Loyola University Chicago



BS/MS Bioinformatics Student Ben Lorentz and Study Abroad

Ben Lorentz and Study Abroad

BS/MS BIOI Student Ben Lorentz

Ben Lorentz knew he wanted to come to Loyola University Chicago to study Bioinformatics. “Bioinformatics incorporates a lot of my interests—computers, biology, statistics—and it tapped into my strengths.” Ben also knew from the very start of his college career that he wanted to Study Abroad. “I told my freshman advisor, I told my academic advisor, I told anyone who knew about it.” Ben said he had to plan for it, to work it in his 4 year plan. He went to a Study Abroad Fair and learned about several programs before choosing Prague, Czech Republic. Ben said the program, which he attended in Spring 2017, included a two week intensive Czech language course and he also registered for a semester course in Czech. “Everyone there speaks Czech, which is a Slavic based language which is very different from a Germanic based language like English” so having the 3 native Czechs working within the program helped the students learn the language and also navigate the country.

The group visited Pilsen, the town that founded Pilsner lager and the largest producer—and consumer—of Pilsner beer. They toured the Pilsen Urquell brewery “We got to see the entire process of beer making” and learned the history of how the town’s brewers got together to make a world-class beer to ward off their reputation for bad brew. They also went on a trip to Pardubice, a town known for hockey and horseracing. Ben said going to see a hockey game there was so much fun, “I was giddy the whole time, I knew the rules, I knew what was going on but all the announcements were in Czech.” The experience was beyond language in a way and Ben said he realized “They’re just like us.” Ben’s Jewish Contemporary Studies class also visited the Franz Kafka Museum and the Jewish Graveyard where Kafka is buried.

Ben said he was struck by Prague’s post-Soviet roots and eclectic history. “As a country it’s definitely more modern, the architecture is cold and industrial but also very medieval and warm, there are castles with turrets, you have that next to a glass and steel tower that looks like something out of the Jetsons right next to a billboard for the new iphoneX. But it makes sense when you’re there experiencing it, seeing history up close.” Ben also found time to travel to many other countries during his Study Abroad semester, including the UK twice.

Ben’s advice to students interested in Study Abroad: “Figure out what kind of program you want. I knew I wanted something challenging, kind of out of left field…ask people who have gone to either the place or program. If you ask people in the Study Abroad office, they’ll usually be able to get in touch with former student, so you can pick their brain and just see what their experience was.” Ben also suggested to “Set yourself up for success and keep an open mind” and remember that there are people there to help you acclimate to the new environment and experience.

Ben is graduating in 2019 and is currently in Dr. Kelly’s microbial ecology lab, studying the effects of pharmaceuticals in freshwater ecosystems.




Bioinformatics faculty receive 2018 Sujack Awards

2018 Sujack Awards
 The Sujack Awards were established in 1994 by Edwin and Vivijeanne Sujack to take special notice of outstanding teachers and researchers within Loyola's College of Arts and Sciences, and to honor them for their dedication to their profession. 

This year, the Bioinformatics program is proud to congratulate, not one, but two of its faculty for receiving the 2018 Sujack Awards in recognition of their excellence for teaching and research.

Congratulations, Dr. Heather Wheeler!
Recipient of the 2018 Sujack Family Award for Faculty Research Excellence. In a time when funding for scientific research became limited and exceedingly competitive, Dr. Wheeler received a $429,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to support her research of gene regulation across non-European populations.

Congratulation, Dr. Stefan Kanzok!
Recipient of the 2018 Master Teacher Award, in recognition of his dynamic presence in the classroom, willingness to try new ways of teaching, and devotion to students that goes beyond the ordinary classroom experience.

Bioinformatics professor receives NIH grant

Dr. Wheeler Research Grant

Dr. Wheeler (right) with research group members, Peter Fiorica, Dr. Lauren Mogil, Jack Morris, Mohammed Abdul Sami, and Jennifer Takamura (left).

Dr. Heather Wheeler, assistant professor of Bioinformatics, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for $429,000 to use over the next three years. The award will support research that predicts gene regulation across populations to understand mechanisms underlying complex traits. The goal is to learn more about the genetic bases of disease in as many populations as can be studied, to reduce health disparities.

The NIH requires funded studies to deposit data in publicly available databases, such as the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). The focus of the Wheeler group is to mine through dbGaP in search of literature and data where DNA and RNA from non-European cohorts is measured.

It is a great effort to mine, compute, and then analyze non-European RNA levels because “Unfortunately,” as Dr. Wheeler explains, “most of the studies have been done in European populations." Regardless, the Wheeler group pushes on, developing models from the studies they find and establishing collaborations to generate new data in underserved populations. Computing through millions of variants, and thousands of genes, across the genome.

“What we do is important because although there are certain diseases that run in families for which you can get genetically tested, there is still room for further discoveries. In only studying European populations we are missing out on most of the world.”

If we further studies of genetic data from non-European cohorts, we can learn the similarities and differences between populations’ gene expressions. This could advance implementations of ‘precision medicine’, allowing various groups of peoples to make informed decisions regarding their personal health.


To learn more about the Dr. Wheeler and her group’s research/publications, please visit their group page.