The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Student Testemonials

 Jihye Park, PhD, 2013

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard University/Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

One of the main reasons that I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Genomics at Penn State University was the rigorous, interdisciplinary, and collaborative research environment. When you visit various labs at Penn State and talk to faculty members and students, you will notice right away that they all work on a lot of innovative research projects with many different people and labs at Penn State and other institutes. There are many open and friendly forums and seminars  (i.e. BG retreat, Journal Club, etc) that will bring experts from different disciplines. You will get to discuss ongoing exciting projects that will synergize the efforts to understand evolutionary biology and genomics via computational and functional analyses.

The Penn State BG program also has a great balance between structure and flexibility for graduate students. The BG program has a very organized array of courses and curricula for students to explore different disciplines and learn important scientific and professional skills in order to succeed in careers in science. At the same time, it offers flexible forums and opportunities for students to expand their leadership, interests and passion in science and life (i.e. GENOMIX, teaching certificate, other student organizations, etc).

Besides great research programs and opportunities, the people that you work with make everything so much better at Penn State. The faculty and student body has a great interaction, and there are many opportunities for students to be mentored by various faculty members and peer mentors, present their work and ideas, and improve the program every year. The beautiful campus and surroundings will also help you enjoy daily life at Penn State while pursuing a degree in what you love.  


Arkarachai Fungtammasan, PhD, 2015 

Bioinformatics scientist, DNAnexus, Mountain View, California

Being a Ph.D. student in Bioinformatics and Genomics at Penn State, we are surrounded by the talented people and excellent resources that would allow us to conduct high-quality research. We are trained by the pioneers and experts in the field which equipped us not just the knowledge, but the vision of where the field is progressing into. The faculty put efforts into making us a critical thinker. I recall that we were contemplating on research results and suggesting several alternative hypotheses and the methods to prove them. We are not the information collector, but we are those who seek the discovery and innovation for the society. That is the essence that makes us the Ph.D. 

The Bioinformatics and Genomics program is highly collaborative. We are encouraged to work with faculty members with various backgrounds including computing, statistics, medical, and evolutionary. I enjoy discussing with them, understanding their perspectives, and exchanging the knowledge. This is particularly important for the interdisciplinary program like bioinformatics. There are also opportunities for us to initiate the event like the GENOMIX club. This experience was rewarding  and helped me as soon as I stepped into the industrial world where I work with people from various backgrounds.

Penn State community is very friendly. It is safe and the diversity is taken into account seriously. You will find a warm welcome from classmates and the community at State College. 



Ruowang Li, PhD, 2016

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA  

Coming to Penn State for my Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Genomics (BG) was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The world class faculty members in the BG program are engaged in conducting research at the forefront of their respective fields. With BG being an interdisciplinary filed, the diverse background of the faculty members enables the students to identify innovative research projects that they are truly interested in. Therefore, many BG students are guided by multiple mentors with complementary experiences so that the students’ potentials are maximized. I have had many occasions where I seek out BG faculty with questions and they were always willing to discuss and give feedbacks on my research. One of the faculty who I have regularly consulted with eventually became my co-mentor. This type of relationship is highly common and encouraged within the BG program.

The students in the BG program are also surrounded by highly qualified peers. Almost all of the incoming BG students have had significant prior research and working experiences in the related fields. Many of the students in the program have also received competitive fellowships from major funding agencies, including National Science Foundations and National Institute of Health. The students are very engaged in their research as evident by their publications in the top scientific journals and conferences. Furthermore, BG students are often selected to present their work both locally in seminars and student retreat, as well as nationally and internationally at scientific conferences. As a result, every student has ample opportunities to showcase their research throughout their Ph.D. studies.

With the help from the department and faculty, most of the past BG students are on track to achieve their career goals. Many have immediately found faculty, postdoctoral fellowship and industrial positions after graduation. The program also maintains contacts with BG alumni to network with current students. I think it is safe to say: Once you join the BG program, you will always be part of the BG family!   


Rohit Reja, PhD, 2016 

Bioinformatics Consultant at Genentech, Astrix Technology Group, San Francisco, California

When I began applying to Ph.D programs, I researched three main qualities of bioinformatics programs across the country: the quality of the research labs, the comprehensiveness of the coursework, and the opportunities for career development that were offered. Through my research I selected The Pennsylvania State University’s Bioinformatics and Genomics (BG) program; a decision that I continue to feel was the best for me.

The BG program offers excellent research labs, equipped with state-of-the-art technology. These research labs produce quality publications in some of the most esteemed journals - a characteristic that sets the program apart from others. The first one and a half years of my coursework provided me with a solid foundation for both my Ph.D and my future career. I had the opportunity to develop my skills in programming, statistics and data analysis, as well as engage in courses that covered both basic materials, and those which allowed me to dive deeper into more advanced topics. I find that the concepts I learned during my time in the BG program continue to come to use in my current scientific role at Genentech.  

While at Penn State, I also had the opportunity to hone my interpersonal skills. Along with a few other students in the BG program, I established the GenoMIX club within my first year. The GenoMIX team worked to organize talks by professors, alumni, and other leaders in the field, to discuss academic research, up and coming topics in bioinformatics as well as career opportunities. Through the organization, I was able to take on more responsibility and leadership roles particularly, when I co-organized the BG retreat, a student-organized conference that was attended by over 100 students and leaders in the field. The personal skills I developed at Penn State continue to come to great use in my career.