Get to know… Lori Handley

We invite you to "get to know" Lori Handley, a scientist with extensive experience in biotechnology.  Through her work with the Genome Sequencing Center, Handley has come to understand the power of genomics as it applies to plants and people.

Q: How and when did you wind up at HudsonAlpha?
A: After graduating from UAHuntsville –with a BS in biology and minor in chemistry– Dr. Bob Zahorchak hired me at Research Genetics for my first real job.  When Research Genetics closed, it gave me the opportunity to learn some new techniques and try some different areas in the science field.  I worked at Operon Biotechnologies for about five years as a production manager and when the institute opened, I knew I had to be here.  Thankfully, Jane Grimwood and Jeremy Schmutz hired me to be a part of the Genome Sequencing Center and I absolutely love working here!

Q: What is your role in the GSC?

A: At the GSC, our main collaboration is with the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute.  Our research is based on organisms that fall under the DOE science mission areas in bioenergy, global carbon cycling, and biogeochemistry/bioremediation. We generate the reference sequence for these organisms. I work as a part of the production sequencing group and currently operate the next-generation sequencing machines.

Q: Why is this research important?
A:  Without the reference sequence that the GSC provides to other researchers, certain species would not be identified for their potential as alternative fuels or as organisms that can remove toxic materials from the environment.  This is important for all of us because petroleum is a limited resource. We need to start thinking now about what renewable resources might be useful as fuels.  Also, the bioremediation aspect is especially important and prevalent today due to last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The research of human genes that other groups at HudsonAlpha address is also very important to me.  The future of medicine is being shaped by this research and hopefully will lead to faster diagnoses and cures of many common diseases.  In particular, I am most interested in cancer gene research, as both of my parents are cancer survivors.   

Q: What sparked your passion for science?

A:  I have always enjoyed life science and knew I wanted my career to center around it.  Dr. Debra Moriarity, professor and interim chair of the UAH biology department, sealed the deal for me that genetics was definitely the way to go. She was, and is, a wonderful mentor to me.

Q: What do you like best about working at HudsonAlpha?
A: Of course, I will start off with the wonderful people who work here.  There are so many familiar faces from Research Genetics that I love to see on a daily basis.  There are also many new friends that I have made and so many incredible researchers that I have had the honor to meet.  However, I think my favorite part of working at HudsonAlpha is realizing that I am part of Jim Hudson’s continuing effort to make Huntsville one of the country’s great biotechnology centers. As a Huntsville native, it is very important to me that we show off our abilities not only as rocket scientists but also as genetic pioneers.  Maybe Huntsville will one day be known as the Genome City and not just the Rocket City!

Q: Tell us something about you most people would be surprised to know.
A:  I love to go geocaching!  If you love hiking and the outdoors as much as I do, I would suggest giving it a try.