Michelle Jonika

Dr. Heath Blackmon Lab

Entrance year: 2018

Hometown: Magnolia, TX

“I am using next-generation DNA sequencing approaches in conjunction with machine learning to investigate the evolution of the pseudoautosomal region. This region is a special part of sex chromosomes that allows them to pair and segregate during spermatogenesis. Though modern sequencing has given us the ability to sequence the genomes of over 300 mammals, there are only nine genomes where the size of this pairing region has been estimated. This project will give us insight into the evolution of sex chromosome pairing in eutherian mammals, and help us understand why some species are more prone to chromosomal diseases like Turner and Klinefelter syndromes.”

Research Specialties

Bioinformatics and Genomics

Conservation & Population Genetics

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Genetics

Why did you choose the Genetics Ph.D. program at A&M?

I chose the Genetics Ph.D. program because I appreciate the interdisciplinary nature. With an undergraduate degree in forensic science and coming from research that involved forensic science, genetics and entomology, I appreciate science that is interdisciplinary and collaborative. I think this program does a wonderful job in allowing students to have opportunities for those interdisciplinary projects and giving the students the ability to network and collaborate with professors that are broad in their disciplines across the university.

How did the first year of the program help you prepare for your independent research project?

The first year of the genetics program helps you to get a basic understanding of genetics and computational analyses that you will need to be able to complete your independent projects. These classes are really foundational to every project that you will work on while you are in your PhD and help you to have a good understanding of how your research projects should be conducted.

What is at least one big lesson you have learned in the Genetics graduate program that you think is widely applicable to your future pursuits?

You only get out as much as you are willing to put in. The program has a lot of really great opportunities for students, but you have to be willing to take advantage of them. It is easy to be “busy” as a graduate student, but it is also important to stop and take those opportunities to learn about your future career options and to socialize with your peers so that you can be a more well-rounded scientist.

Fun Facts:

What would be your dream job after graduation from the program?

My dream job after graduation would be to go into industry in a job that is exciting and keeps me on my toes. I would like to get a job either at a tech company as a data analyst and use my coding skills to sort through large data sets, or work for a government or private forensic genetics lab and bring modern genomics and computational skills to the field of forensic science.

What is your favorite thing about life in College Station?

College Station is a really great town to live in for a graduate student. It feels like a college town but you can live far enough away that you can also separate yourself and enjoy being a young professional. I also really like that it is not too far to travel to either Houston or Austin for a weekend trip!

Do you have any pets? If so, please tell us about them.

I have a goldendoodle named Theodore and he looks like a real-life teddy bear. He is my best friend and I love taking him with me wherever I go (sometimes even to lab).