Corey Watson receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 07, 2013

In the process of completing his PhD, Dr. Corey Watson made research breakthroughs that set standards in several fields. His broad research interests span the fields of evolutionary and population genetics, molecular biology, and the genetics and epigenetics of human disease.

Dr. Felix Breden, Chair of the Department of Biology and Corey's supervisor, says, "Like so many young and enthusiastic biologists, he has a million ideas and starts too many projects. What stands out with Corey is his ability to get all of these things done."

Dr. Watson's primary thesis work was focused on buiding genomic resources in the chromosomal regions that harbor human antibody genes, which are among the most structurally complicated regions of the human genome. The aim of this research was to improve the understanding of how antibody genetic diversity impacts autoimmune and infectious disease risk, as well as the effectiveness of vaccines.

In just the last two years, Dr. Watson's research led to a deeper genetic understanding of multiple sclerosis and made a link between ethnicity and antibodies. His work on antibdody genetics will likely have important implications for the design of universal or personalized vaccines. Another line of research that he's opened up involves the study of opsin genes in fish, which may serve as a useful model to inform vision research in humans.

He says, "My primary thesis work was part of a collaboration between SFU, BCGSC, UW-Seattle, and Wash U- St Louis, and represents the largest sequencing effort of human antibody genes to date, including the generation of genetic data from populations across the globe. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with such a great group of scientists at each of these institutions, including my supervisor, Felix Breden."

Service to the community was also a large part of his life. While a graduate student, he also co-organized the Darwin and You lecture series, the Pacific Ecology and Evolution Conference in Bamfield, co-authored a field guide, Puget Sound's Wildside: A Natural History of Puget Sound's Marine Environment, and mentored a number of undergraduate students in Dr. Breden's lab.

He received a number of awards, including graduate scholarships, and the President's Research Stipend. His most recent award is the Diana Filer Quirks and Quarks award for the best PhD thesis in the sciences at SFU, 2013.

He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the labs of Drs. Sharp and Hurd at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. His current research is centered around understanding the roles of epigenetic variation in Alzheimers Disease and drug addiction-related phenotypes.

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