Katie Pollard and her team develop statistical and computational methods to compare genomes and use the differences to decode how genomes work. Their analyses of massive sets of genomic and epigenomic data include investigating human genetic variation, understanding what makes humans unique compared to other species, and characterizing the genomic diversity of the human microbiome, the group of bacteria that populate our digestive system and other body sites. This evolutionary focus, coupled with rigorous statistical methods and bioinformatics tool development, gives the lab a unique perspective on human health and disease.

Disease Areas

Congenital Heart Defects
Genetic Diseases
Infectious Diseases
Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Other Microbiome-Related Diseases
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Psychiatric Diseases

Areas of Expertise

Data Science
Developmental Biology
Genome Evolution
Machine Learning
Technology Development
Working in the Pollard lab

Lab Focus

Creating tools for genomic data analysis that combine statistical rigor, an evolutionary perspective, and massive integration of public data.
Using predictive computational models to gain a mechanistic understanding of human biology.
Identifying the genetic basis for human traits and diseases.
Characterizing the human microbiome through metagenomic data analysis.
Designing biomedical research technologies to optimize what we can learn from them.
Science communication and education.

Research Impact

Pollard and her team pioneered a statistical approach to identify the fastest-evolving regions of the human genome, known as Human Accelerated Regions (HARs). They showed that many of these correspond to non-coding sequences regulating gene expression, also known as enhancers. Her lab is leveraging this information to identify enhancers important for evolution or for the appearance of diseases. These studies have generated research tools for studying human disease and will eventually yield novel therapeutic targets.

Pollard has also designed metagenomic-based methods to study the human microbiome and other microbial communities at the resolution of individual genes and genetic mutations. From these studies, novel insight will arise into the relationship of the microbiome to health and disease, setting the stage for using metagenomics in precision medicine.

The Pollard lab’s open-source code for gene expression analysis, detecting evolutionary conservation and acceleration, and quantifying genetic changes in the human microbiome is used in thousands of labs and classrooms.


Professional Titles

Senior Investigator and Director, Gladstone Institute of Data Science and Biotechnology

L.K. Whittier Director, Gladstone Institute of Data Science and Biotechnology

Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes

Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UC San Francisco

Director, Biomedical Informatics Graduate Program, UC San Francisco

Investigator, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub San Francisco


Katie Pollard earned her BA at Pomona College and her master’s degree and PhD in biostatistics from UC Berkeley. At Berkeley, she developed computationally intensive statistical methods for the analysis of microarray data with applications in cancer biology. She implemented these approaches in Bioconductor, an open-source software program used with high-throughput genomic data. As a comparative genomics postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Cruz, Pollard participated in the Chimpanzee Genome Project and used this sequence to identify the fastest-evolving regions in the human genome, known as Human Accelerated Regions.

Before joining Gladstone, Pollard was an assistant professor in the Genome Center and Department of Statistics at UC Davis. Pollard is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator. In 2018, she became the founding director of the Gladstone Institute of Biotechnology and Data Science. Pollard is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Statistical Association, and the International Society for Computational Biology.

Why Gladstone?

“We are excited about bringing computational biology to Gladstone and incorporating world-class experimental biology into our research program.”

Katie Pollard, PhD

Honors and Awards

2022 Elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine

2018 Named one of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s 75 Most Influential Alumni

2018 Women Who Lead in the Life Sciences, SF Business Times

2017 Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator

2013 Fellow, California Academy of Sciences

2013 Alumna of the Year, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley

2013 Best Scientific Visualizations of 2013, Wired Magazine

2008 Sloan Research Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

2007 Faculty Development Award, UC Davis

2003 Evelyn Fix Memorial Prize, Chin Long Chiang Biostatistics Student of the Year, UC Berkeley

1998 Berkeley Fellowship, UC Berkeley

1996 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Watson Foundation

1995 Valedictorian, High Scholarship Prize, Math Prize, Anthropology Prize, Phi Beta Kappa Award, Pomona College

1993 Sophomore Math Prize, Pomona College



Katie Pollard

Lab Members

Cindy Barrios
Graduate Student
Annamarie Bustion
Shiron Drusinsky
Graduate Student
Veronika Dubinkina, PhD
Bioinformatics Fellow
Amanda Everitt
Graduate Student
Katie Gjoni
Graduate Student
Miriam Goldman
Graduate Student
Laura Gunsalus
Alisha Holloway, PhD
Zhirui Hu, PhD
Bioinformatics Fellow
Xiaofan Jin, PhD
Bioinformatics Fellow
Ryan Keivanfar
Graduate Student
Beniamin Krupkin
Rotation Student
Shuzhen Kuang, PhD
Bioinformatics Fellow
Jodi Lee
Graduate Student
Abigail Lind, PhD
Calla Martyn
Cindy Pino
Graduate Student
Maureen Pittman
Pawel Przytycki, PhD
Jason Shi, PhD
Byron Smith, PhD
Bioinformatics Fellow
Sean Whalen, PhD
Senior Staff Research Scientist
Shu Zhang
Graduate Student
York Zhang, MS
Rotation Student
Chunyu Zhao, PhD
Visiting Scientist