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College of Medicine bioinformatics student selected for National Science Foundation fellowship

Jordan Hughey, a doctoral student in the bioinformatics and genomics graduate program at Penn State College of Medicine, has been selected as a fellow for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) in 2018.

The GRFP recognizes graduate students who are advancing research and teaching within the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Hughey, whose background is in biomolecular engineering, was selected from more than 12,000 applicants.

“I am quite proud of him. We are very much invested in him, and he is well deserving of this award,” said Cooduvalli Shashikant, co-director of the bioinformatics and genomics graduate program.

Jordan Hughey is seen in a head-and-shoulders photo, wearing a suit, tie and corsage.

Jordan Hughey

Hughey has been working toward this moment since his undergraduate studies and considers this opportunity a dream come true.

“Helping people is what drives my passion for research, and the GRF will benefit my career and enable me to help people to the best of my ability,” Hughey said. “The National Science Foundation and I believe in promoting diversity in every field, and I hope I can show young people, who identify with my background, that they can do it.”

For the five-year fellowship, Hughey will focus on investigating complex trait mechanisms through genomic data integration. The goal of his work is to use statistical methods to integrate genomic data types to implicate genes that influence disease risk and also reveal underlying mechanisms for diseases. Hughey's advisor sees the widespread impact this fellowship could have on the field.

“Big datasets, as generated by DNA-sequencing technologies, have revolutionized modern biology and medicine. Our lab develops learning methods that can more effectively analyze and interpret these datasets. Through the support of the NSF's fellowship, Jordan will develop innovative approaches, which can help better understand how disease develops in each patient, and identify personalized drugs and therapies for more effective treatment,” said Dajiang Liu, assistant professor of public health sciences.

“I am delighted and excited that Jordan is the recipient of an NSF Fellowship,” said Vernon M. Chinchilli, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences. “It is the first such award for a graduate student whose advisor has a primary faculty appointment in the Department of Public Health Sciences. The research work in genomics and statistical genetics that Jordan and Dr. Liu are performing is cutting-edge, and I look forward to reading the research reports that they develop.”

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