Jörg Bungert, PhD
Porfessor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology | jbungert @ufl.edu
Jörg Bungert has been an active mentor of the Genetics & Genomics Graduate Program during his time as a member of the UF Genetics Institute. He was a program co-director with Connie Mulligan, PhD, from 2012-2015, and has hosted multiple students in his lab.
Bungert, PhD, is a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology.
“It seemed a good way to interact with the students, and have an impact on the recruitment,” Bungert said. “It’s a great group of students.”
His research focuses on sickle cell anemia. One lab project studies how globin genes are regulated, while the other involves using synthetic DNA-binding proteins to modulate gene expression patterns.
Different forms of globin are expressed during development, and the sickle cell phenotype does not appear until after birth. Bungert’s lab is working to understand the mechanism(s) behind the switching of the globin genes, with the aspiration they can use synthetic DNA-binding proteins to silence mutant globin gene expression, and reactivate a therapeutic fetal form. Aishwarya Gurumurthy is one of the UFGI graduate students in his lab. She joined the program in 2015. She studies the effect of enhancer RNAs on beta globin gene regulation.
“I could not have asked for a better lab for my graduate studies,” Gurumurthy said. “The lab has a very productive environment, with excited graduate students who are always ready to give their input, and help you troubleshoot your experiments.”
She said the lab has regular meetings that provide opportunities to discuss research topics, get helpful critiques and learn about new techniques.
During their time in his lab, graduate students learn how to write scientific reports, and have the opportunity to collaborate with other labs. Bungert said the typical tenure sees a student joining the lab, establishing a new technology to study aspects of globin gene regulation, using it to make novel discoveries, publishing their results and graduating.
The UFGI graduate program prioritizes preparing students to become self-sufficient professionals, regardless of whether they continue in academia, or take industry jobs.
“Dr. Bungert encourages us to pursue our research questions, and at the same time helps us when we wander away,” Gurumurthy said. “He gives us the space for individual thinking, and also chips in his suggestions, and asks questions that help us think more analytically.”
Bungert said that the diversity of research topics in the program, and the inclusion of training in bioinformatics, gives Genetics & Genomics students an edge.
“The lab has produced many graduate students in the past that have had an amazing career after grad school,” Gurumurthy said. “Personally, I have my options open for life after grad school, and I am sure I will be able to quickly adapt and face new challenges.”