Cohen Lab

Posts tagged #milestones

Summer Cookout — Goodbye, Jeff and Siqi!

The lab joined family and friends to celebrate Jeff and Siqi's successful defenses with a backyard cookout! Barak presented a book to each of the graduates, and everyone was treated to a magic show … um, I mean scientific demonstration of the power of ESP.

Congratulations Siqi!

Congratulations to Siqi Zhao for a successful defense of his thesis, “Single-cell massively parallel reporter assays”, completing the Cohen lab June thesis defense double-header! Watch a recording of his defense here!


Congratulations Jeff!

Congratulations to Jeff Hansen for a successful defense of his thesis, “A Test of the Pioneer Factor Hypothesis for Silent Gene Activation”. Watch a recording of his defense here. Jeff is an MSTP student and will be returning to the clinic for the final two years of Medical School, so we still hope to see him around!


One last thing before I go – 01/28/2020

chose artist’s home, for
science is self expression.
found beauty in truth.

This was Max’s last lab meeting with us. Max also shared some words of wisdom with us.

Words of Wisdom

  • Mentoring matters
  • Teaching will make you a better researcher and research will make you a better teacher
  • The goal of the lab is to help lab members get to where they want to go
  • Love people for their strengths and support them through their weaknesses
  • Science is a form of self expression
  • Trust your esthetic taste in problems and answers.

Back to back to back!

Congratulations to Clarice, to Siqi, and to Jeff on successfully proposing their theses! The three have hitched their wagons together so as one wagon advances ahead, the others are pulled alongside. In such a way, the three have boosted each other’s science and buoyed each other’s spirits. A regular Cerberus of science. What a team!

We look forward to seeing what comes out of each one’s thesis work.

Reflection upon a passed qualifying exam

Today in lab we were calling each other “champ”. My mom calls me Jeff. I passed my qualifying exam last Friday. Instead of providing you the blow-by-blow of my lively discussion on what sequence features determine pioneering activity, I will reflect. I hope to convey how positive an environment a lab can be.

As an MD-PhD student, I completed two years of classroom medical school prior to starting my PhD. During those first two years, I took many exams. Each exam was a real battle – from memorizing each drug used to treat heart failure to understanding how the kidney uses a litany of channels to filter our blood. By design, these two years were me against the knowledge base. Indirectly though, it was me against my classmates as we vie for a limited number of spots in competitive specialties. The result was that at times the crushing individualism led to lonely isolation.

What a difference the Cohen lab has been. A tradition of committing ourselves to each others’ crafts defines the lab, and defines the research environment at WashU. As my talk rose on the horizon, my lab mates gathered around our cozy conference table and spent hours helping me hone my ideas and sharpen my arguments to send me towards my QE. And as I stepped out of the room as my committee deliberated, there was Clarice down the hall with a wide grin on her face welcoming me back into the arms of the lab.

While the day-to-day life of medical and graduate school differ greatly, each focuses on the pursuit of knowledge. In my experience, one goes about that individually and one goes about that collaboratively. And I thank the cloning gods above that I found myself amongst the champs of Barak’s lab.

Farewell, Hemangi!

On Sunday, Barak hosted a farewell brunch for our senior graduate student, Hemangi Chaudhari. Beyond her contributions to the scientific community, Hemangi has provided wisdom and guidance to our lab for several years now. To the younger graduates, she provided patient instruction. To her classmates, she provided unbeatable cuisine and loyal companionship. And to post-docs and PIs, she provided an intellectual debate over the implications of a result or the design of an experiment.

As Hemangi moves to Boston, we wish her the warmest farewell. As she leaves behind her pipettes (to be scrounged after by incoming students) she leaves a lasting mark on both the lab and the scientific trajectories of those that were lucky enough to spend time with her in St. Louis. We all hope to cross paths again soon, as we crisscross through scientific communities all pointed towards a greater understanding of biology. While the farewells may be blue, the difficulty in parting demonstrates how strong the connections developed to be.

Farewell, Hemangi! We’ll see you again soon!

Image: Masala dosa – featured at the farewell brunch – every bite cherished (source: NY Times).

Qualifying Exam Successes

Congratulations to Clarice Hong (Molecular Genetics and Genomics) and Siqi Zhao (Computational and Systems Biology) on passing their Qualifying Exams!!! They have their wagons hitched to a star and we can’t wait to see where their scientific adventures travel next.

Hemangi’s Thesis Defense

Our intrepid landing pad explorer has successfully defended her thesis, titled “Integration of local and regional regulatory information in the human genome”!!!

Afterwards, we toasted champagne and had delicious Himalayan Yeti as we recounted Hemangi’s many wonderful accomplishments.

Mike White promoted to Assistant Professor

We are pleased to announce the Mike White PhD has been promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor of Genetics. This is well deserved. It is expected that Mike will continue his own research with the added distractions of worrying about grants, sitting on useless committees, and teaching classes to recalcitrant graduate students.