ASHG Honors Cristen J. Willer, PhD with the 2021 Early-Career Award

Published: Monday, July 12, 2021, 12:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time

Media Contact: Krystal Foster, 631-946-0740

Cristen J. Willer, PhD, Recipient of the 2021 Early-Career Award
Cristen J. Willer, PhD, Recipient of the 2021 Early-Career Award

ROCKVILLE, MD – The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named Cristen J. Willer, PhD as the recipient of the 2021 Early-Career Award. Dr. Willer is the Frank N. Wilson Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Human Genetics, and Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan.

“Dr. Willer is an exceptional researcher who has already made major contributions to human genetics and genomics,” ASHG President Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD said. “She has demonstrated an ability to tackle big questions and has an abiding commitment to improving human health. This award honors her as an outstanding and remarkably productive scientist and dedicated educator and mentor who is already a world-leading researcher in cardiovascular genetics.”

This award, which includes a plaque and a $10,000 prize, recognizes the contributions of genetics and genomics scientists in the first ten years of their careers as independent investigators.

“Dr. Willer is an outstanding and remarkably productive scientist and dedicated educator and mentor who is already a world-leading researcher in cardiovascular genetics and in building large-scale research consortia,” said Michael Boehnke, PhD, Director of the Center for Statistical Genetics and Genome Science Training Program at the University of Michigan in his nomination letter. “She leads toward a culture of inclusion and diverse representation in research, and actively reaches out to the public to facilitate this research, in her work directing the Michigan Racial Equality and Community Health (M-REACH) Project. I have observed first-hand her dedication to provide an open, generous environment in which trainees are inspired and supported to carry out impactful science.”

Dr. Willer studied at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. She went on to earn her DPhil (PhD) from the University of Oxford in Oxford, UK. Dr. Willer completed her postdoctoral training in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan. Dr. Willer’s work has focused on the goal of improving treatment and prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, using computational approaches to generate, analyze, and develop methods for genomics and other bioinformatics data.  Her lab studies individuals with abnormal cholesterol, those who have had heart attacks, congenital heart defects, aortic aneurysm, atrial fibrillation, and kidney disease.  The Willer lab is primarily a computational lab but also collaborates with experimental laboratories to perform follow-up experiments in animal models and human induced pluripotent stem cells.

Although ASHG made the decision to host the Society’s annual meeting virtually, the exact timing of the Early Career Award Presentation is not yet known. An update will be provided as soon as information is available.

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About the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)

Founded in 1948, the American Society of Human Genetics is the primary professional membership organization for human genetics specialists worldwide. Its nearly 8,000 members include researchers, academicians, clinicians, laboratory practice professionals, genetic counselors, nurses, and others with an interest in human genetics. The Society serves scientists, health professionals, and the public by providing forums to: (1) share research results through the ASHG Annual Meeting and in The American Journal of Human Genetics; (2) advance genetic research by advocating for research support; (3) educate current and future genetics professionals, health care providers, advocates, policymakers, educators, students, and the public about all aspects of human genetics; and (4) promote genetic services and support responsible social and scientific policies. For more information, visit:

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