academics » before the Media Lab

I studied Mathematical & Computational Science at Stanford (2001). My coursework included computer science, mathematics, statistics, operations research, and biology.

I made a flash video for one of my statistics classes on the 2000 presidential election. It aims to demonstrate how statistical bootstrapping works. Perhaps you can tell that my Flash skills are almost prepubescent. Nevertheless, I am proud to share it, and am certain it taught me a lot. (For example, what not to do in a user interface!)

My interests in biology and applied math have led me to work in a few labs. Here are some of my past roles:

Statistician in Luca Cavalli-Sforza's genetics lab at Stanford University Medical School (HPGL), 2001-2003

The Cavalli lab sought to identify genetic similarities between different human populations, to try to make statements about human origins and migrations.

I was the principal data analyst for the lab for about a year and a half. I worked with another developer to create an online genetic database, termed the Human Population Genetics Database (HPGD). It stored various genetic data, gathered from labs across the world, and provided tools so that any registered user could create data sets, perform common analysis methods on the data sets (e.g. phylogenetic tree-building, population statistics, multi-dimensional data representation), and plot their results geographically. Unfortunately the lab split apart in mid-2005, and the HPGD is no longer being maintained.

In addition, I wrote a Java simulation to investigate how mutations spread in expanding populations. In late 2002, I presented a poster (3.3MB) on my work at a meeting in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Our paper, Mutations arising in the wave front of an expanding population, was published in PNAS in January 2004 (see more papers below).

Laboratory Assistant in Deborah Gordon's ant lab, 1999-2000

Ants interest me because they are simple organisms that work like little automata, deciding what to do at any given moment by the rate and types of interactions they have with other ants.

Dr. Gordon's lab works on harvester ants. I was an assistant in her lab for almost two years. I spent 6 weeks in the summer of 1999 doing field work in the Arizona desert. We got up every morning at 4:30, to plot and track ant colonies before the temperatures broke 110° F. I also learned to extract ant pheromones in our makeshift chemistry lab, which we then used in experiments in the field. Back at the Stanford lab, I helped analyze collected data by writing scripts to parse out pertinent bits and run statistical tests on them. I also participated in discussions on the development of a spatial, agent-based model of an ant colony, which was really fun.

In the fall, I acted as Teaching Assistant, Resident Assistant, and Academic Advisor to 12 students during a 3-week Ecology of Invasions class, as part of Stanford's Sophomore College program.

In 2003, Deborah gave a wonderful TED talk about her lab's work.

Dorky high school student in David Crews's lizard lab

The Crews lab studies hormonal and enzymatic effects on unisexual whiptail lizards. I spent my summer and evenings after school learning basic lab techniques, like making slides on a Microtome, squeezing the bellies of pregnant lizards to assess how far along they were, and feeding the lizards out of vats teeming with crickets. I also spent a couple of weeks out in the desert of west Texas, collecting lizards in big metal nets with a group of graduate students, eating beef brisket, and swimming in the water tank.

Papers I have contributed to:

Mutations arising in the wave front of an expanding population
Christopher A. Edmonds, Anita S. Lillie, and L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza
PNAS, Jan 2004; 101: 975-979.
(Jan 2004)
Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia
C. Cinnioglu, R. King, T. Kivisild, E. Kalfoglu, S. Atasoy, G. L. Cavalleri, A. S. Lillie, C. C. Roseman, A. A. Lin, K. Prince, P. J. Oefner, P. Shen, O. Semino, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, P. A. Underhill
Human Genetics 114: 127-148.
Peopling of three Mediterranean Islands (Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily) inferred by Y-chromosome biallelic variability
P. Francalacci, L. Morelli, P. A. Underhill, A. S. Lillie, G. Passarino, A. Useli, R. Madeddu, G. Paoli, S. Tofanelli, C. M. Calò, M. E. Ghiani, L. Varesi, M. Memmi, G. Vona, A. A. Lin, P. Oefner, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 121(3): 270-279.
(July 2003)
Variation in the transition from inside to outside work in the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus
D. M. Gordon, J. Chu, A. Lillie, M. Tissot and N. Pinter
Insectes Sociaux 52: 212-217.