1. Name and affiliation:
Jennelle C. Hodge, PhD
Indiana University School of Medicine
2. What is your professional title?
Professor, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics
Co-Director, Cytogenetics Laboratory
Director, Molecular Genetics Diagnostic and Pharmacogenomics Laboratories
3. How did you decide to enter the field/what (or who) brought you into the field?
During graduate school, I was having reservations about pursuing a traditional academic or industry basic science researcher position as I wished to have a more immediate way to help others. My PhD mentor who is a pathologist suggested a clinical fellowship, which I hadn’t known was a career possibility for a PhD until that moment. He sent me to a nearby cytogenetics lab for a tour and discussion with the lab director. It sparked my interest and so I took the chance and applied for cytogenetics and molecular genetics fellowships. The rest is history!
4. What do you do? How would you describe your role?
I see my academic lab director role as being diverse, with an interplay of different goals. I’ve been very fortunate to have collaborations with many great colleagues and friends to meet these goals. For clinical service in the cytogenetics, molecular genetics and pharmacogenomics laboratories, I aim to provide high-quality patient care through case review, test development and supporting laboratory operations and staff. As an educator, I enjoy helping others to achieve their potential and find their niche through teaching, mentoring and providing project/career opportunities. Related to national activities, I advocate for expansion of open-sourced genomic resources such as in my position as Editor-in-Chief of the Compendium of Cancer Genome Aberrations (www.ccga.io), a project of the Cancer Genomics Consortium. I also serve on national and international committees/boards/workgroups and collaborate on various clinical research efforts with the aim of working together to move the translational genetics field forward. For example, I’m honored to be a Standing Member of the Editorial Board for the WHO Classification of Tumours, which oversees this blue book series used as the standard for cancer classification across the world, and my personal goal is to help support expansion of genetics-related content.
5. What degree(s) and/or training did you receive to achieve your position?
• B.S. in Biotechnology, Rochester Institute of Technology
• Ph.D. in Tumor Biology, Medical College of Wisconsin
• Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
• ABMGG Clinical Cytogenetics and Clinical Molecular Genetics Fellowships, Harvard Medical School
6. What is the greatest challenge you face in your work?
A few challenges come to mind. Keeping up with the rapidly changing knowledge in our field is demanding but stimulating. Also, as the business-side of genetics is not something fellows are typically taught, becoming proficient at budgets, contract negotiations and personnel issues in real time can be difficult. Lastly, transitioning from the mindset of participating in every offered opportunity to being more selective for work/life balance is a lesson that I’ve had to learn and continually strive to implement.
7. What is the best part of your work as you see it? (most interesting, most fun…)
The best part of my work is that every day I feel good that my activities are meaningful to patients, trainees and the genomics community. I also appreciate the many opportunities to learn, grow and collaborate with great people.
8. Optional follow up question _What do you do for fun?__________
I really enjoy international travel to see the world and spend time in less tourist-prone areas chatting with locals, absorbing the culture and meeting fellow travelers. I also relax by taking long walks or hikes and dancing. I’m an enthusiastic traditional sumo wrestling fan who watches each top division honbasho held throughout the year. As I’m avidly curious, I can often be found watching shows or reading on diverse science/nature/culture topics like dinosaurs, ancient Egyptian, plate tectonics, and how plants communicate; this week’s topic is the amazing lives of hummingbirds.