Erick Loomis works as a scientist in the Applied Genomics department at Helix, a genomics technology company that develops consumer genetic profiling services and products. Loomis graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Science in Genetics in 2007. He then returned to Davis a year later and completed a Ph.D. in Genetics in 2013.
From academia to the private sector
Loomis confidently traces his success back to his experiences at UC Davis. As a student seeking his academic niche, advisors gave him the freedom he needed to explore and pursue his interests. Loomis took core courses and electives to build a foundation in genetics and genomics.
“I still use the basic bioinformatics skills that I learned from the Integrative Genetics and Genomic graduate program bioinformatics class, and collaborations with the Genome Center Cores provided me with early access to the latest platforms on both the wet and dry lab sides,” Loomis says.
His framework of understanding enabled him to succeed in his graduate studies, where his research was amplified by the rise of DNA sequencing technologies. Although he never planned on leaving academia, Loomis began to notice many opportunities in private sector research. Toward the end of grad school and during his work as a postdoc, the prospects of private industry became more and more intriguing.
“The breadth of my genetics training has been especially useful for finding a job, first as a postdoc in cancer epigenetics at Imperial College London, and now as an applied genomics scientist at Helix,” says Loomis.
Helix is a genetics company founded to educate clients on their DNA profiles and connect them with products and services to inform health, fitness, nutrition and more.
At Helix, Loomis evaluates and develops DNA-driven products based on the genetic data collected from consumers. By empowering clients with new genetic data about themselves, the goal is to equip individuals to better answer questions about their health, nutrition, ancestry and more. According to Loomis, his multidisciplinary job mixes statistics, genomics, research and communications with both science and non-science audiences.
Building a foundation at UC Davis
From his beginning as an undergraduate student through the completion of his graduate studies, Loomis feels that Davis has always been open and welcoming to him. Although top-tier science education can be extremely competitive, Loomis’ experiences as an Aggie were different.
The scientific process requires a collaborative approach, and research opportunities at UC Davis provided Loomis with many first-hand experiences in working effectively with other people in labs and science classes. He also enjoyed the diversity of academic talent across campus, as the members of his graduate group came from many different scientific backgrounds.
“My peers came from backgrounds in plant/animal breeding, stem cells, cancer, basic biology, molecular biology, population genetics and more,” Loomis recalls.
He encourages current and future genetics students to learn to code, even if just a bit. As computer language is becoming integral across more and more labs, it is becoming increasingly important for young scientists to have some base in coding and programming.
As a student, Loomis received the UC Davis Graduate Studies Floyd and Mary Schwall Dissertation Year Fellowship, the 2012 Young Investigator Award from the National Fragile X Foundation and a Graduate Student Association travel grant to attend an American Society of Human Genetics conference.
Loomis enjoys spending his free time in the great outdoors with his wife, Lashley Simmons, whether it be on the lakeside or the mountainside. As former members of the UC Davis Waterski Team, it’s no surprise that these two like to stay active outdoors.