I am an interdisciplinary scientist whose current research focuses on translational genomics and cancer care delivery. I have extensive experience in genomic evidence synthesis, data modeling, web tool development, and genomic applications in care delivery. My PhD in biochemistry, with a focus on molecular biophysics, gives me a unique foundation in basic sciences to understand the molecular mechanisms at play in translational studies. I was recently awarded an NIH research supplement to promote diversity in health-related research at the investigator level, during which I gained mentored experience in scientific project leadership as well as evaluation of electronic health applications in underserved populations.
I earned a BA in biochemistry summa cum laude in 2010 from DePauw University and a PhD in biochemistry in the Molecular Biophysics Training Program in 2015 from Vanderbilt University. My undergraduate studies focused on neurochemistry and included training as an undergraduate research scientist, work for which I was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a nationally competitive award given to around 200-250 sophomores and juniors nationwide. For my PhD studies, I was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. I trained in the Department of Biochemistry and the Molecular Biophysics Training Program in the laboratory of Dr. Charles R. Sanders. I focused my work on two membrane proteins involved in heritable conditions: peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22) and the C-terminal fragment of amyloid precursor protein (C99). My work on C99 focused on biophysical studies of how the membrane environment may modulate Alzheimer’s disease; my work on PMP22 focused on understanding the ways pathogenic missense variants and gene dosage impact protein folding and mechanistic states. I utilized informatics-driven computational techniques in combination with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), cryoelectron microscopy (cryoEM), and cryo-electron tomography (cryoET). I was the first researcher to undertake cryoET at Vanderbilt after establishing a relationship with two mentors at Emory University. My career goal was to achieve an independent career studying the biophysical impact of missense variants to improve predictive models of mutational impact on membrane protein folding and function. However, before I could begin my postdoctoral fellowship, I became disabled and had to leave the bench sciences, which were no longer accessible.
In order to gain experience in a field accessible to my disability, I accepted a staff scientist position supporting Dr. Mia Levy at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer. In the Levy group, I acquired expertise in data modeling, knowledge representation, and ontology development and contributed to enhancing data models supporting structured curation of genomic clinical trial eligibility criteria. Those data models were used to power the public-facing resource My Cancer Genome (MCG), a website that is viewed 8,000 times a week by individuals in 211 countries and territories around the world. Our data model was also used in partnership with GenomeOncology’s Workbench services, where it powered the generation of over 40,000 interpretative reports for 31 academic medical centers and commercial labs licensing these services. This content was made available through APIs for use in electronic health records as well as in generation of molecular pathology interpretive reports. I also worked with an expert interdisciplinary team to develop a clinical molecular oncology consult service to increase access to personalized medicine for patients seeing Vanderbilt-affiliated community oncologists. Finally, I contributed to two Moonshot to Cure Cancer working group documents. I have recently returned to this team to collaborate on the development of informatics- and knowledge-driven clinical decision support at VUMC.
Scientific Work Experience
From 2017 to 2021, I worked at Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW). There, I worked on the Cancer Health Assessments Reaching Many (CHARM) study (MPIS: Drs. Benjamin Wilfond and Katrina Goddard), a part of the NHGRI-funded CSER consortium with co-funding from the NCI. On that project, I led the adaptation of the PREMM5™ provider-facing application and the B-RST™ 3.0 into a patient-facing risk assessment web application for use by the low-literacy, low-resource study population. I coordinated two multi-site workgroups and an onsite software development team that collaborated with patient stakeholders from Denver Health in an iterative design process to ensure the application was accessible to patients from medically underserved populations. I also led the development of a data model that supported structured capture of participant interactions with the tool and trained the multi-site recruitment team in its use. In my mentored supplement to CHARM, I led an interdisciplinary qualitative and quantitative evaluation of these patient-facing web tools and trained in qualitative interview and analysis techniques.
In my post at KPNW, I was a member of the Clinical Genome Resource (ClinGen) Actionability Working Group (PI: Dr. Katrina Goddard). In this role, I assisted with adaptation of an actionability protocol from the adult setting to the pediatric setting. These protocols outline a standardized process to identify and synthesize evidence regarding the clinical actionability of genes and disorders associated with secondary findings during genetic testing. I applied both protocols to curate reports that were scored by experts and disseminated to the public on clinicalgenome.org. I also applied my experience with structured genomic data models and ontologies to provide user specifications for the actionability curation interface. The results of this work are used by the ACMG Secondary Findings WG and the Centers for Disease Control to provide professional recommendations about the return of secondary findings to patients undergoing genome-wide sequencing in both the adult and pediatric settings.
At KPNW, I have participated in the CDC-funded Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) project at the Research Associate III and co-investigator levels at the Kaiser Permanent Northwest site (PI: Dr. Allison Naleway). I was actively involved in workgroups and proposal development that addressed safety outcomes associated with adolescent vaccination. In this role, I have contributed to the development of two VSD proposals and designed the data model for evaluation of outcomes for one of these funded proposals. I also contributed to work on the association of primary ovarian insufficiency/infertility with adolescent vaccinations, published in Pediatrics.
In my current post, I'm leading integration of research components into the electronic health record (EHR) for the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) site of the NHGRI-funded Electronic Medical Records & Genomics (eMERGE) Network (MPIs: Drs. Dan Roden, Wei-Qi Wei, and Digna Velez Edwards). This role involves working directly with VUMC HealthIT and other technical development roles to integrate study-generated discrete and non-discrete data, including family history and genomic data, directly into the EHR. I am also directing the integration of study-generated clinical decision support to the EHR. I am key personnel on the Oncology Knowledge Rapid Alerts (OKRA) project (MPIs: Drs. Christine Micheel and Travis Osterman), which seeks to develop an open-source algorithm and API for computing and storing biomarker-driven CDS from the My Cancer Genome (MCG) knowledgebase and to develop methods for integration of biomarker-driven, human-readable CDS statements into the EHR. I support the Family History and Cancer Risk Study (FOREST) as study personnel; my primary responsibilities are manuscript drafting and methodology design. Additionally, I was recently added as co-investigator on the PREMMplus™ grant (PI: Dr. Sapna Syngal, Dana Farber Cancer Institute) to facilitate development of a web application akin to the PREMM5™ web application. At VUMC, I also support research conducted through a partnership between GE Healthcare and VUMC, research conducted through AACR Project Genie, and research in implementation science at the Hereditary Cancer Clinic at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Finally, I serve as a committee member and a research advisor to students in the Vanderbilt Master of Genetic Counseling (MGC) program.
Scientific Illustration and Communication
Since early graduate school, I have been fascinated by using images to communicate about science. My illustrations have appeared on journal covers, in textbooks, in biotechnology curricula, and on scientific knowledge resource websites. Additionally, I have designed a number of study and department logos.
Other notes about me
In addition to illustration for scientific purposes, I engage in a number of personal artistic hobbies, including painting, pen and ink drawing, colored pencil and graphite drawing, and sculpting miniature food and other small sculptures from polymer clay. I live in Vancouver, WA, with my wife and 3 cats. My wife is a Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in LGBTQ+ health and gender affirming hormone therapy. She is an avid reader of New England Journal of Medicine, and discussing the latest articles in NEJM is one of our favorite date night activities. We also enjoy exploring the many beautiful nature areas in the Pacific Northwest together. As a disabled person, I enjoy finding new accessible parks to explore and am outspoken on issues related to being #DisabledInSTEM and accessibility in science. I exclusively use they/them pronouns and am also passionate about building inclusive research participation experiences for any study that may recruit participants who are transgender and/or non-binary.