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Speaker Profiles

Keynote Speaker

Elaine Ostrander, PhD

Dr. Elaine Ostrander is Chief and a Distinguished Investigator in the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Head of the Section on Comparative Genetics. She received her PhD from Oregon Health Sciences University in 1987 where she studied the structure of the DNA helix. She then did postdoctoral training at Harvard and UC Berkeley. She pioneered the use of the domestic dog as a system for genetic studies of variation, formally initiating the canine genome project in 1993. Her initial studies included building physical and genetic maps to navigate the dog genome and identifying disease-associated genetic variants. In 1993 she joined the faculty of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington, where her lab of students and postdoctoral fellows focused their studies on both genome navigation and identification of variants controlling canine disorders that reflect similar diseases in humans, particularly cancer. She also began new studies aimed at understanding how and when each of the existing 450 dog breeds were developed.

Dr. Ostrander moved to NIH in 2004 where she established the Cancer Genetics Branch in NHGRI. Her lab has worked to understand how the morphologic variation which characterizes each of the 450 dog breeds is controlled. Her work demonstrates that major differences in morphology (think Great Dane versus Chihuahua) are controlled by small numbers of genes of large effect. She also continued her work on canine cancer, with a focus on bladder and gastric cancer, and soft tissue sarcomas. Dr. Ostrander has published over 350 papers, edited multiple books, and won several awards including the Burroughs Welcome Award for Functional Genomics, Asa Mays Award, the International Canine Health Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2013 Genetics Society of America Medal, and given several named lectures. She continues to expand her interests with a team of outstanding trainees leading the way.


Scientific and Mentoring Perspective

Mark Stopfer, PhD

Dr. Mark Stopfer received his BS and PhD from Yale University, where, with Dr. Thomas Carew, he applied behavioral and electrophysiological techniques to study mechanisms underlying simple forms of learning. He then joined Dr. Gilles Laurent's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where he examined the information processing properties that emerge within ensembles of neurons, focusing particularly upon oscillatory and synchronous neural activity. Dr. Stopfer came to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2002. His laboratory studies neural ensemble mechanisms underlying sensory coding in relatively simple animals.


Career Speakers

Elizabeth Baden, PhD

Dr. Elizabeth Baden earned her PhD in biochemistry from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2009. For her thesis work, she used biophysical chemistry techniques to study proteins involved in immunoglobulin light chain amyloidosis, a rare protein misfolding disease. Shortly after earning her degree, she was selected as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Congressional fellow and spent 2009-2010 in a Senate office on Capitol Hill. During her fellowship year, she met with nearly 200 advocacy groups, analyzed legislation, and witnessed the crafting of the Affordable Care Act firsthand. From there, she started her National Institutes of Health (NIH) career in the Office of Autism Research Coordination, where she worked as a health science policy analyst conducting portfolio analyses and strategic planning exercises in support of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. In 2013 she moved to the Office of Science Policy in the Office of the NIH Director. In this role, she worked on the NIH budget narrative, coordinated various trans-NIH projects and resources, and advised NIH Institutes and Centers on potential partnerships with the Foundation for NIH. Dr. Baden began her current role as Chief of Staff to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Director in January 2019.

Sydella Blatch, PhD

Dr. Sydella Blatch has spent most of her post-PhD career as a professor at a small university, but now focuses on graduate and postdoctoral career development as a program manager at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Prior to that she worked at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) as the Director of Professional Development. Dr. Blatch entered career development work full-time after nearly seven years at Stevenson University as an Assistant then Associate Professor of Biology. As faculty, she taught eight different courses, mentored over 20 undergraduates in research, and chaired the university’s Faculty Development Subcommittee, served on the Assessment Advisory Board, and coordinated research for the Department of Biology and the New Student Seminar for the School of the Sciences. Her research in biology was in animal physiology, specifically the interactions between microbes and B-vitamins in fruit flies. During this time and prior, she was a member of the Minority Affairs Committee of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Dr. Blatch completed her PhD in insect nutritional physiology from Arizona State University (ASU), under Dr. Jon F. Harrison, where she also was co-president of ASU’s Black Graduate Student Association and founded a multicultural mentoring program called Shades, which is still currently active. Dr. Blatch’s postdoctoral fellowship was with Dr. Karl Pfeifer of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH in molecular mechanisms of mouse epigenetics. Now, as a career development professional, she remains passionate about professional development, mentoring and diversity having earned a total of ten awards or honors in leadership, diversity or teaching.

Allyson Byrd, PhD

Dr. Allyson Byrd attended the University of Georgia, Athens to study genetics as an undergraduate. While working in a parasitology lab her junior year, she discovered a love for computational biology. After graduating in 2012, she joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP) in collaboration with Boston University to expand her bioinformatics skills. For her dissertation, she developed computational tools to study the cutaneous microbiome in health and disease. After successfully defending in October 2016, she took a position as an associate scientist at Genentech in the Cancer Immunology department. In her current position, Allyson is leveraging clinical samples to understand how gut microbes impact systemic anti-tumor immunity and response to checkpoint inhibitors.

Rose Freel, PhD

Dr. Rose Freel received her PhD in chemistry from Emory University with an emphasis on organic and medicinal chemistry. During her doctoral studies, she completed an internship at the Emory Office of Technology Transfer. After finishing her degree, she joined the Technology Transfer Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the Technology Transfer Fellowship where she managed technologies from the intramural program, negotiated transactional agreements, drafted marketing summaries, and conducted marketing outreach for NCI owned technologies. She then joined Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures as a Licensing Associate where she managed a portfolio of technologies and negotiated license agreements on inventions developed at Johns Hopkins.

Currently, Dr. Freel is a senior technology transfer manager at the NCI’s Technology Transfer Center where she manages a docket of patented and unpatented inventions from the NCI Intramural Program and the Frederick National Laboratory. As part of her role, Dr. Freel manages patent prosecution and negotiates licenses for inventions owned by the NCI.

Monica Gupta, PhD

Dr. Monica Gupta is a project manager at Taconic Biosciences. At Taconic Biosciences she manages over a 100-project portfolio of genetically engineered rodent model projects primarily neurodegenerative, neuroinflammatory, immunology, gene regulation, cardiometabolic, microbiome, diet induced obesity and oncology models for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry as well as academia. Primarily she is subject matter expert (SME), and consultant responsible for planning, initiating, implementing, and troubleshooting of these projects. She is also a key contributor to new product development and marketing initiatives within the Scientific Services team as well as companywide.

After completing her PhD from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, India, Dr. Gupta joined the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) as a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Keiko Ozato`s laboratory. At NICHD she investigated immunoregulatory role of transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 8 in macrophages and dendritic cells. Her primary interest was deciphering role of IRF8 in the regulation of autophagy in immune cells. During her tenure at NICHD she gained experience working with transgenic mice models and gained knowledge on murine model construction. At NICHD she was a recipient of the Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) and represented the department at various National Institutes of Health (NIH) platforms. As a project manager in murine model generation company, she remains passionate about research and serves a reviewer for gene regulation and immunology journals.

Linda H. Huynh, PhD

Dr. Linda H. Huynh is a Maryland native and science writer in the Office of Communications at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she translates scientific findings into lay-friendly language for the public and news media, using press releases, articles, blogs, infographics, videos, and social media.

Dr. Huynh attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (of 2018 March Madness fame), where she earned her BS in biological sciences in 2007. Afterwards, she went to Cornell University’s Joan and Sanford Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City, where she studied immunology and microbial pathogenesis and earned her doctorate in 2013. Instead of directly applying for postdoctoral positions, Dr. Huynh decided to first try a non-research job. She worked as a press officer and science writer at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which overlapped with the global Ebola outbreak. She discovered that she enjoyed translating science for the masses and stayed for nearly three years. Later, she joined NICHD, where crisis communications followed her in the form of the Zika outbreak. Outside of work, Dr. Huynh is busy raising a lively toddler and mischievous dog with her patient husband.

Amy Kullas, PhD

Dr. Amy Kullas is the publishing ethics manager for the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). She came to the ASM after conducting a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she was awarded a Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Kullas obtained her PhD in molecular genetics and microbiology from Stony Brook University in New York. She spent her research career focused on understanding the dichotomy of the host-pathogen interaction. Some of her other interests include science policy, global health, and STEM education. Dr. Kullas has served as a volunteer with the “Building with Biology” program at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and “Slime Science” program for preschool children at the local YMCA. In this manner, she strives to increase science literacy and believes that “one and one makes eleven” where progress increases logarithmically when individuals work together.

Thomas Miller, PhD

While receiving a BS in zoology and biochemistry from North Carolina State University, Dr. Thomas Miller was able to spend summers in the Caribbean studying neuroendocrine control of aggressive behavior in a sex-changing reef fish, the bluehead wrasse. He continued research on endocrine systems in teleost fish at Texas A&M University where he received his PhD under the mentorship of Dr. Duncan MacKenzie. There he studied the evolution of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, more specifically examining structure-function relationships of thyroid stimulating hormone and its G-protein coupled receptor, in goldfish and red drum. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) he performed research on transcription factors in Dr. Yun-Bo Shi’s laboratory, which studies thyroid hormone (TH) dependent formation of adult epithelial stem cells in the intestine during postembryonic development. Afterwards, he began as a scientist at Meso Scale Diagnostics, LLC (MSD), where he performed research and development work, designing highly sensitive immunoassays for academic and pharmaceutical research. He worked at MSD for nearly four years, transitioning to managing customer service projects that developed novel assays for customers. In December of 2018, Dr. Miller began working at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a scientific reviewer for the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health within the Center for Devices and Radiological Health where he reviews the safety and efficacy of in vitro diagnostic devices.

Kate Monzo, PhD

Dr. Kate Monzo is a teaching fellow for the Integrated Life Sciences program at the University of Maryland College Park and a part-time adjunct professor at Montgomery College. Dr. Monzo's graduate research at the University of Texas at Austin focused on the cell biology of early animal development. She completed her postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) studying blood vessel development in zebrafish in Dr. Brant Weinstein’s lab. While at the NIH, she transitioned away from the bench towards science education and the importance of effective course design. She now enjoys the challenges of balancing her time between her young family and her students.

Kely Sheldon, PhD

Dr. Kely Sheldon attended Clemson University to study biology as an undergraduate. He worked for a year at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the postbac IRTA program, while considering whether to pursue an MD or PhD. Upon completion of the program, he then moved into the NIH Graduate Partnership Program where he studied at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health earning his PhD in molecular microbiology and immunology. Shortly after, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he took a two-year T32 Fellowship at Emory University, School of Medicine where he was able to continue studying some of his previous interests. After finishing his fellowship, he moved into the private sector, and is currently serving as Senior Scientist, Manager of Research and Development at Caprico Biotechnologies, where he designs and develops human monoclonal antibodies for immunophenotyping and immunemonitoring. Dr. Sheldon also owns and runs a private tutoring company with students from across the globe.

Patricia Silveyra, PhD

Dr. Patricia Silveyra is an associate professor and director of the Biobehavioral Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) School of Nursing. Her research program on sex-specific mechanisms of lung inflammation is funded by NHLBI K01 and R03 awards. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in molecular biology and biotechnology, and her PhD in biochemistry from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she grew up. She came to the United States as a postdoctoral fellow in 2008 after being selected for an Ambassadorial Scholarship by The Rotary Foundation. She joined the faculty at Penn State College of Medicine as assistant professor in 2013 and was promoted to associate professor in 2018, prior to moving to UNC-CH. At Penn State, she served as a member of the Diversity Council, and interim director of diversity and inclusion in education, while she established her research program on sex differences in lung inflammation with a K12 BIRCWH award, supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Silveyra has received numerous awards for her research, mentoring of students, and efforts to promote diversity in STEM. She is an advocate for underrepresented minority trainees, and she serves in various national organizations and committees, including the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) New Voices program.

Dennis A. Twombly, PhD

Dr. Dennis A. Twombly is the deputy director of extramural policy at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this position, he is involved in developing and interpreting NIH grant policies and in administering the institute’s extramural funding programs. He is also NICHD’s training director (extramural), overseeing a variety of training awards and grants, including National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowships, career development awards, institutional training programs (T32 and K12), and education grants (R25). Dr. Twombly has been the chair of NICHD’s Training Policy Committee since 2009 and has served on numerous NIH-wide committees on research training and career development. He is co-chair of the NIH Training Advisory Committee (TAC) and the TAC Policy Subcommittee. He has been a member of NIH task forces for the Biomedical Workforce (BMW) evaluation, Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) evaluation, NRSA policies, and career development award policies.

Dr. Twombly received a PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Brain Research Institute, with primary focus on the neurophysiology of epilepsy. Prior to joining the NIH, he held a faculty position at Northwestern University School of Medicine (Chicago) in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology. He was principal investigator on a variety of NIH research project grants on cellular mechanisms of action of antiepileptic drugs, effects of alcohol on neuronal ion channels and receptors, and mechanisms of alcohol and aging in cardiac ventricular myocytes. Dr. Twombly came to NIH in 2001, serving for nine years as the program director for the Neurophysiology & Pharmacology at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He assumed his current position at NICHD in 2009. Along with his scientific and administrative activities, Dr. Twombly has played a major role at NIH in organizing various science education and outreach activities for middle-school and high school students and other members of the public.

Zélia Worman, PhD

Dr. Zélia Worman is a support scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Research and Education Support Services (NRESS), where she provides recommendations on funding and research strategies, peer-review procedures, and logistics for the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH). She also supports peer-review procedures for the NASA Human Research Program. Zélia was born in Porto, Portugal and she began her scientific career at the University of Porto where she earned her BSc in biochemistry (2006) and her PhD in biodiversity, genetics and evolution (2013). Her graduate school degree was obtained in partnership with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Cornell University. After earning her PhD, her first postdoctoral fellowship was at the University of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Dr. Nathan Clark, focusing on discovering new protein interactions in eukaryotes. Dr. Worman later joined the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH to perform postdoctoral work with Dr. Henry Levin. At NICHD, she examined the role of transposable elements in diseases of the nervous system. While she was a postdoctoral fellow there, she volunteered as the chair of the Service and Outreach Subcommittee at the NIH Fellows Advisory Committee (FelCom), as a member of the NICHD Fellows Advisory Committee, and wrote for The NICHD Connection newsletter. She also performed an office detail in the NHGRI Education and Outreach Office. She uses her scientific knowledge and postdoctoral experiences to advance space biomedical research.