in honor of internationally
renowned statistical geneticist
The Symposium on Quantitative and Statistical Genetics drew an international roster of distinguished geneticists to N.C. State University on May 16. Sponsored by the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the Bioinformatics Research Center, the event was held in honor of William G. Hill, emeritus professor of animal genetics at the University of Edinburgh and one of the world’s leading statistical geneticists.
The following day, Hill received an honorary doctor of science degree from N.C. State in recognition of his contributions to the theory and application of statistical genetics to animal breeding, population genetics and gene mapping, which are fundamental to the search for human disease genes.
Hill has visited N.C. State annually since 1979 and has collaborated for more than 20 years with university faculty including Dr. Trudy Mackay, professor of genetics; Dr. Eugene Eisen, William Neal Reynolds Professor of animal science; and Dr. Bruce Weir, director of the Bioinformatics Research Center. Eisen, Mackay and Dr. Zhao-Bang Zeng, professor of statistics and genetics, were among the geneticists who described their research at the symposium, which was organized by Weir.
“ Bill Hill is the leading researcher in our field, and his visits are enormously stimulating to our faculty and students,” said Weir. “Even in the few weeks of this visit, he developed a new statistical approach for looking at the structure of the human genome that should help in locating disease genes.”
Hill’s research with Weir, Mackay and Eisen has led to significant advances in the analysis of linkage disequilibrium between genomic regions (a key to locating genes associated with specific traits), in understanding the role of mutation in maintaining variation in animal populations and in understanding the genetics of growth and obesity using the mouse as a model organism. “My collaborations here have been a very useful part of my scientific life,” Hill said.
N.C. State and the University of Edinburgh are sister institutions in the field of quantitative genetics. Each plays a leading role in its own country and is known for its research with farm animals and laboratory species that are models for human studies. Mackay and Zeng are Edinburgh graduates, and Eisen and Weir have spent sabbaticals at Edinburgh.
plans to continue working with N.C. State scientists in the future. “We’re
learning a lot about genetic variation and mutation,” he said, “and
there’s lots to pursue.”