Dr. Katherine Pollard harnesses statistics and computational biology to analyze massive genomic datasets. Her research focuses on the evolution of the human genome, in particular how genetic differences are associated with human health and disease.
Currently, Dr. Pollard focuses on two major areas: 1) identifying the genetic basis for traits specific to humans, such as our susceptibility to AIDS, and 2) analyzing the genetic make-up of the human ‘microbiome’—the vast array of microorganisms that dwell in or on the human body. As a member of the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, Dr. Pollard and her colleagues hope to use the data to understand the precise relationship between the microbiome, health and disease.
Dr. Pollard earned her master’s degree and PhD in biostatistics from the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, she developed computationally intensive statistical methods to analyze genomic data, with applications for cancer biology. She implemented these approaches in Bioconductor, an open-source software program. As a comparative genomics postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Dr. Pollard participated in the Chimpanzee Genome Project, in which she identified fast-evolving genetic sequences unique to humans that reveal new insight into the evolutionary history of both humans and our closest living relatives—chimpanzees.