Name: Juan Ramirez

Role: Bioinformatics Intern

Education: Biology, B.S from Stonehill College; Bioinformatics, M.S from Boston University

Hometown: Huancayo, Peru


1.     What are you working on right now?

I’m supporting the Dunn Lab by exploring analytic methods to identify genes that regulate the timing of sensitive periods and may predict risk for depression. For example, I have been learning how to use PrediXcan – a gene-based association test that prioritizes genes that are likely to be causal for a phenotype - as a gene level association approach for evaluating mediating effects of genes from variant-based association studies.


2.     What are 3 big questions you are interested in answering?

Three questions I am interested in answering include:

1.     How can we best integrate already existing large-scale data to describe and explain patterns of sensitive period genes and their role in risk for depression?

2.     How can we continue finding more converging evidence supporting the genetic effects of these sensitive period genes and how does the environment play a role in their functioning?

3. Eventually, how can this knowledge help advance precision medicine for early diagnosis and set strategies for appropriate therapy for psychiatric disorders?


3.     Of your most recent accomplishments, which one are you most proud of?

At MGH, I think that having joined the Dunn Lab group a couple of months ago and being able to interact with members of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) and Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) in general is already an accomplishment in itself. There is so much to learn from everyone and lots of interesting challenges to look forward to at every step. I can’t wait until I have results that can be used for helping our group and advancing knowledge for understanding etiologies of common mental disorders.

In my spare time, I recently collaborated with MIT students interested in building assistive technologies (AT) for people with disabilities. During an annual event called ATHackaton, I proposed to work on a project related to optimizing performance for soccer wheelchairs and our team won 2nd place in the co-designer collaboration category.


4.     You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

White crayon. As a kid I didn’t really use it and often wondered why it came in the box. Now, there are plenty of things I know you can do with it. Maybe it’s some kind of life metaphor - you learn what you can do as you get more experience.


5.     Which super power would you like to have?

I would definitely like to have the psychic powers of Charles Xavier. It was actually one of my nicknames back in school. I already have the chair; I just need the powers and to lose some hair.


6.     If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

I’ll take the fictional character: Wile E. Coyote, a hard-working scientist and engineer who persisted tirelessly despite the odds. It’d be fun attempting to capture the road runner anyway with apparently unlimited resources for experiments.