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President Obama Honors U of U Genetic Epidemiology Researcher for Outstanding Early-Career Work


SALT LAKE CITY – President Barack Obama today named Nicola Camp, Ph.D., professor of genetic epidemiology in the University of Utah Department of Internal Medicine as one of the 94 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.

 This award recognizes outstanding scientists and engineers who are advancing the goals of the nation, tackling challenges, and contributing to the American economy. Sixteen federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for America’s advancement in science and engineering. Camp was nominated by the National Institute of Health’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

 A mathematician and statistician by training, Camp has spent the last decade working to develop methods of analyzing and interpreting genomic data. Currently she is working to apply these methods to multiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and breast cancer in hopes of better understanding the genetic factors involved in risk to these cancers. Camp utilized genealogical information from the Utah Population Database to identify high-risk pedigrees and to study the genetic implications of these cancers. Her clinical co-investigators are Martha Glenn, M.D., associate professor of medicine; Guido Tricot, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine; and Theresa Werner, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, all at the U of U School of Medicine.      

 “I am deeply honored,” says Camp, adding that she was a bit surprised by Monday’s announcement from the White House. “It’s very nice to be recognized by your peers and to feel like we’re actually making a difference. The hope is that by developing new methods of analyzing and interpreting data, we’ll find the genetic variations that may influence the next generation of personalized medicine.”

 Camp says genetic variations of CLL, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer can potentially dictate a person’s risk factors for these diseases, treatment, and ultimately their prognosis. The key, she says, is understanding the biological role of those genetic variations, adding that once it’s understood how genetics influence how infected cells deteriorate, steps can be made toward better treatment.

“We could not be more proud of Dr. Camp,” says Lisa Cannon-Albright, Ph.D., Professor and Chief of the Division of Genetic Epidemiology in the U’s Department of Medicine. “She is a hard worker with great ideas, and it’s wonderful for her to be recognized by her peers as someone who is really contributing to the world of science. Ultimately, with this type of research, we can change the world.”

Camp was the only scientist from Utah chosen for this prestigious award. In addition to the DHHS, other government agencies that nominated individuals for recognition are the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Interior, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institute. 

Camp completed her undergraduate, Ph.D., and post doctoral studies at the University of Sheffield in Sheffield, England. She has been at the University of Utah since 1998 serving in various capacities such as professor of biomedical informatics, Huntsman Cancer Investigator, and currently as a professor of genetic epidemiology. She has been honored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and serves as a mentor for the junior faculty in the Department of Medicine at the U of U.  

Camp is available for interviews today between 10 and 11:30 a.m., and again from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Please contact Chantelle Turner to schedule time.