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10 Scientists Rocking Our World

Daniela Witten, Statistically Significant

Daniela Witten, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, has an impressive pedigree. Both of her parents work in Princeton at the Institute for Advanced Study, the same hallowed research center that served as the academic home of Albert Einstein. In fact, Witten's father, Edward Witten, had a little something to do with string theory, as did her mother, Chiara Nappi.

But Daniela Witten is proving to be a great thinker in her own right and own field -- the application of statistics to medicine. Specifically, Witten uses artificial intelligence programs to analyze the enormous amounts of data coming from DNA sequencing and gene expression. The ultimate goal is to make sense of a person's genetic code and use that information to develop personalized treatments for diseases.

Witten earned her doctorate in biostatistics from Stanford University and joined the faculty of the University of Washington School of Public Health. In September 2011, she received an Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. The honor enables exceptional, early-career scientists to move into independent research positions directly upon completion of their graduate degrees. In other words, Witten is in the game, while some of her colleagues still labor through their post-doctoral training. It's why Forbes Magazine recognized her as one of "The 30 Under 30" and featured her research in the science category of the award. And it may be why we could enjoy a customized cure for cancer in the near future.