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UO Scholar Alum Examines Biostatics and Precision Medicine

Posted on Sunday, April 28, 2024
ARCS Oregon Scholar Alum Andrew Morris is broadening his research skillset with a post-doctoral position in Oslo, Norway.

“During my time at the University of Oregon, my lab established a collaboration with a research group in Trondheim, Norway, where I did a research exchange. I fell in love with Norway during that visit and decided to apply for jobs there,” Morris says. He now has a post-doctoral position at the Centre for Bioinformatics for Bioinformatics and the Precision Psychiatry group at the University of Oslo.

Andrew earned his PhD in 2022, in biology. He explains that “during my PhD, I considered myself a community ecologist and bioinformatician and studied the role of the microbiome in ecosystem functioning. After finishing my doctorate, I worked as a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Oregon examining the heritability of the microbiome across the tree of life. I was trying to understand whether more closely related plants and animals harbor more similar communities of microorganisms in their gut, mouth, leaves, or roots than more distantly related individuals.”

That work, currently in review at Nature Microbiology, showed that microbiome heritability is common across plant and animal hosts. If the microbiome is heritable, that suggests that the microbiome could evolve along with the host and influence the evolution of traits in the host organism.

In his current role in Oslo, Morris is using bioinformatics and biostatistics to study heritable diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer. “Specifically, I am helping to develop what are called “polygenic hazard scores,” which are models that use genetic data to predict the risk and age of onset for heritable diseases. The goal is to use these models as screening tools to identify individuals at risk for early onset of disease to enable early detection and treatment of these diseases,” he explains.

His goal in his current position is to expand his toolset by learning about biostatistics and precision medicine, as well as exploring and enjoying Norway. 

Morris enjoys life in Oslo, a city about the size of Portland. “I can walk across the street from my apartment and into a national forest,” he says. “I have several grocery stores and gyms within 100 yards of my apartment and in 5-10 minutes I can walk to a train station or a tram. It is very easy to get around! If you forget an ingredient for dinner, you can stop in the middle of cooking and go grab what you need and be back in 5 minutes.”

English is the language at the university, but Morris is learning Norwegian.

Andrew received “The Florence and Mike Nudelman” award in 2017.

Written by Aletha Anderson, Member, Communications Committee