ASHLEY VAN ZEELAND, M.B. A. ’ 12, stands
at the precipice of a medical revolution.
As the cofounder and CEO of Cypher
Genomics, a company at the forefront of
genomic interpretation, she’s a major
player in shaping the future of healthcare.
While working with Scripps Translational
Science Institute on genetic medicine
research, Van Zeeland became intrigued
by the prospect of whole-genome analysis.
This drive would lead to the genesis of
Cypher Genomics, which benefitted greatly
from her M.B.A. education at the Rady
School of Management.
“[UC San Diego] gave me all the tools
I needed to be able to still be a scientist and
understand scientific aims and problems
and technologies, but also understand the
viewpoints of how to solve problems from
more of a business perspective,” she says.
Cypher Genomics’ first patient was
Lilly Grossman, who had lived her entire
life with an idiopathic human disease—
a hard-to-diagnose affliction that is
unresponsive to standard treatment.
Lilly bounced from specialist to specialist
before Cypher Genomics’ method of
genome sequencing uncovered a key
mutation in Lilly’s DNA. Correctly identi-
fied, her disease was then targeted, and
where doctors said she would likely only
live to 20, the soon-to-be college freshman
now has a full life expectancy.
Cypher Genomics was recently acquired
by Human Longevity Inc., led by another
Triton pioneer in genomics, J. Craig Venter,
Muir ’72, Ph.D. ’75. Today, Van Zeeland is
the company’s chief technology officer,
helping build the world’s largest database
of genomic data to transform medicine and
improve the quality of life the world over.
—Sherilyn Reus, Sixth ’ 16
DAVID PETERSON, M. A. ’05, is a master
of languages—he has learned nearly 20,
can speak a bit of eight, and has created 40.
A luminary in the constructed language
(or “conlang”) community, Peterson is
technically-minded with a literary streak
and a highly sought-after creative spark.
While earning his master’s degree in
linguistics at UC San Diego, Peterson took
what was once a small hobby and developed
it into a full-time career. Scribbling in his
notebooks, Peterson’s first attempt at
conlang was “Megdevi,” which Peterson
describes as little more than “ a fancy,
bizarre way to speak English.” From then
on, Peterson dove into more complex worlds
of fictional languages—far from English,
yet mirroring idiosyncrasies of natural
languages for much more realistic results.
According to Peterson, creating language
“At UC San Diego, there’s a tangible
is strikingly similar to programming,
puzzle-making or problem-solving, and
combines a respect for grammar and a keen
sense of aesthetics. Peterson is best known
for creating the Dothraki and High Valyrian
languages for the hit HBO series Game of
Thrones, but has also created languages for
other television series and feature films.
Additionally, Peterson served as a
cofounder and original board member of the
Language Creation Society, also serving as
its president from 2011 to 2014. Peterson
has authored two books, including the
best-selling Art of Language Invention
(2015), which landed him beside Trevor Noah
on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and is
packed with early linguistic insights gleaned
from his days at UC San Diego.
—Sherilyn Reus, Sixth ’ 16
sense that something big is happening
and we’re all going to be a part of it.”
“Creating a language is strikingly
similar to programming, puzzle-
making or problem-solving.”