Fall 2000
Vol. 17 No. 3
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


Turkey Creek Vigil

It's the Excitement'

Genome Research Yields Quick Returns

Samford Ranked Fifth in South by U.S. News & World Report

Education School Scores High in Effective Teacher Preparation

Faculty Accolades

Upcoming Samford Tours

ODK Seeking 50 Exemplary Alumni To Mark Society's Anniversary

Manis Biography Wins Lillian Smith Book Award

University of Georgia Beckons Garver, Hanson with Sizable Postgraduate Packages

Alumni Office Seeks Samford Traditions

Sequoyah, Cunningham Join Men's Hall of Fame

Samford Begins Offering Doctor of Education Program

Deupree Recognized for Fighting Illiteracy

Tillette: Men's Team One
Big Question Mark

Cochran, Moore Lead Veteran Women's Basketball Team



Fall 2000

Young Works in Genetics Research that
Leads to Mapping of Human Genome

 Four years ago, Samford senior Brook Craven '96 sat fascinated, listening to a lecture by guest speaker Craig Venter, the pioneering geneticist. Venter was already well known for his invention of a faster, more efficient way to sequence DNA molecules, or determine the order of their chemical sub-units.

The next week, Craven telephoned Venter asking if his company, The Institute for Genomic Research [TIGR], would accept her as an intern. TIGR had no internships, Venter said, but needed full-time research associates. He invited the biology major to interview during spring break. She did so, and came away with a job at the cutting-edge research company in Rockville, Md.

Brook Craven Young '96 now heads genomic project department at Illinois firm.

TIGR's primary work was mapping the genomes, or chemical makeup, of bacteria and plants. In 1998, Venter formed a new company, Celera Genomics, which last summer announced near-completion of the mapping of the human genome. Venter applied TIGR's work toward this celebrated achievement by Celera. The announcement made international news.

Craven-now Brook Craven Young-was part of the research and development team at TIGR. Her job was to work on a faster way to sequence certain genomes. The process she worked on facilitates genome mapping.

She also started a training department at TIGR, teaching new employees about DNA sequencing and representatives of outside institutions and companies that contracted with TIGR how to sequence genomes. Lastly, she became a manager in the genetics lab.

Young also worked on a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University while working full-time at TIGR. After completing the degree, and with her four years-plus experience at TIGR, she was named manager of the genomic project department of Chicago-based Integrated Genomics in her native Illinois.

If genetics research seems a complex and abstract pursuit, Young says it offers concrete rewards.

"The wonderful thing about this field," she said, "is that one sees the impact of research on a daily basis. For example, for a long time, ulcers were assumed to be caused by stress and were treated accordingly. At TIGR, we defined the genetic code for Helicobacter Pylori, an organism of interest because of its ability to live in highly acidic environments.

"After the data gathered were released for public use, scientists found this bacteria to be present in most ulcers. After further investigation, it was determined that this bacteria is what causes ulcers. Now, doctors successfully treat ulcer patients with antibiotics."

Understanding the human genome is expected to revolutionize the practice of medicine as biologists develop diagnostics and treatments based on the genome. But such knowledge also could be used in harmful ways, such as in revealing patients' disposition to disease, if their privacy is not protected.

Geneticists, like nuclear physicists of the 20th century, work on the frontier of human ethics, reminded constantly of the moral implications of their research. Are they "playing God," as some would say?

Rather, Young believes such new knowledge is "a gift from God" which allows science to serve humanity better.

"Christians need to rely on the word of God as well as our God-given conscience in order to know how the Lord wants us to love and serve others with this knowledge," she said.