OPA Staff

George Santangelo, Ph.D.    

George Santangelo has been the Director of the Office of Portfolio Analysis (OPA) at NIH since 2011. He received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his doctorate in genetics from Yale University. Before coming to NIH, George was a systems biologist and data scientist funded by both NIH and NSF to lead research teams investigating how genes are regulated. In OPA, George now leads a team of analysts, data scientists, and software developers whose mission is to learn how to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and disseminate that knowledge across funding agencies and the research community.

How to reach George:    
Phone: 301-496-5006    
Send Dr. Santangelo an email

Sharon Chaney    
Staff Assistant

Sharon is a Communications professional with 28 years of experience at NIH. She provides the Office with expert administrative support and invaluable institutional knowledge of NIH.  She is the primary contact for OPA and secretary for Dr. Santangelo.  She handles all administrative issues in order to keep the Office moving forward.

How to reach Sharon:    
Phone: 301-496-2987    
Send Sharon an email

Mehdi Bakhshiyev    
Software QA Engineer

Mehdi joined OPA in 2023 as Software QA Engineer with over 7 years of experience of which 3 years of them are in the healthcare industry. He is passionate and always tries to implement new and up to date tools in order to deliver bug free software products. His academic background is in Business Administration.

How to reach Mehdi:    
Send Mehdi an email

Travis Barnard, Ph.D.    
Scientific Portfolio Analyst

Travis’ background is in molecular and structural biology. At OPA, he prepares, curates, and analyzes data sets for various projects. Prior to joining OPA, he was a staff scientist and post-doctoral fellow at the NIH, where his research focused on the structure and function of bacterial membrane proteins. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Missouri, Columbia and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri, Rolla.​

How to reach Travis:    
Send Travis an email

Katrina Bibb, M.P.H.    

Katrina is an analyst and trainer with over six years of experience in public health/global health, data analysis and health policy. Her background includes both quantitative and qualitative data analysis using a variety of research datasets and statistical methods. Katrina has worked with countless program staff across NIH advising different types of analyses through OPA’s training program. She is also a part of the analysis and communications team, assisting in disseminating impactful analyses and information to NIH and public stakeholders.

Katrina completed her B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and M.P.H. in Applied Environmental Health alongside a Certificate in Global Health from the University of Maryland.

How to reach Katrina:    
Send Katrina an email

Brad Busse, Ph.D.    
Data Scientist

With a background that bridges the gap between computer science and biology, Brad brings extensive experience in scientific computing, image analysis and algorithm development to OPA. He is proficient in a number of development environments but prefers Python for its deep learning and scientific processing libraries. Prior to joining OPA, Brad was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, where he was responsible for tasks ranging from application development to machine learning. Brad received his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Stanford University and his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Texas A&M University.

How to reach Brad:    
Send Brad an email

Krista Callender, M.B.A.    
IT Project Manager

Krista joined OPA in November 2020, bringing leadership and project management experience. Prior to joining OPA, she built and led the operations functions for Companion Protect, LLC. Krista has held leadership positions with Asurion, Elastic Networks, and Nortel Networks, in addition to founding Trade Winds Consulting. She has managed large organizations of diverse professionals in multiple locations domestically and internationally, leading teams responsible for the delivery of complex, cross-functional projects and programs. Krista received her Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University, and her Masters of Business Administration from Kenan-Flagler’s Executive MBA program. She also holds a Project Management Professional Certification.

How to reach Krista:    
Send Krista an email

Cindy Caughman, M.P.H.    
Director of Strategic Engagement

Cindy brings over 21 years of experience working with NIH Institutes, Offices, and Centers (ICO), and collaborating across the science policy, evaluation, legislative, communications, extramural, and intramural communities as well as with numerous NIH stakeholders. For nearly a decade, she’s led high-performing teams at NIH and focused on empowering staff, enhancing problem-solving, and leveraging shared interests and analysis to accomplish ICO goals. In OPA, Cindy leads engagement efforts to bolster data-driven decision-making across and beyond NIH.

How to reach Cindy:    
Send Cindy an email

Merricka Charles, Ph.D.    
Scientific Portfolio Analyst

Merricka joined OPA as a scientific portfolio analyst in 2020, bringing a broad background in chemistry, toxicology, and biomedical science. Previously, she was an NRC Research Associate at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, developing antibody-based therapies for malaria. Merricka earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Environmental Health, concentrating in Molecular and Translational Toxicology from Johns Hopkins University.​

How to reach Merricka:    
Send Merricka an email

Stephanie Ciosek

Stephanie Ciosek, M.P.H.    
Science Analyst

Stephanie joined OPA in 2022 and brings extensive research experience in molecular genetics and epidemiology. Most recently, she spent 10 years supporting research efforts around the NIH, performing analyses on various types of data gathered from many NIH systems. Stephanie completed her B.Eng. in Chemical Engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and M.P.H. from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to reach Stephanie:    
Send Stephanie an email

Michael Cheetham    
Senior Science Policy Analyst

Michael joined OPA after 5 years at NIH with the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the Fogarty International Center. Prior to joining NIH he created the International Science and Technology Partnership program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and for many years managed the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum and the US-India Science & Technology Endowment Fund. Michael has over twenty years of experience building international partnerships in science, engineering and health, including earlier work at The National Academies, the Smithsonian Institution, the Institute for International Education, and the Atlantic Council of the United States.

How to reach Michael:    
Send Michael an email

Emanuel Corps-Ortiz    

Emanuel joined OPA in 2023 as an analyst with a background in data analytics and data science. After graduating with his B.S. in biology from the University of Virginia, Emanuel worked with the Fairfax County Health Department as a Community Health Worker Supervisor, assisting the community to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Prior to joining OPA, Emanuel worked on various analyses at NHLBI, primarily focused on demographic data and DEIA initiatives.

How to reach Emanuel:    
Send Emanuel an email

Nicholas Daly, Ph.D.    
Health Science Policy Analyst

Nicholas joined OPA in March 2021 as a Health Science Policy Analyst. Nicholas’ background is in machine learning, natural language processing, and data science. Prior to joining OPA he has worked as a data scientist, evaluator, and software consultant. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Trinity College Dublin and B.A.I. in computer engineering from Trinity College Dublin.

How to reach Nicholas:    
Send Nicholas an email

Matt Davis, M.S.    
Software Engineer

Matt’s background is in software engineering with a focus on natural language processing, information retrieval, and machine learning. At OPA, he works on the development of a variety web applications, web services, and batch computations. Typical projects include citation resolution and linking, classifying grants via machine learning, and working on the iSearch web application.​

How to reach Matt:    
Send Matt an email

Shannon Davis    
Data Scientist

Shannon’s academic background is in international political science, English, and biology. She supports the software development team testing iSearch applications and writing documentation.

How to reach Shannon:    
Send Shannon an email

Karl Doughty    
Senior Software Developer

Karl brings his expertise in software design, development, and deployment to his role as senior software developer at OPA. Before joining the team in 2021, Karl used his programming skills to create and maintain high-reliability, mission-critical software for the defense and space industries. He has extensive experience in full-stack development, software security, fault-tolerant architecture, and high-performance computing. He earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

How to reach Karl:    
Send Karl an email

Heather Eshleman, Ph.D.    
Scientific Analyst

Heather joined OPA with extensive basic research experience in cell biology, microbiology, and infectious diseases. Previously, Heather was a postdoctoral research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she studied the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis. She is excited to use her experience in research and funding mechanisms to serve a broader role in supporting research in the life sciences. Heather holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Francisco, and a B.S. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Diego.

How to reach Heather:    
Send Heather an email

Leigh Firestone-Brooks    
Marketing Consultant

Leigh joined OPA in 2023 as a Marketing Consultant. She has over 12 years of experience in Marketing and Communications, coming from both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Leigh has proven experience in driving strategic marketing and communications campaigns. Previously Leigh worked with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and has proven experience in launching educational programs and advocacy work. Leigh received her MBA with a focus in Marketing Analysis and International Strategy from the University of Maryland, Global Campus.

How to reach Leigh :    
Send Leigh an email

Brendan Fusik    
Associate Software Developer

Brendan’s academic background is in Computer Science with a focus on software development. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and joined OPA in 2022.

Ehsanul (Ehsan) Haque, M.S.    
Bioinformatics Programmer

Ehsan’s background is in programming. At OPA he develops specialized software for synthesizing large volumes of qualitative scientific information. Ehsan’s programs aim to extract useful information about NIH research programs that can be used to support programmatic decision making. ​

How to reach Ehsan:    
Send Ehsan an email

Anthonia Joma-Egbi    
Business Analyst

Anthonia joined OPA in 2022 with over five years of experience as a Business Analyst and Scrum Master. She is a passionate, results-driven professional with a proven track record of improving business needs of clients with tailor-made solutions. Anthonia holds a B.S. in Accounting from Ambrose Alli University (Nigeria). She is also a certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) and a Scrum Master (CSM) from the International Scrum Institute.

Emily Lampe    
UX/UI Designer

Emily joined OPA in 2021, bringing 7 years of 3D conceptual design experience. Paired with her human-centered design approach, she curates exceptional experiences and visual design by fusing the client’s vision with the users’ unarticulated needs. Emily earned her B.S. in Interior Design from Oklahoma State University.​

How to reach Emily:    
Send Emily an email

Chuck Lynch, Ph.D.    
IT Specialist and Information Scientist

Chuck is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with a background in mechanical engineering, systems engineering and information technology. At OPA he is primarily responsible for specifying, acquiring, and implementing OPA IT infrastructure, adding computational and storage capacity. A recent success was the design and implementation of a complex computing environment (a five server, 150TB Hadoop Computing Cluster) in just six months, with the help of OIT, while the average implementation time is 18 months. ​

How to reach Chuck:    
Send Chuck an email

Rebecca Meseroll, Ph.D.    
Director of Analytics & Operations

As Director of Analytics & Operations, Rebecca is responsible for coordinating analysis, research & development, and office operations in OPA. Prior to joining OPA in 2016, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the NIH Intramural Research Program. She holds a B.S. in biochemistry from Binghamton University and a Ph.D. in cell biology from Dartmouth.

How to reach Rebecca:    
Send Rebecca an email

Payam Meyer, M.S.    
Software Engineer

Payam’s background is in software engineering and data systems. Payam is integral to the collaborative work between OPA and ODP involving the development of an advanced machine learning architecture to efficiently classify prevention research across the NIH portfolio. He also contributes to the development of iSearch as well as assisting OPA teammates with their day-to-day data and analytics needs.

How to reach Payam:    
Send Payam an email

Will Millman    
Software Architect

Will joined the Office of Portfolio Analysis as a software architect in 2019 after spending over ten years at ProQuest specializing in developing and managing large-scale biomedical content and MeSH indexing solutions for the life sciences. At the OPA, Will collaborates for design, document, and build new versions of the Portfolio Analysis applications produced.

How to reach Will:    
Send Will an email

Shadadi Mutoni    
DevOps Engineer

Shadadi is a DevOps Engineer with experience improving delivery processes through building robust DevOps pipelines and automating application deployment and maintenance using various tools and technologies including infrastructure as a code (IaaC). She has prior experience as a system administrator for various companies. Shadadi holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering from Earth University in Costa Rica, a master’s degree in food science and biotechnology from Delaware State University, and a master’s degree in computer information sciences from Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. She speaks 5 languages fluently: Spanish, Kinyarwanda, Luganda, Swahili, and English.

How to reach Shadadi:    
Send Shadadi an email

Matt Perkins    
Training Director and Science Analyst

Matt has a background in mathematics and statistics and has previously spent 14 years working for the Government Statistical Service in the United Kingdom. Matt works as a statistical portfolio analyst and is the director of the OPA Portfolio Analysis Training Program. In this role, Matt assists analysts across the NIH with the use of PA tools, particularly iSearch (OPA’s portfolio analysis search tool). In addition, he is responsible for the coordination of the OPA Portfolio Analysis consultation service.

How to reach Matt:    
Send Matt an email

Chris Pickett, Ph.D.    
Senior Science Policy Analyst

Chris has experience in science policy and previously focused on improving the training environment for graduate students and postdocs. Prior to joining OPA in 2021, Chris was Director of Rescuing Biomedical Research, and worked on issues ranging from improving transparency in Ph.D. career outcomes to accelerating the use of preprints and improving support for young faculty. Chris received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah and his B.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder.

How to reach Chris:    
Send Chris an email

Mehrad Sarmashghi, Ph.D.    
Data Scientist

Mehrad joined OPA in 2022 as a data scientist bringing with him extensive research experience in statistics, AI/machine learning, and computational neuroscience. His research interest was focused on the development of statistical model identification methods to analyze neural spiking data and integrating them with machine learning algorithms to classify neural populations. Mehrad received his B.S. degree in aerospace engineering from Sharif University of Technology and his Ph.D. degree in systems engineering from Boston University.

How to reach Mehrad:    
Send Mehrad an email

Ami Shah, Ph.D.    
Scientific Analyst

Ami joined OPA in 2022 with a background in basic neuroscience research. Ami was previously a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University, where she studied the genetic mechanisms of olfactory receptor expression. She is excited to utilize her skills in large dataset analysis and broad background in research to further life science research. Ami received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from Johns Hopkins University.​

How to reach Ami:    
Send Ami an email

Jaclyn Crouch Southcott

Jaclyn Crouch Southcott, M.P.A.    
Program Analyst

Jaclyn’s background is in project workflow management, program evaluation, contract management, and portfolio analyses. Prior to joining OPA in 2022, she worked as the senior advisor for policy, planning, and evaluation for NICHD and OBSSR/DPCPSI, where she contributed to programmatic decision making. Jaclyn has a Master of Public Administration and Health Policy from the University of North Dakota.

How to reach Jaclyn:    
Send Jaclyn an email

Ian Swepston, M.S.    
Software Developer

Ian brings his experience in software design, algorithm development, and scientific computing to OPA. Ian has maintained and deployed mission critical signal processing software, data analysis engines and UIs, and mission planning and visualization tools for the defense and space industries. He has experience in designing high performance algorithms, digital signal processing, full stack development, and leading software development teams. Outside of work, Ian likes rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking with his family. Ian earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering from Clemson University and his M.S. in Computer Engineering from The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

How to reach Ian:    
Send Ian an email

Hashi Wijayatilake, Ph.D.    
Senior Policy Analyst

Hashi joined OPA in 2020, bringing 10 years of experience in science publishing, first at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (NY) and then at PLOS. As Managing Editor of PLOS Biology, she led the journal team in publishing high-profile research content, and implementing Open Science initiatives and publishing innovations. Hashi now leads the Analyst Team at OPA; she coordinates all OPA analyses and deliverables, and works on portfolio analyses to support data-driven decision-making across the NIH and other federal agencies. Hashi received her Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, and her DPhil (PhD) from the University of Oxford (UK).

How to reach Hashi:    
Send Hashi an email


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