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What does a geneticist do? Interview with Jenna Eghoiste

What would you say to someone who wants to know more about your work?

My role is to gather and distribute information regarding DNA-based animal breeding technology. Also, I’m in charge of explaining genetics or characterizing each distinct chicken breed in the company.

How do you spend your time?

When it comes to genomic sequencing, my job requires a significant amount of analysis, thus I will manage the analysis of genomic sequences and will perform the analysis of genomic sequences looking for mutations that could be associated with certain features.

We’ll sequence animals and search for instances of positive selection, namely the events of an altercation such as when a chicken or cow get bigger, which could have given rise to greater meat or milk production.

Work that we do is the genetic modification of DNA or engineering chickens, resulting in some Franken-chicken. We don’t want any trouble. It is essential that the bird be well, and we are not doing anything that is beyond expectations.

We will look for the genome that has been positively selected in order to identify which has changed. Animals that are diseased, and hence unserviceable for the food industry, will be sequenced and genotyped for our company. To discover the susceptibility of that disease for each type of animal, we’ll sequence or genome type the dead animals and the animals who survived and find mutations particular to each group that is related to the disease.

Another experiment we are undertaking is genome mapping, which examines the genetic predisposition to features like feed efficiency. The things we undertake to lessen farming’s environmental impact would include things like nitrogen production, so those are the gene mapping items we look at.

Then we’ll also have to study how all chickens are linked to each other so, for example, red jungle fowls and turkeys. As a comparison, we’ll use the human genome and how it is ordered into chromosomes, and study how it has changed over time, in order to observe how evolution is influenced by natural selection instead of domestication.

The ultimate goal is to minimize the environmental effects, improve chicken quality, and create stronger and more robust chickens. We’re attempting to produce one that’s less likely to succumb to sickness and has a lower impact on the environment.

Is a regular workweek typically long or short for you?

My typical workday would consist of programming for the majority of the time. I’ll find information from various outside sources and partner organizations who perform a lot of our laboratory work, as well as from lab technicians who work for us. I don’t undertake much experimental work outside of a select number of times. I use the outcomes of those studies to ensure the accuracy of my findings. After this we will evaluate the data to see if we have genetics. I spend most of my time sitting in front of the computer, with not too much experimental work.

Where did you begin in this line of work?

I began my college education with a Bachelor of Science in biology. The remainder of my education was spent in the field of conservation genetics, which I found quite interesting. I was interested in evolutionary genetics. From there, I was able to apply my beliefs to a more relevant population by working with domestic animals.

What is enjoyable about your job?

It is an extremely tough field. Genetics is in a state of constant evolution, with much advancement occurring. You will have to be well-rounded if you are going to transition from a lab-based discipline to one that has more of an information science focus.

If you want to be a programmer, you must know internal programming. When you have a rudimentary understanding of biological concepts, you’re able to ask questions that go to the very fundamentals of how organisms evolve, how they change, and what effects stresses have on them. For example, the Aicardi Syndrome, a really rare genetic syndrome that affects newborns. When I found out how intellectually interesting it was, I couldn’t resist.

What’s not to like?

It is often very stressful. While there are not many persons capable of doing the analysis, the workload is high and hard, resulting in stress.

The ultimate goal is to minimize the environmental effect, to improve chicken quality, and to create stronger and more robust chickens. We’re attempting to produce one that’s less likely to succumb to sickness, and has lower impact on the environment.

In this position, how do you make money or how are you compensated?

Benefits like health insurance are associated with being a paid employee.

You are a geneticist, how much money do you make?

I earn $115,000 annually.

When did you start making money?

When I initially started working, my salary was $65,000, and today I earn $114,000.

Is there anything more I can get in return for doing this job?

Overseas travel is common. You also get to go to conferences held in national and international locations. Your salary is fair, and I believe it’s quality job.

To become a geneticist, what education or talents are required?

Knowledge of genetics, statistics, or animal breeding would require a PhD.

Computational skills would include some form of programming language like Python or Pearl, an understanding of Linux, statistics, and obviously a background in biology.

The most difficult thing about my job is figuring out how to communicate complex ideas in a clear and concise manner.

I am employed for a huge corporation with 50% of the international markets. When trying to swap from a traditional technique to a more modern strategy, a genetics company is faced with the reality that things could go wrong fairly quickly.

An example of this is when, for instance, the wrong gene is selected or when you discover that the genes discovered in one population don’t perform the same function in the next population, and if you don’t make a very prompt effort to ascertain what is occurring on the ground, it is possible to send the animals in the wrong direction and turn them into a population that is unhealthy rather than one that is as healthy as they were before.

Please don’t make a mistake.

How would you describe the most gratifying aspect of your work?

If everything goes as planned, you will be accountable for helping us create new methods of animal breeding and that will lead to major improvements in the environment and decreasing food prices for people who are undernourished or in developing countries.

So as a result, it would have a significant social impact, with the possibility of having an environmental impact, due to the lessened impact on the environment resulting from large-scale farming.

To someone thinking about a job in this field, what would you say?

If you have the opportunity, volunteer or take on part-time job at companies that work with animal breeding or genetics this summer or during the school year. I’m always actively looking for internships, which means I’m really proactive with it.

An extra yard gained in knowledge and experience can go a long way because of the limited amount of networking and face-to-face contact you will have in an industry like animal breeding.

This job offers you how much time per week or per month to relax?

Fairly flexible, I get two weeks off per year but work must be done on those days.

Perhaps the most common mistake about what you do is that people think your work just makes things better, or brings good things into people’s lives.

When we perform genetic engineering on DNA or engineer chickens, we’re producing a monster. We don’t want any trouble. The whole point of all of this is to help the bird be healthy, and we’re not trying to do anything unusual to them.

We’re only interested in identifying the harmful gene variants that are linked to various diseases or the positive gene variants that result in population improvement. As they have done over thousands of years of conventional animal breeding, we are just trying to determine what is currently in the bird and then, through an increase in frequency, return that as the state it once was.

It’s just that we’re getting more and more accurate at identifying which animal is the greatest, and in fact, we are getting more and more accurate at our ability to carry out animal selection.

What are your future job plans?

To make a lasting difference in the way animal breeding is done, to increase my knowledge, to expand my horizons as far as science and my job are concerned, and to nurture myself.

Is there anything more you’d like the public to know about your work?

You are always busy, but you have a ton of fun doing it. There’s plenty of enjoyment and lots of fun to be had. It is hardly surprising that biologists and geneticists want to go down.

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