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WRF Postdoctoral Fellows

WRF Postdoctoral Fellows are funded for three years at eligible institutions in Washington state to work on ambitious projects addressing major public needs.


2018 Fellows

Dr. Luke Parsons, University of Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences

What would you like people to know about you?
I am a climate researcher, landscape photographer, and outdoor enthusiast. I hope my research will advance understanding related to the sources and impacts of climate variability and change.

How do you describe your research to colleagues?
I am a climate dynamicist. Specifically, I use instrumental, paleoclimate, and the latest climate model data to study the sources and impacts of climate variability at annual to century timescales. I am currently using data assimilation to combine paleoclimate and climate model data to study climate variability and its associated dynamics during the last millennium.

How do you describe your research to non-scientists?
I am interested in how internal climate variations will combine with global warming to impact humans and the environment. I hope my research will help us understand more about how future climate change will unfold: will future warming occur relatively smoothly, like a ramp, or in fits and starts, like an uneven staircase? Furthermore, how will warming and climate variability combine to impact communities and ecosystems?

What public benefit do you hope will come from your work?
I plan to study how warming and internal climate variations will combine to affect coastal ecosystems and fisheries. Specifically, I am interested in how climate change will affect toxic Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB), which can cause widespread, costly fisheries closures. Recent research suggests that warming of the ocean surface has already expanded the niche of toxic HABs. Unusually warm temperatures off the U.S. west coast in 2015 set the stage for a toxic HAB that forced closures of the commercial dungeness crab fisheries that led to revenue losses of more than $90 million. My research will focus on answering how regional climate variability will combine with global climate change to impact future toxic algal blooms and fisheries.

What difference has the Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship made to your work?
The WRF Postdoctoral Fellowship is allowing me to work with a world-renowned group of researchers at the University of Washington and the NOAA Northwest Fisheries. Specifically, the Fellowship is allowing me to learn new data assimilation techniques and giving me the opportunity to apply my climate research background to study how climate variability and change will affect the Pacific Northwest.


Luke Parsons

Dr. Luke Parsons


Dr. Daniel Reeves, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

What would you like people to know about you?
I’m a physicist working at the Fred Hutch now as a mathematical biologist. I’m constantly inspired by the complexity of host-pathogen dynamics and how a better understanding of our own immune systems might help end the AIDS epidemic.

How do you describe your research to colleagues?
Our group develops mathematical models of HIV in the context of cure. We are particularly interested in the HIV reservoir, and how proliferation of latently infected cells contributes to persistence of the virus during antiretroviral therapy. I am personally working on the interface of modeling and phylodynamics to make use of available HIV sequence and viral dynamic data simultaneously.

How do you describe your research to non-scientists?
I’m a physicist and I use mathematics to describe how the HIV virus grows and evolves within the human body. We hope to understand the complex interplay between the human immune system and the virus and our ultimate goal is to eliminate the virus and develop a cure.

What public benefit do you hope will come from your work?
The HIV/AIDS epidemic still affects millions around the globe. While antiretroviral therapy can suppress the virus, not all persons infected with HIV can tolerate, afford, or access this transformative medication. A cure for HIV is still desperately needed to decrease the global burden of AIDS, and we hope our research will contribute directly to design of the optimal HIV cure or prevention strategy.

What difference has the Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship made to your work?
The WRF fellowship provides me an unparalleled opportunity to grow my research program in Seattle. By allowing me to work independently and leverage my strong local collaborative network, the WRF gives me the time to collect preliminary data that may grow into future grant proposals and an independent investigator position.


Daniel Reeves

Dr. Daniel Reeves


Dr. Mary Regier, University of Washington Department of Bioengineering

What would you like people to know about you?
I am a bioengineer interested in providing the biomedical community with new ways of understanding the complex interactions amongst cells and between cells and their environment. My focus is in developing technologies that are both biologically powerful and technically simple and robust.

How do you describe your research to colleagues?
My research is aimed at providing the research community with tools for precisely controlling the soluble factors around cells spatially and temporally. The methods I am developing are designed to enable studies of how populations of cells sense and respond to the types of signal patterns that govern physiological processes in the body. For example, I am working to use these tools to understand how stem cells interpret signals that control development, specifically morphogen signal gradients.

How do you describe your research to non-scientists?
My goal is to be able to bridge the differences in complexity between how we study cells in the laboratory and how cells experience their environment in the body. I am focusing on the dissolved signals that cells use to communicate with each other as the signals spread from cell to cell in tissues. Patterns of these signals coordinate cell functions so that cells can work together to perform complex processes like embryonic development, wound healing, and day-to-day tissue maintenance. The technologies I am developing will allow scientists to control and study signal patterns in the lab so that we can better understand how cells communicate and how we can help direct cells during disease and healing.

What public benefit do you hope will come from your work?
My hope is that my research will improve our ability to understand how cells communicate. It is my goal to use this understanding and the ability to control signal patterns to expand our capabilities for directing cell functions. Achieving these goals will allow us to use cells’ innate abilities to signal and respond to each other for applications like tissue engineering and treatment of diseases affecting cell-to-cell communication.

What difference has the Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship made to your work?
This fellowship has allowed me to focus on this research, to share my work, and to learn more about making an idea into a product that others can use and benefit from.


Mary Regier

Dr. Mary Regier


Dr. Emma Schmidgall, University of Washington Department of Physics

What would you like people to know about you?
I'm from Minneapolis, went to school in California, England, and Israel, and for the last two years I've been living in Seattle. I love experimental physics because it's got the best toys, like lasers and liquid nitrogen. In my spare time, I play violin in the Kirkland Civic Orchestra, ski, and run.

How do you describe your research to colleagues?
The main problem in building a functional quantum computer is scalability. We know how to make one qubit, but how do we link together enough qubits to build a scalable computer? In several platforms, the problems are photon loss and low emission rates. We are tackling this by using integrated photonic chips to enhance the emission rate and route/process the light more efficiently on-chip. Our particular qubit system is the nitrogen vacancy center in diamond, but this type of integrated photonics work is currently of interest in several qubit platforms.

How do you describe your research to non-scientists?
I'm trying to build a quantum computer. It doesn't work yet because we only have one bit, but we're working on that part now.

What public benefit do you hope will come from your work?
Scalable, commercial quantum computation within the next 10 years. Barring that, I'd like to see photonics fabrication, even in odd materials, as easy as silicon electronics fabrication.

What difference has the Washington Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship made to your work?
Networking with other scientists and innovators in the greater Seattle area has so far been a fantastic component of the Fellowship.


Emma Schmidgall

Dr. Emma Schmidgall