Dr. Merry-Lynn McDonald is the Director of Integrative ‘Omics and an Associate Professor of Medicine in the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. She is a genetic epidemiologist with interests in the analysis of complex traits and diseases including COPD, cachexia, sarcopenia, osteoarthritis and smoking behaviors such as menthol. Her lab is involved with some of the most cutting-edge studies including the Million Veterans Program (MVP) and the Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) Initiative. Originally from Canada, Dr. McDonald received her undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo, MSc from the University of Saskatchewan and her PhD from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. She completed post-doctoral training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/ Harvard School of Medicine.

Alison Rocco is a research intern and an undergraduate student in the School of Public Health. She has developed great expertise programming in R and Python. Her projects currently including implementing methods to impute transcriptomics data from genetic summary statistics and examining the relationship between chest computed tomography scan biomarkers with cachexia in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr. Joe Chiles is a second-year clinical pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine.  He completed medical school at the University of Kentucky and residency in internal medicine at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center before coming to UAB for fellowship.  His projects in the lab center around the genetics of COPD and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and he is pursuing clinical research on ARDS, especially in the context of the recent COVID-19 epidemic.

Chelsea Nguyen is a PhD student in the Graduate Biomedical Sciences Program (Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics theme). She completed her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology with a minor in Health Science with both wet lab and computational experience at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. Her research project in the lab focuses on identifying and harnessing genetic variation in veterans with osteoarthritis (OA) and/or post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) using multi omics methods.

Hanna Sothers is a PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences Program (Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics theme). She completed her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology with minors in Computer Science and Chemistry at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her previous experience includes undergraduate research at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology as well as working in a clinical laboratory.

Rachel Tindal is a second-year medical student in the School of Medicine at UAB. Her research is focused on studying the relationship between muscle fiber type distribution with COPD cachexia.

Bitota Lukusa-Sawalena is a PhD student in the Biomedical Sciences Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics Theme. Bitota is skilled in data analyses and curation, qPCR, RNA extraction, and computational biology. Before coming to UAB, she completed a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology from Savannah State University.

Dr. Meena (Meenakshi) Sridhar is a second-year clinical fellow in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. She attended medical school at the University of Delhi, India, and Internal Medicine residency at the University of Arizona- Phoenix before her time at UAB. Her research projects in the lab focus on outcomes in patients with interstitial lung disease specifically the effect of musculoskeletal comorbidities. She is also pursuing clinical research on the role of mechanical circulatory support in the management of Pulmonary Embolisms.

Dr. Kaleen Lavin is a research scientist focused on health, performance, and resilience. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgetown University; a master’s in sports nutrition and exercise science from Marywood University; and a Ph.D. human bioenergetics from Ball State University. She is particularly interested in integrating bioinformatics analysis pipelines that detect differential expression with more sophisticated networks-based approaches in order to reveal novel connections between genes and across ‘omes. Her experience with skeletal muscle biology and exercise physiology provides critical context for data interpretation and connecting molecular patterns to whole-body and/or systems-level health.

Former Lab Members

Ava Wilson, PhD was student in the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health. She has an MSc degree in Epidemiology from UAB. Her research focus is on the application of integrative ‘omics methods to transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics data. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Preeti Lakshman Kumar, MS is a Bioinformatician II with extensive expertise perform complex analyses of ‘omics data. She completed her MSc in Bioinformatics at Boston University.

Dr. Darvi Michell Sergio, DVM, MPH, MBA, DACLAM was a research intern during his MPH degree from the School of Public Health. He is a senior clinical animal lab veterinarian at UAB. (2019)

Sarah “Allie” Pinson was a research intern before pursuing her MPH degree in Epidemiology and Maternal and Child Health at Saint Louis University While in the McDonald lab, she made important contributions to several projects using her python and R programming skills.(2020)