Doctoral and postdoctoral training

Doctoral and postdoctoral training

In addition to our PhD in Nursing Science program, the UW School of Nursing offers several opportunities for enhanced training in specific areas of nursing science. Trainees in these programs are generally supported via fellowships.

Pre- and Post-doctoral training program in Omics and symptom science

Omics graphicTo meet the goals of precision health, there is an urgent need to develop the next generation of nursing scientists poised to lead interdisciplinary teams that integrate ‘Omics’-based measures with clinical outcomes research. To accomplish this, a concerted effort needs to be made in the training of nursing science doctoral students and postdoctoral trainees with skills necessary to incorporate and evaluate Omics (genomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, microbiome, genomics, epigenomics) in health and disease. The University of Washington School of Nursing has a long history in building biobehavioral nursing science capacity. Our goal is to expand this capacity by integrating Omics tools and interdisciplinary educational approaches into our doctoral and postdoctoral training.

The University of Washington School of Nursing has a T32 training program in Omics and symptom science, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research (T32016913). The grant provides opportunities for pre-doctoral traineeships and postdoctoral fellowships of up to 2 years to include specialized coursework and seminars and focused development in omics approaches to examine issues related to symptom science.

To be eligible for appointment for this research training program, applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents and qualified as a Registered Nurse. Pre-doctoral trainees must be accepted to the University of Washington PhD in Nursing Science Training Program. Postdoctoral fellows must have completed a research doctorate in nursing science or related field by the time of appointment.

Meet our Omics and Symptom Science trainees and fellows

Pre-doctoral trainees

Karl Christie Figuracion, MSN, ARNP

Karl Cristie F. Figuracion is dedicated to working with patients with cancer, especially those with primary and secondary central nervous system malignancy. In 2011, she graduated from San Diego State University with a BSN and worked as an inpatient oncology nurse. Shortly after, she moved to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke University School of Nursing Adult-Gerontology and Adult-Oncology Nurse Practitioner program. Additionally, she received clinical training at Duke Cancer Institute, Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, and graduated in 2014. During her master’s degree, she was awarded the Bonnie Jones Friedman Humanitarian Award, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and American Cancer Society Graduate Scholarship in Cancer Nurse Practice. As a nurse practitioner at the Alvord Brain Tumor Center, she is clinically trained in managing the side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy. Ms. Figuracion is interested in symptom science, understanding the mechanisms underlying, and discovering interventions to prevent and manage chronic neurological symptoms related to the brain tumor and its treatment. For her dissertation, she plans to focus on cancer survivorship and use radiomics in evaluating factors that influence cerebral atrophy among brain tumor survivors.

Angelita Utleg, MS, RN

Ms. Utleg has a BA in Biology, MS in Biomedical Science, an AS in Nursing, and a certificate in Biomedical & Regulatory Affairs. She has more than ten years of experience working in research laboratories with human samples. Her current research interest is to use a metabolomics approach to understand the relationships among symptoms, the human microbiome, and dietary lifestyle. Her dissertation is focusing on investigating the relationships among diet, fecal short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) metabolic profile, bacterial taxa, and GI symptoms in healthy women and women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). SCFA profiles may play an important role in inflammatory response and pain in a subgroup of patients with IBS. Comparing the fecal SCFA levels of healthy women and patients with IBS may shed light on the mechanisms underlying the IBS symptoms. The goal of this line of research is to enable personalized dietary recommendations based on evidence-based data that could be tested in future clinical trials to reduce IBS symptoms.

Tao Zheng, MN, RN

Tao Zheng started his nursing education at North Seattle College where he received his Licensed Practical Nursing and Registered Nursing degrees. With a passion for higher education and professional development, he then received his BSN degree from Olympic College in 2012 and his MN from the University of Washington Tacoma in 2014. Clinically, Mr. Zheng has worked in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit and clinical cardiology. In his previous position as a Clinical Nurse Educator at the University of Chicago Medicine, Mr. Zheng was heavily involved in nursing research and evidence-based practice projects. He is interested in symptom science among patients and caregivers in the advanced heart failure population, particularly in individuals living with mechanical circulatory support devices. For his dissertation, Zheng plans to focus on fatigue and sleep-related impairment and discovering interventions to promote positive patient and caregiver outcomes in this population.

Post-doctoral trainees

Jonathan Auld, PhD, RN

Prior to my PhD in nursing science from Oregon Health & Science University, I received my Masters in Science degree and clinical nurse leader certification from the University of Portland. My career goal is to become an influential nurse scientist with an innovative and productive interdisciplinary program of research dedicated to understanding the interaction between heart failure symptom biology, patient behaviors, and patient outcomes. A central aim of my research is to elucidate how symptom biology and the patient response to symptoms in people with heart failure differ in order to develop more targeted and effective interventions. The goals for my post-doctoral fellowship in Omics and Symptom Science include; 1) developing expertise with advance longitudinal statistical methods to examine heterogeneity and trajectories in biologic variables, symptoms and outcomes and 2) developing knowledge of proteomics, epigenomics, and the study of symptoms in cardiovascular disorders.

Hyejeong Hong, PhD, RN

Dr. Hyejeong Hong received her PhD in Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, and she earned her master’s degree in Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her dissertation work focused on developing a prediction model of aminoglycoside-induced hearing loss among multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) infected individuals in South Africa. Her research interest is tuberculosis susceptibility, bioinformatics, and global health. She expanded the work she completed as a doctoral student by pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship on the Omics and Symptom Science T32 training program at the University of Washington, Seattle, supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research (T32NR016913). As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Hong has had the opportunity to study host-pathogen interactions and genetic control of the innate immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection. The goal of her current project is to identify mechanisms by which some individuals resist Mtb infection. Her clinical practice as a primary care family nurse practitioner encompasses health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses.

Sarah Martha, PhD, RN

Dr. Sarah Martha received her BSN and PhD from the University of Kentucky, College of Nursing, and holds a BS in Biology from Portland State University. Her primary research interest is in advancing our understanding of the pathology of acute ischemic stroke (AIS) and the trajectory of recovery in order to improve patient symptoms, cognitive and functional outcomes, and quality of life. Her passion for AIS research emerges as a result of her professional and academic background, blending her experiences in neurosurgical intensive care nursing with her training as a bench scientist. Dr. Martha’s dissertation research focused on understanding neuroinflammation and pathology relating to AIS outcomes in rodent models and patients. In 2018, she was selected to participate in the National Institute of Nursing Research Summer Genetics Institute. Currently, her research explores the potential of metabolomics for precision health in AIS pathology and associated symptoms and outcomes.


Jonika Hash, PhD, RN

Jonika Hash, PhD, RN completed her PhD in Nursing Science at the University of Washington in 2017. Her research involves sleep health among young children and their parents experiencing adversity. She is exploring how sleep health relates to adversity, social-emotional development, and biomarkers and on promoting the health and wellbeing of children and their parents, particularly those in underserved communities. She is currently the PI of a Sigma International funded research grant “Sleep health knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices among underserved mothers with a history of prenatal depression.”

Yvette Rodriguez, BSN, RN

Alexi Vasbinder, BSN, RN

Alexi Vasbinder, BSN, RN completed her BS in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2015 and her BSN from Michigan State University in 2016. Her research focuses on one of the most commonly reported symptoms in cancer survivors, fatigue. Radiation is hypothesized to cause fatigue through pathways of inflammation; however, the mechanisms driving long-term fatigue (LTF) after treatment has ceased, is less clear. For breast cancer survivors, radiation can also cause reductions in heart function, which can produce LTF. Evidence also supports the role of oxidative stress in LTF. Given multiple pathways are likely involved in LTF in patients receiving radiation, biomarkers targeting different mechanisms may provide greater insight into the mechanisms leading to LTF and future interventions. Ms. Vasbinder is using samples from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Life and Longevity After Cancer (LILAC) in her dissertation project which is funded by an individual NRSA from NINR 1F31NR018588.

Apply: pre-doctoral applicants

All application materials for the PhD in Nursing Science Program need to be submitted as per graduate application instructions by December 2.

In your application materials to the PhD in Nursing Science Program, please denote in the Research Focus statement section of the application that you would like to be considered for the Omics and Symptom Science Training Program.

Apply: post-doctoral applicants

Post-doctoral applicants

The priority deadline for post-doctoral fellowship applications is January 31.

Applicants should provide:

  1. a cover letter explaining what they hope to gain from a postdoctoral fellowship, including research interests and goals and how they align with the training provided in this T32.
  2. a copy of their current CV
  3. 1-2 samples of scholarly writing (journal articles, essays)
  4. 3 letters of recommendation. These letters should be sent electronically directly to the training program directors from the recommender (not from the applicant) and should speak to the applicant’s scholarly abilities, areas for growth and future potential.

All application materials need to be sent electronically to the Training Director Heitkemper’s assistant Ms. Wendy Herzog ( by January 31.

For more information about the Omics and Symptom Science Training Program, please contact either of the co-directors Dr. Margaret Heitkemper ( or Dr. Hilaire Thompson (


Engaging with Aging Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Gerontological Nursing

To build the science around healthy aging, there is an urgent need to develop the next generation of nursing scientists. The University of Washington School of Nursing has a long history in developing nursing science in the care of older adults. We are pleased to announce the de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging is offering one Engaging with Aging Post-Doctoral Fellow position to start in summer 2019, funded by a School of Nursing donor. Engaging with Aging (EWA) is a framework and set of processes that agers may choose to use to proactively manage their daily living in the face of normally emerging and progressing maturational developments with or without the presence of pathology.

The fellowship

The purpose of the post-doctoral position is to prepare individuals for research careers in universities, health care agencies, government agencies or industry. The post-doctoral fellow will be supported for one year of training with a second year of funding available based on satisfactory progress in the first year. The individual will develop skills to create further independent funding to support their career, spend time publishing work from their dissertation and/or their mentors’ research studies, and spend at least 50% effort on developing and conducting a study in which the purpose will be to improve our understanding of the concept of Engaging with Aging.

You can read more about approaching older adult care and research from the perspective of Engaging with Aging here, in an editorial from de Tornyay Center director, Basia Belza, and Associate Professor Emeritus Janet Primomo.

The Engaging with Aging concept is inspired in part by a blog, written by UW School of Nursing emeritus faculty member, Doris Carnevali. You can read the blog here.

Program aims

  • Recruit and retain a qualified diverse cadre of post-doctoral fellows to conduct gerontological research
  • Provide interdisciplinary didactic research training in the fundamental theories, methods, and skills necessary to conduct gerontological research
  • Facilitate the ability of postdoctoral trainees to develop research expertise through ongoing research experience in aging that integrates mentoring by interdisciplinary teams, exposure to and immersion in ongoing research activities, and structured feedback and critique
  • Mentor trainees in the ethical conduct of research, especially in diverse vulnerable populations
  • Evaluate the training program structures, processes, and outcomes on an ongoing and annual basis


  • Complete a PhD in Nursing Science degree during or after 2017 and by the time the position starts
  • Be eligible for U.S. employment
  • Show evidence of a program of research that supports the concept of Engaging with Aging
  • Preferred qualification: Applicant is currently a registered nurse

Application information

  • Applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, transcript, and 1-2 pieces of sample writing (e.g. articles, grants).
  • Three letters of recommendation. Letters should be sent directly to from the recommender, not the applicant. Letters should address the applicants’ scholarly abilities, area for growth, and future potential in academia. Letters need to be received by the application deadline.
  • The applicant’s cover letter should include responses to the following questions. Each question has a maximum of 200 words.
  1. How do your research interests match with the concept of Engaging with Aging for healthy older adults living on their own?
  2. The EWA Post-doctoral Fellowship will be required to develop a research project around the concept of EWA. What ideas do you have for this project?
  3. What do you hope to get out of doing a post-doctoral fellowship and what are your 3 and 5-year professional goals?

We are no longer accepting applications. 

Any questions can be directed to

Diversity is a core value of the University of Washington. We believe the power of diversity enriches all of us by exposing us to a range of ways to understand and engage with the world, identify challenges, and to discover, design and deliver solutions.

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Predoctoral Scholarship in Gerontological Nursing

The de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging offers a scholarship for students pursuing a PhD in Nursing Science with an emphasis in gerontological nursing. Recipients will receive full tuition for autumn, winter and spring quarters with a small stipend or salary for up to two years.

Ph.D. applicants who are accepted for admission will be considered for the de Tornyay Center Predoctoral Scholarship in Gerontological Nursing and notified of this offer in their acceptance letter.

Ph.D. program applicants are encouraged to discuss their specific area of interest in gerontological nursing when they complete the online PhD application.

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