Cynthia Kalita


  • Bachelors from State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry in Biotechnology (2010).
  • Currently a sixth year student
  • 2017-2019 American Heart Association fellowship recipient

As an undergrad, I did research on spruce defensin genes that could putatively transfer blight resistance to the American Chestnut. I then went on to work in industry at Kodak, Arch Chemicals, and finally Dow Chemical. I had the opportunity to work with many research scientists at Dow Chemical and it was there that I decided I wanted to pursue a higher degree. I chose Wayne State’s MBG PhD program because of the high level of research and the range of research topics going on. This program also has a strong emphasis on translational work.

Research Interests

  • Advisor: Dr. Francesca Luca
  • My research project is on deciphering functional mechanisms for non-coding genetic variants associated with complex traits. I do this through computational predictions and reporter assays to analyze allelic effects on gene expression. We know that GWAS hits are enriched in transcription factor (TF) binding sites. By combining TF motif annotations with GWAS data we can pinpoint the most likely causative variant for a complex trait, and the molecular mechanisms underlying association signals. Furthermore, the direction of gene expression changes could confirm genetic effects from eQTL studies (GTEX consortium).