Bioinformatics 2024 Alumna Receives Charles DeLisi Dissertation Award

Jacquelyn Turcinovic, a notable 2024 alumna of the PhD Program in Bioinformatics, was awarded the Charles DeLisi Dissertation Award for the outstanding doctoral dissertation in the Bioinformatics Program. The award is named after the founder of the Graduate Program in Bioinformatics and is made possible by a generous gift from DeLisi, Dean Emeritus of the BU College of Engineering.

Turcinovic’s dissertation research was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in a paper titled “Transmission Dynamics and Rare Clustered Transmission Within an Urban University Population Before Widespread Vaccination”. Dr. John H. Connor, a professor of virology, immunology, and microbiology at the BU School of Medicine, was Turcinovic’s dissertation advisor, and a corresponding author on the study.

The paper highlights a study on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus, more popularly known as COVID-19, among university students once they returned to in-person learning in 2021. Through surveillance testing, universal contact tracing, and viral genome sequencing, the research demonstrated that public health interventions interrupted the spread of the virus and limited the transmission of the disease.

“We found that BU’s test-trace-isolate infection control strategy was highly effective in preventing transmission between members of the campus community across multiple semesters,” said Turcinovic. She also emphasized that her work was a huge team effort. “I worked closely with BU’s Clinical Testing Lab (now the DAMP Lab) and folks at Student Health to link my viral genomics data with contact tracing in as close to real time as possible. Having open lines of communication allowed us to track outbreaks and transmission chains quickly.”

Turcinovic was hooded at the Computing and Data Sciences PhD ceremony in May 2024 and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow in Tom Geisbert’s lab at UTMB’s Galveston National Laboratory. She is researching the host response to severe emerging viral diseases to better understand the pathogens that cause them.

Learn more about the Bioinformatics Program at Boston University.

- Shanaya Udeshi (MS COM'25)