Whitney Costello | Graduate Student

2017 NSF Graduate Research Fellow

whitney.costello at utsouthwestern.edu

Whitney received her B.S. from the University of Oklahoma in Physics with a minor in Chinese.  Each semester she earned an Outstanding Academic Achievement award, and upon graduation she received the Outstanding Senior Award. Her senior research project was carried out under the mentorship of Dr. Lloyd Bumm and in collaboration with Dr. Richard Halterman and Dr. Nathan Green. This project investigated the effects of metal enhanced fluorescence between gold and dye-doped silica nanoparticles.

She then joined Dr. Sanjay Bidichandani’s lab at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) as a lab technician working on the genetics of Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA). FRDA is an autosomal recessive disease caused by a lack of Frataxin protein. Most often lack of Frataxin is caused of a trinucleotide repeat expansion in intron 1 of the gene Frataxin. During her time in Dr. Bidichandani’s lab she worked under postdoctorial fellow Dr. Yogesh Chutake to understand the spreading of heterochromatin from this trinucleotide repeat up to the promoter, blocking the promoter region and thus severely lessening transcription. The findings of this work are reported in four publications.

Since joining the UT Southwestern graduate program in 2015 Whitney has become involved in many groups on campus, such as the Women in Science Mentoring Advisory Committee (WISMAC) and Students Can Inspire Experiments and Creative Education (SCIEnCE). In January 2016 she joined Dr. Kendra Frederick’s lab and is investigating the structure of Tau, the main aggregate in Alzheimer’s disease.


2017 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation
2017 National Science Foundation East Asia Pacific Summer Institute Fellow
2012 Outstanding Senior, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Univ of Oklahoma


Reversal of epigenetic promoter silencing in Friedreich ataxia by a class I histone deacetylase inhibitor.
Chutake Y.K., Lam C.C., Costello W.N., Anderson M.P., Bidichandani, S.I
Nucleic Acids Res.1093/nar/gkw107 (2016).

FXN Promoter Silencing in the Humanized Mouse Model of Friedreich Ataxia.
Chutake Y.K., Costello W.N., Lam C.C., Parikh, A.C., Hughes, T.T., Michalopulos, M.G., Pook, M.A., Bidichandani S.I.
PLoS One. 10:e0138437 (2015).

Epigenetic promoter silencing in Friedreich ataxia is dependent on repeat length.
Chutake Y.K., Lam C., Costello W.N., Anderson M., Bidichandani S.I.
Ann. Neurol. 76:522-528 (2014).

Altered Nucleosome Positioning at the Transcription Start Site and Deficient Transcriptional Initiation in Friedreich Ataxia.
Chutake Y.K., Costello W.N., Lam C., Bidichandani S.I.
J. Biol. Chem., 289:15194-15202 (2014).


  • Chutake, Y.K., Costello, W.N., Hughes, T.T., Parikh, A.C., Lam, C., Bidichandani, S.I. Characterization of a Humanized Transgenic Mouse Model of Friedreich Ataxia at the Ninth Annual Pediatrics Research Day, May 2015, Oklahoma City, OK.
  • Lam, C., Costello, W.N., Chutake, Y.K., Anderson, M.P., Bidichandani S.I. Epigenetic promoter silencing in Friedreich ataxia is dependent on the length of GAA triplet-repeat mutation at the Eighth Annual Pediatrics Research Day, May 2014, Oklahoma City, OK.
  • Costello, W.N., Chutake, Y.K., Bidichandani S.I. Development of assay for evaluation of efficency of potential therapies in Friedriech ataxia at the Seventh Annual Pediatrics Research Day, April 2013, Oklahoma City, OK.