Faculty

Our faculty, researchers and staff are dedicated to understanding the genetics of complex lung and immune-related conditions common in patients cared for at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado Denver. 

David Schwartz, MD

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Tasha E. Fingerlin, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Research
Director, Center for Genes, Environment and Health
Director, Program in Quantitative Genetics

Education:

Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, BS, Secondary Education (Mathematics and Biology), 1997
University of Michigan, MS, Biostatistics, 1999
University of Michigan, PhD, Epidemiology, 2003

Background:

Dr. Fingerlin's research interests include, Genetic Epidemiology, Type 1 & Type II Diabetes, Chronic Beryllium Disease, Schizophrenia and Statistical Methods.

Ivana Yang, PhD

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Ivana Yang, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver and Integrated Center for Genes, Environment & Health, National Jewish Health

Education:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, PhD, 2000
The Institute for Genomic Research, Fellow, Functional Genomics, 2001-2003

Background:

Dr. Yang's responsibilities are divided equally between primary research and the development of the Integrated Center for Genes, Environment & Health. Her current research focus is on the role of genetics and epigenetics in innate immunity, pulmonary fibrosis, and asthma. One of Dr. Yang's specific research interests is the identification of novel innate immune genes in mice by using genetic and genomic approaches and then testing polymorphisms in human orthologs of candidate genes for association with infection in patient cohorts. She is a co-director of another innate immunity project that aims to understand how environmental exposures such as ozone influence the expression of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in the lung, and how this alteration in TLR expression has profound effects on lung host defense and consequently the development of lung infections and allergic airway disease. Dr. Yang also co-leads projects aiming to understand the role of epigenetic regulation, specifically DNA methylation, in the development of asthma in humans. Finally, she participates in the Lung Genomics Research Consortium, a multi-center consortium that aims to establish a comprehensive genetic, molecular, and quantitative clinical phenotyping warehouse for chronic lung diseases. 

Scott Alper, PhD

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Scott Alper, PhD

Assistant Professor

Education:

Harvard University, PhD, 1996

Background:

Diseases of the immune system such as sepsis, asthma, and atherosclerosis affect millions of people worldwide, and the incidence of many of these diseases is rising. Dr. Alper's lab is focused on understanding the regulation of the innate immune response, particularly as it relates to the basis for such immunological diseases. He is using a comparative genomics approach in the nematode C. elegans and mammalian cell culture to identify novel regulators of the innate immune response, and testing the effect of these regulators in mammalian disease models.

Rebecca Davidson, PhD

´╗┐Rebecca Davidson, PhD

Instructor

Education:

Colorado State University, BS, Horticulture, 2001
Colorado State University, PhD, Plant Pathology, Molecular Plant Biology, 2009

 
Background:

Dr. Davidson has a broad background in plant disease diagnostics, molecular biology and host-microbe interactions. After completing both wet-lab and computational projects during her PhD, she pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in Plant Genomics and Bioinformatics at Michigan State University where she gained extensive training in various programming languages and bioinformatics tools. Her past projects include analysis of next generation sequencing data, transcriptomic and metabolomic studies, SNP discovery and comparative genomics. Dr. Davidson joined the Strong Lab in late 2011 and provides bioinformatics support for Mycobacterium genomics projects and the NTM Center of Excellence.

Sonia Leach, PhD

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Sonia M. Leach, PhD

Director of Bioinformatics, Assistant Professor

Education:

Bucknell University, BS, Computer Science and Engineering
Brown University, ScM, Computer Science
Brown University, PhD, Computer Science
University of Colorado Denver, Postdoctoral, Computational Pharmacology Group
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven Belgium, Postdoctoral, Bioinformatics Group

Background:

Dr. Leach's responsibilities at the Integrated Center for Genes, Environment & Health are to develop computational algorithms for the analysis and interpretation of genomic and proteomic datasets. She is particularly interested in methods which integrate diverse types of genomic data in order to explain high-throughput data results and prioritize those results for further follow-up studies. Dr. Leach is also an Assistant Professor in the Computational Bioscience Program at University of Colorado Denver.

Brian O'Connor, PhD

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Brian O'Connor, PhD

Assistant Professor

Education:

Dartmouth College Immunology, PhD, 2003
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2008

Background:

Epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation, translate environmental signals into gene regulation. These molecular epigenetic processes, translate the myriad environmental signals encountered each day, into definitive regulation of our genome and, by extension, who we are at a basic biological level.

Dr. O'Connor is focused on understanding how epigenetic mechanisms regulate the decision processes governing immune cell activity in the context of disease. The immune system is comprised of multiple types of autonomous cells that must work together to influence the outcome of disease. Fundamentally, gene expression controls the identity and function of the various immune cells. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone modification and DNA methylation, translate the environmental signals encountered by immune cells into regulation of gene expression, cell function and ultimately, cell identity and fate determination.

The primary goal of the lab is to understand how the human experience (macro- & micro-environment) affects immune epigenetics and to then use that knowledge to treat diseases. Currently, Dr. O’Connor examines the cross talk between environmental stimuli (such as diet or inflammation), the immune system, and disease (such as Asthma).

Max Siebold, PhD

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Max Seibold, PhD

Assistant Professor

Education:

University of California-San Francisco, PhD, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics, 2008

Background:

The Seibold Lab is focused on identifying genetic determinants and biomarkers of complex lung diseases, including asthma and pulmonary fibrosis. Many of the genetic variants that influence development and severity of these lung diseases do so by altering molecular functions in specific lung cell types. His lab is focused on identifying dysregulated molecular functions in patient lung cells, by Nex-Generation sequencing technologies. Using patient cohorts the genetic determinants of these molecular changes are then mapped. The lab is also editing the genome of these lung cells to allow detailed mechanistic studies of disease variants and better understanding of how these genetic changes increase risk of disease development.

Michael Strong, PhD

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Michael Strong, PhD

Assistant Professor

Education:

University of California, Los Angeles, PhD
Harvard Medical School, Postdoctoral, Department of Genetics

Background:

The past decade has marked an exciting transformation in the biological sciences, from that of studying individual genes and pathways to instead studying entire genomes, proteomes, and metagenomic communities. As a result, Dr. Strong is very interested in developing synergistic genomic and computational strategies to better utilize, integrate, and analyze biological datasets from a systems biology perspective, incorporating elements of genetics, molecular biology, protein network analysis, and structure biology. Much of his work centers on respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis, and his goal as a researcher is to use modern genomic and computational methods to identify and investigate the molecular mechanisms of disease and to suggest more effective strategies to combat disease and drug resistance.