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Guest Editor: January 2018

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Guest Editor: January 2018

Andrew Stephenson.

23 April 2018

 

Our inaugural guest editor is Andrew Stephenson, Distinguished Professor of Biology and associate dean for research and innovation in the Eberly College of Science. Stephenson supervises the college’s research administration office and oversees the Office for Innovation, which assists our faculty inventors in capturing intellectual property (IP), provides academic resources and support to our scientist-entrepreneurs, and connects our academic researchers with industrial networks to maximize the societal impact of our college’s most innovative research.

At first glance, the three stories that follow may appear to be hodgepodge around the theme of human health. It is our hope, however, that the three stories illustrate the range of contributions that our students, faculty, and alumni are making from the lab bench to the bedside. Of course, no three stories can truly illustrate the breadth or depth of the human health contributions rolling out of the Eberly College of Science. So I ask you to multiply these stories by the scores of world-class faculty, the hundreds of graduate students and postdocs who have come to us from the very best universities around the world, and the hundreds of bright and motivated undergraduates who are working daily (and often nightly) in labs across the college to understand the basic biology of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, to unravel the genetic code and its regulation, and to understand and control infectious diseases.

In addition to illustrating the range of the health and medicine contributions coming from the college, we hope that these three stories also provide some insight into how science progresses from the lab bench to the bedside. The first story shows the link between basic research and our understanding of health and disease in humans. It also shows how major advances in one area of the life sciences (genomics) can inform another area of the life sciences (molecular and cellular biology) to provide a fundamental understanding of a disease. This story also shows how a major technical advance that allows a skilled researcher to edit genes may pave the way for a cure. The second story provides an example of how the biomedical life sciences are being informed by mathematical and statistical models. The genomics revolution in the life sciences is generating previously unfathomable amounts of data. The current generation of models was developed to analyze each individual type of genomics data. The story that we highlight describes a major analytical breakthrough that allows life-sciences researchers to combine genomics data with genome-wide association data and tissue-specific genome modification data (the epigenome) to identify, with great accuracy, potential drug targets for disease. This technology is likely to greatly accelerate drug discovery and drug development.

While the example that we chose to present highlights the interconnectedness between the life sciences and statistics in human health, within the Eberly College of Science there are physicists, material scientists, physical chemists, and even astronomers working with life scientists to develop medical diagnostics and medical devices, and to advance telemedicine. Advances in human health and medicine are no longer the sole province of the life sciences, and our college is on the forefront of fostering and facilitating cross-disciplinary collaborations. The final story highlights what is perhaps the college’s greatest contribution to human health and medicine—the hundreds of well educated, highly motivated, and compassionate undergraduates who join the medical and allied health professions each year. When you read the life stories of the three alumni whom we have highlighted, you will see that they felt that the Eberly College of Science not only laid their scientific foundation but also nurtured many of the “soft skills” that increased their effectiveness at the bedside.