Current Fellows in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch
Mustapha Abubakar, M.D., Ph.D. – Research Fellow
Mustapha Abubakar, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2017. Dr. Abubakar earned his medical degree from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria in 2006. He trained in general pathology from 2009-2011 in the Department of Pathology, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Nigeria. In 2012, he received his M.Sc. in epidemiology from the Imperial College London, United Kingdom, and obtained his Ph.D. in molecular epidemiology from the University of London’s Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London in 2017. During his doctoral studies, Dr. Abubakar worked under the direction of Professors Montserrat García-Closas, Anthony Swerdlow, and Mitch Dowsett to develop a digital pathology protocol for the high-throughput scoring of KI67 in breast cancer tissue microarrays and investigate etiological and prognostic heterogeneity among breast cancer subtypes defined by KI67 and other immunohistochemical markers. In DCEG, he is working with Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D., M.P.H., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, ITEB, to conduct molecular epidemiological studies that evaluate the relationship between histopathological characteristics of breast tissues with radiologically determined mammographic density and breast cancer risk. He is also working with Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., Deputy Director, DCEG, and Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator ITEB, to conduct molecular epidemiological studies of breast cancer subtypes in different populations.
Derek Brown, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Derek Brown, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) and the Biostatistics Branch (BB) as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow in October 2019. Dr. Brown earned his B.S. in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 2012 and received an M.S. in biostatistics from George Washington University in 2014. In 2019, he graduated with a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Dr. Brown’s doctoral research focused on novel propensity score methods for non-binary treatments. In DCEG, Dr. Brown is working with Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB, on clonal genetic mosaicism and cancer risk.
Frank J. Colón-Matos, B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow
Frank J. Colón-Matos, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) in September 2020 as an iCURE postbaccalaureate fellow. Mr. Colón Matos earned his B.S. in biology, minoring in psychology and chemistry, from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. Prior to joining DCEG, he worked as an undergraduate fellow in the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. Mr. Colón Matos was also was a summer fellow in the Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University and in DCEG’s Radiation Epidemiology Branch. In his new role with NCI, he is assisting Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, ITEB. He will be working on the Sherlock-Lung study, collecting and analyzing epidemiological and clinical data and participating in the design and implementation of the pathology-related work within the study.
LiJin Joo, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
LiJin Joo, Ph.D., joined DCEG as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2019. She is working jointly with the Biostatistics Branch (BB) and the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB). Dr. Joo received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from New York University, where she developed a Bayesian GWAS method for common complex diseases. She then completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship, serving in a joint position at Yale University and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. In this position, she worked on clinical trial design for immuno-oncology drugs and biomarker selection for identifying breast cancer patient subgroups. Her current areas of interest include somatic and germline mutations, as well as copy number variation from next generation sequencing data. In DCEG, Dr. Joo is working with Bin Zhu, Ph.D., tenure-track investigator, BB, and Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, ITEB, to explore and develop new methodologies to identify genomic features that are associated with etiology and outcomes in breast cancer and chordoma and compare their differences across ethnic groups.
Michael Kebede, M.P.H., B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow
Michael Kebede, M.P.H., B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) in September 2018 as a postbaccalaureate fellow. Mr. Kebede earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a pre-med concentration in 2017 and his M.P.H. in 2019, both from George Washington University (GWU), Washington, D.C. While earning his M.P.H., he worked as a departmental graduate teaching assistant for the GWU Exercise and Nutrition Science department, where he taught anatomy and physiology in a laboratory and nutrition science. More recently, he worked as a summer intern in the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) with Shahinaz Gadalla, M.D., Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, and Rotana Alsaggaf, Ph.D., M.S., postdoctoral fellow, on a study of myotonic dystrophy and cancer—which he used towards his master’s thesis. Following this, he spent one month at the World Health Organization completing an influenza surveillance internship for which he was selected. In ITEB, he is working under the mentorship of Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, studying the etiology and epidemiology of lung cancer in never smokers. Mr. Kebede’s primary research interests include the epidemiology and quantitative analysis of chronic diseases including cancer.
Azhar Khandekar, B.S. – Predoctoral Fellow
Azhar Khandekar, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in September 2020. Mr. Khandekar is a Graduate Partnership Program (GPP) fellow, who is currently completing his degree in the bioinformatics and systems biology Ph.D. program at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He previously worked at the NIH on integrating DNA methylation and somatic mutation data to study mechanisms of mutagenesis, and he is currently working on analyzing copy number variation and structural variants in normal and tumor genomes. As a joint ITEB and UCSD doctoral student, he is working on his dissertation research under the supervision of Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, ITEB, and Ludmil Alexandrov, Ph.D., UCSD. Mr. Khandekar is interested in integrating large-scale omics datasets to ultimately elucidate the biological mechanisms that drive cancer formation and progression.
Olivia Lee, B.S. – Predoctoral Fellow
Olivia Lee, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in January 2020. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2015 and subsequently did a postbaccalaureate fellowship at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) under the supervision of Dr. Min Shen, Ph.D. Ms. Lee’s postbaccalaureate research focused on the identification of potential therapeutic targets for malaria and Merkel cell carcinoma using quantitative high-throughput screening. She also worked on the optimization of drug candidates through structure-based design and molecular dynamics simulations. As a joint ITEB and MD Anderson UTHealth doctoral student, Ms. Lee is working on her dissertation research under the supervision of: Stephen Chanock, M.D., Director, DCEG; Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB; and John Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center. She is investigating germline and somatic variation in relation to cancer susceptibility.
Shu-Hong Lin, Ph.D., M.S. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Shu-Hong Lin, Ph.D., M.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from National Taiwan University in 2005 and received an M.S. degree in veterinary biosciences from the Ohio State University in 2012. In 2018, he graduated with a Ph.D. in cancer biology with an area of concentration in biostatistics, bioinformatics and systems biology from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Lin's doctoral research focused on identifying genomic and transcriptomic markers related to tumor progression in colorectal adenomas using next-generation sequencing. He also studied circulating biomarkers predictive of outcomes in non-invasive bladder cancer. In DCEG, he works with Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB, to explore associations among genetic mosaicism, environmental factors, and cancer risk.
Jian Sang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Jian Sang, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2019. Dr. Sang earned his Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2019. Under the supervision of Tongwu Zhang, Ph.D., staff scientist, his DCEG postdoctoral research includes transcriptome and epigenome bioinformatics and development of the biological knowledgebase. His research interests focus on multiple omics data integration and deep mining. In ITEB, Dr. Sang is working with Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, and Dr. Zhang, to explore the etiology of lung cancer in never smokers based on next-generation sequencing technology.
Naoise Synnott, Ph.D., M.P.H. - Postdoctoral Fellow
Naoise Synnott, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2019. Dr. Synnott earned a B.A. (Mod.) in molecular medicine from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, in 2013 and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University College Dublin, Ireland, in 2017. Under the mentorship of Professor Michael J Duffy, her doctoral studies focused on the preclinical investigation of novel p53 reactivating compounds in breast cancer. In May 2019, Dr. Synnott earned an M.P.H. from University College Dublin. Dr. Synnott is working with Maria Teresa Landi, Ph.D., M.D., senior investigator, ITEB, to study the tumor microenvironment of lung cancers in never smokers.
Sally Lilian Yepes Torres, Ph.D., M.Sc. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Sally Yepes, M.Sc., Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) and the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2018. Dr. Yepes has a B.S. in biology, an M.Sc. in human genetics; she received her Ph.D. in biology in 2016 from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her research interests focus on cancer genomics, in particular on the generation of knowledge from a data-driven perspective, and application of methodological frameworks from the statistical genomics, bioinformatics and elements of systems biology. In DCEG, she is working under the mentorship of Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, ITEB, and Alisa Goldstein, Ph.D., senior investigator, CGB, to identify and further investigate cancer susceptibility genes in familial melanoma and chordoma using integrative analyses of next-generation sequencing and other ‘omics data.
Wei Zhao, Ph.D. – Research Fellow
Wei Zhao, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in November 2018. Dr. Zhao earned her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the supervision of Dr. Chuck Perou in 2014. Her doctoral research focused on characterization of the genomic and clinical heterogeneity of breast cancer subtypes using deep- sequencing and microarray. Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Zhao conducted postdoctoral training in the Department of Systems Biology in MD Anderson Cancer Center for four years. Working with Dr. Gordon Mills and Dr. Han Liang, she identified predictive molecular markers and drug targets for rational combinatorial therapy in gynecologic cancers, and developed computational tools for analysis of proteomic data. In ITEB, Dr. Zhao is working with Maria Teresa Landi, Ph.D., M.D., senior investigator, to investigate the etiology and progression of lung cancer in never smokers through a comprehensive genomic analysis and clinical and epidemiologic assessment.