RIT Graduate Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study Genetics in Iceland




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This fall, Meghann Lyons, will study human genetics in Iceland on a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. Lyons graduated in May from Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. in biological sciences. She will join a research team at the University of Iceland Medical School to learn genetic analysis techniques.

Lyons is the daughter of Anthony Lyons and Brenda Chandler of Auburn, Maine, and Christie James D.O. of Keenebunk, Maine.

Iceland is of great interest to geneticists. Geographically isolated, Icelanders have developed a common genetic history due to its closed population, making the genetic risk for a disease greater in some families and therefore comparing intra-family genomes relevant.

"The genes of Icelanders offer scientists unparalleled opportunities to map the evolution of human diseases and discover genetic variation patterns needed for the development of future treatments and cures," Lyons says.

"Iceland is currently developing a giant database combining the health records, genealogical backgrounds and DNA profiles of every Icelandic citizen," she says. "From this, important genetic advances can be undertaken, as cancers and mutations can be studied and analyzed throughout the Icelandic population."

At the University of Iceland, Lyons will learn to clone gene sequences from a pool of genomes isolated from patients with the same disease. The data will be used to understand diseases, such as Cystic Fibrosis, caused by the mutation of a single gene.

Following her fellowship, Lyons plans to enroll in an M.D./Ph.D. program to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, and to complete her doctoral work in genetics.

"I aspire to be able to work as a doctor specializing in genetic testing," Lyons says. "I would be able to work with the patients faced with genetic diseases or disorders, and be able to analyze and diagnose the situations at hand using genetic testing methods."

Lyons explored her interests in the biological field while a student at RIT.

"The undergraduate course offerings within the College of Science has kept up with fast paced medical world and has prepared me to feel secure and ready to immerse myself in cutting-edge research," Lyons says.

An active member of the RIT community, Lyons participated in a variety of activities and served as the College of Science Student Government Senator and the Student Government liaison for the Premedical Students Association. Lyons also belonged to the journal club, and volunteered on the Special Olympics.

A scholar and an athlete, Lyons was on the Womenís Varsity Crew Team and the Rochester Speedskating Club. She was named athlete of the week in 2001 with the RIT Womenís Crew team for placing first at the Stonehurst Capital Regatta and competed in the 2002 short-track speedskating nationals this past March.

Meghann is excited to leave for Iceland in September and begin her research work but also to gain the experience of living in a different country and learning a new language. For the time being, she will train with her speedskating team this summer and work in the Kids on Campus summer program at RIT.

Internationally recognized as a leader in computing, imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education of the deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology enrolls 15,000 students in more than 240 undergraduate and graduate programs. Its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For the past decade, U.S. News and World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nationís leading comprehensive universities. RIT is also included in Yahoo! Internet Lifeís Top 100 Wired Universities, Fiskís Guide to Americaís Best Colleges, as well as Barronís Best Buys in Education.