Genome Expert Albert Cheng to Speak at Eastern

Written by Dwight Bachman

Albert Gheng

Albert Cheng

Willimantic, CT — Albert Cheng, assistant professor at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, CT, will speak on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Science Building, Room 301 at Eastern Connecticut State University. Cheng will discuss “Engineering an Operating System for the Genome.”

Cheng, an expert in genome editing technologies and gene regulation who solves problems through science and engineering, will be the third speaker in the “Jax Presents at Eastern Lecture Series.” Begun last year at Eastern to expose students in health and life sciences to the burgeoning field of genomics and biochemical engineering, the series presents topics in ways that new and experienced scientists can understand.

Cheng earned a bachelor of science in biochemistry and master of philosophy in biology from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He later received his doctorate in computational and systems biology at MIT in Cambridge, MA, under the supervision of genomic pioneers Chris Burge and Rudolf Jaenisch, where he worked on topics such as epigenetics, gene regulation and alternative splicing in stem cells and cancer metastasis.

Mark Wanner, senior scientific writer at Jackson Laboratory, described Cheng’s science skills as “remarkableJackson Lab Bacteria Image molecular marvels. In a nutshell, his work has the potential to make feasible entire areas of research that were previously impossible. The difficulties he faces are profound. Precisely and reliably tweaking something as immense, complicated and seemingly chaotic as a genome takes ingenuity and patience. But it’s the sort of challenge that appeals to Cheng the most.”

Cheng joined the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, ME, in 2014 as one of the first JAX scholars. One of his recent achievements is the development of a new technique to activate multiple genes in mouse or human cells to help scientists understand transcription networks that underlie a variety of human diseases.

Jackson Lab SepsisAfter launching his own lab at JAX Genomic Medicine in July 2015, Cheng began working on plans to develop computational and synthetic biology methods to study gene regulation in normal embryonic development and disease. “I am constantly looking for and designing new experimental and computational methods to solve problems in biology,” Cheng told Wanner. “This is consistent with the spirit of innovation at JAX Genomic Medicine, and I look forward to the opportunity to work in the stimulating, collaborative and intellectual environment there.”

Jackson Laboratory’s partnership with Eastern started under the Connecticut Health and Life Sciences Career Initiative (HL-SCI) in 2013-15, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to prepare workers for Connecticut’s growing health and life sciences sector.