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June 13, 2013 - Image 2

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2013-06-13
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SThursday, June 13, 2013
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
'U' professor earns accolades for
research on genome sequencing

Thursday, June 13, 2013
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

11

Abecasis receives
third award from
Thomson Reuters
By WILL GREENBERG
Daily StaffReporter
Successful research must be
in the genes of Biostatistics Prof.
Goncalo Abecasis, as he secured
his third recognition from the
intellectual Property & Science
business of Thomson Reuters as
one of the "Hottest Researchers"
of 2012.
The program names
researchers in various fields each
year based on the total number
of citations their papers receive
throughout the year. Abecasis,
who is also the director of the
Michigan Genomic Initiative,
was recognized by Reuters for
his work in biostatistics.
Abecasis has been with the
University since 2001 and his
work has focused primarily on
genetics and genomics. He has
worked to "map" the human
genome, finding all the genetic
variations for each gene to
create a better understanding of
the body. He then studies these
discrepancies in order to find
their links to diseases.
Abecasis said the diseases he
investigates are those that are
largely genetic, such as macular
degeneration or diabetes.
"Once you know, for example,
if I can 'break' this gene I will
lower your risk of disease,"
Abecasis said, "Then you might
say, 'Well, it may be a good idea
for trying to prevent disease is to
design a drug that also blocks the
gene.'
Fellow Biostatistics Prof.
Michael Boehnke helped
recruit Abecasis to University
in 2001 and now works with
him. Boehnke said the two have
been able to locate hundreds of
genome locations and specific
genes linked to different
diseases.
Boehnke said Abecasis's
research award is "easily"
well deserved, and Abecasis is
"intellectually brilliant" and a
great collaborator. His ability
to locate and find solutions for

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NICK WILLIAMS/Daly
Redshirt junior Kiley Tobel set a new school record and personal record in the pole
vault with a height of 4.25 meters. Tobel finished 10th for the second straight year.

Biostatistics professor Goncalo Abecasis describes the genome sequencing and DNA mapping processes.

problems is what sets him apart
in the scientific community,
Boehnke said,
Abecasis said the Reuters
award tends to fit better in
different fields because his line
of work naturally gets cited
more often. He said while it was
satisfyingto have so many people
cite his papers, the award was
never his goal.
"If something like this
happens it's kind of nice and it's
kind of the icing on the cake,"
Abecasis said. "But you don't
plan your research to say, 'Oh,
I'm going to get a lot of citations,'
you say, 'Hey, what are the big
questions?' and you try and
tackle them."
While a combination of genetic
and genomic projects helped
sustain Abecasis's recognition
from Reuters, Abecasis said one
of his favorite projects was the
"1000 Genomes Project," an
effort with Oxford University
to sequence human genomes
of people across the world.
Abecasis said before this project
started in 2007, there were only
about 20 fully sequenced human

Eccleston ends on high note, women finish 47th

genomes ever completed.
"We really managed to take
sequencing technologies and
what we know about human
variation forward quite a bit,"
Abecasis said. "Now it's a basic
resource for genetic studies."
Boehnke discussed another
successful project for Abecasis:
the developing of statistical
method where genomic data
from other people is used to more
efficiently build a new human
genome. Boehnke said this
method is hugely beneficial to
biostatistics work for the future.
"A half dozen years ago when
Goncalo was the key developer
of this, there were many people
who were skeptical it would
work," Boehnke said. "Now you
don't even necessarily question
where this came from because
it's so standard and fundamental
to what we all do."
Currently, Abecasis continues
to help build a database of genetic
information through projects
possibly involving thousands
of patients. Abecasis said he
is working on finding a better
method of obtaining the human

genome, saying that current
strategies often don't include all
the details and variations.
"Right now most analysis
typically compares a genome
to the reference that was built
in part manually and over a
long period of time so they miss
things where any individual
is very different from that
referenced genome," Abecasis
said. "We're working to come
up with methods where we can
rebuild an individual's genome
almost from scratch."
In the past, the limitations of
sequencing genomes had much
to do with goals that reached
beyond the technology available
as well as financial constraints.
However, Abecasis said, just
within the past decade there
have been major advancements
that make sequencing more
efficient through the use of
micro-arrays, allowing several
genes and their variations to be
observed all at once.
Abecasis said he hopes his
work will be the next step in
advancing genome sequencing.

By MICHAEL KESSLER
Daily Sports Writer
Finishing 47th might not seem
like an accomplishment.
But for the Michigan women's
track and field team, the
finish in the NCAA Outdoor
Championships at the University
of Oregon's historic Hayward
Field was already a better result
than last year.
The Wolverines' four runners
are an improvement from last
year, when the team sent three
competitors to the event and
scored no points.
With two returning athletes
competing, Michigan was in
good position to put points on the
board, but it was a newcomer to
the national stage who ultimately
scored those points. Fifth-year
senior Amanda Eccleston, a
transfer from NCAA Division II
program Hillsdale College, took
fifth in the 1,500-meter run and
earned the team its only four
points.
In what has become nearly a
broken record now, Eccleston
once again set a personal-best
mark in her signature race, this
time finishing in 4:14.56. Her
top-five finish did not come
without difficulty, however.
Eccleston almost missed
qualifying for the finals, having
to grind her way into the

semifinals by securing the 12th
and final at-large spot before she
struggled early on in the final
race.
"I was pretty much in last right
off the bat, so it made a little bit
of the race kind of hard to work
my way up through," Eccleston
said. "But I was able to run pretty
well on the inside, and I was able
to move up a bit throughout, and
on the final straightaway I went
from seventh or eighth to fifth."
Eccleston's fifth-place fin-
ish marked an impressive end to
what has been a very successful
collegiate career. After dominat-
ing at the Division II level for
four years, including a national
championship last year in the
1,500-meter run, Eccleston
transferred to Michigan for
her final year of eligibility. She
proved her national champion-
ship last year was no fluke, and
was rewarded with All-Amer-
ican first team honors for her
fifth-place performance.
"It was just a really great
opportunity to come out and
represent Michigan, and a great
way to finish out my college
career," she said.
Eccleston was joined on the
track by teammate and co-captain
senior Rebecca Addison, who
concluded her four-yearcollegiate
career at Michigan in the 1,500
meter run with a 23rd-place

finish in the semifinals. Though most f
her time did not qualify her for and it's
the finals, she earned an All- really
American honorable mention for watchi
her showing. excited
On the field, two athletes "So itv
made return appearances to the run he
NCAA Outdoor Championships, much a
and though neither placed scor- Adde
ing marks, their performances track t
were strong nonetheless. so mar
Redshirt junior Kiley Tobel, cool ex
the only non-graduating most f
member of the four competing at an e
Wolverines, set a new school was gre
record and personal best in the place to
pole vault, finishing 10th for the Thou
second consecutive year with a on the
mark of 4.25 meters. Outdoo
"I was really excited to end last ye
my season on such a high note," points,
Tobel said. "Last year at the
national meet I didn't have my
best performance at that meet, so
to come out this year and be able
to do my very best at the national
meet was something I really
wanted to accomplish this year."
Rounding out the quartet
was senior Erin Pendleton, who
finished 18th in the discus by
improving on each of her three
throws to record a final toss of
49.96 meters. The school record-
holder in the discus throw,
Pendleton was making her third-
career appearance in the NCAA
Championships after missing
out last year. She earned an All-
American honorable mention
as she closed out her collegiate
career.
"I thought overall all of the
kids performed to their highest
potential," said Michigan coach
James Henry. "I was really happy
with the girls that did qualify
and we had a few that came very
close. I was really happy with the
performances we had this week
in Eugene - they were all very
competitive."
The Wolverines will take a
small yet notable hit from to their
roster in the offseason, as three
of the four athletes competing at
the Outdoor Championships will
be graduating.
For Eccleston, Addison, Tobel
and Pendleton, the opportunity
to compete at one of the most
historic tracks in the country was
a once-in-a-lifetime experience
and an exciting way to end their
careers.
"It's really exciting, because
Hayward Field is probably the

amous track in the U.S.,
s just full of people who
enjoy track and love
ng races and really get
for it," Eccleston said.
was a great experience to
re where people care so
bout our sport."
ed Tobel: "It's a huge
own here and there were
ny fans. It was a really
xperience, definitely the
un I've had competing
vent before. The energy
eat, and it was the perfect
o set the school record."
ugh Michigan improved
ir performance at the
or Championships from
ar, when it scored no
the team still has work to

I

do to achieve the level of success
they are striving for.
"We're getting better, but
we're not there yet, meaning we
should be qualifying more kids,
we should be scoring more points
at the national level, but it starts
with the Big Ten," Henry said.
"We've improved from the previ-
ous year in our conference, both
indoors and outdoors, and we
want to continue to improve, we
want to continue to get better.
"It's going to be my coaching
staff and my job to bring the next
group of ladies up and hopefully
they will be able to represent
Michigan and contribute."
D Forall thelatest Michigan sports
coverage, visittheblockm.com

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