Teacher and Students you guys were rock stars!! Thank you so much for voting me the winner! I'm so excited!
Augustana College (2002-2006) Bachelor’s degree, Northern Illinois University (2007-2015) Masters and PhD
Ph.D. in Biology and Computer Science, Post-doctoral training at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, I also teach community college at Waubonsee Community College and previously at Kishwaukee college
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
I write computer software to try and cure cancer!
So all of our cells have DNA inside of them. That DNA is made up of genes- think of these genes as a pearl necklace. If you were to take one pearl out the necklace would fall apart and you couldn’t use it anymore. That’s what happens to genes if something bad happens to them- we call this a mutation. Mutations lead to cancer.
If you get a really bad sunburn (over and over again) the sun can remove one of those pearls from the necklace and cause a mutation in a gene called BRAF. If this happens you can develop melanoma which is cancer of the skin- it’s gross and sucks.
Even though we can’t see the genes we have machines that tell us each person’s entire DNA- 20,000 genes/pearl necklaces. My job is to write computer software that looks at all 20,000 of those genes and find out where the mutation is. If I find it then I can tell my boss who treats melanoma patients where the mutation is and if we have a drug that cures the mutation he gives it to the patient! It’s pretty awesome being able to help people with melanoma get better.
My Typical Day:
It changes a lot but I’m always on the computer and usually writing software or writing about what we found!
I work from home! I have a nice office and my two dogs with me all the time.
I spend 100% of my day on the computer- most scientists don’t do that but my education was in Biology and Computer Science. What I do is called Bioinformatics- it’s a pretty new field of science that combines both those subjects.
I login to a super computer at the Medical School I work for in Denver and from my office in Illinois I write computer software. I also write results to send in to medical journals. We are always trying to raise money to do more research so I also write grants to ask charities to fund our research. I like to solve problems and cancer is a big problem so I like to think of myself as a cancer detective.
What I'd do with the prize money:
Teach schools about Bioinformatics and Cancer- especially in the small towns near where I grew up.
I grew up in a small town of 2,000 people. I never heard of bioinformatics and I never EVER thought I would be a scientist. They were nerds in white coats- I was an athlete and liked hanging out with my friends. I’m so thankful I went to college and learned how awesome Biology was. I was SO WRONG about what scientists were- I had never interacted with them. Scientists are awesome and yes pretty nerdy but nerdy awesome.
I want to do what I’m doing with you guys but do it live. I want to show kids when their younger what a scientist does and how awesome it is. I’ll spend the money to travel around to small schools where I grew up and talk to them about scientists and what we do to make the world a better place!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Loud, smart, silly
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Found a new way to treat melanoma patients – its being tested now!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
my high school chemistry teacher
What was your favorite subject at school?
Biology and recess
What did you want to be after you left school?
a medical doctor- I thought that’s what a scientist did
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes- for talking alllll the time
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A detective- I’ve always wanted to be a cop
Who is your favorite singer or band?
What's your favorite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Rode 4 wheelers with my husband in Hawaii!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Have some kids of my own, find a cure for cancer, more wishes :)
Tell us a joke.
What lake does a vampire ski on? Lake Eerie.