Michelle C. Ward, Ph.D.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
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|Grant ID: RR190110|
Recruitment of First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Members
University of Chicago
November 20, 2019
Michelle Ward received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Her M.Sc. research aimed to find a novel therapeutic target in cervical cancer, the second most common form of cancer in women in South Africa. She identified the aberrant expression of the LAP2 gene in cervical cancer tissue compared to normal tissue, and established that the up-regulation is also evident in cancer cell lines compared to normal cervical fibroblasts, thereby allowing for mechanistic follow-up studies.
After studying the regulation of a single gene, she became interested in understanding the general ‘rules’ governing the regulation of transcription genome-wide. For her Ph.D., she therefore joined Dr. Duncan Odom’s group at the Cancer Research UK-Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge as a Commonwealth Doctoral Scholar to learn genomic approaches for investigating global gene regulation. These approaches allowed her to gain insight into the evolution of CTCF binding sites, Her Ph.D. thesis investigated the regulatory potential of transposable elements (TEs) in mammalian genomes. In particular, she showed that primate-specific TEs are aberrantly activated on human chromosome 21 in a mouse model of Down syndrome. This work suggests that TEs can drive evolutionary novelty during the divergence between humans and mice, and that TEs contain intrinsic regulatory potential that can be revealed in specific contexts.