Sarah Wheelan

Image of Dr. Sarah Wheelan

Sarah Wheelan

Associate Professor
Primary Appointment: 
Department of Oncology
Secondary Appointment: 
Molecular Biology and Genetics; Joint Appointment, Biostatistics, Bloomberg School of Public Health

1550 Orleans Street
David H. Koch Cancer Research Building 2, Room 1M51
Baltimore MD 21287

Research topic: 

Computational Biology, Genomics, and Sequence Alignment

Molecular genetics is built on the assumption that DNA sequence alone is sufficient to direct a cell's creation, operation, and fate. While this assumption must be modified to accommodate epigenetic phenomena, it is at least clear that the information contained solely in the sequence of the genome is massive and complex. We use sequence alignment algorithms, phylogenetics, and sequence modeling to form hypotheses about historic and current roles of DNA features. High-throughput techniques such as microarrays and second generation sequencing can provide the large volume of information needed to test those hypotheses, though the analysis of data from these experiments is far from routine. Our current projects are diverse but at the core they share a focus on creating new techniques for mathematical analysis and biological interpretation of high-throughput sequencing data and other high-dimensional biological datasets. Since sequence analysis is a very broadly applicable technique, we have been involved in projects ranging from analyses of cancer genomes to in-depth analysis of the dog transcriptome, to mapping transposon insertions using sequencing methods in several organisms. I am one of the PIs of the Center for Computational Genomics, a multidisciplinary center that incorporates graduate-level teaching, postgraduate teaching, and interactive research. The center was founded in an effort to organize the current Hopkins faculty doing genomics, genetics, biostatistics, and computational biology work and to recruit new students and faculty to make Hopkins a leader in the field. We have a deep commitment both to research and to teaching, as the two are closely intertwined. I am co-director of the Next Generation Genome Sequencing Center, in the department of Oncology. We have two SOLiD 4.0 instruments, two SOLiD 5500 instruments, an Ion Torrent, and (soon) two Illumina sequencers, and we run an extremely wide range of sequencing experiments, on an equally wide range of organisms. Creating high-quality data as well as analysis and presentation of these results is our priority. I teach a class, offered through the School of Public Health, on computational biology from a practical, algorithmic perspective (Analysis of Biological Sequences, 140.638). There are no prerequisites for the course and it generally draws a wide range of students, credit and noncredit, from many programs.?

Selected Publications: 

Avigdor BE, Beierl K, Gocke CD, Zabransky DJ, Cravero K, Kyker-Snowman, K, Button B, Chu D, Croessmann S, Cochran RL, Connolly RM, Park BH, Cimino-Mathews A, Wheelan SJ. Whole exome sequencing of metaplastic breast carcinoma indicates monoclonality with associated ductal carcinoma component. Clinical Cancer Research 2017

Ling JP, Chhabra R, Merran JD, Schaughency PM, Wheelan SJ, Corden JL, Wong PC. PTBP1 and PTBP2 Repress Nonconserved Cryptic Exons. Cell Rep. 2016

Lee SS, Bohrson C, Pike AM, Wheelan SJ, Greider CW. ATM Kinase Is Required for Telomere Elongation in Mouse and Human Cells. Cell Rep. 2015

Wilton R, Budavari T, Langmead B, Wheelan SJ, Salzberg SL, Szalay AS. Arioc: high-throughput read alignment with GPU-accelerated exploration of the seed-and-extend search space. PeerJ. 2015