A Week in the Life – Halie Rando

Halie is a 6th year graduate student (4th year PhD) from the Illinois Informatics Institute working in the Kukekova Lab in the Department of Animal Sciences. Halie works on red foxes bred for tame and aggressive behavior during the Russian Farm Fox Experiment. Her research focuses on the development of the red fox genome and next-generation sequencing technologies to identify the genomic regions that have been under selection during the first phase of selection, when foxes adapted to living on farms, and then during selective breeding for extreme social behavioral phenotypes.

What have you been working on this past week?

I submitted my dissertation to my committee last week, so right now I am finishing up some analyses and organizing my talk. In particular, I recently found some regions of the genome that differentiate farm-bred foxes from their wild ancestors, and this week I’ve been looking at the predicted effects of variants within these regions in the hopes of identifying which genes were the target of selection during domestication. Our lab also went out for an end-of-the-year celebration on Tuesday, and I got to see some of the undergrad RAs I worked with when I first started at Illinois — two of them are graduating from vet school next weekend! I’m also really looking forward to the IGB Fellows Symposium tomorrow (Thursday).

Kukekova lab end-of-the-year celebration

What has been your favorite class? Why?

I really enjoyed EPSY 581: Applied Regression Analysis. Up until that point, I had never taken any formal modeling courses. The professor (Prof. Jinming Zhang) presented the material really elegantly, and it’s been really valuable to be able to build my modeling skills on top of a strong foundation. It’s really helped me to think through the choices I make in my research (where a lot of time we need to build models to validate our results).

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

I have been really fortunate to work with some incredible undergraduate researchers over the past six years. I started training one student in the lab when she was a first-year, and it’s been so rewarding to see how much has changed – she’s now a senior who just published a first-author paper! Two of my former mentees are in vet school, and one of them is hopefully doing a DVM/PhD! I’m grateful to have had a role in their training. I really enjoy breaking complex projects up into pieces that someone who is new to science can use as stepping stones to arrive at the bigger picture, and working with such a great team makes coming into the lab fun.

What did you do over the past weekend?

Like most people, I went to see the new Avengers movie (and if you couldn’t guess, my group laughed a little aggressively at the part where they calculate an eigenvector off a single point). I also have dinner every Sunday night with a group of friends. We rotate cooking 3-course meals, and usually the menus have a theme!

Any upcoming events you want to mention?

My defense is on Thursday, May 9 at 9am in ERML 350B!