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New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Claire Simpson


Claire Simpson, Ph.D., B.S., Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics (GGI) within the College of Medicine, joined the faculty in January 2016. She graduated with a Ph.D. in Neurogenetics from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College in London and has a background in biomedical sciences and chemistry. Dr. Simpson is a genetic epidemiologist with expertise in vision research and in psychiatric, neurological and autoimmune diseases. Genetic epidemiology is the study of the causes and spread of diseases among human populations. Looking at both genetic and environmental factors, genetic epidemiologists are specifically concerned with how these factors interact to produce various diseases and traits in human populations. By using mathematical, statistical and lab methods to do studies, genetic epidemiologists seek to derive a statistical and quantitative analysis of how genetics work in large groups.

Dr. Simpson’s focus is the application of genetic and genomic methods to study the common and pervasive diseases and quantitative phenotypes that are influenced by multiple DNA variants and by many environmental and technical factors. She is interested in the development of improved methods for deciphering the genetics of common diseases and complex traits, using population genetic and computational approaches. Specifically, Dr. Simpson’s research is focused on four areas: Pediatric neurodevelopment; eye diseases and traits; gastrointestinal disorders; and genetic epidemiological methods development.

She is also helping to build up new clinical biorepositories at UTHSC for genetics and genomics. Together with the information in biorepository, Dr. Simpson has the unique ability to help design, study and analyze projects with researchers from across UTHSC. Essentially, Dr. Simpson can take a disease or trait a researcher is interested in testing and help design studies that reduce researcher-induced errors and make the best use of available resources. She is presently collaborating with several investigators from across all six colleges at UTHSC to shape the way they approach and perform their investigations.

Human diseases have been the focal point of genetic epidemiologic studies, with recent efforts directed to- wards complex disorders such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Dr. Simpson and genetic epidemiologists alike believe that understanding the genetic basics of such diseases will revolutionize medicine in the 21st century, enabling better preventive measures, diagnosis, prognosis and novel treatments. With the recent advances of the Human Genome Project, in sequencing technologies, and the creation of powerful statistical methods of analysis, genetic epidemiologists are at the forefront of this transformation.

Dr. Simpson is a member of the International Genetic Epidemiology Society (IGES): Communications Committee and is a past member of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI): Genome Trainee Advisory Committee. She also served as chair and member of the IGES Ethics, Legal and Social Issues Committee.

Her honors and awards include multiple grant funding from private charities and companies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Summer Research Mentor Award, NHGRI’s Genome Recognition of Employee Accomplishments and Talents (GREAT): Diversity and Community Outreach Award for teaching at the University of DC, and multiple travel awards from various organizations. Furthermore, she has taught at multiple universities and is published in over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts.