Aysenil Belger (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Dr. Aysenil Belger, PhD is Professor and the Director of Neuroimaging Research in Psychiatry, and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Radiology Department at Duke University and the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Her research focuses on studies of the cortical circuits underlying attention and executive function in the human brain, as well as the breakdown in these functions in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Dr. Belger combines functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological scalp recording, experimental psychology and neuropsychological assessment techniques to explore the behavioral and neurophysiological dimensions of higher order executive functions. Her most recent research projects have focused on electrophysiological abnormalities in young autistic children and children, adolescents and adults at high risk for schizophrenia. Her research also examines changes in cortical circuits and their physiological properties in children and adults at high-risk for psychotic disorders.
Dr. Diane Brown, DVM, PhD, DACVP, is currently the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s (AKC-CHF) Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Dr. Brown received her DVM from Colorado State University. Following four years in veterinary practice, she returned to CSU for a residency in veterinary clinical pathology and to pursue a PhD in pathology. There she completed an NIH Fellowship in the study of genetic diseases shared by human and veterinary patients, going on to complete her board certification in veterinary pathology through the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP). Dr. Brown was previously on faculty at Harvard Medical School and director of the Comparative Clinical Pathology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has been a consulting pathologist in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado and at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and has held affiliate faculty appointments in the veterinary schools at Tufts, Colorado State and Purdue Universities. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Dr. Brown was a senior pathologist at Eli Lilly and Company. Prior to joining the AKC Canine Health Foundation, she served as CSO for Morris Animal Foundation. As a scientist and veterinarian, Dr. Brown’s experiences and interests are in comparative and translational medicine. Her research interests have focused on comparative hematology, and range from developing micro-volume blood assays to studying host-pathogen interactions and hematopathology in Salmonella infections, to investigating inherited metabolic diseases of dogs and cats that mimic the human conditions. In her role at the AKC CHF, she is responsible for cultivating the Foundation’s research and education strategy in collaboration with its board of directors, scientific review committee, external collaborators, principal investigators and staff to ensure strategic, responsible, and innovative application of donor funds to uphold the Foundation’s Mission to advance canine health.
Dr. Rob Dunn is a biologist and writer in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. The science Dunn mentors attempts to use many different approaches to understand the stories of the species all around us and how they have changed or might change in the future. Often those species are ants and their societies, other times mosquitoes and the diseases they vector or rare carnivores and the parasites they host. Central to all of this work is the sense that much of what we assume someone else knows (such as which species live around us in cities) is totally unknown. The unknown is large and wonderful and Dunn and his collaborators, students, postdocs and other researcher scientists, love to spend their days in it.
Dunn’s writing focuses on the stories of the scientists behind the science, who they are, what they do and how and why they did it. Dunn’s writing has appeared in Natural History, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic and other magazines. His first book, Every Living Thing, was awarded the National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History writing. His new book, out in the spring of 2011, The Wild Life of Our Bodies, examines the long human relationship with other species (be they tapeworms or tigers) and how changes in those relationships are affecting our health and well being. (website)
Dr. Jim Evans’s major professional interests lie within the field of clinical cancer genetics, the use of high-throughput sequencing in clinical medicine and public policy as it relates to genetics. He directs the Clinical Adult and Cancer Genetics Services at the University of North Carolina. The clinic evaluates and counsels patients who have (or are suspected of having) a variety of genetic conditions, including high risk for cancer. This comprehensive clinic provides evaluation, counseling and risk assessment through pedigree analysis and genetic testing when appropriate. The clinic has grown substantially since its inception and now sees, on average, approximately 20 patients per week in consultation. While breast/ovarian cancer comprises the bulk of its activity, the clinic sees numerous patients with elevated risk for a great variety of different conditions and malignancies.
Dr. Evans’s research interests focus primarily on the use of massively parallel DNA sequencing for gene discovery and the use of such technology for clinical diagnosis. He is also interested in attitudes towards the use of genetic information. These interests are combined in a current effort in which whole exome sequencing is being pursued in a large number of patients with a variety of indications.
He is also interested in policy issues as they relate to genetics. Towards this end, Dr. Evans has been highly active in scientific education of the US judiciary at the State Supreme Court and Federal level, as well as at the Supreme Court level internationally. These efforts were described in an article in the New York Times in 2008. His activity in policy issues resulted in testimony before the US Congress in 2010 regarding the regulation of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Dr. Evans was a member of the advisory committee to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services on Genetics, Health and Society and spearheaded that committee’s task force that investigated gene patenting and its effect on patient care.
Dr. Evans is deeply interested in evolutionary theory and how evolution relates to medical issues (see Evans JP. JAMA 2009;301(6):663-665. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.102). He lives in Durham, NC with his wife and enjoys traveling.
A specialist in the history of science and medicine, Dr. Margaret Humphreys has focused her research and publications primarily on infectious disease in the U.S. and the American south, as well as the history of medicine during the American Civil War. Dr. Humphreys has also published on the history of diabetes, public health ethics, and colonial medicine. Her research has appeared in Isis, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Literature and Medicine, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Social Science and Medicine, Public Health Reports and Environmental History. Of special note are her books Yellow Fever and the South (Rutgers University Press, 1992), Malaria: Poverty, Race, and Public Health in the United States (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), Intensely Human: The Health of Black Soldiers in the American Civil War(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), and, most recently, Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). In addition to her own research, she was editor in chief of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences from 1999-2012. (website)
Dr. Shelley Hwang is a Professor of Surgery in Advanced Oncologic and GI Surgery. She recieved her MD from the University of California–Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine and completed residencies in General Surgery at Kaiser Permanente–Los Angeles and Cornell University New York Hospital. She has recieved fellowship from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York) and Singapore General Hospital. Dr. Hwang is interested in the diagnosis and treatment of early-stage breast cancer, management of patients at high risk for breast cancer, and surgical treatment of patients with breast disease. (website)
Steve Meshnick (University of North Carolina)
Dr. Steve Meshnick’s research group uses methods from molecular and evolutionary biology to understand the epidemiology and pathogenesis of infectious diseases. Malaria parasites are under purifying selective pressure from antimalarial drugs and balancing (diversifying) selective pressure from host immunity. They have been using next-generation sequencing to understand the genetic diversity of malaria parasites and how it affects both drug and vaccine efficacy. They are also using this genetic diversity as a tool to understand how malaria evolves and diffuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malaria is also a tool to examine the evolutionary “conflict” between mother and fetus; mother and fetus compete for nutrients and fetal survival depends on modulating the maternal immune response. They have shown that malaria has a more severe effect in poorly nourished pregnant women. More recently, they have been studying the microbiomes of disease vectors, especially ticks.
Dr. Fred Nijhout is broadly interested in developmental physiology and in the interactions between development and evolution. He has two ongoing lines of research. (1) The mechanisms that control body size and the relative size and shapes of appendages. Size and shape are the two most characteristic features of species, yet surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms by which animals grow to their species-characteristic size, and then stop. Nor is much known about the mechanisms that control how appendages grow to the correct proportion with body size. Research involves the hormonal control growth and the mechanisms that control the temporal patterns of hormone secretion that regulate growth. (2) The development, genetics and evolution of complex traits. Complex traits are those whose variation is affected by many genes and environmental factors and whose inheritance does not follow Mendel’s laws. In practice this involves understanding how genetic and developmental networks operate when there is allelic variation in their genes. This work attempts to reconstruct complex traits through mathematical models of the genetic and developmental processes by which they originate, and uses these models to study the causal pathway by which mutations affect traits. Much of current work centers on complex metabolic systems relevant to human health, and the mechanism by which these systems are either sensitive or robust to mutations and environmental factors.
Dr. Shila Nordone is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science at North Carolina State University in 1990, her Master of Science in Nutritional Physiology at Iowa State University in 1994, and her PhD in Immunology at North Carolina State University in 2001. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University in 2003.
She previously served as the Chief Science Officer at the AKC Canine Health Foundation. She currently is a Research Assistant Professor of Immunology at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine where her research program focused on acute inflammatory diseases, including sepsis, acute lung injury, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
William Parker (Duke University School of Medicine)
Work in the Parker lab focuses on the immune system and its role in biology and disease. Dr. Parker’s group is currently involved in three primary areas of investigation related to medicine, as well as basic work in protein folding. His laboratory is interested in the support of bacterial growth in the lumen of the gut by the mammalian immune system. Current work in the laboratory suggests that the model of “immune inclusion” is ubiquitous in mammals and is also important in non-mammalian species (e.g., amphibians). Secretory IgA and mucin, the major component of mucus, facilitate adherence of bacteria to the proximal part of the large bowel. Thus, the immune system supports biofilm growth by commensal (beneficial) bacteria. Use of this model of gut immunity has enabled his laboratory to achieve the first growth of bacterial biofilms on live, cultured gut epithelial cells. Further, this model provides an apparent function of the human vermiform appendix, an issue that has been in question since Leonardo da Vinci first described the appendix in 1506 A.D. The laboratory is also interested in the effects of chronic aspiration of gastric fluid on lung transplant recipients. In pursuit of this goal, they have developed the first experimental model of chronic aspiration. Finally, they are interested in the Biome Depletion Theory, an “evolutionary mismatch,” or factor in our current environment that leads to disease because it is incompatible with our evolved genetic makeup. This model of disease can account for the high burden of disease in modern society despite the herculean efforts of the modern healthcare system. Their work on the biome has focused on both bacteria and eukaryotic organisms (“germs and worms”). Their current work related to the biome and human disease is focused on the use of “helminthic therapy” to avert disease in humans.
Dr. Michael Reiskind has spent his professional career studying various aspects of infectious disease, with a recent focus on pathogens transmitted by arthropods. He began his academic career at Amherst College, where he studied the evolution of pathogenicity in a virus-insect system, the nuclear polyhedrosis virus of the gypsy moth. He then moved on to studying the ecological aspects of vector-borne disease transmission, focusing on mosquito transmitted viruses (dengue, West Nile, chikungunya virus), protozoa (malaria), and worms (dog heartworm). He received his Masters of Public Health and a PhD from the University of Michigan and completed post-doctoral training at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at North Carolina State University.
Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University. She earned her B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences and an M.S. degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California-Davis. Much of her research work has been on the genus Phytophthora, an oomycete plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. She conducts research internationally on late blight, a threat to food security. She has used genetic markers to study migration and characterize historic and present day populations of P. infestans. Her research has culminated in publications in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Science. She teaches a class in Tropical Plant Pathology, is the director of the Global Plant Health internship program and leads USAID funded workshops in pathogen diagnostics in Central America. She has served in numerous leadership roles at the university including the faculty senate and the administrative board of the graduate school and nationally with the USDA, NSF and USAID. She served as a Jefferson Science Fellow in the Bureau for Food Security at USAID and continues to consult with USAID and the State Department. She has communicated findings of her research with the media including CNN, Discovery Channel, radio and numerous newspaper articles. Dr. Ristaino’s research impacts our understanding of emerging plant pathogens, global food security, gender and the public view of science and scientists. (website)
Dr. LaHoma Smith Romocki (North Carolina Central University)
Dr. LaHoma Smith Romocki is an Associate Professor of Public Health Education at North Carolina Central University. She has worked extensively as an academician and practitioner in global public health. Romocki has also served as the co-investigator of four cancer communications and prevention research studies and as a research team member with expertise in developing clinic and community partnerships, message design, qualitative and quantitative data collection, community outreach, information dissemination and strategic communication approaches in multicultural contexts. Her research interests focus on helping to determine effective interventions that are tailored and culturally appropriate to address individual, community, and institutional factors to prevent infections and reduce progression to disease. She has developed a network of both governmental and non-governmental partners aimed at communicating research findings and implementing interventions targeting multiple and diverse audiences in more than 10 African countries.
Dr. Kyle Summers has broad interests in evolution, particularly evolutionary ecology and evolutionary genetics. His students and him have carried out research on reproductive strategies and larval life history in frogs. They have also worked on the evolution of aposematism and mimicry.Summers is interested in molecular systematics and the use of phylogenetic trees to inform analyses of ecology and adaptation. Evolutionary ecology and phylogenetics are complimentary, because it is important to consider the effects of ecology on adaptation in a historical context. Similarly, phylogenetic information can be used to investigate the influence of ecological and social factors on adaptation in comparative analyses. Most of the field and laboratory research has focused on the poison frogs of the family Dendrobatidae, a group of toxic frogs in Central and South America. These frogs vary in diet, coloration and toxicity, making them excellent candidates for research on aposematism and mimicry. The reproductive ecology of these frogs is also interesting and complex, involving territoriality, intra-sexual competition for mates, prolonged courtship, mate choice, long term associations between males and females, extensive parental care by one or both sexes, trophic egg-feeding, and larval cannibalism. The wide spectrum of variation in life histories across the poison frog family make this group an excellent system for comparative studies. (website)
Summers is also interested in evolutionary approaches to human health and behavior. Evolutionary biology is highly relevant to many issues crucial to human health and disease, yet few medical researchers take an evolutionary perspective. Vast amounts of data relevant to issues of central interest in evolutionary biology, such as the evolution of senescence and parasite-host coevolution, are being generated by biomedical researchers, but use of these data to test evolutionary hypotheses is uncommon. His collaborators and him have attempted to develop hypotheses relating specific conditions to environmental, social and genetic factors in an evolutionary framework. They are also attempting to test specific hypotheses using molecular evolutionary genetic analyses of genomic data available from public databases such as GenBank. (website, website)
Dr. Sid Thakur is an Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State University. He received his Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry from Gobind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (Udham Singh Nagar, India) and Master of Veterinary Science in Veterinary Public Health at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Izatnagar, India). He earned his Ph.D. in Population Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, NC State University where his research focus was on comparing multidrug resistant Campylobacter isolated from swine raised in commercial and antimicrobial free production systems. Prior to joining the faculty at NC State University, he was an Oakridge Research Associated Universities Postdoctoral Fellow at Center for Veterinary Medicine, Food and Drug Administration, Laurel, Maryland. At FDA, Dr. Thakur was involved in developing a DNA Microarray for the analysis of multi-drug resistant enteric pathogens isolated from retail meat.
Dr. Thakur’s research at NC State focuses on the molecular epidemiology of multi-drug resistant bacterial Salmonella andCampylobacter in the realms of pre-harvest food safety. His recent research focus has been studying the transmission of foodborne pathogens from food animals to fresh produce farms. Dr. Thakur has authored or co-authored 30 peer reviewed publications and is currently editing a book on Pre Harvest Food Safety for the American Society for Microbiology. He is the chair of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Pre Harvest Food Safety professional development group (PDG), and serves on the Journal of Food Protection management committee. He was awarded the Larry Beuchat Young Researcher Award at the 2012 IAFP annual meeting in Providence, RI. (website)
Jory Weintraub (Duke University Science and Society Initiative)
Dr. Jory Weintraub is Science Communication Director and Senior Lecturing Fellow with Duke University’s Science & Society Initiative. In this position, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses and conducts faculty workshops in science communication. Prior to this he served for over 10 years as the Assistant Director of Education and Outreach at NESCent (The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center), where he developed and ran programs in evolution education/outreach for K-12 students and teachers, undergraduates and the general public, and also served on NESCent’s management team. Before coming to NESCent, Jory taught undergraduate biology courses at UNC Chapel Hill and ran science outreach programs for underrepresented minority students. Jory received his BS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from The University of California at San Diego, and his PhD in Immunology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After completing his graduate studies, he received an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in STEM Education. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Evolution: Education and Outreach, serves on the Education Committee of the Society for the Study of Evolution and is a Steering Committee member of the National Alliance for Broader Impacts. His work focuses on minority outreach, science communication/education/outreach and faculty development.