Hasiba Asma, right, a Fulbright Foreign Student fellow from Pakistan, is studying genetics, genomics and bioinformatics in the lab of Marc S. Halfon, PhD.

Fulbright Fellow From Pakistan Studying Bioinformatics at UB

Published November 8, 2017 This content is archived.

story by dirk hoffman
“When I looked up UB’s research groups and bioscience labs and saw their intense interaction with the industry and exposure to the latest technology, it motivated me to select UB. ”
Hasiba Asma
Fulbright Foreign Student fellow

Dedicated to Helping Trainees Realize Career Goals

Hasiba Asma is working in the laboratory of Marc S. Halfon, PhD, professor of biochemistry, located in UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences (CBLS).

“We are hoping that Hasiba will learn a number of bioinformatics techniques so that she can either continue her graduate studies in a doctoral program or take a position in bioinformatics at a university or company,” says Richard M. Gronostajski, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the GGB graduate program.

“A number of our bioinformatics MS graduates have found good academic and industrial positions and we want to help them achieve their career goals,” he adds.

Research Groups, Bioscience Labs Top Selling Points

Asma says she has a tremendous interest in discovering the cures for diseases which have not been discovered yet.

“Planning to complete my education and research deep into the molecular basis of these unknown diseases is a culmination of my desire to help people,” she says.

Asma says she has been told she is the first Pakistani to have been awarded a Fulbright fellowship in bioinformatics and is thankful the program considered the field worth investing in.

“I would like to continue my research through a doctoral degree and onwards,” she says. “I have always desired to contribute fruitfully to the bioinformatics research community.”

Bioinformatics is not well established in Pakistan, so Asma wanted to study somewhere where she could find advanced genomic research.

“When I looked up UB’s research groups and bioscience labs and saw their intense interaction with the industry and exposure to the latest technology, it motivated me to select UB,” she says.

Work Involves Input and Evaluation of Training Data

Halfon says Asma has been a wonderful addition to his laboratory and is a quick learner at picking up news skills, has a great work ethic and outstanding intellectual curiosity.

She is part of the bioinformatics/computational biology side of Halfon’s group of researchers and her work relates to a computational method they have developed to identify genomic (DNA) sequences that control gene expression in Drosophila (fruit flies) and other insects (such as mosquitoes, honeybees, etc.).

Asma is implementing methods used to evaluate how well various aspects of the lab’s approach, called SCRMshaw, are working. SCRMshaw is a machine-learning approach and requires input “training data.”

“Hasiba’s work will help us to evaluate how good different sets of training data are, and also provide us ways for assessing the sensitivity and specificity of the SCRMshaw method in much better ways than we have been able to do so previously,” Halfon says.

Entities Lend Support to Research and Core Facilities

Halfon says he has the same goals for Asma that he does for all of his students.

“I hope that she learns a lot, not only about science but about how to be a good scientist; that her work is successful in advancing knowledge, best reflected in authoring a publication; and that she enjoys the experience,” he says.

Gronostajski notes the CBLS and Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and medical school dean, have offered much support to genomic and bioinformatics research and corresponding core facilities.

“The Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics has also played a major role in assuring that UB has the genomic and bioinformatic resources to do research in these areas,” he says.

The Fulbright Foreign Student Program enables graduate students, young professionals and artists from abroad to study and conduct research in the United States. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. Approximately 4,000 foreign students receive Fulbright scholarships each year.