Chris Witwer

Chris Witwer is the Compliance Manager at the Institute for Systems Biology.  She is in charge of making sure that all the human subjects research studies are conducted within ethical standards.  Chris has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Texas.  She had hoped to become the next great American novelist, but found herself unqualified for many jobs and realized she needed to find something else to do. When Chris went blind in one eye and doctors fixed her eye, they were shocked that the treatment had worked. She felt really uncomfortable about their reaction and later found out that there were many risks of the procedure they didn’t tell her about. When she later saw a job opening related to protecting human research subjects, she decided to apply.  She didn’t know what the job was about, but she knew protecting research subjects was something she could get behind.

Chris doesn’t have a typical day.  One day it might be that someone has to submit a grant and she can help with the ethical oversight language. Another day,  Dr. Lee Hood might have a big idea and she then drops everything she is doing and works with him.  Chris’ days are often driven by what lands in her inbox throughout the day.  To her, the best part of her job is that she gets to support the scientists at ISB.  As a non-scientist, she enjoys working with researchers and learning from them.

When asked whether she would have her genes sequenced, her answer was very shocking. She explained that she and her mother both have Multiple Sclerosis and she would like to know why. She hasn’t been affected by it as much as other people.  As a result, she would be willing to donate her sequence to find out why she doesn't have many physical symptoms of MS, while other people are looking at wheelchairs six months after diagnosis.  She also wants to give hope to newly-diagnosed MS patients who are often told that they will be in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Even though she has been told that for ten years, Chris still rides her bike all the time and lives an active life. Chris is truly an amazing person who has been willing to fight against all the odds to become the person she is today.

As a person trying to find what I love, Chris has been an inspiration. One day I want to say, as she does, “this is my dream job, it’s the best job I’ve had.”