In today’s post-genomic era, we have an abundance of sequenced genomes that have contributed greatly to our knowledge of biology and human health. However, despite this wealth of big data, we are still left with fundamental questions about the heritability of complex traits and disorders. It is becoming increasingly apparent that many complex behaviours and neurodevelopmental disorders cannot be explained by genetic sequence alone. Rather, the field of genetics is undergoing a paradigm shift, which is resulting in a synthesis of genetics with epigenetics. Epigenetic marks maintain gene expression profiles related to development and tissue specificity without altering the underlying DNA sequence. Epigenetic marks are heritable in dividing cells and yet distinct from transcription factors, however, they influence each other. There are a number of epigenetic marks, which include DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications, and non-coding RNAs. Furthermore, epigenetic marks are responsive to the environment and function as an interface between the environment and genome.
In my research, as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Janine LaSalle at the University of California (Davis), I utilize computational and experimental methods to examine the epigenomic interface between neurodevelopment and environment. My postdoctoral research has been funded by both a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship award and a CIHR Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship award. When not working away on my research I contribute to EpiGenie as the Epigenetics Editor & Writer. I'm passionate about science communication, which has driven my interests into Stem Cells and Synthetic Biology. I am also the chair of the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC) Trainee Committee. Through a collaboration with CEEHRC and EpiGenie, we created the above video along with other interviews as a knowledge translation effort. Outside of the science world I'm an amateur photographer who enjoys nature.
We might use the name ‘epigenetics’ for such studies, thus emphasizing their relation to the concepts, so strongly favourable to the classical theory of epigenesis, which have been reached by the experimental embryologists. We certainly need to remember that between genotype and phenotype, and connecting them to each other, there lies a whole complex of developmental processes. It is convenient to have a name for this complex: ‘epigenotype’ seems suitable."