Christensen Lab Fall 2017

Christensen Lab Fall 2017


Principal Investigator


Brock C. Christensen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and of Molecular and Systems Biology

Dr. Christensen received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in Medical Microbiology & Immunology and French, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. in Biological Sciences in Public Health He trained as a postdoctoral research associate in molecular epidemiology of cancer at Brown University in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Dr. Christensen joined the faculty at Dartmouth in 2011.


Post-Doctoral Fellows


Lucas A. Salas, M.D. MSc M.P.H. Ph.D.

I received my medical degree from the “Universidad Nacional de Colombia”, Bogota D.C., Colombia, in 2001. I worked as a general practitioner and family physician in marginal neighborhoods of Bogotá, until 2005. Among 2005-2007, I was trained as a general epidemiologist in the National Faculty of Public Health of the “Universidad de Antioquia”. In Colombia, I was involved in several research projects including Cancer Surveillance systems and a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial for improving handwashing in children under five years of age in water stressed communities. In 2010, I moved to Barcelona, Spain, to pursue a Master in Public Health in the “Universitat Pompeu Fabra-UPF/Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona” joint program. During 2011-2015, I enrolled as a Ph.D. researcher in the UPF Biomedicine Program at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL). My Ph.D. thesis dissertation was focused on molecular mechanisms of water carcinogens (disinfection by-products), and particularly DNA methylation changes and internal dose biomarkers of these toxicants (EPICURO/SBC, and MCC studies). In addition to my thesis, I was involved in the analyses of several genome wide methylation projects related to DOHaD, Developmental Origins of Health and Diseases, (INMA and PACE Consortia) and adult diseases (REGICOR). In November 2015, I moved to Dartmouth as a postdoctoral researcher. My work will be focused on genome wide methylation analyses of different classes of cancers.


Graduate Students


Sara N. Lundgren, B.A.

Doctor of Philosophy Candidate,  jointly mentored by Brock Christensen and Anne Hoen

University of Chicago, 2014

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences, 2014 - present

Following my lifelong affinity to asking questions and seeking answers, and interest in the effect of human behavior on health, I am pursuing interdisciplinary training in epidemiology, bioinformatics, and biostatistics at Dartmouth.  As a student in both the Christensen Lab and the Hoen Lab, I will gain experience working on epigenomic and human microbiome projects including the assessment of exposures such as aspects of diet and lifestyle.  I am particularly interested in characterizing the variation in breast milk and its association with both maternal and infant health using the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study.  Outside of the lab I enjoy such things as farmers markets and cooking without recipes, experiencing complex music, dancing, and skiing.


Owen M. Wilkins, MBiol.

Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, Laboratory of Brock Christensen

University of Bath, 2013

Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine, 2013-Present

After growing up in South East England, I chose to pursue my passion in biology at the University of Bath. Whilst completing my degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology, I gained a particular interest in the complexities of cancer biology. I moved to Dartmouth to pursue this curiosity and joined the Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine. I was drawn to the laboratory of Dr. Brock Christensen as it represented an opportunity to couple my interests in cancer biology with leading edge high-throughput genomic analyses. My research focuses on more completely understanding the function of non-coding RNAs in our genomes. Specifically, I study how variation in micro-RNA related single nucleotide polymorphisms are associated with clinical outcomes in cancer. Outside the lab, I enjoy hiking and rock climbing in the nearby White Mountains.


Youdinghan "David" Chen, M.S.

Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, Laboratory of Brock Christensen

Pacific Lutheran University, 2011-14

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 2014-15

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (present)

Understanding biology of disease is my passion. I gained both computational biology and laboratory research experience in a variety of disciplines, including genetics, development, neuroscience, immunology, and cancer.  In Fall 2016, I became a co-mentee of Dr. Brock Christensen and Dr. Arminja Kettenbach, and received the Burroughs-Wellcome Big Data in Life Sciences Training Grant. My PhD thesis aims to integrate epigenetics and proteo-genomics data for improved predictive analytics of breast cancer using bioinformatics, biostatistics, machine learning. Outside of lab, I enjoy baking, gardening, music, snow sports, and literature.


Alexander Titus, B.S., B.A.

Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, Laboratory of Brock Christensen

University of Puget Sound,  2011

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences, 2015 - present

My typical week: study, research, get stuck, get unstuck, implement, get lost in the woods, get unlost out of the woods (repeat). 

I'm a PhD student in the Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (QBS) program, where my interests intersect bioinformatics, biostatistics, and epidemiology. When I'm not in lab or class, I'm exploring NE by foot, pedal, or paddle. I'm interested in developing data integration tools and techniques to make analysis of the big data explosion in healthcare easier and more efficient. 

I have two bachelor's degrees in Biology & Biochemistry, as well as a minor in Mathematics. Between undergrad and grad school I did research, worked at a start-up and a data visualization company, and then rode my bicycle from Northern Alaska to San Francisco, CA. (LinkedIn, Personal Website)


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Curtis Petersen, MPH

Doctor of Philosophy Pre-Candidate, 
jointly mentored by Brock Christensen and Ethan Berke

The Dartmouth Institute: 2014
The Dartmouth Institute: 2016 - present

After a lot of experience working in molecular research I decided to try and understand how macro factors influenced the micro systems I had been studying and working with. In this endeavor I studied epidemiology as a masters student at The Dartmouth Institute where I focused on breast cancer. In 2014 I helped start a remote medical sensing group working on how we can use technology and big data to help people manage their health. This process spurred me into thinking about how we might be able to use this information to interpret epigenetic changes.

I am interested in examining next generation phenotyping, bridging the gap between the exposome and disease. I aim to link the huge amount of data that we are now continuously collecting from people to how it influences genetic expression. I think that our health systems can be greatly improved through advanced analytics of new data. I hope that this work will help influence how policy is shaped and how we measure quality healthcare.


Meghan Muse, B.A.

Quantitative Biomedical Sciences, 2016 – present

Doctor of Philosophy Pre-Candidate, jointly mentored by Brock Christensen and Diane Gilbert-Diamond

Dartmouth College, BA, 2013

My training in the Quantitative Biomedical Sciences program has allowed me to explore my interests in utilizing big data to better understand the molecular basis of disease. In working with Dr. Brock Christensen and Dr. Diane Gilbert-Diamond, I aim to expand our current understanding of the interplay between epigenetics and body weight regulation as well as how BMI is associated with disease risk at the epigenetic level.


Lab Alumni


 Kevin C. Johnson, Ph.D.

University of Massachusetts – Amherst, 2011

Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine, 2011-2016

Google Scholar Profile

Current position - postdoctoral associate, Verhaak laboratory, The Jackson Laboratory,

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Dylan O'Sullivan

Class of 2015

I am a native of Kingston, Ontario and currently majoring in sociology as a member of the Dartmouth College Class of 2015. I began working in the Christensen Lab in April of 2014 and am currently working on an independent project that explores the relation of DNA methylation and tumor characteristics with the burden of other somatic alterations in breast carcinoma. Beyond this current research I also have a particular interest in characterizing epigenetic states between homogenous groups and the implications of such research on promoting health equity. Outside of my academic endeavors I compete year round for the Dartmouth Cross Country and Track and Fields teams and enjoy participating in global health efforts whenever possible. Most recently, I had the opportunity to play a key role in a study on diarrhea and malaria prevention in rural Ghana. After finishing my undergraduate degree at Dartmouth I hope to receive interdisciplinary doctoral training with a focus on epidemiology and continue to elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms behind disease progression. In addition, I hope to continue running competitively with long term aspirations of representing Canada at international events.