Kathleen Rubins was selected by NASA in 2009. Rubins completed her first spaceflight on Expedition 48/49, where she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of California and a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University Medical School Biochemistry Department and Microbiology and Immunology Department. Dr. Rubins conducted her undergraduate research on HIV-1 integration in the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She worked as a Fellow/Principal Investigator at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and headed 14 researchers studying viral diseases that primarily affect Central and West Africa. Rubins most recently served aboard the International Space Station as flight engineer for Expedition 63/64. Across her two flights, she has spent a total of 300 days in space, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.
Bridgett vonHoldt is an associate professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. Her research focuses on evolutionary genomics of admixed species, hybrid zones, and consequence of natural selection on the regulatory genome. She has carried out extensive studies on wild and domesticated canines. Her research has significant conservation applications for endangered species like the red wolf and gray wolf of North America. She also has discovered genetic factors that shape the evolution of social behavior of dogs as a result of their domestication from wolves. One of her research goals is to unravel genotype-phenotype evolution in in wild and domestic canines. She is specifically interested in the interaction of demography, genetic, and gene expression changes that shape fitness-related phenotypes. She earned her BS in Psychology from Eckerd College (St. Petersburg, Florida) but spent a lot of her time in the pathology lab performing necropsies on manatees. She then completed her Master’s at NYU in Biology followed by a PhD at UCLA under the mentorship of Bob Wayne, focused on the population and evolutionary genetics of North American canids. She then wanted to expand her research scope through two post-doc experiences. First, she shifted to explore the evolutionary dynamics of transposable elements and DNA methylation in the genome of cultivated rice under the mentorship of Brandon Gaut at UC Irvine. Next, she returned to UCLA as a bioinformatics fellow to examine the methylome between domestic dogs and gray wolves. She continues these integrated efforts when she established her research group at Princeton University’s EEB Department in 2013, where she is now an Associate Professor. She is the founder and director of the North American Canine Ancestry Project. She is also a co-founder and lead geneticist for the Gulf Coast Canine Project.
Melina Claussnitzer is an institute member at the Broad Institute, and an assistant professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS). She also co-directs the Type 2 Diabetes Systems Genomics Initiative at the Broad, and serves as the associate director of scientific strategy for the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Genomic Mechanisms of Disease at the Broad. Her lab focuses on the conversion of disease-associated genetic variants to function (V2F) and, more specifically, on the dissection of the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes and its comorbidities into actionable therapeutics. This focus requires a concerted, systematic effort to interpret non-coding genetic variation and to understand how it contributes to phenotypic variation in the context of the complete cellular machinery. Claussnitzer’s research program therefore spans a diversity of areas in the field of disease genomics, and involves a hierarchical experimental and computational framework to discover pathophysiological targets underlying the genetic risk of metabolic disease phenotypes.
Claussnitzer’s thesis work focused on the computational and experimental foundations of genome-wide association study (GWAS) locus dissection and its application to the conversion of type 2 diabetes risk loci into disease mechanisms. She pioneered new computational and experimental methods for converting genomic regions associated with complex diseases and traits in humans into functions using multiple species comparisons and large-scale epigenomic and transcriptomic data sets, as well as CRISPR-Cas9 mediated variant editing. Her lab applies those methods to mechanistically dissect metabolic risk loci across diverse phenotypic scales.
Claussnitzer earned her “Vordiplom” (equivalent of B.Sc.) in mathematics and nutritional sciences and her “Diplom” (equivalent of M.Sc.) in molecular biology and nutritional sciences from the University of Hohenheim, Germany, where she now holds a faculty position. She earned her Ph.D. in genetics of complex diseases from the Technical University of Munich, Germany.
Kirsten Bos is a specialist in ancient DNA research, with a focus on bacterial pathogens. Most of her work has centered on evolutionary questions related to medieval plague, tuberculosis, salmonella and treponema, with revelations coming from a variety of archaeological contexts and time periods. She is currently research group leader for Molecular Paleopathology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Her research is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant (until 2024), as well as the Max Planck Society. In addition to her scientific work, Kirsten has accumulated almost 20 years of orchestral experience with her oboe, and she’s raising two small kids.
Dr. Kristin Laidre is a Principal Scientist at the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington working on problems of applied animal ecology in the Arctic. She is a Professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and is partially supported by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk, Greenland. She was named a Pew Marine Conservation fellow in 2017. Kristin’s research is focused on broad questions about Arctic marine mammals. Her research is field-based, largely empirical, and focuses on using quantitative data on individual movements, foraging behavior, and life history to unite behavioral, population, and evolutionary ecology. She is particularly interested in linking individual performance to an animal’s selection for habitat resources and predicting how these relationships will be impacted by climate change. Her interests include wildlife conservation and management, scaling questions in ecology, and the application of Geographic Information Systems to spatial data. She is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Cetacean Specialist Group and the co-chair of the the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (2021-2024 quadrennium). She has participated in over 40 field expeditions in Greenland and authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 3 books on high-latitude marine mammals. Kristin is broadly involved in science communication outside of the university, including local high schools, elementary schools, museums, and community centers. She also takes creative approaches to science communication and outreach, often partnering with artists. Her research has been featured multiple times in National Geographic, the New York Times, National Public Radio, Washington Post, BBC, New Scientist, Smithsonian Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, the Sunday Telegraph, Reuters, Good Morning America, CBS, NBC, and many other international media outlets.
Johns Hopkins University
Michael Schatz, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Biology at Johns Hopkins University, is among the world’s foremost experts in solving computational problems in genomics research. His innovative biotechnologies and computational tools to study the sequence and function of genomes are advancing the understanding of the structure, evolution, and function of genomes for medicine – particularly autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and other human diseases – and agriculture.
Schatz, who founded and directs the Schatz Lab, has created many of the most widely used methods and software to assemble the full genetic material for a single person or a species, including:
- NGMLR and Sniffles are long-read sequencing analysis methods to study the longer fragments of DNA, a breakthrough that may yield critical information about how cancer genomes evolve. Genomes in malignant tumors often house sections of chromosomes that are deleted, duplicated or fused together. By examining an unstable genome, Schatz identified almost 20,000 structural alterations – changes previously missed by other researchers when examining shorter DNA fragments.
- Scalpel, the leading genetic variants discovery tool, to identify and analyze mutations in autism spectrum disorders and somatic mutations (or post-conception DNA alterations) in cancer genomes, including pancreatic cancers.
- GECCO (Genomic Enrichment Computational Clustering Operation), a novel algorithm to study complex non-coding and structural variations in genomes, through which his lab identified recurrent non-coding somatic mutations (DNA alterations that occur post-conception) in pancreatic cancer, including some that substantially changed survival outcomes.
- Ginkgo, a computational tool for single cell copy number profiling in heterogeneous tumors to study the progression of primary and metastatic breast tumors and adult acute myeloid leukemia.
- New computational methods including FALCON and Assemblytics for assembling and analyzing the genomes of different species using single molecule sequencing, especially plant and animal species, to study their evolution and adaption.
- CloudBurst and Crossbow, the first published algorithms to use cloud computing technologies in genomics for mapping and variant discovery.
Sean Eddy is a computational biologist at Harvard University. Before moving to Harvard in 2015, he was a group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus, and before that, a faculty member in the Genetics department at Washington University in St. Louis. He received a bachelor’s degree from Caltech, a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and did postdoctoral work at NeXagen in Boulder and at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.
UC San Diego
Keolu Fox Ph.D., Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) is an assistant professor at University of California, San Diego, affiliated with the Department of Anthropology, the Global Health Program, the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, the Climate Action Lab, and the Indigenous Futures Lab. He holds a Ph.D. in Genome Sciences from the University of Washington, Seattle (2016). Dr. Fox’s multi-disciplinary research interests include genome sequencing, genome engineering, computational biology, evolutionary genetics, paleogenetics, and Indigenizing biomedical research. His primary research focuses on questions of functionalizing genomics, testing theories of natural selection by editing genes and determining the functions of mutations.
Dr. Fox has published numerous articles on human genetics, biomedicine, ancient genomics, and Indigenous data sovereignty, most recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, and the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Dr. Fox is a recipient of grants from numerous organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, the American Association for Physical Anthropology, Emerson Collective, the Social Science Research Council and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SOLVE Initiative.
Dr. Stephanie Hicks is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins BSPH where she is also a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Data Science Lab, and has affiliations with the Malone Center for Engineering in Healthcare, Center for Computational Biology, the Department of Genetic Medicine, and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is an expert in developing scalable computational methods and open-source software for biomedical data analysis, in particular single-cell and spatial transcriptomics genomics data, leading to an improved understanding of human health and disease. She serves on a variety of boards including the Bioconductor Technical Advisory Board, and the Editorial Board at Genome Biology. Locally, she co-founded and co-organizes the R-Ladies Baltimore chapter to promote gender diversity in the R programming language community. She is a recipient of several professional awards including a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, a High-Impact Project Award from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Teaching in the Health Sciences Young Investigator Award from the American Statistical Association (ASA), and the COPSS Emerging Leader Award from the ASA, arguably the statistical profession’s most prestigious award for early career leaders in Statistics and Data Science.
Mark Blaxter leads the Sanger’s Tree of Life programme, which is generating and analyzing reference genome sequences from many thousands of species across the tree of life. The initial focus has been on the eukaryotic biota of Britain and Ireland (Darwin Tree of Life Project), the genomes of symbiotic organisms (Aquatic Symbiosis Genomics project) and international initiatives under the umbrella of the Earth BioGenome Project. His research portfolio focuses on the genomics of neglected, non-model organisms and the interpretation of those genomes in ecological and evolutionary contexts (including, inter alia, parasitic and free living nematodes, tardigrades, gastropod and bivalve molluscs, butterflies, bees, flies, birds, algae, fungi and bacteria). Before joining Sanger, he was Professor of Evolutionary Genomics in the University of Edinburgh, where his research portfolio focussed on the genomics of neglected, non-model organisms, and the interpretation of those genomes in ecological and evolutionary contexts. He is a highly cited author with over 250 refereed papers. He is a fellow of the Linnaean Society of London, of the Helminthological Society of Washington, of the Royal Society for Biology and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2014.