Conner Sandefur, Ph.D.

  • Pulmonary Research


  • University of Michigan - Bioinformatics


  • Richard Boucher, MD. & Tim Elston, Ph.D.


Education advances society, empowers communities, and fosters individual growth and development. It is an essential tool for developing resources within communities of color and other underprivileged groups. My passion for teaching and research comes from the belief that diversity in education and diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is vitally important to our society and our understanding of the world.

It was after college, while researching the molecular genetics of falciparum malaria at the University of Washington, that I was inspired to pursue a career as biomedical researcher and educator. During this time, my mentor Carol Sibley encouraged me to challenge myself with graduate training to gain more independence as a researcher. She suggested I pursue a Ph.D. that combined my laboratory research experience with my quantitative computer science undergraduate training.  Following this advice, I completed a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor under the mentorship of Santiago Schnell. There, my research focused on mathematical and computational modeling of protein aggregation mechanisms.

I am excited to be a SPIRE fellow under the mentorship of Drs. Richard Boucher and Timothy Elston. Using a combined experimental and mathematical modeling approach, we are trying to understand how nucleotide regulation and ion transport control airway surface liquid volume in the lung. This research is significant to understanding cystic fibrosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As a scientist, I believe that diversity in research leads to a spectrum of ideas brought about through varied student backgrounds. The more ideas and questions we have to ask about our scientific research, the more confident we can be in our results.  Additionally, diversity in science is important because communities of color have traditionally been excluded from scientific research. These communities, including the Native American community to which I belong, can benefit greatly from the presence of scientific debate and research. Research can bring funding, opportunity, and answers to communities and institutions that truly need them.


  • Fall 2014
    • Exploring Bioinformatics and Computational Biology , UNC Pembroke
    Spring 2014
    • Principles of Biology, UNC Pembroke


  • Sandefur CI. (2014) Young investigator perspectives. Blogging for electronic record keeping and collaborative research. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. Dec 15;307(12):G1145-6.