Student Profiles

Kristin Beima

Kristin Beima initially entered the Institute for Public Health Genetics MPH program and subsequently decided to continue her studies through the IPHG Ph.D. program. Prior to entering the masters program, Kristin spent one year working in a genetics laboratory and three years working as laboratory manager in a molecular immunology laboratory. Kristin is highly enthusiastic about research and recognizes that the unique interdisciplinary PHG program will give her the ability to evaluate not only the scientific rigor and results of research studies, but also the many other issues associated with performing ethically and socially acceptable research. For her MPH, Kristin worked on an ecogenetics study, translated ecogenetics research into teaching materials for community outreach, and evaluated ethical issues arising within this newly emerging field with Kelly Fryer-Edwards, David Eaton, and the UW Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health.

Kristin has a strong interest in global health and a passion for working with vulnerable populations. In addition to her PHG coursework, the unique design of the PHG program has allowed Kristin the flexibility to complete a graduate certificate in HIV and STI research and pursue an additional graduate certificate in global health. Kristin received the opportunity to spend the 2009-2010 academic year abroad in Nairobi, Kenya as one of thirty nationally recognized NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars. While overseas, she will work on a clinical trial designed to optimize pediatric treatment regimens in HIV infected infants and young children. Kristin plans to pursue her dissertation research within the field of HIV and evaluate how genetic, social, and ethical issues affect HIV outcomes in women and children.

Lorelei Walker

Prior to starting the Master's in Public Health Genetics program at the UW in 2010, Lorelei Walker was a key researcher in a conservation ecology lab at USF focused on understanding the genetic hybridization and mating patterns of two species of Florida lizards, one endemic and at risk of extinction. During this time, she also taught science and life skills for an at-risk youth at a boarding school in central Florida. Both experiences were salient in refocusing her calling to better understand the genetic (and epigenetic) underpinnings of social determinants of health in human populations.

In the first year of the MPH degree, she worked closely with researchers at the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality (CGHE) to understand the data access request for phenotypic and genotypic data available through dbGaP. This resulted in a publication calling for greater transparency of this publicly funded resource.

During her second year as a trainee for the CGHE, she continued to assist colleagues understand stakeholder perspectives around biobanking and data sharing policy as well as the epigenetic regulation of the human stress response system in relationship to mental illness outcomes. The latter research has informed her thesis on the allostatic system and its potential for epigenetic transmission of the stress response to future generations.

Lorelei is currently in the Ph.D. program for Public Health Genetics continuing to work extensively with CGHE and with the Interdisciplinary Center for Epigenetics Science, and Society (ICESS) located at OHSU directed by Dr. Nancy Press. This collaboration will further inform her dissertation research to understand the epigenetic transmission of stress from mother to child during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Her passion for understanding the stress-mental illness relationship in context of social determinants of health continues to focus her research in order to assist this community in advocacy and research. As a working group leader for the Health Equity Circle (HEC), a student group at the UW, she seeks pathways to work with communities for structural change to better daily lives and prevent mental illness.

email: loreleis@uw.edu

Stephanie Rosse

Stephanie Rosse received her B.S. in Cellular Molecular and Developmental Biology from the University of Washington. While completing her bachelor's degree, she spent a quarter at Friday Harbor Laboratories studying pathways that influence egg maturation and developing her love for research. During the final year of her undergraduate education she volunteered as an intern at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on a nutrition and exercise intervention study. After graduation she had the opportunity to continue this work for another year as a program assistant. Inspired by this experience and the many opportunities in prevention science at Fred Hutchinson, she decided to continue her education in the exciting field of Genetic Epidemiology. Her hope is that the information obtained from these types of studies will ultimately lead to new strategies for reducing the incidence of morbidity and mortality from complex diseases like heart disease. While obtaining her master's degree, Stephanie began researching genetic variation associated with levels of C-Reactive Protein. Since elevated levels of this biomarker are associated with heart disease, a better understanding of genetic contributions may help to improve predictive capability and drive the development of new therapeutic targets.

The Institute for Public Health Genetics offers a unique experience to concurrently learn about the many opportunities and challenges associated with translating genomic and genetic information into clinical applications. As Stephanie neared the completion of her thesis, she realized there was much more that she could gain from continuing on with the program. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Health Genetics with the goal of someday conducting multilevel research that will influence the development of effective prevention policies.

Email: rosses@uw.edu

Tara Coffin

Tara Coffin completed a Masters of Education in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Washington prior to entering the Institute for Public Health Genetics Ph.D. program. As a special educator, Tara worked primarily in inclusive education settings, working with families as well as students with Autism and other conditions that effect learning, specializing in making science education accessible to everyone. Through these experiences, she noticed that often the presence of a genetic condition actually informed what educational practice might be effective for an individual.

Her interest in disability studies, with a focus on genetic conditions, stems from her undergraduate experience at University of Puget Sound, where she studied bioethics and Science, Technology & Society. In her doctoral study, Tara is looking forward to continuing her work with families and children with genetic conditions, offering support from the perspective of public health as well as best practice in special education.

Email: tarabethanne@gmail.com

Taryn Hall

Taryn received her B.S. in Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development from the University of Minnesota in 2005 and MPH in Epidemiology, also from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Her Masters thesis investigated differences in levels of inflammation biomarkers among people carrying various alleles of TCF7L2, a gene associated with type 2 diabetes. Taryn then took a job as the Diabetes Epidemiologist for the State of Montana. There, she and her colleagues created a very successful lifestyle intervention program to prevent diabetes in Montanans at high risk for the disease, modeled after the Diabetes Prevention Trial, garnering national attention.

Taryn entered the Public Health Genetics Ph.D. program in 2010 hoping to combine and build on work from her previous two degrees by studying genetic epidemiology. Over the past two years, she has learned a lot about family-based methods for gene identification and the ELSI issues that surround them. Currently, she is working on her dissertation under Dr. Karen Edwards, focused on genetic risk prediction and policy in Parkinson.s disease. She also has interest in Fragile X syndrome, Autism, fibromyalgia, medically unexplained illnesses, and disability.

Email: tohall@u.washington.edu

Cyan James

Cyan James was born in the Mojave Desert in California, which taught her early on to appreciate rare forms of life. Once she encountered the logic and beauty of genetics and began to see genes as the language and code programming life, she was hooked. As she completed undergraduate studies in a self-designed BLS degree, she focused on genetics and bioethics as ways to explore the possibilities and implications of genetic knowledge. She worked initially in plant genetics, moving eventually to consider ELSI concerns.

At the University of Michigan she completed an MFA in creative writing and began honing in on the matrix where public communication, storytelling, science, and policy intersect. After graduation she worked on for the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, researching the 1918-1919 Spanish influenza epidemic as well as enforced sterilization in California mental institutions. Her next job allowed her to design computer-based tailored wellness guides and health information instructed by health psychology principles for HealthMedia under Johnson & Johnson. There she worked on a program directed at helping consumers cope with depression, and was intrigued enough to pursue an academic interest in major depressive disorder (MDD) and other mental illnesses through the University of Washington PHG Ph.D. program.

During her doctoral work she intends to address policy, ethics, legal and pharmacogenomic elements pertaining to mental health. Her studies pull from the fields of psychiatry, psychology, policy, international studies, and genetics. She is also interested in suicidology, labor and sex trafficking, and medical ethics. She is preparing for a career in health policy, ethics, and medical/science/health communication. Teaching and writing for the general public is very important to her as a way to portray the concrete impact of public health policies on all our lives.

email: cyanj@uw.edu

Mercy Laurino

Mercy Laurino completed a Masters of Science degree in Genetic Counseling from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center prior to entering the Institute for Public Health Genetics Ph.D. program. As a certified genetic counselor, Mercy provided genetic counseling to patients seen at the University of Washington Adult Medical Genetics Clinic and at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Breast and Ovarian Cancer and Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Programs. She has had the opportunity to be involved in several research projects and is a co-author of the published practice guideline on the "Genetic Evaluation and Counseling of Couples with Recurrent Miscarriage: Recommendations of the National Society of Genetic Counselors." Her current collaboration with the medical geneticists in the Philippines to establish their advanced degree genetic counseling training program moves forward the commitment of integrating medical genetics into the general health services in every country. In her doctoral study, Mercy is eager to contribute and to further develop her knowledge on healthcare policy and public health theories in expanding the field of genetic counseling. Her research interests are on the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics for global health.

email: mercy@uw.edu

Alice Popejoy

Alice received her B.A. in biology and French at Hamilton College, where she studied the effects of education and awareness about genetic information on people's perceptions and attitudes about genetic discrimination. As a summer intern in the California State Senate in Sacramento, Alice helped translate science into policy, working with legislative staff on the health and science committees. Her work focused on the ethics and legal implications of umbilical cord blood banking as well as the laws that regulate the use of genetic information. Awarded an Emerson Summer Research Fellowship at Hamilton, Alice researched the social, cultural and political origins of welfare, looking at the emergence of "mother's pensions" in the United States.

With aspirations of transitioning into science policy, Alice moved to Washington, DC after graduation and began working for Congresswoman Doris Matsui in the United States House of Representatives. She then went to work at the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), where she became the inaugural Phoebe S. Leboy Public Policy Fellow. At AWIS, Alice developed policy initiatives and carried out advocacy strategies on Capitol Hill, while researching the proportion of women scientists winning awards for scholarly research from scientific disciplinary societies. Working across disciplinces in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) she conducted observational and cohort studies while staging awareness interventions about unconscious bias among society selection committees to promote objective decision-making for major scholarly awards.

Now a Ph.D. candidate in Public Health Genetics, Alice hopes to draw on her experience in advocacy, research and public policy to enrich the field and expand her knowledge of genetic research. She is committed to keeping the lines of communication between science and policymakers as open and accessible as possible, while pursuing her academic interests in bioinformatics, data management, and access to genetic information. She is grateful to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for awarding her a Graduate Research Fellowship, which will fund the first three years of her doctoral studies at the University of Washington.

Email: popejoy@uw.edu

Anjali Truitt

Prior to entering the University of Washington, Anjali Truitt worked in rehabilitation medicine, where she discovered that environmental and attitudinal barriers often prevent people with disabilities from accessing preventative healthcare services. This awareness led her to pursue her Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Anjali worked on several research projects addressing a range of topics from obesity prevention and the built environment to emergency preparedness. Through these experiences, Anjali began to recognize that the biomedical research paradigm and processes often overlook sociocultural dimensions of disability, and she knew that she wanted her doctoral work to address the implications of disability for public health. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the Institute for Public Health Genetics (IPHG), as well as its collaborations with the UW Disability Studies Program, Anjali entered the Ph.D. program.

Broadly, Anjali is interested in exploring how political, social and cultural forces shape genetics research and clinical application of genomic technologies. The IPHG curriculum has helped Anjali to think about how bioethics and health policy can inform public health practice. Because of this, she has become particularly interested in how health professionals communicate about the risks and benefits of genetic testing to marginalized communities and how laws and policies represent the interests of these communities. Her doctoral work will address these research interests in the context of prenatal testing.

email: artruitt@uw.edu

Krysta Shutske

Like many students in the Institute for Public Health Genetics (IPHG), Krysta Barton Shutske entered the Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a lot of prior experience. She taught high school biology for six years, obtained an MPH, and worked in Public Health for four years before beginning the MPH program at the UW IPHG. Since her first MPH did not focus specifically on genetics she sought training in the Ethical, Social, and Legal issues (ELSI) of public health genetics. Considering the breadth of material that falls under the umbrella of ELSI, Krysta realized that a key to future success would be to focus on a specific subject area to hone her skills and develop expertise.

As a research assistant under the direction of Wylie Burke with the Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality she has sharpened her independent study and research skills. The UW IPHG has allowed Krysta to focus her coursework and research on ELSI, specifically her interest in ethics and law. As Krysta nears completion of her MPH she looks forward to beginning the IPHG Ph.D. program. Krysta will continue to focus on her areas of interest and expertise and the training offered through the public health genetics program is the ideal medium through which she can achieve her goals.