Aug 23, 2022

Capstones to Careers: Karen Fang

Medical Genomics
image of Karen
By Paul McKay

Karen Fang holds a H.B.Sc. from Laurentian University with a combined specialization in Forensic Science and Biology, and an M.H.Sc. in Medical Genomics from the University of Toronto. Approximately six months after starting the Medical Genomics program, she began working as a bioinformatician at Mount Sinai Hospital, which she did alongside the remainder of the two-year MedGen professional master’s program.

In between her bachelor’s and master’s, Karen worked for 14 months as a wet lab research technologist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). She recalls learning to be detail-oriented during her H.B.Sc., emphasizing that second chances are not a luxury forensic scientists can afford, especially when working with delicate biological samples retrieved from a crime scene. This skill translated well into lab work at SickKids, where confidence and organizational skills were extremely important to her research. Karen gained experience in cancer genomics, performing experiments to further the characterization of low- and high-grade gliomas in adolescents and young adults.

Now a skilled bioinformatics analyst, Karen performs the downstream analysis of genomic information, rather than the wet lab analysis. When doing the bioinformatics portion of her clinical project at SickKids, Karen discovered she was interested in gaining more practical skills in computational biology. The Medical Genomics Capstone Practicum attracted Karen to apply for the M.H.Sc. master’s program. For the remainder of the program, in addition to her four-month capstone practicum, she continued her bioinformatics role at Mt. Sinai.

Karen recalls her industry-based practicum project at Roche, working as a data scientist while continuing her bioinformatics role at Sinai concurrently to be an especially busy time. She referenced MMG3003Y: Genomics Methodologies and MMG3002Y: Biological Statistics as two courses that helped her become comfortable working in Unix and programming in R for these practical positions: “for Sinai, I used a lot of the bioinformatics skills I learned in genomics methodologies, but then for Roche, I used a lot from statistics because I was working with machine learning and statistical modeling.”

Karen recently began her new role as a bioinformatics analyst at DNAstack, a Toronto cloud-based genomics platform. She uses computational tools to store and interpret genetic information, which improves patient care through better understanding of the genetic basis of disease. She is excited to continue using bioinformatics tools to connect patients and researchers with data and emphasizes that aside from knowing the technical skills, it is important to work collaboratively.

For those looking to enter the computational biology space, Karen suggests connecting with professionals in the field to learn more about their professional background and find opportunities for growth.

We wish Karen all the best in her new position at DNAstack.