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Executive Q & A

Molecular biologist David G. Skalnik will become associate dean for research and graduate education at the IUPUI School of Science in January. Since 1991, Skalnick has been a researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine, leading a team of three in the study of epigenetics—factors that influence whether certain genes are turned on or turned off.

IBJ: You’ve made your research career in epigenetics. Give us a brief explanation of what that field is.

A: It’s the branch of science that refers not so much to the DNA sequence in our cells, but to the way in which our cells package that DNA or express that DNA in normal development. Most of the cells in our body have the same DNA sequence, but a neuron in the brain and a cell in the liver are doing very different things. In cancer, for example, it’s just as common that there are epigenetic defects [as genetic defects]. That’s been particularly interesting for the pharmaceutical industry because those are potentially reversible defects.

IBJ: Speaking of the pharmaceutical industry, it was hoping for a wave of breakthroughs after the sequencing of the human genome 10 years ago. Is a lack of understanding of epigenetics one reason the reality of DNA sequencing has not lived up to the promise?

A: It is true that there was a big hype up. We didn’t know for sure what was going to come out of it. We now know at the genetic level hundreds of diseases. But it’s been a harder problem to fix these problems once we understand those diseases. And the same can be said for epigenetics.

IBJ: As you begin to oversee graduate education and research at the School of Science, do you have a name-recognition issue to get over in attracting students to come to the school?

A: Clearly, the School of Science has increased its research footprint in recent years. Historically, the school has been focused on the teaching mission; 85 percent of its budget is derived from tuition. I think that the school is expanding, both in terms of faculty and laboratory, and there is a great opportunity to recruit in top-flight researchers.

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  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now

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