Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is highlighting scientific and technical experts in the national security domain who were recently promoted to scientist and engineer Level 5, one of PNNL’s most senior research roles. These individuals have contributed significantly to groundbreaking scientific advancements, cutting-edge technology, and innovative solutions developing at PNNL.
Lauren Charles is a data scientist and nationally recognized leader with significant advancements and impacts to state-of-the-art digital biosurveillance, disease forecasting, epidemiology, risk, and chemical-biological-health defense. Like many of the scientists at PNNL, Charles’s journey has not been as traditional as you would think. She is a veterinarian who has contributed significantly to public health, epidemiology, and zoonotic diseases, as well as mathematics, wildlife biology, environmental and geographic information science, plant pathology, and bioinformatics.
“I grew up in a small town in the woods and fell in love with the environment, animals, and plants. After graduating from college, I really wanted to explore what else was out there,” said Charles. “I moved on to get a master’s degree in plant pathology doing both bench science and bioinformatics. Then off to veterinary school and finally my PhD where I focused a lot on zoonotic diseases and understanding movement and transmission between wildlife, agriculture, and humans.”
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By combining her knowledge in math, computer science, and engineering with her experience working with animals and nature, Charles started concentrating on wildlife population health, epidemiology, ecology, and the interface between wildlife, humans, and domestic and agricultural animals. Currently, Charles focuses on One Health and national security solutions with the goal of preventing disease outbreaks from occurring across the human, animal, or plant populations.
“I am excited about One Health and machine learning for the possibility of truly integrating humans, animals, the climate and environment, and plants into one system to be able to understand the intricacies and truly take a One Health approach,” said Charles. “PNNL is the place to do this type of research. We have the data science, software and data engineering capabilities that can work within a cloud infrastructure of high-performance computing.”