Meet Our Professors – Dr. Randall (Randy) Johnson

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0Tell us about yourself…

My background is in statistical genetics. I entered Utah State University as a business major and toured the biology and engineering departments before I found a home in the mathematics department. I graduated with two Bachelor’s degrees, in statistics and computational mathematics. I received my Master’s in Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University and started work at the National Cancer Institute. After a few years, I went back to school part time at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métier, earning my PhD in bioinformatics in 2013.

You have worked for the National Cancer Institute for years. What was your job with NCI and what did you like the most there?

I’ve spent most of the last 14 years at NCI working on statistical analyses of genetic data. One of my favorite parts of my job is working on a wide variety of problems. Examples include studying admixed populations (e.g. African-Americans) to identify disease genes, looking for genetic associations with rapid progression from HIV infection to the development of AIDS, and performing meta analyses of published breast cancer gene expression studies. I’ve also had the opportunity to manage a few projects, including a data security project to evaluate all NCI/Frederick sensitive data and make recommendations for protection of the data.

Could you describe to us what are you currently working on?

One project I’m currently working on started as a simple request from a collaborator to review some of his code. As we began the process of reviewing and improving the code, the scope of what he was trying to accomplish became a problem. With his original code, we estimated that his analysis would take approximately 100 years to run on his laptop. We have optimized the code significantly and are now performing a few final tests to run it on the Biowulf high performance computing cluster at NIH. With access to thousands of processors, we anticipate that the optimized code will be able to generate the desired results in a few days’ time.

How did hear about Hood College and how did you end up here? What classes are you teaching at Hood?

About a year ago a colleague at work approached me about teaching the Bioinformatics Applications series (BIFX 552/553) at Hood. In these two classes we cover the basic tools and methods needed to understand and carry out bioinformatic analyses. I’ve really enjoyed teaching – the topics we cover are interesting, and the students have been great. It is immensely satisfying to share knowledge with people who want to learn.

Why would you recommend Hood’s Bioinformatics Program to students looking into this particular field?

The new Bioinformatics program at Hood provides a great opportunity for students to break into this quickly evolving field. We have good teachers with real, practical experience.

Dr. Eckart Bindewald – from Heidelberg to Hood

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22b2500Dr. Eckart Bindewald, an Adjunct Professor of Bioinformatics at Hood College, teaches Biomedical Web Applications and Data Visualization in the two-year-old program. He earned his Master’s and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Since moving to Frederick from the Bioinformatics Center of Excellence at the University at Buffalo in 2004, Dr. Bindewald has been working on computational RNA research at Leidos Biomedical Research and the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. “I was involved in computationally designing a variety of RNA nanostructures (RNAs with unusual designed shapes like cubes, triangles or hexagons). Some of these structures were later confirmed experimentally and were shown to be able to down-regulate target genes.” Dr. Bindewald keeps a busy schedule, as he is also an associate editor of the journal DNA and RNA Nanotechnology and adjunct faculty in the Department of Mathematics at Frederick Community College.

In his opinion, Dr. Miranda Darby has done an incredible job managing the program created by Dr. Rachel Beyer. The scope of the program is comprehensive; ranging from computer science and programming skills to DNA and RNA sequence analysis to 3D modelling of biomolecules and – as mentioned – web technologies and data visualization pertaining to biomedical data.

Bindewald would recommend the program for a variety of reasons. Primarily, Bioinformatics is a fast-moving field, and as a beginner one may be overwhelmed trying to learn a spectrum of skills that are both relevant and modern. “That is the reason why learning alongside renowned experts in the field is extremely helpful, he adds. The offering of small-sized evening classes is particularly accommodating to the working professional. Moreover, Hood’s proximity to top government and industrial R&D facilities which aids in the ability to obtain internships and improve career prospects. “The “big picture” is that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Biomedical data is now created at an ever accelerating pace, and experts with skills in data science and biology are needed who can develop new approaches to make sense of this data. It’s an exciting time to get into this field.”

How a Hood graduate degree can help you get a high-paying job

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According to job and recruiting marketplace Glassdoor, nearly seven of ten people (68%) report that compensation is among the “leading considerations” when choosing where to work. In “25 Highest Paying Jobs in America in 2017,” physicians, software engineers and managers are among the highlighted highest paid jobs. “This report reinforces that high pay continues to be tied to in-demand skills, higher education and working in jobs that are protected from competition or automation. This is why we see several jobs within the technology and healthcare industries,” said Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s Chief Economist. Therefore, one of the crucial and initial steps to take if looking into such highly paid valued positions, is to obtain the needed education for executing them.

Whether one is looking into changing a career to IT or software architecture, getting a promotion to Software Engineer Manager or starting work in the ever-growing fields of Cybersecurity or Biomedicine, the Graduate School at Hood College is here to for those seeking advancement.

For advancement in jobs mentioned in the Glassdoor research, such as Pharmacy Manager, Information System Manager, Financial Planning and Analysis Manager, Hood’s Graduate School offers degrees in Business (Accounting, MBA, Financial Management), Computer Science (Computer Science, IT, Management of Information Systems and Cybersecurity) and Bioinformatics, Biomedical Science and Geographic Information Systems, all designed to deepen intellectual understanding and to broaden competencies for career advancement. The Graduate School is also providing graduate-level courses for non-degree-seeking individuals who wish to pursue continuing education for career growth or personal interest or to sample a particular program.

Take a first step towards your dream job at the Hood College Graduate School. Contact us at

The full list of Glassdoor’s highest paying jobs can be found at

Hood College Graduate School Student set to present at graduate student conference

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Suraj Pant

Suraj Pant, a student in Hood College’s Master’s program in Bioinformatics, will be presenting his research at the 11th Annual Graduate Student Conference at the University of Rhode Island. The conference is scheduled for April 8, 2017. Suraj, an international student from Nepal, holds a Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) degree from Pokhara University, Nepal. As part of the degree requirements, he carried out research on the knowledge and practice of meat hygiene among the slaughter house workers in the Pokhara sub-metropolitan of Nepal.

He will be presenting the findings of that research at the conference. Suraj credits his academic advisor and program director of the Master’s program in Bioinformatics, Dr. Miranda Darby, with helping him ensure a successful abstract submission.

Graduate Women in Science Establishes Local Chapter at Hood College

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FREDERICK, Md. — An international organization dedicated to empowering women in science is launching its 25th United States chapter Jan. 23.

The Greater Maryland Chapter of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) will launch at 6 p.m. in the Whitaker Campus Center Commons at Hood College. The event begins with an informal mixer followed by a lecture by featured speaker Col. Andrea Stahl, deputy commander of USAMRIID at Fort Detrick. Afterward, there will be a business meeting to discuss upcoming events for this new chapter.

The GWIS mission is “to build a global community to inspire, support, recognize and empower women in science. The organization strives to build a powerful international network of women scientists, mentor the leaders of today so that they can inspire the leaders of tomorrow and empower women scientists to excel in their careers.”

The event is free and open to the public. For more information about GWIS, visit For more information about the launch event, contact April Boulton, Dean of Hood College’s Graduate School and Associate Professor of Biology, and co-founding member of the new chapter, at 301-696-3600 or


Bioinformatics Program Director Named

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The Hood College bioinformatics master’s program is pleased to introduce a new program director who has more than a decade of experience in conducting research, teaching and directing educational programs.

Miranda Darby, Ph.D., is an expert in molecular biology and computing. She comes to Hood after working since September 2012 as a postdoctoral fellow in the Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she developed and implemented bioinformatics tools to study the genome. Prior to that, she completed thesis research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, examining the mechanisms that regulate gene transcription.

Keep reading.

Apply Now for New Doctoral Program

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Hood College is now accepting applications for a new organizational leadership doctoral program. The 60-credit, three-year experience leads to a choice of two degrees: (1) Doctorate of Organizational Leadership (DOL) – For those in public and private education, the non-profit sector, training and development, government or military. (2) Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) – For those employed in business and industry who hold business and related graduate degrees.

The multidisciplinary program is structured by cohort. Both DOL and DBA candidates advance together through core and research courses. They then begin to differentiate their degree pursuit—DOL or DBA—by specializing in business, psychology and counseling or education courses. Finally, they complete their capstone work.

Classes are held on the college’s Frederick, Md., campus on a schedule that accommodates working professionals. The application period for the first cohort closes May 15, 2016. Learn more.

Meet Program Directors at Virtual Open Houses

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Can’t make it to campus but want to talk with top faculty about Graduate School programs?  Six virtual open houses in November 2015 provide online opportunities to do just that.

Meet directors of the Biomedical Science, Environmental Biology, MBA, Management of Information Technology and Information Technology masters programs and the GIS and Cybersecurity certificate programs. Ask questions and get answers straight from the source. Go to the Visit Us page to register for your choice of sessions.

Bioinformatics Launch Features Noted NCI Scientist

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Dr. Kearney

Dr. Kearney

The Graduate School’s exciting Bioinformatics Certificate program has opened for enrollment starting with the fall 2015 semester. A  Symposium on Bioinformatics will officially launch — and celebrate — the new program on Thursday, June 25, 2015, 5:30-7 p.m., at the Whitaker Campus Center on Hood’s campus. The public is invited.

This special evening will feature a keynote address by Mary Kearney, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute.  Dr. Kearney’s topic will be Using Bioinformatics Tools to Develop Strategies towards a Cure for HIV. Her work was recently published in Science, known worldwide as the leading journal of original scientific research, global news and commentary. At NCI, Dr. Kearney heads theTranslational Research Unit, HIV Dynamics and Replication Program. 

The Symposium promises to offer an engaging and informative look inside the increasingly important field of bioinformatics. It will also be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Bioinformatics Certificate program’s capacity to prepare life science professionals with fluency in this cross-cutting discipline.

Grad Student’s Internship Leads to Bioinformatics Job

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Danny Watson

Danny Watson

Daniel Watson, who proudly hails from “the tropical paradise of Barbados in the Caribbean,” discovered the Graduate School by way of his cousin, a past international undergraduate student who “highly recommended me to apply because of her very positive experience.”

While working toward his master’s degree in Computer Science, Danny was selected for appointment to the Student Research Participation Program at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick. The CPT (Curricular Practical Training) internship working with the bioinformatics team will lead to a position after he graduates in December 2015 as a bioinformatics analyst, a role in which he will continue develop new technologies for the analysis and interactive visualization of biomedical and genomic data.

Danny gives much credit for this career-launching opportunity to Dr. Xinlian Liu—his “primary mentor” and instructor in operating system design and algorithms —as well as Hood’s relationship with Fort Detrick’s Advanced Biomedical Computing Center. Professors George Dimitoglou and Ahmed Salem are among other “major influences” at the Graduate School.

Danny was delighted to “give back to the Hood College community” through a workship at Hood’s Center for Academic Achievement and Retention.