School of Public Health

Sophie Mayer

Profile Photo 

Hometown
Chicago, IL

Program
Epidemiology, MS student

Grad Year
2016

Research Interest
Clinical cancer epidemiology and pharmacogenetics

What was it that inspired you to pursue a career in epidemiology?
My undergraduate degree was in biology and I worked in health policy for several years after I graduated. I was particularly interested in how market incentives, evidentiary standards for clinical trials, and global intellectual property and trade regulations converged to impact biomedical research and drug access. I became interested in epidemiology while working with several biostatisticians and epidemiologists on challenges related to clinical drug development for areas of unmet medical need, like antibiotics and orphan drugs. 

What is the most interesting project you’ve worked on in your program?
I’m really excited about my thesis project, actually. My project is in a cohort of breast cancer survivors, who, once in remission, took hormonal therapy for an extended period of time to prevent recurrence. I’m looking at whether the use of certain medications impacts the risk of breast cancer recurrence. These medications are hypothesized to interfere with how well their hormonal therapies work, as are some genetic factors related to drug metabolism. 

What advice do you have for students interested in a career in epidemiology?
My advice would be to be curious. Advancements in science and medicine always raise more questions, and the role of an epidemiologist is to figure out how to ask these questions in real-world studies of people. There are about a million ways to evaluate any given question, and a lot of bad ways, so it’s a great field for problem-solvers.

You currently have an RA position. How did you find it?
I had a wonderful academic advisor at Fred Hutch. His daughter had recently been through grad school, so I think he was sensitive to how difficult it can be for students to find opportunities. He was instrumental in helping me make connections with faculty that had available positions. I’m currently looking at several molecular markers that characterize colorectal tumors. Our group is interested in how genetic and environmental risk factors may impact both cancer risk and tumor markers, which have some associations with prognosis. 

What do you like about living in Seattle?
I love the mountains and the Northwest in general, and being able to get outside all year. People are very active here, and don’t let the rain keep them inside.  

Tell us a little known fact about you.
When not working or in class, I spend a lot of time on my bike. This will be my first year racing on a team, and I’m proud to be sponsored by two of Seattle’s most impactful institutions, Starbucks and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.