UConn Health/JAX Doctoral Program Graduates First Students

Emaly Piecuch, Ph.D. and Jufen Zhu, Ph.D. are the first two graduates from the Graduate School of UConn Health and The Jackson Laboratory’s (JAX) joint doctoral program.

Both Piecuch and Zhu performed their dissertation research at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn. under the supervision of Yijun Ruan,, Ph.D., professor and director of Genome Sciences at The Florine Deschenes Roux Center for Genomics and Computational Biology.


Emaly Piecuch, Ph.D. 

Emaly Piecuch, Ph.D.

Piecuch joined JAX’s Ruan lab in 2014. While at JAX, she studied transcriptional regulation and genomic connectivity in cortical neurons and worked on 3D genome technology development. She particularly enjoyed creating illustrative figures to describe molecular concepts. Now armed with a biomedical science Ph.D. in genetics and genomics, her ultimate career goal is to enhance scientific literacy by sharing the magic of science through creative and engaging communication.

While in the Ruan lab, Piecuch received authorship on four papers in Cell, Nature Protocols, and Nature and holds a patent for developing assays to study single molecule chromatin interactions. She has lectured about her work at ENCODE and numerous scientific symposiums and has developed original genomic content for middle school and high school students. Piecuch received her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Forensic Science from Purdue University.




Jufen Zhu, P.hD.

Jufen Zhu, Ph.D.

Jufen joined JAX’s Ruan lab in 2014. She studied super-resolution imaging of a distinct chromatin loop in the human cell, 3D genome visualization, and 3D genome organization and gene regulation in breast cancer metastasis. She aims to use her Ph.D. in genetics and genomics to advance therapeutics for disease.

While in the Ruan lab, Zhu received co-authorship in Nature, Nature Protocols, and Cell. She gained expertise in next-generation sequencing, microscopy, genome editing, and computational languages, as well as received a poster award at JAX’s department retreat in 2017. Zhu has a B.E. in bio-engineering from Nanjing Agricultural University and a M.S. in microbiology from Chinese Academy of Sciences.


JAX’s joint doctoral programs provide training in mammalian genetics and genomic medicine in Bar Harbor, Maine, or Farmington, Conn. with students performing rotations and their thesis research under the supervision of a JAX faculty member on the corresponding JAX campus.

Learn more about the joint UConn/JAX doctoral program and how to apply here.