Simcox named BIRCWH Scholar

Photo of Judi Simcox.
Assistant professor Judi Simcox.

Biochemistry Assistant Professor Judith Simcox has been named a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Scholar at UW-Madison. The BIRCWH program supports highly-qualified early-career faculty whose research focuses on women’s health or sex and gender differences.

Simcox’s lab uses liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS) analysis to characterize lipids and understand their role in metabolic diseases. In particular, Simcox studies lipids as predictive markers for metabolic disease in African American women.

In the 1950s and 1960s, medical doctors used lipids in the blood stream, including levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, to develop a set of predictive markers for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. These markers were only validated in Caucasian males.

“Since the 1980s,” said Simcox, “it was found that these are poor predictive markers for metabolic disease in African Americans, Latinxs, and Native Americans. By performing lipidomics on the Midlife in the US (MIDUS) and Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) population studies, we’ve identified lipids that serve as predictive markers for metabolic disease in African American women, and will work to validate these results across multiple populations.”

Simcox will be working with mentors Alan Attie, Biochemistry Professor and expert in lipid metabolism; Chris Coe, a psychologist and core leader for the MIDUS study; and Kristen Malecki, director of the SHOW population study, epidemiologist and bioinformatician.

“Being selected for this grant means that I’ll have guided training in grant writing and mentoring,” said Simcox. “It also allows me to connect my research with personal passions of addressing issues of health equity, inclusion, and diversity – as well as being part of an inspiring cohort of BIRCWH scholars I can turn to for support.”

The UW-Madison BIRCWH program is funded by the NIH. The program seeks to improve women’s health by developing a scientific network of independent research programs.

The term of the BIRCWH award for scholars is two years.