Spotlight On: Andrew Allen, PhD


Andrew Allen is a principal investigator in the Center for Combinatorial Gene Regulation. He is originally from Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is completely surrounded by national forests and outdoor activities were always his favorite things to do. In his free time, Allen enjoys beach activities like kayaking and paddle boarding. He also has interests in fishing and dog walking. Allen is currently working to master training his dog. Allen just donated several books from his personal collection to the Chapel Hill library donation room. 

What are some of your contributions to the Duke CEGS/CCGR project?
I am responsible for leading the statistical methodology development components of the CEGS.

What excites you most about this project?
I am excited about pushing the boundaries of what we can measure and learn about the genetics of gene regulation. I have learned a ton about the details of the perturbation assays that are being employed and that has opened up avenues for methodology development.

Where do you spend most of your time during work and what do you enjoy about it?
In a dry lab, in front of my computer. I like that I can extract the essence of a problem, translate it to mathematics and use that to generate answers.

What does your typical work day look like?
We just got a new puppy so I am getting up before the sun rises to let the dogs out etc. I get a workout in and then, depending on the day, usually start zoom meetings 8am or 9am. I have a bunch of meetings, and in between them I try to get other things done like writing papers and developing methods.

What do you like most about what you do? And, in what ways do you inspire others?
I like that I get to learn new stuff almost everyday. I am not sure this is 'inspiring', but I work with a lot of students and they generally have a lot of good ideas without knowing how to actualize those ideas or how to fit them in relation to what is already known. I can help them with that process.

How has working at Duke changed or impacted your life?
At Duke, I have been free to let my career evolve naturally in a way that followed the science and my interests. It is hard to overstate how positive that has been.

Did you expect to work and train at Duke? Why did you decide to join Duke?
As an undergrad, I never would have thought I would end up being faculty at Duke. As a PhD student, I started to expand what I thought was possible and considered several academic jobs but chose Duke because of combination of reputation, pay, and quality of life.

What was your major in undergrad? Does it align to your career now?
Math. Aligns very well for some of what I do, but I had ZERO biology so I am constantly learning basic things that are new to me

In undergrad, what career path did you see for yourself?
Math professor/teacher. This was the only thing I thought people with math degrees did

What advice would you give to someone who doesn't know exactly what they want to do in undergrad?
Keep your options open and open your mind to those options. Don't think that you cannot do something or embark on a new path because of the path you are currently on.

Who inspired you growing up?
My grandfather. He was an impressive guy. Fighter pilot. Best story teller ever. And, he knew how to do everything.

What is something you learned recently?
Poodles have webbed feet for swimming.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Australia and New Zealand. I have never been and would love to visit, but I am a bit intimidated by the time in flight.

If you had to choose one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Anything New Mexican. My culinary manifesto is that green chile makes everything taste better.

Name two interesting facts about yourself.
I was the NM state champion in archery as a kid. I can make a reasonably realistic jaguar sound.

What are three things you can't live without? Why?
Wifi. Air conditioning. Green chile. Self explanatory I think.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep an open mind about what is possible and have faith in yourself.


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