Staff

Jessica Podnar, Assistant Director

Jessica is the experience and the conductor of the NGS service operations.  All communications to GSAF@utgsaf.org go through Jessica’s desk as she coordinates jobs, communicates with clients and skillfully troubleshoots any problems that may arise.  Since joining the GSAF in 2010, Jessica has managed the facility through several generations of sequencing and library construction technologies in this rapidly changing field, collecting a wealth knowledge and perspective that benefits the GSAF and its clients along the way. 

Matt Barnette, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate III

Matt is the genomic library preparation master.  Whether RNA or DNA, short fragments or long, simple steps or complex, there is no procedure Matt has not tamed.  When not keeping rhythm on the drums for a local band, Matt is busy writing scripts to help our internal processes run efficiently and accurately. 

Heather Diederick, Research Associate

Heather is one of several PhD scientists on staff and has years of experience with all manner of molecular biology techniques. She currently specializes in working with researchers to develop new approaches and protocols for the GSAF. If you want to try something new with NextGen sequencing, contact us. We are eager to try new methods to get you the data you need!

Charlie Gonzales, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate I

Charlie is the resident master of Sanger Sequencing. He developed our “HSP” chemistry for sequencing through templates with problematic hairpins, stem-loops, or palindromes.  With speed and precision, he is singularly responsible for producing the vast majority of sequencing data using our automated capillary electrophoresis systems.  When you receive industry-leading, high-quality sequence results in your in-box the next day, Charlie is the person to thank.

Cecil Harkey, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate IV

Cecil is the lead on automation, Sanger sequencing and Instrument support.  He is converting many of our standard manual procedures to an automated platform for improved consistency and efficiency. Cecil earned his MS degree from Texas Tech University and worked as a research assistant in two molecular labs before joining the cores and GSAF.

Gabriella Huerta, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate III

Gabriella manages the Illumina sequencing operations and contributes to all aspects of the genomic sequencing enterprise.  Every library barcode, concentration and quality control metric is carefully scrutinized by Gabriella, as she performs the complex task of setting up the sequencing runs to assure the highest quality results.  With prior experience running NGS operations at Perlegen Sciences and Pfizer, Gabriella has the depth of experience to get the jobs done right.

Ryan Doonan, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate I

Ryan has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and over 15 years of academic research experience in genetics and molecular biology.  He manages the DNA Sequencing laboratory and assists with metagenomics in the Genomics laboratory.  He currently specializes in working with researchers trying to sequence difficult templates and/or CRISPR indels and SNPs.  He also provides instrument training for our comprehensive set of self-service instruments.

Amanda Vorpahl, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate I

Amanda is a genomic library expert and quality control specialist.  Prior to joining the GSAF in March, 2017, Amanda aced the Masters of Biotechnology program at Texas A&M where she also managed a large research laboratory for 3 years.  If you need a break from analyzing genomic sequences, consider learning the Fox Trot or Rumba from Amanda at a local studio.    

David Way, Informatics Analyst

Bringing over 30 years of Unix systems expertise to our core, David oversees the data pipeline for next generation sequencing.  It is our conduit for processing raw image data and storing and delivering the typically massive FASTQ data files to  the researcher.  As a part-time member of the group, he also contributes to management of linux systems, network management, programming, and documentation.