Get to Know NICHD

NICHD staff work every day to advance our mission to understand human development, improve reproductive health, enhance the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize abilities for all. Across NICHD, our staff bring with them a wealth of knowledge and skills that help the institute break new ground and expand the limits of existing research.

The following profiles will help you get to know NICHD’s culture and its scientific impact as well as our staff as they explain what inspired them along their career path, what led them to NICHD, and what NICHD has brought to their career.


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Travis Kent headshot.

Travis Kent, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Kent always had an interest in science and fell in love with the idea of research in college. Graduate school led him to focus on teaching and policy, and a fellowship brought him to a position with NICHD that would eventually lead him to his current position as a program officer with the Fertility and Infertility Branch.

Learn more about Dr. Kent.

Dan Johnston headshot.

Dan Johnston, Ph.D.

A summer spent as a member of the Jackson Laboratory’s summer student program led Dr. Daniel Johnston to change his college focus from medical school to pursuing a Ph.D. in reproductive biology—a decision that would ultimately help lead him to his current position as chief of NICHD’s Contraception Research Branch.

Learn more about Dr. Johnston.

Candace Tingen headshot.

Candace Tingen, Ph.D.

From mixing “cures” using common household ingredients to participating in middle school experiments led by an inspirational science teacher, Dr. Candace Tingen doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in science. However, a high school internship at NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences was the experience that would introduce her to female reproductive health research—a path that ultimately would lead her to NICHD’s Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch.

Learn more about Dr. Tingen.

Sonia Lee headshot.

Sonia Lee, Ph.D.

Dr. Sonia Lee’s earliest inspiration came from her father, an anesthesiologist who would often take her to the hospital to meet the healthcare providers with whom he worked. She learned very early that she wanted to be a part of and make an impact with science the way he did.

Learn more about Dr. Lee.

Paul Williams headshot.

Paul Williams

As the director of NICHD’s Office of Communications, Paul Williams helps promote NICHD’s research initiatives and results. This work enables the public to understand how the institute improves the health and wellbeing of women, children, and people with disabilities.

Learn more about Paul Williams.

Chris McBain headshot.

Chris McBain, Ph.D.

Dr. Chris McBain attributes the start of his interest in science to a chemistry set his parents gave him for his birthday. However, that start took much deeper root thanks to the influence and enthusiasm of high school chemistry and biology teachers, who taught him through early science experiments that science could be fun.

Learn more about Dr. McBain.

Gisela Storz headshot.

Gisela Storz, Ph.D.

Dr. Gisela Storz always loved nature and enjoyed science fairs in elementary and middle school. She would later become interested in research through a work study job preparing materials for a cell biology lab during her freshman year of college.

Learn more about Dr. Storz.

Theresa Hayes Cruz headshot.

Theresa Hayes Cruz, Ph.D.

Dr. Theresa Hayes Cruz’s love of math and science led her to study biomedical engineering. Her experience working in a rehabilitation hospital with people with stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other physical impairments inspired her to pursue her biomedical engineering Ph.D. and a career in research rehabilitation.

Learn more about Dr. Cruz.

Alison Cernich headshot.

Alison Cernich, Ph.D.

Dr. Alison Cernich had different plans for her future career until cinematic inspiration redirected her path. As NICHD’s Deputy Director, she proudly represents the science the institute supports and steps up to whatever the role brings her, including this past year’s many COVID challenges.

Learn more about Dr. Cernich.

Diana W. Bianchi headshot.

Diana W. Bianchi, M.D.

Dr. Diana Bianchi’s interest in science and research began through her love of nature and the profound influence of watching her family cat give birth, and continued to grow thanks to the influence of exceptional female role models throughout her high school and higher education training.

Learn more about Dr. Bianchi.

Veronica Gomez-Lobo headshot.

Veronica Gomez-Lobo, M.D.

Dr. Veronica Gomez-Lobo wanted to be a doctor from the age of 12. Her interest in medicine initially grew from a desire to care for underserved populations. As a resident, she discovered a love for teaching, and as a residency director, she added scholarship and research to her list of interests.

Learn more about Dr. Gomez-Lobo.


NICHD researchers and staff carry out the institute's mission through their work in the lab, in the field, and in their offices. The following interviews provide a deeper look at the institute's dedicated staff, the science it conducts and supports, and what that science means to the public.

Dr. Brett Miller Interview
Dr. Brett Miller: Decoding Learning Disabilities   
Dr. Brett Miller leads NICHD efforts to better understand dyslexia. Research suggests that direct, systematic, and explicit instruction in small groups can help children with dyslexia learn to read.
Dr.  Alison Cernich Interview
Dr. Alison Cernich: Driving Innovation for Recovery   
A "bionic" arm? Toy cars for mobility-impaired toddlers? NICHD's Dr. Alison Cernich talks about technologies on the cutting edge of rehabilitation research—and where the future is headed.
Dr. Chris McBain Interview
Dr. Chris McBain: The Electric Brain Reveals its Wiring   
How the brain's "wiring" develops and works—and what happens when it goes wrong—are the types of questions Dr. Chris McBain's laboratory seeks to answer. His work could provide clues to understanding conditions like epilepsy, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease.

If you need additional biographical information on NICHD leadership or would like to schedule an interview with an NICHD staff member, contact the Office of Communications at or 301-496-5133.

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