Alumnus Ph.D. Thesis Chosen for 'Thesis of the Year'

Alumnus Rob Ihry ‘08 had his Ph.D. thesis selected for a "Thesis of the Year" award from the University of Wisconsin Graduate Program in cellular and molecular biology.

We asked Ihry to share more about his thesis: “Forward genetic analysis of a steroid-triggered transcriptional response during Drosophila metamorphosis."

Q. How did you become interested in this topic?

A. During my first week of graduate school I was sitting through rotation talks and this beacon of light appeared. My future advisor gave an awesome presentation on steroid-triggered cell death that occurs during Drosophila (fruit fly) metamorphosis. He showed a model in which the large larval salivary glands, which are no longer needed in the adult fly, are rapidly destroyed by cell death in a matter of just three hours. I was instantly hooked!

Read Ihry’s thesis summary and learn more about his research.

Q. So you've presented your thesis. What are your plans for the future?

A. I am currently at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The position is ideal and combines my interest in studying neuronal biology and disease with my desire to develop state of the art genetic tools. Specifically, I am adapting CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) based gene knockout technology to conduct genetic screens in neurons derived from human stem cells. Life is good in Massachusetts and I am getting firsthand exposure to the fast-paced world of pharma and biotech.

Q. Any reflections on your time at Augustana? What are some of your favorite memories in and/or outside the classroom? Inspiring professors or favorite classes?

A. I had such a good experience at Augustana, and Sioux Falls will always feel like home. I really have to express a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Mike Wanous (former professor of biology and former associate academic dean). He gave me a strong foundation in molecular biology that lead to my success in graduate school. The ability to be able to have access to cutting-edge techniques helped me to not only get into graduate school but also aided my discoveries that advanced my field of study. The mainstay of my thesis was generated by qPCR (quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction) and that is what I learned how to do in the basement of the Gilbert Science Center.