Visitor of the Week: Jonathan Diedrich

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Meet Jonathan Diedrich of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (SJCRH) in Memphis, TN. Jonathan is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Daniel Savic in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department. He is on campus for the Statistical Methods for Functional Genomics course and we’re hoping to have him back for The Biology of Genomes meeting next year. 

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
My project employs functional genomic techniques to identify non-coding regulatory elements involved in chemotherapeutic drug resistance in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research? 
I have always wanted to transition into the functional genomic field because I thoroughly believe that functional genomics and large-scale data analysis is the future of cancer research and precision medicine. As a postdoc in an extremely collaborative and supportive environment, I am in an excellent position to learn cutting edge functional genomic techniques and hone my analytical skills. 

How did your scientific journey begin? 
I actually started my research “career” in zoology! I studied comparative anatomy of carnivore skulls at Michigan State University where I fell in love with the research aspect of science and quickly knew I wanted to transition into the cancer field. I completed my PhD in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University with Dr. Izabela Podgorski as my mentor. My thesis project was to interrogate the effects of bone marrow adipocytes on metastatic prostate tumor progression. Dr. Podgorski’s exceptional mentoring and support during my PhD inspired me to pursue a career in academia; I am now in the first year of my postdoc and very excited for a career in science!

What and/or how will you apply what you've learned from the course to your work? 
Being competent in statistical analysis in the field of functional genomics is extremely crucial and this course has helped me develop my skills to become the expert in Dr. Savic’s laboratory regarding various statistical analyses for large-scale RNA-seq, ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq, and 3-dimensional profiling datasets. My participation in this course will benefit my data analysis as well as the members of my laboratory and department at SJCRH. I will be able to assist in the analysis and scientific discussions of my team and become an integral asset in functional genomic analyses.  

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The most important takeaway from this course is to understand the conceptual reasoning behind the complex analyses performed to evaluate large-scale genomic datasets, and to efficiently utilize the programs to visualize and interpret your data in a reproducible and reliable manner.  

How many CSHL courses have you attended?
This is my first course at CSHL and I am planning on hopefully attending next year’s Biology of Genomes meeting. I am very excited about the possibility of going!

If someone curious in attending this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
Be prepared to learn a lot! This is an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in functional genomics to learn directly from the experts in the field, so take full advantage of the course while you are here! To keep pace, practice maneuvering through R and get familiar with basic R syntax ahead of time. Also, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as possible! The instructors are amazing, very eager to help, and want you to get as much as you can out of this course. 

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The best (non-science related) aspect of this course is the ability to meet and network with people from all over the world and who have similar interests and experiences. I have met so many great people within the first (of two) weeks I have been here and hopefully will have lasting friendships and future collaborations!

Thank you to Jonathan for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.