Genomics of Addiction




Professor of Genetics

Project Summary

I worked under Dr. Laura Almasy and researched the genomics of addiction. My project was to analyze simple nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, or DNA sequence variations) in families that have many members with alcohol dependence, in order to try to find the genetic component of alcohol dependence. My lab was a “dry lab,” meaning that the data was already collected.  My job was to analyze that data using different computational methods. I analyzed the genome sequence in a chromosomal region that was linked to variations in brain waves in certain families in previous studies. I looked at different SNPs and assessed whether they could be contributing to the phenotype of alcohol dependence using different factors such as whether they are deleterious, what genes they are in, and whether the gene is expressed in the brain. I then used different programs and methods of pedigree analysis to perform a measured genotype association analysis, and determine which SNPs were actually associated with the phenotype. Working on this project helped me learn a lot about genetics that I did not know before. I was fortunate to have a mentor who was great at explaining difficult concepts, so that I was really able to understand what I was doing at every step. I also became much more comfortable working in a unix/linux environment, and figuring out how to use different software and programs designed for genetic analysis.  This was my first real lab experience, and it really helped me better understand how the scientific process works.  Though I am studying science in school, the “hands on” component of working in an actual lab has taught me a lot that I do not think I could have gained from the classroom alone.  My research has been an interesting and eye opening experience, and I am grateful for it.