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Current Fellows in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch

Meet the current fellows in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch and learn about ITEB research training opportunities.

Mustapha Abubakar, M.D., Ph.D. – Postdoctoral 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.

Scientific Publications - Mustapha Abubakar

Aaron Bernstein, M.Phil. - Predoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Aaron Bernstein

Aaron Bernstein, M.Phil., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in August 2019. Mr. Bernstein earned his master’s degree in epidemiology at University of Cambridge, where, under the supervision of Dr. Paul Pharoah and Dr. Serena Nik-Zainal, he completed a bioinformatics thesis on the association between germline risk-conferring variants and somatic mutational signatures in breast cancer. As an ITEB fellow, as well an NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar and a Gates Cambridge Scholar, Mr. Bernstein has continued on to pursue a Ph.D. at Cambridge. Under the supervision Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., DCEG Deputy Director and ITEB Acting Chief, Jonas Almeida, Ph.D., DCEG chief data scientist, and Dr. Pharoah at Cambridge, Mr. Bernstein’s is performing research focused on the development of machine learning algorithms for the identification and prognostic evaluation of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes in breast cancer histology slides. Mr. Bernstein’s ultimate goal is to become a physician-scientist with a specialty in oncology and research focuses on the application of machine-learning to cancer genomics and histology. Through a predoctoral fellowship in ITEB, Mr. Bernstein is able to pursue collaborations with international leaders at the NCI, the University of Cambridge, and beyond, promoting the integration of his research directly into the clinic and helping to inform patient treatment globally.

Derek Brown, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Derek Brown

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.

Scientific Publications – Derek Brown

LiJin Joo, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Lijin Joo

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.

Scientific Publications – Michael Kebede

Olivia Lee, B.S. – Predoctoral Fellow 

Portrait of Olivia Lee

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.

Scientific Publications – Olivia Lee

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.

Scientific Publications – Shu-Hong Lin

Charlotta Victoria Mulder, B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow 

Portrait of Charlotta Mulder

Charlotta Mulder, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) in January 2020 as a postbaccalaureate fellow. Ms. Mulder earned her B.S. in medicine at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where she is currently working to attain her M.S. in medicine with a specific focus on surgical oncology. Ms. Mulder’s bachelor’s thesis explored the tuberculosis diagnostics methodology in a rural hospital in Ethiopia. In DCEG, Ms. Mulder is working under the mentorship of Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., DCEG Deputy Director and ITEB Acting Chief, and Parichoy Pal Choudhury, Ph.D., on the independent validation of breast cancer risk prediction models, with a specific focus on integrating mammographic breast density.

Parichoy Pal Choudhury, Ph.D. – Research Fellow

Parichoy Pal Choudhury, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) and the Biostatistics Branch (BB) of DCEG as a research fellow in 2019. He earned his bachelor and master degrees in statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute (2008 and 2010, respectively) and a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2016. Dr. Pal Choudhury’s doctoral research focused on scientific and etiological questions using multiple data sources in scenarios where a single data source does not suffice. He continued his postdoctoral research with Dr. Nilanjan Chatterjee at Johns Hopkins, with a major focus on developing methods and software for independent validation of risk prediction models in prospective cohort studies that employ complex two-phase sampling. In DCEG, Dr. Pal Choudhury continues his research on risk prediction methods—specifically, studying the heterogeneity of risk factor associations across breast cancer subtypes and developing and validating subtype specific risk prediction models among women of both European and non-European ancestries. He is working under the mentorship of Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., DCEG Deputy Director and ITEB Acting Chief. He is also working on developing and validating models for predicting risk of mortality using data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial.

Scientific Publications – Parichoy Pal Choudhury 

Jian Sang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Jian Sang

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

Portrait of Naoise Synnott

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.

Scientific Publications – Naoise Synnott

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.

Scientific Publications – Sally Yepes

Wei Zhao, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral 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.

Scientific Publications – Wei Zhao