Who is Jane Roskams?
Dr Jane Roskams was born and raised on the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish sea. An avid singer, speller, dancer and poet in a family of five sisters, she claims to only have passed high school science because her friends set the periodic table, key formulae and biological phyla classifications to music for her to memorize. She found science intriguing but hard to memorize (as evidenced by some highly questionable grades on report cards), but stuck with it because it was kind of hard to work towards a future in discovery, adventure and saving the planet and exploring others, without it. After graduating with a BSc Hons degree from the University of Wales, she hopped on a plane with a single suitcase to travel to the US on a scholarship for her Master’s, choosing Communications at the University of Idaho. She then migrated to East LA, where she lived in a Latino community, learned Spanish, and lived and worked as a community journalist and science writer - planning on translating geek-speak science into socially relevant bite-size pieces, for the >90% of people in the world who struggle with Science's complexity. In LA, she volunteered with a group identifying individuals on skid row who needed minimal intervention to get them the living space, support and community they need to move on with their lives. Recognizing the complexity of addiction, PTSD, poverty-related stress, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse that had driven many of them to that point in their lives, she decided to return to graduate school and do research to understand how the complex interplay of life's challenges on the genetics of how our brain functions, underscores our mental health.
Jane Roskams is now a neuroscientist whose work spans the worlds of Open Science, Citizen Science and Health Data. After leaving LA for an adventurous solo drive across the USA in an ailing bright blue MGB, she joined the newly minted Neuroscience graduate program at Penn State College of Medicine (Hershey), concurrently becoming their first Ph.D graduate and producing her son, Dylan. Her thesis explored brain iron dysregulation in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and how heavy metals like Aluminum and Lead might hijack iron transport to cause brain damage across the lifespan. She then completed fellowships in Genomics (at NIH) and Neuroscience and Neuropathology (specializing in Alzheimer's Disease) at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, becoming a widely recognized expert in regeneration in the olfactory system. In her transition to founding a new lab at UBC in Vancouver, Canada, she collaborated with the founding fathers of the Human Genome Project on writing and editing the first instructional tome on how we analyze multiple genomes (Genome Analysis: A Lab Manual, CSHL Press), much of which was written in the middle of the night while feeding her #2, Breeshey. At UBC, for 2 decades she advanced through every academic rank as she led a highly interdisciplinary, international. collaborative research team, testing how the brain and spinal cord generate “plasticity” using glia and stem cells to drive brain repair when challenged with degenerative disease and injury. Jane is a sought-after science communicator, having played an instrumental role in developing an online gateway to the brain - BrainFacts.org (at the Society for Neuroscience), and is a long-established thought leader in developing inclusive programs for cross-cultural international neuroscience education (with the International Brain Research Organization, IBRO).
Shortly after also serving as Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary studies - and adding one final amazing human to her family (Makalo) - Jane took leave from UBC in 2014 to become Executive Director at the Allen Institute, facilitating their expansion into their second decade of operations, the move into their new HQ, and an expansion of their projects and alliances. She simultaneously served on the steering committee for the US BRAIN initiative, on an advisory to Governor Jay Inslee (Life Sciences and Global health), worked with Senator Patty Murray’s HHS committee on 21st Century Cures, and advised the Obama OSTP, and the Clinton Campaign. She has also worked with the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine in neuroscience policy, removing bias and barriers to enhance scientific diversity, and developing standards for cloud-based data sharing across health conditions, and across international consortia. Jane has led research consortia across multiple organizatiions, and specializes in navigating the interface of the academic, non-profit, tech and governmental sectors in Canada, the US and Europe. Through her additional work with the BRAIN Initiative Alliance and in early childhood development with the Gates Foundation, she has coordinated teams in philanthropy-fueled discovery, and is a passionate proponent for enhancing diversity in STEM, In her work with IBRO (Paris) and the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF, Karolinska Institute. Sweden), Jane has recently led the development of online and hands-on educational workshops to open up the opportunity playing field for diverse, multi-lingual individuals in neuroscience and brain data science - that are now being adapted worldwide in a variety of online educational curricula. She has received multiple international awards for training and mentoring diverse individuals in science and technology.
Jane’s attention is currently focused on working with cross-functional teams to expand the global ecosystem for Open Science, and broaden public engagement in accelerating scientific discovery in big data (Citizen Science). With a passion for science translation and developing new ways to facilitate open data-driven discovery to drive real-world impact, she is a leader of the Canadian Open Neuroscience Platform - developing brain data sharing interoperability and analytics across > 15 academic and research centres in Canada, and an advisor to multiple international technology-driven ventures in brain science and AI. Jane co-leads one of the first international projects in Citizen Neuroscience (based at UW) to be funded by the NSF and NIH, and is an advisor on several other citizen science programs. She has been involved in the development of an AI start-up for understanding the coordination of body and mind in health and disease (Level42.ai), an outreach-based new program for crowdsourced data-driven discovery in Alzheimer’s (Being Patient.com), and currently serves on the advisory for a number of foundations companies and academic consortia, including the Wellcome Trust – in their newly developed Mental Health Priority Area, advising on the development of the first global databank to monitor, assess, and deliver interventions for young adults with anxiety and depression.
She just delivered a TED Talk on embracing diversity to drive discovery by Democratizing science at the intersection of Open and Citizen Science.