PhD in genomics program welcomes first student

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COPH student Jan Dahrendorff graduated this past summer with his MSPH in genomics. He’ll be taking the next step as the first student to enter the newly established genomics PhD program.

The USF genomics programs are comprised of an interdisciplinary team of researchers actively engaged in genomics research. It is a uniquely collaborative environment in which representatives from a variety of academic disciplines use a wide range of approaches (e.g., bench work, bioinformatics, computational modeling, systems biology) to promote understanding of genome structure and function and to use genomic sciences to answer complex questions relating to health, disease and environmental challenges.

“Both the MSPH and PhD degrees focused on genomics offer a flexible, student-centered program that combines exceptional curricular training in public health with research-based training in genomic data collection and analysis. Students will gain direct experience in handling high-throughput genomic data across multiple fields of relevance to public health, including human population genomics, infectious diseases and evolutionary genomics,” said Dr. Monica Uddin, COPH professor of psychiatric genomics. “The skills they acquire through this program will provide students with a solid foundation for a successful career in precision medicine, disease surveillance and bioinformatic analysis in both academic and applied settings.”

Jan Dahrendorff, MSPH (Photo courtesy of Dahrendoff)
Jan Dahrendorff, MSPH (Photo courtesy of Dahrendoff)

Dahrendorff moved to the U.S. in 2013 from Germany after being recruited for swimming at Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Fla. There he earned his undergraduate degree in psychology.

After graduation, Dahrendorff found a job at USF working for Dr. Laura Blair, assistant professor in the USF Morsani College of Medicine. At her laboratory studying the biology of degenerative diseases, he worked as a laboratory technician and became interested in the interplay of genes and psychiatric disorders.

He decided to reach out to Uddin who encouraged him to apply to the MSPH in genomics program.

While the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for Dahrendorff in the last year of his MSPH degree, he said that he’s so grateful for the program’s support and the experience he was able to gain.

As the PhD program is so new, Dahrendorff with be starting his PhD degree in the global communicable diseases concentration and will then transfer over to the genomics program.

“I’m very excited about the new program! Everything is new, so I don’t really have a reference of how things are going to go. But if I have an interest in something research wise, I’m going to pursue it,” he said.

Dahrendorff said that the field of genomics gives him a lot of research options.

“Because of the interdisciplinary nature of genomics, you are able to work with people from so many different backgrounds together as a team. It’s a very good experience,” he said. “I think in terms of career outlooks, you have so much flexibility and are able to do and research what you want.”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health