NIH Science Officers

Vivien Bonazzi, PhD, Program Officer (NHGRI)
Peter Lyster, PhD, Lead Science Officer (NIGMS)
Olga Brazhnik, PhD (NCATS)
Arthur Castle, PhD (NIDDK)
German Cavelier, PhD (NIMH)
Sherri De Coronado (NCI)
Jennie E. Larkin, PhD (NHLBI)
Jerry Li, MD, PhD (NCI)
Krzysztof Ptak, PhD, MBA
Karen Skinner, PhD (NIDA)
Ram D. Sriram, PhD (NIST)
Ashley Xia, MD, PhD (NIAID)


Vivien Bonazzi, PhD

Program Director
Genome Informatics and Computational Biology
Division of Genome Sciences

Dr Vivien Bonazzi is a Program Director in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Dr Bonazzi oversees a diverse portfolio of bioinformatics and computational biology awards that include model organism databases, genome analysis and annotation tools and pipelines, gene expression and pathways analysis tools.

Dr Bonazzi is also part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) a trans-NIH Common Fund Initiative whose aims are to characterize the microbial communities found at several different sites on the human body and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease. She is responsible for the bioinformatics and computational aspect of the project as well as managing several of the computational tools awards.

Prior to joining NHGRI, Dr Bonazzi was a Senior Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton managing several genome and protein bioinformatics projects that were part of the caBIG (Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid) project. She has also held the positions of R&D Director for Bioinformatics at Invitrogen and Director of Gene Discovery at Celera Genomics where she was part of the team that sequenced and annotated the Human, Mouse and Drosophila genomes.

Dr. Bonazzi received a B.Sc. in Medical Laboratory Science from the University of Canberra, Australia, a M.Sc (prelim) in Pharmacology from the University of Melbourne, Australia and a Ph.D in Molecular Pharmacology and Computational Biology also from the University of Melbourne.

Peter Lyster, PhD, Lead Science Officer

Program Director
Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Peter Lyster joined the NIH National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS) in 2004 as program director in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Dr. Lyster's expertise is in bioinformatics and computational biology, including image reconstruction and analysis, data mining, modeling, and data integration. He was formerly a program director at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. He was also one of the first scientific review administrators at the NIH Center for Scientific Review to focus on biomedical informatics and computational biology. At NIGMS, he manages grants in biological modeling and bioinformatics and plays a leading part in implementing NIGMS' participation in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Roadmap.

Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Lyster worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he laid the groundwork for some of the scientific applications of the Federal High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) initiative. He then became principal investigator in the HPCC program at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at the University of Maryland. As such, he led the effort to use massive computing power to improve data collection for weather and climate models. Dr. Lyster conducted postdoctoral research in applied physics at the Institute for Fusion Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. in applied physics and M.Sc. in numerical analysis from Cornell University and received his undergraduate degrees with honors in electrical engineering and theoretical physics from the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Olga Brazhnik, PhD

Computer Scientist
Division of Biomedical Technology
National Center for Advancing Translational Science
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Olga Brazhnik is a Computer Scientist at the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). She manages a portfolio of centers (P41), small business (SBIR), research grants (R01), and contracts in data-intensive biomedical computing, visualization, computational biology, social network analysis; semantics, Web 2.0, and other informatics technologies.

Prior to joining NCATS, Dr. Brazhnik had a dual career as a scientist and an IT professional pursuing her goal of creating coherent knowledge from diverse scientific data. Olga started in physics developing theoretical and computational methods for biology and medicine; and earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Physics, Moscow State University, Russia. In 1993, she was awarded a research grant and came to work at the James Franck Institute, University of Chicago, then progressed to VA Tech. In 1998, she moved into IT professionally searching for technologies that would enable effective transformation of over-abundant scientific data into knowledge. In 2000, Olga joined the newly created Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, where her work resulted in the creation of several bioinformatics databases. In 2002, she became the Chief Database Architect on projects of epidemic outbreak  surveillance and  real-time integration of clinical systems with the US Air Force Surgeon General Office. Since 2004, Dr. Brazhnik worked as a computational scientist in the Office of the Chief IT Architect at NIH, where her main focus was in the areas of data and knowledge integration, conceptual data modeling, and collaborative technologies.

Arthur Castle, PhD

Director, Metabolomics and Informatics Program
Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, & Metabolic Diseases
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Arthur Castle is the Director of the Metabolomics and Informatics Program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). He is also the Program Director of the Integrated Biology of Obesity project at the NIDDK.

Dr. Castle earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin. Prior to that, he did his Postdoctoral and NIGMS PRAT Fellow Training at the NIDDK/NIH.

German Cavelier, PhD

Chief, Neurotechnology Program
Division of Neurosciences
National Institute of Mental Health

Dr. German Cavelier is the Chief of the Neurotechnology Program at the Division of Neurosciences in the National Institute of Mental Health. Previously, he was a Senior Research Scientist at the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Genome Center, Columbia University where he studied genetic regulatory networks. Dr. Cavelier was a Professor of Electrical and Bioengineering and Vice-Dean for Research at the School of Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia, where he created a Bioengineering program. More recently, Dr. Cavelier obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics at The Johns Hopkins University, where his work centered on computational molecular mechanics and quantum chemistry analysis of enzymatic mechanisms.

Sherri De Coronado

Acting Director of Semantic Services
National Cancer Institute, NIH

Sherri De Coronado is Acting Director of Semantic Services for the National Cancer Institute Center for Bioinformatics and Information Technology. She joined the staff at NCI as a Senior Scientist in 1997. She has broad responsibility for controlled terminologies and terminology services for NCI, the Cancer Bioinformatics Grid (caBIG), and NCI collaborators. Since 2010, she has taken on overall responsibility for managing work on NCI's Enterprise Vocabulary Services (EVS) and Cancer Data Standards Repository (caDSR). She is the lead for the NCI Vocabulary Knowledge Center and the caBIG Vocabulary and Common Data Elements.

Jennie Larkin, PhD

Program Director, Division of Cardiovascular Diseases
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Jennie Larkin is a Health Scientist Administrator with the Bioengineering and Genomic Applications Scientific Review Group in the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Larkin's research has spanned fields from physiological ecology, comparative physiology and neurophysiology, neuroendocrinology, and functional genomics. She currently oversees a portfolio of research in computational biology, informatics, and systems biology.

Prior to her work at NHLBI, Dr. Larkin was a staff scientist at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Maryland, working with Dr. John Quackenbush. She also worked for a time at Silicon Graphics (SGI). Prior to that, Dr. Larkin was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley. At UC Berkeley, Dr. Larkin worked with Dr. Irving Zucker performing research in the field of circadian rhythms, melatonin and torpor. She received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 1996, studying in the laboratory of Dr. H. Craig Heller. She received a M.S. degree in Zoology from University of Washington in 1991. She received her B.A. degree, cum laude with Honors in Biology, from Wellesley College in 1987.

Jerry Li, MD, PhD

Program Director
Division of Cancer Biology
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Jerry Li is a Program Director for the Division of Cancer Biology's computational biology programs at the National Cancer Institute. His responsibilities include managing research portfolios in the areas of bioinformatics, computational biology, and cancer systems biology. From 2002 to 2008 Dr. Li was a Program Director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), Protein Structure Initiative, National Centers for Systems Biology Program, and other computational biology research programs. Dr. Li was a Senior Scientist at Celera Genomics from 1999-2002, working on the Drosophila, mouse, and human genome projects.

Dr. Li received his MD in1991 from Beijing Medical University, and earned his PhD in 1996 from the University of Massachusetts.

Krzysztof Ptak, PhD, MBA

Nanotechnology Development Projects Manager
NCI Alliances for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Prior to joining the Office of Technology and Industrial Relations at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Krzysztof Ptak held research positions at Northwestern University and then at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH. During Dr. Ptak's more than 10 years of research in experimental science, his focus was on the neurobiology of respiration and related specifically to the pathology of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Dr. Ptak earned his Ph.D.s in Neuroscience from the Paul Cezanne University in Marseilles and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. His dissertation was honored as the best doctoral thesis of the year by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. In addition, Dr. Ptak is a recipient of awards from the American Physiological Society for Meritorious Research by a Young Investigator and The Ministry of Foreign Affaires of the Republic of France. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 peer-reviewed publications. In 2009, he received an M.B.A. in the Life Sciences at The Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

Karen Skinner, PhD

Deputy Director for Science and Technology Development
Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institutes of Health

Dr. Karen Skinner joined the NIH in 1989 as a program officer in Developmental Neurogenetics at the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke. She moved to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1991, and currently serves as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology Development in the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior Research at NIDA. Her current program activities at NIDA include resource discovery and sharing, informatics, computation and emerging technologies. She serves as Project Officer for the Neuroscience Information Framework, a project of the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiative, and as Program Officer for the NIH Roadmap National Center for Integrative Biomedical Informatics. She also belongs to the BISTI consortium, and serves on the Trans-NIH BioMedical Informatics Coordinating Committee, and the NIH Blueprint NITRC project team.

Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Skinner served as a Special Assistant for Science Policy to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. From 1984-1986 she served as a Congressional Fellow in the office of Senator John Kerry (MA), concentrating on science, health, and technology issues associated with the Senator's assignment on the Labor and Human Resources Committee. Throughout her career, Dr. Skinner has devoted herself to scientific communication and information exchange. She has served as an Assistant Editor at Chemical and Engineering News magazine, authoring early reports on the emerging field of biotechnology. At NIH Dr. Skinner also served as a visiting scientist at the National Center for Biomedical Information assigned to the electronic publishing project, PubMedCentral.

Dr. Skinner received her B.S. in Chemistry with Special Honors from George Washington University and her doctorate in chemistry from Yale University, where her research involved studying steric influences upon reaction pathways, including calculations of electrostatic and van der Waals forces among atoms in a known crystal structure. Dr. Skinner also holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from Harvard University where her studies included decision theory, statistics, information management systems, and macro- and microeconomics.

Ram D. Sriram, PhD

Lead, Design and Process Group
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Dr. Ram D. Sriram currently leads the Design and Process group in the Manufacturing Systems Integration Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he conducts research on standards for interoperability of computer-aided design systems. He also spends a part of his time in the Information Technology Laboratory working on bioinformatics and health care informatics issues. Prior to joining NIST he was on the engineering faculty (1986-1994) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was instrumental in setting up the Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory. He initiated the MIT-DICE project, which was one of the pioneering projects in collaborative engineering and was documented in the book entitled Distributed and Integrative Collaborative Engineering Design (Sarven Publishers, 2002).

Dr. Sriram has a B.Tech. from IIT, Madras, India, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. Sriram was a founding co-editor of the International Journal for AI in Engineering. In 1989, he was awarded a Presidential Young Investigators Award from the National Science Foundation, U.S.A. Dr. Sriram has extensive experience in developing knowledge-based expert systems, natural language interfaces, object-oriented software development, life-cycle product and process models, geometrical modelers, and object-oriented databases for industrial applications. He has consulted for several leading corporations all over the world, including Boeing, GE, NTT Data (Japan), NASA, Xerox Corporation, United Technologies, IIC (Spain), and others.

Ashley Xia, MD, PhD

Dr. Ashley Xia joined the NIH in December 2003 as a program officer in the Office of Biomedical Informatics, Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation (DAIT), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). She is a project officer for the Bioinformatics Integration Support Contract (BISC). She oversees the creation of the Immunology Database and Analysis Portal (ImmPort) and Immune Epitope Database  (IEDB) funded by NIAID.

Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Xia served as a database architect and a senior software engineer at Celera Genomics from 1998-2003. She joined in the effort to complete the first human genome and genomes of other model organisms at Celera.