I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). I also am a member of the Computational Biology and Functional Genomics Laboratory at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, headed by Professor John Quackenbush, and the OB/GYN Epidemiology Center at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led by Professor Daniel Cramer. My current research focuses on dietary risk factors for ovarian cancer in two study populations, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS)/NHS2 and the New England based case-control study. I was selected for a Nutritional Epidemiology of Cancer postdoctoral training fellowship from HSPH (2010-present) for this research.
Prior to joining the HSPH, I completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Associate Professor Tan Ince in the Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (2007-2010). I studied the role of the normal cell of origin in determining ovarian tumor phenotype. Epithelial ovarian cancer is a heterogeneous disease made up of at least six major histological subtypes. It was traditionally thought that these different subtypes originated in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), however recent studies have identified putative precursor lesions in the fallopian tube epithelium (FTE) suggesting an alternative cell of origin for this disease. Since there were no experimental models available to compare normal human OSE and FTE, I used a novel serum-free chemically-defined cell culture media developed by Dr. Ince to establish cultures of paired normal human OSE and FTE from three patients and created transformed OSE and FTE cells to evaluate their tumorigenic potential. Working with Professor Quackenbush, I used Bioinformatics methods to identify a gene signature that distinguished the paired FTE and OSE cells from the same patients and we applied this signature to classify ovarian tumors into subgroups based on their resemblance to normal OSE or FTE cells (manuscript under review). I was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and a research grant from the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation for this research.
My graduate studies were carried out at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia (2003-2007) in the laboratories of Professor Adele Green and Professor Peter Parsons at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Prior to my PhD, I was awarded a BSc with high honors in Marine Biology from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia (2000) and worked as a Research Assistant in Population Genetics at The University of Queensland, Australia (2000-2003).
Through these interdisciplinary training experiences I have gained expertise in Epidemiology, Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics and in future research I would like to use these methods to study risk factors for cancer, and to integrate this information with novel molecular classifications of disease.