June 24, 2016 | Katy May

What is your general field of study and how did you get here?
I studied Environmental Science in college, focusing on ecology and evolutionary biology. I had an internship with the Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and I spent two field seasons doing field biology in Virginia. I realized that wasn’t the type of science that I was going to pursue. I moved to Charleston, SC with some friends and got a job writing software, then moved to Brooklyn, NY for another software job. After six years, I went back to school at NC State for my PhD in Bioinformatics, where I learned quantitative genetics and genomics.

If you had twenty seconds with a stranger on an elevator, how would you explain your research?
I use mice to study “gene by environment interactions” that help explain why someone people get sick and others do not, even when they’re exposed to the same things. I focus on analyzing data from experiments on the reproductive system and endocrine disruptors (chemicals that affect your hormones).

How does your work apply to everyday life for that stranger on the elevator?
We are all exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in the environment, but everyone has very different health outcomes throughout their lives. This might be because we’re built differently genetically, and that’s what I’m trying to find out.

What is your favorite aspect of your research?
Figuring out how our genome works; it’s like taking small steps to solving a much bigger puzzle.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in human and environmental health research?
It can be hard to know if genetics in mice is a good model for genetics in humans. But with humans we have the problem that we can never know exactly what we’re exposed to, because we can’t control the environment. We have to hope that mice provide us with a good model to study this stuff.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Playing loud music in my car, mostly indie rock from the 80’s and 90’s. Are those oldies yet?

To learn more about David Aylor and his work, check out his website!

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