Student Profiles

 

David Chen, BS, BA, MS, PhD

Mentor: Brock Christensen, PhD

Education:  Pacific Lutheran University, BS Biology; BA Political Economy

University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MS Biochemistry


Why QBS and Dartmouth?

The Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (QBS) graduate program offers substantial opportunities in interdisciplinary research and learning. QBS aims to prepare graduate students with a comprehensive set of quantitative skills applicable to the basic and translational as well as computational sciences. By completing the core areas of the QBS curriculum, I feel well-prepared to conduct research in biomedical and health data science and mentor others about data science. The QBS curriculum entails much more than the traditional “classroom + exam” paradigm; it introduces students with practical experiences and enable students to become better scientists. For example, through the Biostatiscs Consulting Lab course, I had the opportunity to directly interact with clinicians and apply my knowledge from the core QBS curriculum to address client needs in grant proposals and peer-reviewed manuscripts.
The QBS experience is well-integrated with my Dartmouth experience as a whole. At Dartmouth, the most unique aspect is the connectedness among laboratories, organizations and academic departments. In my experience, Dartmouth fosters the collaborative research, teaching and learning environment. As a student in the Epidemiology Department, I was able to collaborate on projects in other departments including Microbiology/Immunology and Pathology (DHMC), as well as serving as a TA in the Computer Science department. The sense of inclusion, diversity and citizenship makes Dartmouth a unique place and inspiring environment.


Overview of Research or Research Interests

My primary research interest is integrating epigenetic and proteo-genomic data sets for cancer subgroup identification and downstream characterization using machine learning. My most recent research projects are related to identifying somatic alteration biomarkers in breast cancer, particularly the more aggressive triple-negative subtype. My ongoing work includes profiling DNA methylation and proteomics in cancer and integrating multiple tumor molecular profiles for predictive analytics. Through the Burroughs-Wellcome Big Data in Life Sciences training program, I also had the opportunity to collect primary data from patient tumor and cell line biospecimens for downstream big-data analytics.


What are your career goals and how do you feel QBS has prepared you for career goals or molded your career aspirations?

One thing I can say for sure: “Wherever I end up, I cannot live without the presence of big data”. My career goal in the 60,000-foot view is to be a data scientist. In the past, I had always wanted to take on a research-based position in an academic institution. However, through my experience in QBS practical curriculum and conference opportunities, I learned about the infinitely many opportunities as an emerging QBS graduate in both academia and industry, from being a laboratory research scientist to data analyst to biostatistician. Wherever I end up, I also hope to carry on the mission of lifelong teaching, something that I learned as a member of the Dartmouth community. I am open-minded about future possibilities, and optimistic that the preparation offered by QBS and Dartmouth will lead to something unimaginable.

Awards
Teaching Fellowship in QBS, 2018-19
Burroughs-Wellcome Big Data in Life Sciences Training Grant, 2016-18
4X coding competition awards, Major League Hacking hackathons at U.S. colleges/universities
Analytics and Big Data Summit Financial Support, 2018
Genome Informatics Travel Award, 2017


Carly Bobak, BA, MSc, PhD Candidate

Mentors: Jane Hill, PhD and James O'Malley, PhD

Education: University of Guelph - Applied Mathematics and Statistics with a Co-op Option, Certificate in Business,

University of Guelph - MSc Applied Mathematics


Overview of Research or Research Interests

My research is focused on the developed of data analysis pipelines which can be used to increase the reproducibility of diagnostic biomarkers for many diseases, but with a particular focus on Tuberculosis. Specifically, I’m working on developing methods which allow the integration of many diverse datasets into ‘super sets’, and am investigating the ability of machine and statistical learning approaches to identify and predict disease status from these super sets. Simultaneously, I am also investigating network approaches which allow transcriptional biomarkers from whole blood to predict potential volatilomic biomarkers which may be present in breath and could be used to in the development of breath-based diagnostics.


Why QBS and Dartmouth?

I entered the QBS program with a strong background in mathematics and statistics, but a fascination with health and infectious diseases. The true interdisciplinary nature of the QBS program allowed me to not only enhance my quantitative skills, but to fully explore biology and become a truly interdisciplinary scientist. I have the unique experience of having both a traditional wet-lab scientist and a bio-statistician as mentors, and am able to bring a strong range of expertise to develop projects that are both biologically and computationally relevant.

One of the intangible benefits of attending Dartmouth is the true sense of community amongst its graduate programs. Students and faculty alike are all on first name bases, there are many free events to bring the community together, tons of free food, and the rivers and mountains of the Upper Valley are an inspiring place to study. I really did not expect my PhD to be this much fun!


What are your career goals and how do you feel QBS has prepared you for career goals or molded your career aspirations?

I hope to remain in academia. I have a deep love of teaching, and want to pursue this love while also contributing my own research and ideas to the greater scientific community. The QBS program has helped me prepare for these goals in many ways. Due to the strong community in the program, networking opportunities both with Dartmouth and through the academic communities are boundless. We often attend dinners, talks, and other functions with experts across computational biology fields, and are able to form close relationships with academics and professionals alike. QBS also encourages students to pursue additional teaching assistantships and involves students in a variety of committees to add additional experience beyond that of completing a standard PhD. The program is also associated with a variety of grants that students often apply to in order to secure their own funding. And finally, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, many students are involved in a variety of collaborations which broaden their academic experience.


Christiaan Rees, BS (MD-PhD), PhD

QBS Mentor: Jane Hill, PhD

Education: University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth - Biology

Thesis Title: Metabolic fingerprinting of Gram-negative pathogen groups with a focus on the identification of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae


Overview of research or research Interests:

Answer: "My research has involved the analysis of microbially-derived metabolites, with the goal of identifying biomarker suites that could be used in the diagnosis and monitoring of a variety of infectious diseases, including sepsis and pneumonia. My particular focus has been on the identification of biomarkers capable of identifying specific patterns of antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative pathogens."


Why QBS & Dartmouth?

Answer: "I originally decided to come to Dartmouth because of the collegial and inviting environment that I experienced during my interview for the MD program at Geisel. I chose to join the QBS program for my PhD because I believed that it would provide me with a skill set with utility across a wide range of disciplines, and with applications in both clinical and translational research."


What are your career goals?

Answer: "My career goal is to become a physician-scientist, taking part in the care of patients while also being actively involved in biomedical research. I think that the skills that I have acquired during my time in the QBS program will be most useful in the analysis and interpretation of complex patient data. With the amount of health data obtained daily between laboratory results, imaging, and biometric data, it is critical that researchers have the skills necessary to appropriately analyze 'big data', and I think that the QBS program stands out in its ability to provide students with those skills."

 

Contact Information:

E-mail: christiaanrees@gmail.com

LinkedIn page: www.linkedin.com/in/christiaan-rees-ph-d-3a540a88

ResearchGate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christiaan_Rees


Yasmin Kamal, BA (MD-PhD), PhD

QBS Mentors: Rob Frost, PhD & Chris Amos,PhD

Education: Smith College; B.A. in Neuroscience & Biochemistry with highest honors in Neuroscience

Thesis Title: "Understanding the role of the tumor microenvironment on disease metastasis, progression, and response to immunotherapy using transcriptomics"

Job Placement: Continuing the MD/PhD program and transitioning into year 3 of medical school


Overview of research or research interests: 

My research interests are focused on genomic medicine particularly using computational approaches to tackle advanced metastatic cancers. I am interested in using statistical genomic approaches to characterize tumor immune environments in the setting of advanced metastatic disease using high-throughput sequencing data with the goal of identifying biomarkers of disease relapse. I am also interested in understanding the body’s immune memory responses in the setting of advanced metastatic disease and integrating population and single-cell level genomics data to advance therapeutic approaches for cancer.


Why QBS and Dartmouth?

The emphasis on community and the friendly and collaborative environment at Dartmouth instantly won me over during my MD/PhD interview! For my PhD, I chose the QBS program because of its emphasis on interdisciplinary research and I believed it would provide me with the computational skill set needed to integrate and analyze data from both the translational and clinical research settings.


What are your career goals?

My career goal is to become a physician-scientist that is actively involved in both providing the best care for patients and in genomics-translational research. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for physician-scientists who can leverage ‘big data’ and effectively translate biomedical research to the bedside is ever more apparent. The QBS program provides physician-scientists with a valuable skill set that spans disciplines to tackle complex health problems ranging from the global pandemic to understanding disease metastasis!

 

Awards or Fellowships Received: 

Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) T32 Training grant

Wellcome Genome Trust Travel Award

John and Edith Knowles Memorial Scholarship


Lauren McDonnell, MS

QBS Masters in Health Data Science, Class of 2020 

Education: University of California - LA; Bachelor of Economics

Capstone: PI Project with Jane Hill, PhD


Why did you choose QBS and Dartmouth?

The QBS program has the ideal combination of applied mathematics, computer science, and medicine, as well as the flexibility to tailor coursework to personal interests. I also loved living so close to nature. The Appalachian Trail goes right through Hanover and there are lots of beautiful hikes just a few minutes from Dartmouth campus.


Describe your research/professional interests

I am passionate about global health and infectious diseases, as well as immunological variations within populations. I am interested in leveraging data science and machine learning to reduce disease burdens in developing countries.


How did your time in QBS shape these interests?

Through the QBS coursework I expanded my understanding of statistical and computational methods for data analysis. Outside of school I worked as a researcher in the Hill Lab at the Thayer School of Engineering leveraging machine learning algorithms to assess the efficacy of gene signatures as a diagnostic for Tuberculosis. I was also involved with the Dickey Center for International Understanding as a Global Health Fellow to improve my understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural contexts that frame global health challenges.


What wisdom would you leave to subsequent cohorts of MS students?

Professors are eager to help students excel. There are many opportunities to gain research experience and work on exciting projects if you look for them. Also, take advantage of the resources and events offered by Dartmouth outside of QBS. There are frequent guest speakers, workshops, and symposiums where individuals can learn new skills and meet experts in their fields.


Christian Haudenschild, Jr, MS

QBS Masters in Health Data Science, Class of 2020 

Education: New York University, BA in Biology

Capstone: Internship at TriNetX


Why did you choose QBS and Dartmouth?

I came across few other programs that offered what QBS does - an interdisciplinary curriculum that builds strong conceptual foundations while also emphasizing real-world applications. Additionally, the program offers a great deal of flexibility, which enabled me to adjust my studies as my interests developed and evolved. The close-knit and inclusive nature of QBS and Dartmouth in general was a wonderful environment in which to learn, and I absolutely loved living in the Upper Valley - if you're an avid rock climber or skier, there's no better place to study.


Describe your research/professional interests.How did your time in QBS shape these interests?

I am interested in clinical applications of AI and machine learning, particularly for free text processing and medical imaging tasks. I'm also interested in using real-world evidence (e.g. claims and EMR data) for the purposes of clinical trial augmentation. Additionally, I've worked with more traditional statistical analyses of large-scale datasets, specifically in the field of geriatrics and cognitive impairment.

Data science is a hard-to-define field to begin with, with an intimidating number of subspecialties. As such, when I first entered QBS, I didn't have a firm idea of what I wanted to specialize in. However, as I moved through the program and its courses, as well as participated in my independent studies, collaborations, and my Capstone project, I began to naturally gravitate towards the areas I listed above. Importantly, QBS equipped me with a toolkit that is versatile across a broad range of topics, giving me the freedom to work on several different research areas before deciding on a specialty.


What wisdom would you leave to subsequent cohorts of MS students? 

The number one piece of advice I would give is to take advantage of the many opportunities that surround you at QBS and Dartmouth. One of this biggest strengths in this program is its interdisciplinary nature - students and faculty are working on a diverse range of projects requiring an equally diverse range of skillsets and expertise. Everyone has something to teach you, even if it's only peripherally related to your interests, but the key is to always be open to these new experiences and viewpoints.

Tying into this, I would also say this to future QBSers: get comfortable feeling out of your depth! It can be bewildering, especially at first, to be bombarded with so much information from several fields at once, and to feel as if you're only managing to scratch the surface of a topic before moving on to the next. Rest assured, we have all been there. It's a tremendous amount of information, but with enough hard work and exposure, you'll pull it all together and emerge on the other side amazed at how much you did learn. And that is another important point - in the limited time you'll have in the classroom, it's impossible to learn it all, especially in such a fast-moving field - and that's okay! Your time in QBS is designed to provide you with strong fundamentals to build upon as you continue through your career.