Dr. Davis - Biography


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Dr. Melissa B. Davis is a native of Albany, Georgia. Her interest in the field of genetics was sparked by a summer research program at The Ohio State University, where she conducted spinal cord regeneration studies in Dr. Roy A. Tassava's Lab in the department of Molecular Genetics. After her undergraduate studies were complete at Albany State University, Dr. Davis completed her Ph.D. in the department of genetics at UGA in 2003.

In my graduate training, I was fortunate to work in a model system, Drosophila melanogaster, that was one of the first to have its genome completely sequenced and annotated, in time to incorporate cutting edge genomics work into my dissertation. This work led to my postdoctoral training with Dr. Kevin White during his first faculty position at the Yale University School of Medicine, where I was more formally introduced to applied functional genomics and world-class systems biology approaches. This experience has equipped me with expertise in genomics to conceive, design and carry out complex investigations of gene networks and manipulations of these networks to assess genetic interactions on the whole genome level.

In reference to my interest in Health Disparities, I have obtained formal training in cancer disparities during my postdoctoral position at the University of Chicago while developing a collaborative study with the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Disparities Research (CIDHR), under the direction of Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade. This tremendous opportunity has endowed me with specific skills to conduct clinical investigations of breast cancer genetics. Specifically, I conducted a cohort investigation of genetic ancestry associations with breast cancer subtypes.r. My work with Dr. Olopade, was published last year and is the foundation of the proposed work in this application. We have illustrated that an epigenetic regulator (CARM1) has a distinct subcellular localization among tumor subtypes and this localization pattern is significantly associated with ethnicity. This work suggests there likely are polymorphic alleles of this cofactor which cause it to target specific cellular components differently. This finding is the premise of my current focus, to determine how genetic variation creates distinct sensitivities/susceptibilities to cancer through epigenetic regulation of cancer genes. Considering the large impact environments have on epigenetic regulation, this has led me to consider ‘cues’ that individuals are exposed to in their daily environment in the context of tumor etiology.

Currently, I am collaborating with my institution’s resident experts in clinical oncology and immunology