be held in Hong Kong in August.

“I feel very fortunate and honored to have been selected from among the outstanding applicants,” Chen said.

During the course, Chen hopes to experience a deep immersion in bioinformatics and be able to apply what she learns through the course to her Ph.D. research. Chen’s research focuses on Bdellovibrio (BALOs). Although BALOs are ill-defined, known information about one species of BALO show their potential to produce unique antibiotics and other compounds that could be used to fight bacterial infections in humans.

Chen is also pursuing the use of the BALOs to reduce human pathogens in oysters, a favorite food, to make the shellfish safer for human consumption.

This course will enable Chen to be involved in the forefront of her work with BALOs.

The workshop sponsors cover the attendee’s course tuition and fees, lodging and meals for the two-week course. The workshop sponsors include the Institut de Pasteur, a private non-profit foundation that contributes to the prevention and treatment of disease, through research, education, and public health activities, and the European Molecular Biology Organization, a focal point for the vast network of molecular biology research in Europe.

A primary objective of the course is to encourage multidisciplinary practices by introducing advanced fundamental problem-solving procedures in bioinformatics; their application in genome analyses; and recent knowledge acquired from genomes studies and perspectives.

The course is aimed for motivated Ph.D. and post-doctoral students and young assistant professors at public institutions particularly, but not exclusively, from Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Students and faculty must have a background in mathematics, statistics, biology or computing and are involved in bioinformatics and genomes studies.

Chen received the M.S. degree from ESI last fall with a 4.0 GPA and was admitted into the Ph.D. program in January. She has a B.S. degree in computer science from Huazhong Agricultural University in Hubei, China. Chen attributes this background as an asset in her selection to the course as bioinformatics is heavily based in computer analyses and programming. She says that the academic programs have well prepared her for the challenge of the rigorous course.

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