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Current Cluster Faculty Members


Ferhaan Ahmad, MD, PhD, FRCPC, FAHA

Associate Professor of Medicine


(319) 384-8756


Research Interest(s)

Dr. Ahmad directs a laboratory conducting basic and translational research into the genetic and genomic mechanisms underlying inherited cardiovascular disorders, including hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, glycogen storage cardiomyopathy, inherited arrhythmias, and pulmonary hypertension. His laboratory uses laboratory uses a wide range of techniques in human and mouse genetics, and fosters crosstalk between clinical studies, human molecular genetic studies, animal modeling, and basic cellular and molecular studies. He is also Director of the Clinical Cardiovascular Genetics Program at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, where patients with inherited cardiovascular disorders and their families are evaluated, counseled, and treated.

Patrick Breheny, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biostatistics


(319) 384-1584


Research Interest(s)

Dr. Breheny's research focuses on developing statistical models that can handle the size and complexity of genetic and genomic data. The collection of this kind of large-scale data is a relatively recent phenomenon, posing many challenges that traditional statistical methods have proven incapable of addressing. Methodologically, his research focuses on the development and study of penalized likelihood models, along with algorithms and software for fitting these models. He has applied these ideas in many areas, including the use of gene expression to predict origin tissue for metastatic tumors, the integration of information across rare variants in exome-sequencing studies, and accounting for uncertainty in genotype calls for genetic association studies of copy-number variation.

Azeez Butali, PhD

Assistant Professor of Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine


(319) 335-8980


Research Interest(s)

Dr. Butali directs the African Craniofacial Anomalies Network, collaboration between scientists in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda. His research is currently funded through a K99/R00 award from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research entitled “Genetics studies of non-syndromic clefts in populations of African descent.” He is also involved in the investigation of subclinical phenotypes for orofacial clefts as well as examining the role of micronutrients in oral clefts prevention. 

Other interest includes genetics of aggressive periodontitis and genetics of preterm births in the African population.

Drew Kitchen, PhD

Assistant Professor of Anthropology 




Research Interest(s)

Dr. Kitchen is interested in the evolutionary history of modern humans, including the evolution of human pathogens and parasites. He uses both human and pathogen genetic data to investigate the historical population dynamics of humans, including behaviors and shifts in human ecology that lead to the emergence of novel pathogens. His current research is focused on the molecular evolution of pathogens (primarily viruses and bacteria), including macroevolutionary patterns of pathogen emergence and divergence, and investigating the dynamics of human populations using both contemporary and ancient DNA data.

Anna Malkova, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology 




Research Interest(s)

Malkova’s research is aimed to unravel mechanisms of DNA repair. In particular, she is interested in repair of double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs), which are dangerous because their imprecise or faulty repair often leads to mutations and chromosome aberrations that cause genetic diseases and cancer. Malkova’s research focuses on one pathway of DSB repair called Break-Induced Replication (BIR), which she described during her postdoctoral research at Brandeis University. BIR is similar to normal DNA replication in its processivity and rate, but the resulting repaired chromosome comes at a great cost to the cell, as BIR promotes mutagenesis, loss of heterozygosity, translocations, and copy number variations, all hallmarks of carcinogenesis. Despite the dramatic effects BIR can have on genetic stability, the mechanism of BIR responsible for its destabilizing effects, as well as its role in promoting genetic instabilities leading to cancer remain unclear. The aim of Malkova is to fill these gaps in our knowledge by investigating BIR in baking yeast, a model eukaryotic organism. The knowledge obtained in yeast will be used to analyze human cancer genomes to determine the role of BIR in promoting genomic instabilities leading to cancer.

Jacob Michaelson, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering


(319) 335-8066


Research Interest(s)

The Michaelson lab investigates how variation in the genome affects the development and function of the mind. Their experience in genome informatics and statistical learning enables them to develop predictive models of gene-phenotype relationships based on high-throughput biological data sets, including whole genome sequencing, ChIP-seq, and RNA-seq. The aim of these predictive models is both to improve diagnostic capabilities and to further illuminate the biological mechanisms that underlie psychiatric conditions.

Anya Prince, JD

College of Law


(319) 335-9060

Research Interest(s)

Prof. Prince researches the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic technologies (ELSI) at the intersection of insurance and genetic testing. Her current research focuses on life, long-term care, and disability insurer use of genetic information. This project has two primary goals: 1) to systematically examine the legal and policy landscape of life, long-term care, and disability insurer use of genetic information in the US and internationally; and 2) to offer a variety of policy options for US federal and state governments that seek to address genetic discrimination in this area.

Michael Schnieders, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering


(319) 335-7891


Research Interest(s)

Dr. Schnieders' research is focused on understanding inherited diseases by using computational molecular biophysics theory and high performance computational algorithms to map genetic information onto molecular phenotypes. Technological problems addressed include 1) formulation of physics based theories of protein structure and function 2) incorporation of these theories into high performance computer codes 3) validation of simulation methods against experiment and 4) application of the resulting technology to disease genes. In particular, he applies this technology to help answer fundamental questions about the causes of inherited eye diseases, inherited deafness and inherited metabolic disorders.