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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Allison Sherier

From animal science enthusiast to working with cancer-related research at Caris Life Sciences, Dr. Allison Sherier comes to ACU’s precision medicine program with a willful spirit and drive to teach students how to utilize their research skills alongside the wondrous world of computer science. Known for her soft demeanor and quantitative, left-brained thinking, Dr. Sherier doesn’t just get excited about working with Caris employees interested in further developing their education. She also gets excited when she meets students who later find their callings in oncological research, an area of science where Dr. Sherier is particularly passionate about it. Now working as an adjunct faculty member, Dr. Sherier is eager to see how far the Precision Medicine program will grow and, more importantly, how it will impact future patients based on the instruction given to future researchers today. 

From Cowboy to Wildcat

Dr. Sherier’s path into precision medicine wasn’t necessarily the most direct. Having grown up in Houston, surrounded by major hospitals and cancer research centers galore, Dr. Sherier was familiar and interested in medical research. But, she also was a country girl at heart. So, she decided to become an animal researcher — fueled by her love of science and desire to get out of the big city. It didn’t take long for her to leave Texas for Oklahoma to pursue her undergraduate studies at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in animal science and biotechnology, where she focused on the beef and cattle industry, with a greater emphasis on genetics and reproduction efficiency. Showing off her talents for understanding complex biological data and technological science, Dr. Sherier was soon offered a fellowship to complete her master’s and doctorate degree at the university of her choosing. A huge honor for any person in academia. 

After finishing her master’s at OSU’s Health Science Center in Tulsa and obtaining her Ph.D. at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and Biomedical Sciences, all was looking bright for a woman who simply liked farm animals and biological science. Moving into more lab-related work, Dr. Sherier started working full-time at Caris Life Sciences, where she primarily focused on how data can work to solve research questions in cancer research. 

In short, Dr. Sherier was not just a well-respected scholar in academia. She was also emerging as a lead data scientist at one the largest cancer research centers, Caris Life Sciences. And it didn’t stop there. 

“Basically Caris hired me straight out of my Ph.D. and I started with a pharmacogenomics group with them,” Allison explains. “One day, my boss asked, ‘Hey, do you have any interest in teaching? I need a professor this semester and I think you would be a good fit for this course.’ I didn’t think much about it. I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds like fun.’”  

And thus, Dr. Sherier joined ACU Online as an adjunct professor in the growing Precision Medicine program while maintaining her role at Caris. For the first time, she wasn’t just taking samples or looking at data sets. She was actively working with students equally interested in combining their interests in medicine with machine learning and technology. It was going to be a change. And she was ready for it. 

“It’s kind of like jumping into a swimming pool and then having to figure out how to swim on your own,” Allison explains. “We’re learning some very hard concepts and so getting to talk to and get to know my students in this course compared to my typical work is a lot of fun. I like supporting them and getting to see the light bulb, ‘click’ moments.” 

Incorporating Real Work Into The Classroom

Dr. Sherier believes that if you want to do good work, you need to see good work. Whether she’s teaching courses related to genomics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence or Pharmacogenomics, Dr. Sherier has always strived to make sure her students are getting the best information possible by incorporating examples from her work or their work at Caris. Teaching a mix of students who work for Caris and others who don’t, Dr. Sherier is highly interested in showcasing how the information learned in class can be transferred into a lab, where the real work begins. 

“When I teach my courses, I start by considering what other industries or applications use certain softwares or information for. In oncology, there is so much overlap you can have from other disciplines like data science and biology and it’s cool to see how the work I do on a daily basis outside of teaching is not only helping patients and potentially improving their outcomes or their overall, but also teaching students about the ins-and-outs of precision medicine.” 

Dr. Sherier is eager to see how her students are adapting to the new branch of precision medicine and hopes to continue bridging the gaps between academia and companies like Caris. Considered a fairly new field by many, the Precision Medicine program aims to build up more scientists, researchers, analysts, and maybe even future physicians, who would be interested in leading efforts toward more targeted oncological research. 

“I talk to students who are interested in leadership roles or hoping that a precision medicine degree can kind of help them step up in their career and start moving forward in companies like Caris,” Allison explains. “We need people that have good management skills, know how to be leaders and continue teaching and helping people thrive.. And that’s what this program does for students. It helps them gain the information they need to become successful afterward.” 

For now, Dr. Sherier is content. She is happy to tend to her horse, spend time with her family, go into work, or log onto Zoom for a class. In her mind, she doesn’t need anything else. She’s made her mark so far. It’s time to help her students make theirs. 

Are you looking to advance your career in Precision Medicine? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can take your academic goals to the next level with ACU Online.

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