2019 Speakers

Wendy Bickmore


Wendy Bickmore, PhD, is Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She is fascinated by the structure and organization of chromatin in the nucleus. Her group showed that different human chromosomes have preferred positions in the nucleus, related to their gene content, and addressed how genes are organized and packaged in the nucleus and how they move in the cell cycle and during development. She demonstrated that the polycomb repressive complex functions by compacting higher-order chromatin at target loci. Current research in Wendy Bickmore’s laboratory focuses on how the spatial organization of the nucleus influences genome function in development and disease, including how enhancers communicate with their target gene promoters. Wendy is an EMBO member, a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She was the president of the Genetics Society of Great Britain from 2015 to 2018. She is an editor on many journals including PLoS Genetics and Cell.

Recent publications:

Therizols P, et al (2014) Chromatin decondensation is sufficient to alter nuclear organization in embryonic stem cells. Science. 346:1238-1242.

Williamson I, et al. (2014) Spatial genome organization: contrasting views from chromosome conformation capture and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Genes Dev. 28:2778-2791.

Illingworth R. et al., (2015) The E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of Ring1B is not essential for early mouse development. Genes Dev. 29:1897-1902.

Pradeepa, M.M. et al. (2016) Histone H3 globular domain acetylation identifies novel enhancers. Nature. Genet. 48: 681-686.

Illingworth, R.S. et al. (2016) Polycomb enables primitive endoderm lineage priming in embryonic stem cells. eLife 5. pii: e14926.

Olley, G. et al. (2018) BRD4 interacts with NIPBL and is mutated in a Cornelia de Lange-like syndrome. Nature Genetics.  doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0042-y.

Holly Bik


Holly Bik, PhD, works at the interface between biology and computer science, using ecological and evolutionary hypotheses to drive the development and refinement of –Omic approaches focused on marine microbial eukaryotes. Her research interests are focused on free-living nematodes in deep-sea sediments, with an emphasis on “computational taxonomy”, host-associated microbiomes, and environmental drivers of biodiversity for microbial species. Her lab is also leading the development of open source bioinformatics workflows and novel, exploratory software tools such as the Phinch data visualization framework ( She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nematology at the University of California, Riverside with a Research Associate appointment at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

John B. Charles


John B. Charles, PhD, retired from NASA on February 22, 2018, as Associate Director of NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) for Exploration Research Planning, after nearly thirty-three years as a life sciences investigator and manager. From 2012 to 2016, he was Associate Manager for International Science, leading NASA’s space life sciences planning for the joint US/Russian one-year mission on ISS, including the Twins Study. From 2008 to 2012 and again from 2016 until November 2017, he was HRP’s Chief Scientist, assuring a balanced portfolio of funded research to resolve the greatest risks to humans on deep space expeditions.

John earned his B.S. in biophysics at The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky.  He worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center starting in 1983, first as a postdoctoral fellow, then in the civil service. He co-developed the fluid-loading countermeasure to protect Shuttle astronauts from fainting during re-entry and landing, and investigated the cardiovascular effects of space flight using ultrasound, in-flight lower body negative pressure and re-entry data recording on the Shuttle and on the Russian space station Mir.  He coordinated NASA’s biomedical, biological and microgravity investigations as Mission Scientist on Mir, on STS-95 (John Glenn’s Shuttle flight), and on STS-107 (Columbia’s last mission). He also represented the life sciences to NASA’s human Mars mission planning activities in the 1990s.

John is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (ASMA), of which he has been a member since 1983; he was the 2017-2018 President of its constituent  Space Medicine Association. He is also a Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and co-chaired the 18th IAA “Humans in Space Symposium” in Houston in 2011.

He has published 75 scientific papers and space history articles and has received several professional awards, including the National Space Club and Foundation’s Eagle Manned Mission Award (2017), the Aerospace Medical Association’s “Joe Kerwin” (2011) and “Hubertus Strughold” (2001) Awards, and NASA’s Silver Snoopy (1989), Exceptional Service Medal (2000), Exceptional Achievement Medal (2014), and Distinguished Service Medal (2018).

John holds Emeritus status in the Human Health and Performance Directorate of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He is also the first Scientist in Residence at Space Center Houston, the official visitors center for Johnson Space Center, with the goal of enhancing the guest experience by augmenting the human health and performance aspects of exhibits, presentations and demonstrations. He is Adjunct Professor of Kinesiology at Texas A&M University and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of StemRad Ltd., a company developing personal radiation protection garments for spaceflight. He and his wife Kathy own ACT4space, LLC, a private outreach, education, research, and consulting business.

Andrew Clark


Andrew Clark, PhD,  is a population geneticist focused on empirical and analytical problems associated with genetic variation in populations. He has several projects centered on the genetic basis for complex traits, especially in cases where there is a reasonably well understood gene regulatory network underlying the trait.  Dr. Clark has been working on methods for statistical inference of population genetic attributes of population samples since obtaining his PhD at Stanford in 1980. He has published more than 360 peer-reviewed papers in the field of population genetics, and is co-author with Dan Hartl of Principles of Population Genetics. His work is split between efforts in human and Drosophila empirical population genetics, with an emphasis on computationally challenging statistical methods, and on theoretical population genetics, including large simulation studies. He has contributed to the inference of haplotype phase from population genetic samples, to inference of natural selection from genome-wide data, and to inference of past demography from sample genotype data. Many projects have a common theme of relating variation and genotypic and phenotypic levels, which integrates understanding of gene regulatory networks and modern genome-wide approaches to quantitative genetics.

Elodie Ghedin


Elodie Ghedin, PhD, Professor of Biology and Global Public Health, is Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University. Her laboratory uses comparative genomics, evolutionary biology, and systems biology techniques to generate critical insight about host-pathogen interactions. Prof. Ghedin studies microbial and viral population structures, and how these impact host response to infection and emerging infectious diseases. Her research focuses on characterizing influenza virus diversity within and across infected hosts, and the interactions of microbes (bacterial, fungal, and viral) in the respiratory tract, to better understand the dynamics of viral transmission. Prof. Ghedin received her BS in Biology and PhD in Molecular Parasitology from McGill University (Montreal, Canada). She was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2011), A Kavli Frontier of Science Fellow (2012), and an American Academy of Microbiology Fellow (2017).

Alex Kentsis


Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD, is a pediatric oncologist and cancer biologist who treats children and young adults with leukemias and refractory solid tumors. In particular, he is interested in developing treatments that maximize the success of currently available therapies and devising new therapies that are precise, curative, and safe. His research takes advantage of modern technologies to improve our understanding of the biologic causes of blood and solid tumors. Together with colleagues, he has made discoveries about new therapeutic targets in cancer cells, mechanisms by which cancer cells can evade new treatments, and improved strategies to overcome treatment resistance. This work has been recognized by the Scholar Award from the American Society of Hematology, the Investigator Award from the Damon Runyon Foundation, the Scholar Award from the Rita Allen Foundation, and the Arceci Innovation Award.

Tuuli Lappalainen


Tuuli Lappalainen, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University, and an Assistant Investigator and Core Member at the New York Genome Center. Prior to joining the New York Genome Center in 2014, she did postdoctoral research at Stanford University in California and University of Geneva, Switzerland. She received her PhD from University of Helsinki, Finland in 2009. Her research focuses on functional genetic variation in human populations and its contribution to human traits and diseases. She has pioneered in integrating large-scale genome and transcriptome sequencing data to understand how genetic variation affects gene expression, which gives insight to biological mechanisms underlying genetic disease risk. She has contributed to many of the most important international research consortia in human genetics, including the 1000 Genomes Project, the Geuvadis Consortium, the GTEx Project, MoTrPAC, and TOPMed. In 2018, she was awarded the Leena Peltonen Prize for excellence in human genetics.

Stephen B. Montgomery


Stephen B. Montgomery is an Associate Professor of Pathology, Genetics and, by courtesy, Computer Science at Stanford University. His laboratory focuses on both functional genomics and bioinformatics approaches to understanding the molecular origins of genetic diseases. Dr. Montgomery has been an active member of multiple large-scale consortia including GTEx and MoTrPAC. His laboratory has developed novel transcriptome-based approaches to identifying impactful rare variants in individuals, families and populations and for measuring gene-by-environment effects.

Katherine S. Pollard


Dr. Katherine S. Pollard, PhD, is Director of the Gladstone Institute of Data Science & Biotechnology and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Institute for Human Genetics, Quantitative Biology Institute, and Institute for Computational Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. Previously, Dr. Pollard was an assistant professor in the University of California, Davis Genome Center and Department of Statistics. Dr. Pollard earned her PhD in Biostatistics from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Katherine Pollard was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in 1995 and the Sloan Research Fellowship in 2008. The UC Berkeley School of Public Health recognized her as Alumna of the Year in 2013 and as one of its 75 most influential alums in 2018. The San Francisco Business Times honored her in 2018 as one of its Women Who Lead in the Life Sciences. She is a member of the California Academy of Sciences and a Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator.

The Pollard lab develops bioinformatics methods for comparative analysis of massive biological datasets, with a focus on genomics and other transformative technologies. The lab’s mission is to enable statistically rigorous, quantitative comparisons across species, developmental stages, and conditions. A major emphasis is creating open source bioinformatics software. Pollard and her team developed industry standard tools for gene expression analysis, detecting evolutionary conservation and acceleration, and quantifying abundances of microbial genes from metagenomes.

Benjamin J. Raphael


Benjamin Raphael, PhD, Princeton University, is a professor in the Department of Computer Science.  He is also the founder of Medley Genomics, based in Providence, RI.  Dr. Raphael’s work at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics centers on developing algorithms and mathematical models to address biological problems. Major area of interest includes computational cancer genomics, human structural variation, and comparative genomics.

Aviv Regev


Aviv Regev, a computational and systems biologist, joined the Broad Institute as a core member and MIT as a faculty member in 2006. Regev’s research centers on understanding how complex molecular circuits function in cells and between cells in tissues.

Regev is a professor in the Department of Biology at MIT, Chair of the Faculty and founding director of the Klarman Cell Observatory and Cell Circuits Program at the Broad, and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her lab has been a pioneer of single-cell genomics – inventing key experimental methods and computational algorithms in the field, and demonstrating how to apply it to understand cell taxonomies, histological organization, differentiation and physiological processes, and how to infer the molecular and cellular circuits that control the function of cells and tissues in health and disease. She co-founded and co-leads the international initiative to build a Human Cell Atlas (HCA), whose mission is to create comprehensive reference maps of all human cells—the fundamental units of life—as a basis for both understanding human health and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease.

Regev is a recipient of the 2008 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the 2008 Overton Prize and 2017 Innovator Prizes from the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) and is a Class of 2016 ISCB Fellow, the 2014 Earl and Thressa Stadtman Scholar Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the 2017 Paul Marks Prize.

Prior to joining the Broad Institute, Regev was a Bauer Fellow at Harvard University, where she developed new approaches to the reconstruction of regulatory networks and modules from genomic data. Regev received her M.Sc. from Tel Aviv University, studying biology, computer science, and mathematics in the Interdisciplinary Program for the Fostering of Excellence. She received her Ph.D. in computational biology from Tel Aviv University.

Cole Trapnell


Cole Trapnell, PhD, University of Washington, studies stem cells and differentiation, primarily using high throughput transcriptome sequencing. The Trapnell Lab studies cell differentiation, reprogramming, and other transitions between stable or metastable cellular states. We also study the role of cell-cell communication in governing these processes. We aim to identify genes that control cellular transitions, primarily using single-cell genomics. Dr. Traphell earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was jointly advised by Steven Salzberg and Lior Pachter. As a postdoc in John Rinn’s lab at Harvard’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology department, he pioneered methods for analyzing differentiation with single cell transcriptome sequencing.  He is the principal developer of several widely used open-source software tools for analyzing high-throughput sequencing experiments.

Ting (C.-ting) Wu


Ting (C.-ting) Wu, PhD, is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. She is also Director of the Consortium for Space Genetics and Director of the Personal Genetics Education ( Project. She received her B.A. from Harvard University in Biology and her Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in Genetics and is the recipient of an NIH Director’s 2012 Pioneer Award for her laboratory’s work on genome organization, homolog pairing, and inheritance and an NIH Director’s 2016 Transformative Research Award for her laboratory’s work on sequence ultraconservation as a strategy for maintaining genome integrity. Her group also develops technologies for visualizing the genome, most recently, at super-resolution (Oligopaints, HOPs, OligoSTORM, and OligoDNA-PAINT). The Wu laboratory also houses the Personal Genetics Education Project (, which works to promote public awareness and dialog about genetics and genetic technologies via classrooms, online curricula and teacher training, Congressional briefings, the film and television industry, and communities of faith.