February 15, 2008

Researcher named among ‘Tomorrow’s PIs’

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Dana Crawford, Ph.D.

Researcher named among ‘Tomorrow’s PIs’

Dana Crawford, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, was selected as one of “Tomorrow's PIs” by the magazine Genome Technology.

In a special issue, the magazine profiled 31 young scientists it deemed to be up-and-coming principal investigators (PIs).

The investigators — no more than five years into their first faculty or equivalent position — are “truly an accomplished lot,” wrote the editor of Genome Technology.

Crawford, an investigator in the Center for Human Genetics Research (CHGR), was nominated for the distinction by Jonathan Haines, Ph.D., the center's director.

“It's great to see Dana's work and potential recognized by the broader genomics community,” Haines said.

“We are very fortunate to have Dana as part of the CHGR.”

“I am honored that I have been recognized by senior investigators in my field,” Crawford said. “As a new investigator in human genetics and genomics, this recognition in Genome Technology is a great boost to my early career.”

Crawford's group focuses on understanding how genetic variation impacts common, complex human characteristics, in particular susceptibility to disease.

The team is applying genetic variation data — available in public databases — to large-scale epidemiological studies.

One example is the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-managed study that collected medical/health information and DNA samples from more than 7000 Americans between 1991 and 1994.

“As a human geneticist, I'm quite excited about NHANES because it has DNA samples that are linked to demographics, medical information, and responses to an extensive questionnaire about lifestyle factors such as drinking habits and exercise regimens,” Crawford said.

Using the NHANES samples, Crawford and colleagues have characterized genetic variation associated with C-reactive protein levels, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Her team will also be working with data from Vanderbilt's DNA Databank, an anonymous collection of genetic and clinical information.

“The aim is to have a million DNA samples 'banked' at Vanderbilt, all linked to an electronic medical record, so that we can mine the data for genotype-phenotype correlation,” Crawford said. “That's a really exciting project to be involved with right now.”

Crawford earned her Ph.D. in 2000 at Emory University, and then worked for two years in the Epidemic Intelligence Service Program at the CDC, where she gained applied knowledge in epidemiology and outbreak investigation.

She was a senior fellow at the University of Washington, where she worked on large-scale genetic variation discovery before joining the CHGR in 2006.