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W&L Alumna Gets Leadership Role with Genome Project

In February, the lead story in Nature magazine examined the past, present and future of genomic research, laying out a “course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside.” This week, a Washington and Lee alumna takes on a major role in that future. Laura Lyman Rodriguez, of the Class of 1991, will lead the Office of Policy, Communications and Education at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

According to a news release announcing her appointment, Laura will “oversee development of the institute’s policy positions on the ethical, legal and social implications of human genome research.” In addition, she will communicate information about NHGRI’s genomic research programs, track and analyze legislation and develop NHGRI’s education and community outreach programs.

In describing her new role, Laura said, “We need to find common pathways to integrate genomic information and medicine into society so that it truly benefits the individual while also supporting scientific advances. We have a real sense of urgency because we’re talking about information that is unique and intrinsic to the individual. It’s about who you are at the most basic level.”

After receiving her B.S. with honors in biology, Laura earned a Ph.D. in cell biology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After graduating from Baylor, she served as administrative director at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, where she became interested in clinical research policy.

She then served as a Congressional Science Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where she worked with Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.) on his National Science Policy Report and K-12 math and science education. She also spent time in the Office of Public Affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Before joining NHGRI in late 2002, she worked at the National Academies, Institute of Medicine, where she directed the work of a committee examining the federal system for protecting human research participants.

Laura was special advisor to the director of NHGRI from 2003 through 2007, was named the senior advisor to the director for research policy in 2008 and was later appointed to be the deputy director for the Office of Policy, Communications and Education.