Alida Gerritsen, PhD
Data Scientist, Computational Biologist, Strength Advocate
I think I’ve worked on every animal that’s not a human, ranging from microbial prokaryotes to extinct mammals. I think that if I’ve made it this far while avoiding the human world then I can probably keep that going. My entire career has hinged on cultivating expertise in multiple fields ranging from bioinformatics, computer science, data science, statistics, and molecular biology, while remaining open-minded about venturing into novel spaces of knowledge. I believe in a holistic approach to science: proficiency in experimental design, proper statistical analysis, hypothesis validation, and the integration of diverse analytical sources encompassing proteomics, transcriptomics, morphometrics, and (particularly relevant to modern biotech) AI-powered analysis.
Science cannot be done in a vacuum. If we want to make a difference, we all have to collaborate.
What am I doing today?
I’m trying to save the world. Simple. I believe that evolution has already developed solutions for a lot of the issues that humans have, we just have to find them.
What I was up to in the past?
I started my biology career as a wee undergrad tracking porcupines through the early morning hours to collect DNA samples for a microsatellite project. I was adamant that I would always work in the field, and never at a lab bench to pipette clear liquids into other clear liquids. Two years later I was in graduate school at the University of Oregon doing exactly that. I realized that those clear liquids held the key to the questions I had; in addition, there is something amazingly zen about completing a benchtop protocol. I followed that zen to the University of Idaho to work in an Illumina sequencing core, where I realized that the real answers were to be found in the ATGC letters that came off of the machine. Thus began my data science career.
I came to the National Renewable Energy Lab to work on biofuels and conversion processes, where I made the switch from hybrid data scientist/molecular biologist to a full computational biologist. From there, I joined Colossal Biosciences to delve into the very complex world of ancient DNA and de-extinction. I thought computational biology was hard with freshly prepared samples, let alone samples from extinct organisms with no chance of collecting more. But I’m always up for a challenge.
How about a little fun?
I have a lot of hobbies, many of them involving fitness. It’s always mystified my parents as to where my athletic tendencies came from, but I suppose we can just chalk that up to the randomness of genetics. I was a collegiate swimmer, so when I graduated I turned all of that energy to Crossfit and the sport of Olympic weightlifting. I hold a World Championship title in weightlifting from 2022. I am also a Crossfit coach and an advocate for strength training for all, especially women. I live for the moments when a woman realizes just how strong she is.
If I’m not in the gym, I might be playing a video game, most likely a huge open world RPG. I try to extend my exploration beyond the virtual as well, spending a lot of time in the foothills and mountains surrounding Denver. Mushroom hunting is a particular favorite of mine. I love the challenge and the solitude.