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Faculty and Staff

LEFT TO RIGHT:

Dr. William Casazza (Sr Bioinformatician-Stat Genet), Laura Grunenkovaite (Research Coordinator II), Preya Patel (Research Coordinator I), Dr. Johanna M. Seddon (Principal Investigator), Rola Ghanem (Research Coordinator II), Dikha De (Biostatistician III)

Dr. William Casazza (Sr Bioinformatician-Stat Genet)

Will Casazza is a Senior Bioinformatician who recently completed his Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the University of British Columbia in August 2023. His thesis focused on using various statistical methods that take information from molecular markers, like DNA methylation and gene expression, to understand the biological function of the many common, non-coding genetic variants involved in disease. This work was applied both broadly to several known traits and conditions and, specifically, to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. He now works with whole-exome sequencing data and plans to use our ongoing study of AMD and publicly available control data from various sources to uncover novel, rare genetic variants associated with advanced AMD. In the future, he hopes to use his expertise in working with diverse, non-genetic molecular data to aid in interpreting the rare variants he discovers.

 

Publications:

  1. Casazza, W., Schaffner, S. L., Artaud, F., Domenighetti, C., Schulze-Hentrich, J. M., Lesage, S., et al. (2023). A Parkinson’s disease genetic risk score associates with blood DNAm on chromosome 17. 2023.07.21.23293014. doi: 10.1101/2023.07.21.23293014.
  2. Casazza, W., Inkster, A. M., Gobbo, G. F. D., Yuan, V., Delahaye, F., Marsit, C., et al. (2022). Sex-dependent placental mQTL provide insight into the prenatal origins of childhood-onset traits and conditions. medRxiv, 2022.10.04.22280695. doi: 10.1101/2022.10.04.22280695.
  3. Ng, B., Casazza, W., Kim, N. H., Wang, C., Farhadi, F., Tasaki, S., et al. (2021). Cascading epigenomic analysis for identifying disease genes from the regulatory landscape of GWAS variants. PLOS Genetics 17, e1009918. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009918.
  4. Wright, G. E. B., Caron, N. S., Ng, B., Casal, L., Casazza, W., Xu, X., et al. (2020). Gene expression profiles complement the analysis of genomic modifiers of the clinical onset of Huntington disease. Hum Mol Genet. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddaa184.
  5. Ng, B., Casazza, W., Patrick, E., Tasaki, S., Novakovsky, G., Felsky, D., et al. (2019). Using Transcriptomic Hidden Variables to Infer Context-Specific Genotype Effects in the Brain. The American Journal of Human Genetics 105, 562–572. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2019.07.016.
  6. Patrick, E., Taga, M., Ergun, A., Ng, B., Casazza, W., Yung, C., et al. (2019). Deconvolving the contributions of cell-type heterogeneity on cortical gene expression.
Dikha De (Biostatistician III)

Dikha graduated from Boston University School of Public Health with a Master of Public Health degree in 2022, specializing in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Global Health Program Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation. She also completed her Bachelor's in Dental Surgery at Manipal College of Dental Sciences, India, in 2018. During her master's program, she discovered her passion for large-scale epidemiological studies, coding, and public health in general. Her primary interests include data analytics using SAS and SQL, as well as communicating and implementing research for a broader audience.

At the Seddon Lab, she serves as a Biostatistician III, where her responsibilities include maintaining various databases, extracting data, performing analyses, creating visualizations, and contributing to ongoing research on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other maculopathies. Currently, in addition to her various project responsibilities, she is assisting in translating updated risk prediction models into the AMD Risk Calculator.

Before coming to the United States for her higher education, Dikha practiced public health dentistry and worked for a non-profit organization specializing in health promotion, cancer screening, awareness, and treatment.

 

Publications:

  1. Seddon, Johanna M et al. “Family History of Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Genetics Predict Progression to Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration Adjusting for Macular Status, Demographic, and Lifestyle Factors.” American journal of ophthalmology, vol. 255 74-86. 10 Jul. 2023, doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2023.06.017
  2. Seddon JM, Rosner B, De D, Huan T, Java A, Atkinson J. Rare Dysfunctional Complement Factor I Genetic Variants and Progression to Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Ophthalmol Sci. 2022 Dec 30;3(2):100265. doi: 10.1016/j.xops.2022.100265. PMID: 36909148; PMCID: PMC9993025.
  3. Lee JS, Albrechta H, Goodman GR, De D, Takabatake K, O'Cleirigh C, Mayer KH, Fisher C, Carnes CT, Chai PR. Diversity in Digital Pill Systems: Differences in Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Use of a Digital Pill System for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Among Men Who Have Sex with Men with Diverse Racial and Ethnic Identities. Proc Annu Hawaii Int Conf Syst Sci. 2023;2023:2933-2942. Epub 2023 Jan 3. PMID: 36654663; PMCID: PMC9843706
  4. Chai P, De D, Albrechta H, Goodman GR, Takabatake K, Ben-Arieh A, Lee JS, Glynn TR, Mayer K, O'Cleirigh C, Fisher C. Attitudes towards participating in research involving digital pill systems to measure oral HIV pre-exposure chemoprophylaxis: a cross-sectional study among men who have sex with men with substance use in the USA. BMJ Open. 2023 Jan 30;13(1):e067549. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-067549. PMID: 36717151; PMCID: PMC9887701.
Rola Ghanem (Research Coordinator II)

Rola is a Clinical Research Coordinator II in the Seddon Lab. She has always had an interest and fascination with healthcare. She began her professional journey as a lead pharmacist in Lebanon and was quickly promoted to Pharmacy Manager. For five years, she served patients by preparing medications, providing pharmacological information to a multidisciplinary health care team, monitered patient drug therapies, and aided patients in understanding their diseases and treatments. When she moved to the US, she pursued and graduated with a Masters of Science in Clinical Research from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2021. For her capstone, she wrote and designed an original clinical study protocol to compare the effectiveness and safety of an interventional drug to a standard of care in the extended-term treatment of early stage Alzheimer's- type 2 diabetic patients. Clinical Research provides her with a new perspective on health services, drugs, and medical devices.

Rola's multidisciplinary background makes her an invaluable contributer to the Seddon lab. She values work ethic and positivity that both encourages team spirit and empowers professional relations. She is inspired daily by her husband and parents. In her free time, she loves to hike, cook, bike and walk in nature.

Laura Grunenkovaite (Research Coordinator II)
Laura Grunenkovaite graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a BS in Biology in May of 2022. Her thesis focused on investigating cilia regeneration in a C. elegans temperature sensitive kinesin mutant which may help in addressing ciliopathies in the future. At the Seddon Lab, she started as a Clinical Research Coordinator I but quickly moved up to a Clinical Research Coordinator II position. On a daily basis, Laura interacts with many patients – coordinating blood draws, retinal imaging, and promoting healthy habits. She has contributed to projects regarding the characterization of genotypic-phenotypic associations to help guide the therapeutics which may alter retinal disease onset and progression. She is currently in the medical school interview process and hopes to attend medical school next year. Outside of work, Laura loves to ski, read, bike, and forage berries and mushrooms.
Preya Patel (Research Coordinator I)
Preya Patel graduated from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst with both a BS in Biology and BA in History in 2023. Her thesis focused on the influence of a plant-based diet on the molcular mechanisms in cancer which brings to light additional therapeutic options to consider alongside traditional treatment methods. It also adds to the growing literature of personalized and preventative medicine. Her interest and background in the intersection between lifestyle, particularly nutrition, and disease is what initially attracted her to the Seddon Lab- which focuses on both in the context of macular degeneration and other related ocular disorders. She has a keen interest in scientific dissemination and puts that passion into practice through her interactions with patients and maintenance of the Seddon Lab website and social media outlets. She hopes to hone this skill as she prepares to apply for a masters in genetic counseling. Outside of work, Preya spends her time engaging in civic engagement and scientific activism with various grassroots organizations.