Dr. Wang Selects First Westheimer Fellow to Research Genetic Mystery of Schizophrenia | College of Science
September 20, 2019

Dr. Wang Selects First Westheimer Fellow to Research Genetic Mystery of Schizophrenia

This past spring, UNT Distinguished Alumnus Bruzzy Westheimer was honored for funding the new Westheimer Science Research Fellow program, specifically designed to support undergraduate research in UNT Mathematics' brand-new Statistics Lab. Dr. Xuexia Wang is the biostatistics professor who has been leading the groundbreaking pediatric oncology research in the lab and helped select the first Westheimer Science Research Fellows, undergraduate Giorgio Di Salvo. The Fellowship will enlist four students overall, each working on high-impact research projects that focus on public health.

Giorgio is currently a UNT student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. As a biomedical engineering student, he demonstrated his interest in studying and learning new things about humans and using that knowledge to create devices and models capable of improving and lengthening people's lives. The two things that fascinate him the most are the human brain and the human genome, making him an ideal candidate to study with Dr. Wang.

Currently, Dr. Wang and Giorgio are working together to develop a novel and powerful statistical method to identify susceptible genes for complex diseases. They are focusing on schizophrenia, a severe and disabling mental illness with onset typically during early adult life, which remains in many ways a mystery in regards to the heritability of the disorder. They hope to find the genes which can explain the missing puzzle pieces of the heritability of schizophrenia.

Their goal is for the findings from this study to be used in the prevention and treatment of schizophrenia. The method that Dr. Wang and her student are developing can also be applied to other diseases such as pediatric cancer. They expect that this project can be completed next spring and a manuscript is already being drafted for publication.

Dr. Wang's research in the lab is highly invested in collaborative projects that seek to identify complex disease susceptibility genes. Her work has explored genetic susceptibility in the development of breast cancer, colon/rectum cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, cardiovascular disease, childhood obesity, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and autism, therapy-related cardiac dysfunction and avascular necrosis after surviving childhood cancer. Her most recent publications can be found in Genetic Epidemiology, and Plos|One.

To be a part of the groundbreaking Tier One research happening at the University of North Texas, consider joining our outstanding alumni and scholarship donors who are supporting the next generation of researchers. Contact Meghan Dours in the College of Science to discuss how your gift can make the most impact.