SFARI Gene Team
Alan Packer, Ph.D.
Alan Packer joined the Simons Foundation in 2009 as an associate director for research, joining a team of scientists responsible for SFARI's autism grant portfolio, with a particular emphasis on grants in the area of genetics and cell and developmental biology. He has also served as the liaison with the SFARI Gene curation team at Mindspec, and helped lead the effort to develop the site's Gene Scoring module. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Brandeis University and his doctorate in cell biology and genetics from the Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City. His graduate work, with Rosemary Bachvarova, focused on germ cell development using the mouse as a model system. With Debra Wolgemuth at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he carried out postdoctoral work on developmental control genes (Hox genes) and the mechanisms of their regulation in the mouse embryo. In 2000, Packer joined the editorial staff of Nature Genetics, the leading journal in the field of genetics, where he was involved in all aspects of the journal’s production. His responsibilities included overseeing peer review of submitted manuscripts, with an emphasis on the genetics of human disease, as well as commissioning reviews, writing press releases and editorials, updating the journal’s website, and preparing special issues of the journal. He served as acting editor in 2002-2003. During his tenure at Nature Genetics, he established a wide range of contacts in the genetics community by attending meetings and visiting scientists in their labs. Packer has also done freelance writing on a number of topics for Nature and other scientific publications.(Read More)
Natalia Volfovsky, Ph.D.
Director, Data and Analytics
Natalia Volfovsky came to the Simons Foundation to manage quantitative informatics analysis, data storage, and data curation. She oversees analytics and database support of the SFARI Gene redesign and development. Prior to joining the foundation, Volfovsky served as manager of the computational genomics group at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR) in Maryland, where she was responsible for the design and development of computational methods to process and analyze genomics data. While at the FNLCR, Volfovsky also organized bioinformatics training sessions and participated in collaborative research projects. She holds an M.S. in mathematics from Kharkiv State University, Ukraine, a Ph.D. in computer science from Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and completed her postdoctoral work in bioinformatics at the Institute for Genomic Research with Dr. Steven Salzberg.(Read More)
Database Application Analyst
Mani Cavalieri worked at the Simons Foundation from 2014-2017 as a database application analyst. He designed the new data model underlying SFARI Gene, and helped oversee its representation in the new web design. Before coming to the Simons Foundation, he was a project consultant at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where he specialized in new technology initiatives in the loan syndication and trading industry. He implemented new techniques to integrate Chase’s systems with external platforms and assisted in the design of requirements for new internal systems and processes. Before that, Cavalieri was an assistant vice president of the loan trading product team at Markit, Ltd., a financial services company. As database application analyst within the informatics and information technology group at the Simons Foundation, Cavalieri works with grants and research databases, supporting their upkeep and addressing reporting and data-mining requests. He holds a B.A. in cinema studies from New York University, which he obtained through J.P. Morgan Chase’s Smart Start scholarship program.(Read More)
Ahmad Chatha, M.S.
Ahmad Chatha joined the Simons Foundation in 2014 after earning a B.S. in Mathematics and computer science from New York University. He then received an M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University. He works on the API development for SFARI Gene. As a member of the informatics team, he works closely with internal and external software engineers and data analysts. He also works on the foundation’s open source software development efforts by designing, building, and maintaining software and databases for analysis of large collections of datasets.(Read More)
Lead Software Engineer
Steven Ford joined the Simons Foundation in 2014 to work with internal staff and external vendors on software development efforts throughout the foundation, and serves as technical lead in the development of the SFARI Gene API. In 2015, he was promoted to lead software engineer, leading a growing group of software engineers in this effort. Previously, Ford worked as solo software engineer for Navegación Satelital de Costa Rica (NavSat), a company that develops and implements navigation software and fleet monitoring solutions in Costa Rica. Prior to his time with NavSat, Ford spent three years volunteering with the Peace Corps in El Salvador. He holds a B.S. in computer science from Michigan State University, and is currently working on his master's in software engineering at Pennsylvania State University.
Matthew Kent, M.S.
Research Data Analyst
Matthew Kent joined the Simons Foundation in 2016 as a Research Data Analyst. He provided database support and worked on the development of the underlying data structures that are utilized by the SFARI Gene application. Prior to joining the foundation, he was a data analyst at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he assisted surgeons and research fellows with statistical analyses for research papers.
Michael Kranz joined the Simons Foundation in 2015 to maintain and improve its online publications, and serves as an advisor to SFARI Gene for user experience and front-end development of the website. He has been working in web design and development for more than a decade. Although he has done work for for-profit businesses, such as MasterCard and Design Within Reach, Kranz has focused his independent work on organizations and groups effecting social good, including Feministing, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Media Justice. He earned a B.A. in visual arts from Oberlin College.(Read More)
Research Data Analyst
Noah Lawson joined the foundation in 2016 as a research data analyst in the informatics group. Noah primarily works to further the goals of the SPARK program, assisting in the analysis of genomic and phenotypic data to help further the understanding of autism spectrum disorders. He also helps facilitate access to SFARI’s data by interfacing with researchers across multiple universities. Additionally, Noah orchestrates and manages the ETL process and the accompanying automation pipeline for the newly designed SFARI Gene website. Prior to joining the foundation, Lawson worked at R4 Technologies as a data scientist and served as a mentor for developmentally disabled individuals.(Read More)
Linux Systems Administrator
Malcolm Mallardi works to provide a stable platform for many of the foundation’s initiatives and brands. His duties include advising software engineering teams, performing large data transfers, and focusing on computing and server security. Since late 2015, he has brought his extensive background in automation to continually monitor and modernize the foundation’s server infrastructure. He works closely with research partners and cohorts to make certain that analytical data are disseminated properly. With SFARI Gene, he keeps a close eye on the infrastructure to make certain things run as smoothly as possible. He is also a passionate member of the Linux community, having contributions in the Linux kernel among several other open source and free software projects.(Read More)