Can Genes Associated with Dyslexia Determine Your Career Goals?

King's College
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
BiologyNeuroscience
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/5019
$5,172
Raised
109%
Funded on 11/11/15
Successfully Funded
  • $5,172
    pledged
  • 109%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 11/11/15

About This Project

Dyslexia is a disorder that makes reading difficult despite intelligence. This learning disability is becoming well-studied and characterized in children; however, less work is being done in adults. We seek to determine if having certain dysfunctional gene variations associated with dyslexia continue to have an effect on educational success and may influence a person's choice of major in college.

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What is the context of this research?

There are about a dozen different genes that have been shown to be associated with dyslexia. Within each of these genes are several genetic variations with different levels of influence on the final degree of the disorder. There is a plethora of literature on identifying and characterizing these genes. However, there are very few studies in the "opposite direction" that correlate genotype (which version of the genes a person has) to scholastic outcomes. While there are many educational programs and processes to help a young student compensate for the learning disabilities accompanying a dyslexia diagnosis, there are few published studies on how these genes might influence later schooling, career choices, and occupational success.

What is the significance of this project?

Much work has been done on the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia for school-aged students, but very little has been done about how the disability can affect schooling in later life. In a pilot study, we found that having just one genetic variation in a gene known as KIAA0319 reduced the possibility of a college student choosing to major in science. Our sample size was small (about 150 students) and did not include a control population of non-college students. There are also several dozen other genetic variations for dyslexia waiting to be tested in this manner. There are currently no published studies on the effects of dyslexia-associated genes on college student career choices or future success.

What are the goals of the project?

We hope to be able to collect DNA from at least 1000 individuals from various majors and expand our scope from students from just our college campus to other institutions (and other types of institutions) as well as include a population of like-aged individuals who opted not to attend college. We would like to expand our genetic panel to include at least a half dozen other genes that have been well-documented to have an effect on a dyslexia diagnosis. Our ultimate goal is to determine if certain combinations of genotypes are partial predictors of career goals and choices beyond high school.

Budget

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The requested materials are to collect data (genotypes) from 1000 people for up to six different genetic variations in dyslexia associated genes. Our school is very small (~2000 students total) and our budget is very tight, yet we strive to give every biology major an opportunity at research (in fact it is required for all seniors). We are generally budgeted for $500 per student for all research materials. The pilot study was conducted and completed by two senior students using the budget available (about $1000). I currently have two additional senior students ready to work on this project in the fall. Without the funds, the best we can do is possibly analyze another 200 people for one genetic variation when we are hoping for 1000 people and six additional markers. At this rate, we would not be able to complete the data set necessary for strong conclusions for at least another five to ten years.

Meet the Team

Ann Yezerski Gilmor
Ann Yezerski Gilmor

Team Bio

I am a full professor at King's College, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania originally created to provide an education for sons of miners. My favorite part of my job is mentoring undergraduate researchers. I usually have about a dozen students who work in my laboratory each year on Biology research. My research interests are broad in order to give the students the opportunity to learn techniques in many different fields. I work on organisms from tapeworms to beetles to frogs and humans. My research involves physiology, genetics, molecular biology, parasitology, and analytical chemistry. My projects are designed to be meaningful, educational, fundable (especially within the limits of our small budget), and, if all goes well, publishable. All of my research includes undergraduate students and several projects have been published.

This project on dyslexia began when my own twin sons were diagnosed with visual processing disorder. Seeing how they had to deal with this issue along with the developmental problems of being 3 months premature, broke my heart and I decided to do something about it. After searching the literature, I realized that there was a huge gap in knowledge about dyslexia's effects on upper level education. As a college professor and mother, I knew what the next step had to be, and here it is!

Ann Yezerski Gilmor

I am a full professor at King's College, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania originally created to provide an education for sons of miners. My favorite part of my job is mentoring undergraduate researchers. I usually have about a dozen who work in my laboratory each year on Biology research. My research interests are broad in order to give the students the opportunity to learn techniques in many different fields. I work on organisms from tapeworms to beetles to frogs and even humans. My research involves physiology, genetics, molecular biology, parasitology, and analytical chemistry. My projects are designed to be meaningful, educational, fundable (especially within the limits of our small budget), and, if all goes well, publishable. All of my research includes undergraduate students and several projects have been published. A few years ago, I even was invited to give a talk in Spain which acknowledged 23 undergraduate researchers. My 150+ students have gone on to medical school, vet school, dental school, graduate school, etc. One is even a top cancer researcher! These results are the most important aspect of my work, but I hope to continue contributing strong results to my scientific fields of interest.


Project Backers

  • 69Backers
  • 109%Funded
  • $5,172Total Donations
  • $73.89Average Donation
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