SHP Faculty

Heads Up August 2017

Deanna Cross, PhD

Course Director and Assistant Professor

Dr. Cross’s research interests focus on translating genetic and genomic advances into patient care. Her projects include implementation of family health history tools for improvement of patient care, as well as creation of tools that explain genetic and genomic advances to diverse patient populations.  She is particularly interested in identifying and eliminating barriers to implementation of genetic and genomic medicine in populations that have been traditionally underrepresented in genomic research and medical testing. With rapidly growing fields such as epigenetics and genomic sequencing there is a need to determine the clinical utility of burgeoning tests.  Dr. Cross, utilizes large patient populations to interrogate real world applications for genetics in healthcare.  She is particularly interested in the correct application of genetic testing throughout a patient’s life from pre-conception through healthy aging.

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Robert Barber, PhD

Associate Professor, Pharmacology & Neuroscience

Work in my lab is focused on how an individuals’ genetic makeup impacts their risk for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as their age at symptom onset and the rate of disease progression. The goal of our research is to use a combination of genetic variation, demographics, and environmental factors to predict disease risk, age at onset, and progression rate. We are also interested in how disease mechanisms and risk factors differ among ethnic groups, particularly between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites. Research in our group is highly collaborative and active projects are ongoing with labs and scientists across the state and nation.
A second area of research we are interested in is how an individual gut bacteria profile may impact risk for neurodegeneration and the age at onset of cognitive decline.

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Nicole Phillips, PhD

Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Genetics

I first arrived at UNTHSC in 2007 as a Masters student in the Forensic Genetics Program, working extensively in research on expert systems and software development for the field. Upon graduating in 2009, and having found a love for research, I decided to pursue a PhD in Molecular Genetics, which was conferred in December of 2013. Throughout my experience at UNTHSC as a student and postdoctoral fellow, my research interests evolved. With my roots in forensic genetics, I began studying genetics of age-related, complex disease. In 2016, I returned to UNTHSC as a faculty member and have established a diverse research program.
Our laboratory has a several areas of interest:
1) studies of mitochondrial DNA and mitochondrial function, in the context of various disease states such as Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and preeclampsia (in collaboration with Dr. Stella Goulopoulou);
2) genetic aspects of pain and pain management, as the Director for Genomic Research for PRECISION Texas;
3) genetic risk for age-related disease and comorbidity patterns, via genome-wide genotyping, methylation profiling, and data mining.

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Michael Allen, PhD

Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Genetics

Research in the Allen Laboratory focuses on the microbiology of vector-borne diseases and microbiome-host studies of human, plant, and animal systems. The former includes testing of all ticks submitted to the state of Texas for the presence of specific bacterial pathogens in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services; research into factors influencing disease transmission from ticks and other arthropods; and mechanisms of immune avoidance by tick-borne pathogens. The microbiome research includes investigation of complex bacterial communities and their interactions with a wide variety of hosts; defining factors that disrupt or support microbial community assembly and structure; exploring community dynamics in polymicrobial diseases of different organ systems (e.g. gut, lung); development of genetically engineered probiotics for the treatment of disease; and applications of microbiome research to problems in forensic science.