Human Genetics and Genomics PhD Student Awarded Prestigious Fellowship

Bohdan Khomtchouk, a first-year graduate student working in the Center for Therapeutic Innovation and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has received a prestigious three-year National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship through the Department of Defense. A triple-degree honors graduate summa cum laude in Mathematics, Physics, and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Khomtchouk is currently involved in several genome and epigenome projects in the laboratory of Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Center for Therapeutic Innovation at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics.

Khomtchouk is the first recipient of the distinguished NDSEG fellowship in the history of the Miller School of Medicine and one of only 200 NDSEG recipients this year nationwide. His recognition as an NDSEG fellow is a national academic achievement and a remarkable honor for both Khomtchouk and the Human Genetics and Genomics Graduate Program.

“This is a great honor. The funding of defense-oriented projects creates the right atmosphere for research innovation,” said Khomtchouk. “It gives you a sense of the necessity of your work as well as the confidence that your results will go toward the fortification of the economic and defense potential of the United States.”

Khomtchouk’s research centers on mathematical and computational genomics, examining gene expression levels from a computational aspect in order to better understand the human genome and epigenome. By developing more accurate models, the goal is to make more meaningful predictions of diseases, such as cancer.

Wahlestedt said the entire team is very proud of Khomtchouk for being the Miller School’s first NDSEG winner. “Bohdan is a computational talent,” Wahlestedt said. “He is extremely well positioned to help us integrate data from a wide variety of biomedical research efforts pursued by ourselves and others.”

A winner of numerous scholarships and fellowships in mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry, Khomtchouk has also co-authored a handful of scientific publications, copyrighted software programs and become a certified translation professional in English, Russian, Ukrainian and Spanish.

The NDSEG fellowship is awarded to U.S. citizens or nationals who are pursuing a doctoral degree in one of 15 supported disciplines at a U.S. institution. The program, supported by the Department of Defense (DoD), provides three years of full tuition and a monthly stipend. The competition for this prestigious award is highly competitive and subject to a two-tier review process. Each application is evaluated by a panel whose expertise is in the science or engineering discipline of the applicant’s proposed doctoral degree program. Panel members review academic records, personal statements, recommendations, and GRE scores.

The top applications that are ranked by the evaluation panel are then forwarded to the DoD. Winners of the NDSEG fellowships are selected by the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the High Performance Computing Modernization Program, based on an assessment of the applicants’ academic ability in fields of interest to the DoD.

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