Faculty Search Clinical Trials Find a Researcher Order a Test 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. View full bio 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. View lab website Scott Alper, PhD Associate 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. View lab website Rebecca Davidson, PhD Assistant Professor Education: Colorado State University, BS, 2001 Colorado State University, PhD, Molecular Plant Pathology, 2009 Michigan State University, Postdoctoral Fellow, Genomics, 2011 Background: Dr. Davidson is interested in using high throughput sequencing technologies and computational approaches to study the dynamics of infectious diseases. She is particularly focused on Mycobacteria species and other bacteria that affect cystic fibrosis (CF) and non-CF patients. Research areas include genetic epidemiology of pathogen populations, pathogen genome evolution, and identifying molecular biomarkers of disease progression and treatment response. View lab website Jennifer R. Honda, PhD Assistant Professor Education: Colorado State University, B.S., Biology and Zoology, 1997 University of Hawai’i, Manoa, M.S., Microbiology, 2002 University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, PhD, Microbiology, 2010 Background: Dr. Honda was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Curently, she is intensely interested in studying the environmental, host, and microbial factors driving the emergence of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease to directly improve the lives of patients. Dr. Honda also holds an Adjunct Faculty position in the Department of Tropical Medicine at the University of Hawai’i. She is deeply invested in the mentoring and training of Asian, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islanders, and other underrepresented populations in the field of microbiology in the context of academic research. View lab website 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 Center for Genes, Environment and 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. View lab website Brian O'Connor, PhD Associate 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). View lab website 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. View lab website 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. Brian Vestal, PhD Assistant Professor Education: University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, PhD in Biostatistics Californa State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA, MA in Applied Mathematics Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, CA, BS in Mathematics Background: Dr. Vestal has expertise in the analysis of genetic and genomic data, quantitative image analysis with applications in computed tomography and emphysema, Bayesian hierarchical modeling, and computational statistics. Dr. Vestal has created a new Computed Tomography image analysis pipeline for use with Emphysema and COPD research called Emphysema PROfiler©. The new quantitative measures provided by Emphysema PROfiler©, are not available anywhere else and can enhance biomarker discovery and identification programs. Initial research results show these new measures have stronger associations with plasma protein expression and pulmonary function tests compared to current approaches, and can also provide improved disease tracking capabilities. The technology is supported by 3 publications and was created using COPDGene medical image repository. He has also partnered with Microsoft to make the analysis available to external researchers through a secure cloud-based system.