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2014 Organizers and Participants

Michael DeGiorgio

Mike is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Pennsylvania State University. He completed a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics with Noah Rosenberg at the University of Michigan, before pursuing an NSF postdoctoral fellowship with Rasmus Nielsen at the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include human evolutionary genetics, statistical population genetics, and mathematical phylogenetics.

Jessi Bardill (Cherokee)

Jessi is an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University. Jessi earned her Ph.D. in 2011 from the Department of English, Duke University. She was a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in American Indian Studies at UIUC in 2011-2012, a Lecturer at Stanford University in 2012-2013, and is affiliated with the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and Duke University’s Genome, Ethics, Law, and Policy Program. Her current research examines Native American literature, genetic testing, and queer kinship. She is also engaged in a tribally driven research project with an urban Native American community in the Triad region of North Carolina, documenting their history, presence, and continuance.

Cecil M. Lewis Jr.

Cecil is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. His genetic research includes human population history as well as characterizing the microbial communities living on humans. He received his PhD in 2005 from the Department of Anthropology at University of New Mexico, before completing postdoctoral research in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Michigan.

Kim TallBear (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Dakota)

Kim is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies how genomics are co-constituted with ideas of race and indigeneity, the topic of her 2013 monograph, Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (University of Minnesota Press). She is interested in the role of Native American and other Indigenous scientists within the context of diversifying the academy, and also studies the overlap between constructions of "nature" and "sexuality." Kim has advised tribal and other Indigenous governmental organizations, federal agencies, researchers and policymakers on issues related to Indigenous peoples, science, and technology.

Deborah A. Bolnick

Deborah is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology and affiliated with the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research uses DNA from ancient and contemporary Native American populations to help reconstruct population history in the Americas. Deborah is also interested in genetic ancestry testing, and how it both influences and is influenced by American understandings of race, ethnicity, and identity. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California at Davis.

Ripan S. Malhi

Ripan is an Associate Professor in Anthropology and Animal Biology, and is affiliated with the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign His research interests include using DNA analysis to infer the evolutionary history of Native Americans. Prior to his position at UIUC, he co-founded and served as the CEO of Trace Genetics, Inc., a biotechnology company located in the greater San Francisco area. Ripan received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California at Davis.

Pilar Ossorio

Pilar is a Professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin (UW), where she is on the faculties of the Law School and the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the Medical School. In 2011 she became the inaugural Ethics Scholar-in-Residence at the Morgridge Institute for Research, a private, nonprofit research institute that is part of the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery. Pilar serves as the co-director of UW's Law and Neuroscience Program, as well as a faculty member in the UW Masters in Biotechnology Studies program and the Graduate Program in Population Health. Prior to taking her position at UW, she was Director of the Genetics Section of the Institute for Ethics at the American Medical Association, and taught as adjunct faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.

Nanibaa’ Garrison (Navajo)

Nanibaa’ is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Garrison earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University, before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Biomedical Ethics and the Center for Integration of Research on Genetics & Ethics, both at Stanford University. Her research was on the impact of the Havasupai Tribe lawsuit on genetic research and Institutional Review Boards. Nanibaa’’s current research interests include genetic research on Native American communities, informed consent, and issues of privacy and confidentiality. 

Debra Harry (Kooyooee Dukaddo)

Debra’s research analyzes the linkages between biotechnology, intellectual property and globalization in relation to Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests. She advocates for the rights of Indigenous peoples internationally including within the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  She is the executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB), and the Emerging Indigenous Leaders Institute (EILI).  Debra currently serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno, and teaches on-line courses for the University of California at Los Angeles Extension and the University of Colorado at Denver.

Joseph M. Yracheta (P’urhépecha and Raramuri)

Joseph has a Master's degree in Pharmaceutics from the University of Washington. He specializes in Pharmacogenomics, with an emphasis on American Indian and Latin Indigenous public health issues, as well as the bioethics of research within Indigenous communities. He has taught STEM courses at various reservation high schools in South Dakota.

Jennifer Raff

Jennifer is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Austin. She earned a dual PhD in genetics and bioanthropology at Indiana University in 2008. Her research is focused on the initial peopling of the Americas and characterizing Native American genetic diversity in ancient and contemporary populations of the Midwest, the North American Arctic, and Texas.


Melissa Eidman (Yurok)

Melissa has earned an A.A. in Liberal Arts: Math and Science, an A.A. in Social Science and an A.S. in Biology while attending Sacramento City College. In the fall, she is transferring to Stanford University to obtain a B.S. in Biology with emphasis in Genetics and Genomics. Melissa plans to attend medical school and open quality clinics on reservations across the United States, beginning with the Yurok reservation.

Maka Pickard (Native Hawaiian)

Maka is a sophomore at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Hawaii studying biomedicine.  He plans to transfer next fall to BYU in Provo, Utah, to study Nutritional Sciences and hopes to eventually pursue a higher degree at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.  Maka plans to work in the Pacific Islands to educate people on the importance of preventative treatment and nutrition.

Fredrick Blaisdell (Oneida Nation of the Thames)

Fredrick is a Ronald E. McNair scholar working towards his B.S. degree in Biological Sciences at Cornell University. He plans to continue his education to earn an M.D.-Ph.D. in nutrition, and start a career working with the First Nations. 

Teresa V. Wilson (Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone)

Teresa completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology (Bioarchaeology) from the University of Arkansas in May 2014.  Her dissertation research focused on health, nutrition, and disease in ancient populations.  She previously received a M.A. in Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology) from Louisiana State University. Teresa is currently involved in research on NAGPRA issues and the management of biological information databases.

Alvina Edwards (Ngai Tahu, [Ngati Irakehu] Horomaka and Ngāti Kahungunu, [Ngati Pahauwera], Mohaka)

Alvina is currently a mentor for Māori Law students at Te Piringa Faculty of Law, as well as a mentor and tutor for Māori students at University of Waikato School of Māori Pacific Development.  She has earned a B.A. in History & Māori Cultural studies, as well as completed a Master’s program in Law.  Alvina’s thesis examines the comparative historical timelines of blood quantum ideologies and laws within localized Indigenous communities Australia, Canada and New Zealand. 

Jorge Martínez (Mazahua and Mixteco)

Jorge is a rising junior at Brown University, concentrating in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies as well as Computer Science. Jorge has worked with the social enterprise Runa that partners with the Kichwa Tribe of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, which sparked his interest in the socioeconomic empowerment of Indigenous communities through the social entrepreneurship of medicinal plants. Jorge plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in ethnobotany and initiating these innovations of traditional medicine in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

Rene Begay (Navajo)

Rene is a Masters of Science student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO. She graduated in 2012 from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She plans to continue her education after her master's by entering into an M.D.-Ph.D. program. Her current research focuses on seeking cardiomyopathy genes in large family cohorts, and using gene information to recreate the human phenotype in Zebrafish.

Natasha Myhal (Ojibwe and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

Natasha is a junior at the University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM), where she is a double major in Environmental Studies and American Indian Studies as well as the secretary for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society chapter. After graduation Natasha plans on perusing her education further to earn her J.D. in tribal law or attend graduate school for Environmental Justice or Environmental Policy.

Mike Christian (Splatsin/Secwepemcul’ecw)

Mike has a B.S.  in Information Technology.  He is interested in the application of genomic techniques to help Indigenous Peoples understand their past and present, as well as bridging the gap between western science and Indigenous science.  Mike intends to pursue a M.S. in genomics and subsequently pursue an Interdisciplinary Doctorate of which his I.T., Cultural Use and Genomics knowledge will comprise significant elements of the research.

Cody Harry (Numu and Diné from Pyramid Lake)

Cody received a B.S. in biology at the University of Nevada, Reno, and most recently completed the University of Nevada School of Medicine's Post-Baccalaureate program for entrance into medical school.  Cody is an advocate for Indigenous Peoples' rights from the grass-roots level to international fora such as the United Nations.

Shelbie Shelder (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians)

Shelbie is currently an undergraduate student at Michigan State University studying Nutritional Sciences with a specialization in Epidemiology and global public health. Shelbie plans to attend a School of Public Health to get her Ph.D. in nutritional epidemiology. She is particularly interested in research involving diabetes prevention in American Indian communities. 

Holly Glass (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

Holly is a rising senior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Anthropology and Medicine, Health, and Society. Holly has worked in several molecular biology laboratories at the University of Oklahoma and Vanderbilt University. She is interested in epigenetics and public health, and plans to pursue these topics in graduate school.