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Associate Investigator

Social and Behavioral Research Branch

Senior Advisor to the Director for Genomics Engagement

Office of the Director

Head, Engagement Methods Unit

Social and Behavioral Research Branch




B.S. University of Georgia

Ph.D. Emory University


Dr. Chris Gunter earned her Ph.D. in human genetics at Emory University in 1998, studying fragile X syndrome and mechanisms of dynamic mutation. She then moved to Case Western Reserve University and completed both postdoctoral work on X chromosome inactivation and an editorial fellowship at the journal Human Molecular Genetics. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. Gunter served as a senior editor for the journal Nature, handling the areas of genetics, genomics, and gene therapy. She then joined the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology as the director of research affairs, where her responsibilities included creating an academic environment, teaching at the Universities of Alabama Huntsville and Birmingham, and providing scientific content for multiple audiences. After serving as the Program Committee Chair for the American Society of Human Genetics, she worked with students from Stanford University to study how gender influences participation in scientific conferences, and whether public discussion of the imbalance can have an effect.

Most recently, at the Emory University School of Medicine and the Marcus Autism Center, Dr. Gunter coordinated genetics activities and science communication, working with researchers and the public to publish and translate scientific findings. She served as the PI for the Dissemination and Outreach Core of the Center's NIH Autism Center of Excellence grant and is continuing her work on autism genomics in humans and nonhuman primate models.

Currently, she is a frequent lecturer on the editorial process for publishing in scientific journals, the changing landscape of publication, and the importance of outreach and engagement using all media. She helped establish and serves in editorial positions for the journal Molecular Case Studies and the preprint server bioRxiv. She is also on twitter.

Scientific Summary

As part of the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of NHGRI, the Engagement Methods Unit (EMU) headed by Dr. Gunter has three major scientific goals:

  • Develop new measures for genetic literacy and understand what factors affect understanding of genetics. Because genetic research drives innovation and involves much of the public, it is equally important to assess its impact on genetic literacy. Our unit updated and administered a set of genetic literacy measures to thousands of people, showing that although this literacy has improved over the past decade, genetics and genomics education are still widely needed. We continue to analyze social and psychological modifiers of genetic literacy, especially in complex genetics and gene x environment contexts.
  • Evaluate impact and effectiveness of dissemination of genomic knowledge, with a focus on behavioral conditions. Given the wide range of methods for communicating science, how can we know the “impact” of any of our efforts? Differences in methods and metrics between studies pose a significant barrier to understanding both short- and long-term effects of science communication and engagement. Here, the Engagement Methods Unit will use mixed-methods studies and adapt existing frameworks to evaluate the effectiveness of specific projects in human genetics, such as social media campaigns, science festivals, or public lecture series.
  • Collaborate with practitioners to create an evidence base for genomic applications. The Engagement Methods Unit will leverage Dr. Gunter’s existing work with autism as an example of a situation where genomic knowledge needs to be disseminated to families and practitioners, by working with experts to create and evaluate decision tools around genetic testing.


Google Scholar search for Chris Gunter

Wang A, Little ID, Carter D, Pham S, Piper M, Ramirez-Rena GM, Telaak S, Gunter C. Provider-reported experiences, barriers, and perspectives on genetic testing as part of autism diagnosis. PLOS ONE. 2024. [PubMed]

Gunter C, Green ED. To boldly go: Unpacking the NHGRI's bold predictions for human genomics by 2030. American Journal of Human Genetics. 2023. [PubMed]

Gunter C, Solomon BD. Whither social media and clinical genetics? American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A. 2023 [PubMed]

Little ID, Koehly LM, Gunter C. Understanding changes in genetic literacy over time and in genetic research participants. American Journal of Human Genetics. 2022. [PubMed

Xhou XP et al., Integrating de novo and inherited variants in 42,607 autism cases identifies mutations in new moderate-risk genes. Nature Genetics. 2022. [PubMed

Gunter C, Harris, RA, Kovacs-Balint Z, Raveendran M, Michopoulos V, Bachevalier J, Raper J, Sanchez MM, Rogers J. Heritability of social behavioral phenotypes and preliminary associations with autism spectrum disorder risk genes in rhesus macaques: A whole exome sequencing study. Autism Research. 2022. [PubMed]

Shu C, Green Snyder L. Shen Y, Chung WK, SPARK Consortium. Imputing cognitive impairment in SPARK, a large autism cohort. Autism Research. 2022. [PubMed]

Wodka EL, Parish-Morris J, Annett RD, Carpenter L, Dillon E, Michaelson J, Kim SH, Landa R, SPARK Consortium, Kanne S. Co-occurring attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorders differentially affect males and females with autism. Clinical Neuropsychology. 2021. [PubMed

Kovacs Balint Z, Raper J, Michopolouos V, Howell LH, Gunter C, Bachevalier J, Sanchez MM. Validation of the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) to screen for atypical social behaviors in juvenile macaques. PLoS ONE. 2021. [PubMed]

Gunter C, Sinha CB, Jaquess D. Participation in a Science Festival Promotes Inclusive Science Communication around Autism Spectrum Disorder. bioRxiv. 2021 [Preprint]

Green ED, Gunter C, Biesecker LG, Di Francesco V, Easter CL, Feingold EA, Felsenfeld AL, Kaufman DJ, Ostrander EA, Pavan WJ, Phillippy AM, Wise AL, Gupta Dayal J, Kish BJ, Mandich A, Wellington CR, Wetterstrand KA, Bates SA, Leja D, Vasquez S, Gahl WA, Graham BJ, Kastner DL, Liu P, Lyman Rodriguez L, Solomon BD, Bonham VB, Brody LC, Hutter CM, Manolio TA, & National Human Genome Research Institute. Strategic research priorities and opportunities for improving human health at The Forefront of Genomics. Nature. 2020. [PubMed

Gunter C and Chung WK. Pediatric Genetics: Rare Is Common. CSHL Molecular Case Studies. 6(3):a00558. 2020. [PubMed]

Fombonne E, Green Snyder L, Daniels A, Feliciano P, Chung W, SPARK Consortium. Psychiatric and Medical Profiles of Autistic Adults in the SPARK Cohort. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2020. [PubMed]

Fombonne E, Goin-Kochel RP, O’Roak BJ, SPARK Consortium. Beliefs in Vaccine as Causes of Autism Among SPARK Cohort Caregivers. Vaccine, 38(7), 1794-1803. 2020. [PubMed]

Telis N, Glassberg E, Pritchard JK, Gunter C. Public Discussion Affects Question Asking at Academic Conferences. American Journal of Human Genetics, 105(1), 189-197. 2019. [PubMed]

Wolpe PR, Rommelfanger KS; Drafting and Reviewing Delegates of the BEINGS Working Groups. Ethical principles for the use of human cellular biotechnologies. Nature Biotechnology, 35(11), 1050-1058. 2017. [PubMed]

Gunter C. Seeing the spectrum entire. Nature, 524(7565), 288-289. 2015. doi:10.1038/524288a.

Oh SS, Galanter J, Thakur N, Pino-Yanes M, Barcelo NE, White MJ, de Bruin DM, Greenblatt RM, Bibbins-Domingo K, Wu AHB, Borrell LN, Gunter C, Powe NR, Burchard EG. Diversity in Clinical and Biomedical Research: A promise yet to be fulfilled. PLOS Medicine, 12(12), e1001918. 2015. [PubMed]

Klin A, Wetherby AM, Woods J, Saulnier C, Stapel-Wax J, Klaiman C, Jones W, Rubin E, Scahill L, Call N, Bearss K, Gunter C, Courtemanche CJ, Lemieux A, Cox JC, Mandell DS, Van Decar JP, Miller RA, Shireman CL (2015). Toward Innovative, Cost-Effective, and Systemic Solutions to Improve Outcomes and Well-Being of Military Families Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 88(1), 73-79. 2015. [PubMed]

MacArthur DG, Manolio TA, Dimmock DP, Rehm HL, Shendure J, Abecasis GR, Adams D, Altman RB, Antonarakis SE, Ashley EA, Barrett JC, Biesecker LG, Conrad DF, Cooper GM, Cox NJ, Daly MJ, Gerstein MB, Goldstein DB, Hirschhorn JN, Leal SM, Pennacchio LA, Stamatoyannopoulos JA, Sunyaev SR, Valle D, Voight BF, Winckler W, Gunter C. Guidelines for investigating causality of sequence variants in human disease. Nature, 508(7497), 469–476. 2014. [PubMed]

Gelbart M, Gunter C. Conference Scene: Accelerating public awareness in the age of personal genetics. Personalized Medicine, 10, 535–538, 2013. [PubMed]

Gunter C. Science:  It’s a role model thing. Genome Biology, 14(2), 105. 2013. [PubMed]

Gunter C. What it’s like to be an editor at a conference. Genome Biology, 14(10), 136. 2013. [PubMed]

Gunter C, Osterrieder A. A modest proposal for an outreach section in scientific publications. Genome Biology, 13(8), 168. 2012. [PubMed]

ENCODE Project Consortium, Bernstein BE, Birney E, Dunham I, Green ED, Gunter C, Snyder M. An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome. Nature, 489(7414), 57-74. 2012. [PubMed]

Lamb N, Myers RM, Gunter C. Education and personalized genomics:  deciphering the public’s genomic health report. Personalized Medicine, 6(6), 681-690. 2009. [PubMed]

Toronto International Data Release Workshop Authors, Birney E, Hudson TJ, Green ED, Gunter C, Eddy S, Rogers J, Harris JR, Ehrlich SD, Apweiler R, Austin CP, Berglund L, Bobrow M, Bountra C, Brookes AJ, Cambon-Thomsen A, Carter NP, Chisholm RL, Contreras JL, Cooke RM, Crosby WL, Dewar K, Durbin R, Dyke SO, Ecker JR, El Emam K, Feuk L, Gabriel SB, Gallacher J, Gelbart WM, Granell A, Guarner F, Hubbard T, Jackson SA, Jennings JL, Joly Y, Jones SM, Kaye J, Kennedy KL, Knoppers BM, Kyrpides NC, Lowrance WW, Luo J, MacKay JJ, Martín-Rivera L, McCombie WR, McPherson JD, Miller L, Miller W, Moerman D, Mooser V, Morton CC, Ostell JM, Ouellette BF, Parkhill J, Raina PS, Rawlings C, Scherer SE, Scherer SW, Schofield PN, Sensen CW, Stodden VC, Sussman MR, Tanaka T, Thornton J, Tsunoda T, Valle D, Vuorio EI, Walker NM, Wallace S, Weinstock G, Whitman WB, Worley KC, Wu C, Wu J, Yu J. Prepublication data sharing. Nature, 461(7261), 168-170. 2009. [PubMed]

Gunter C. Quantitative genetics. Nature, 456(7223), 719. 2008. [PubMed]

NCI-NHGRI Working Group on Replication in Association Studies, Chanock SJ, Manolio T, Boehnke M, Boerwinkle E, Hunter DJ, Thomas G, Hirschhorn JN, Abecasis G, Altshuler D, Bailey-Wilson JE, Brooks LD, Cardon LR, Daly M, Donnelly P, Fraumeni JF Jr, Freimer NB, Gerhard DS, Gunter C, Guttmacher AE, Guyer MS, Harris EL, Hoh J, Hoover R, Kong CA, Merikangas KR, Morton CC, Palmer LJ, Phimister EG, Rice JP, Roberts J, Rotimi C, Tucker MA, Vogan KJ, Wacholder S, Wijsman EM, Winn DM, Collins FS. Replicating genotype-phenotype associations. Nature, 447(7145), 655-660. 2007. [PubMed]

Engagement Methods Unit Staff

Nicola Sugden
Nicola Sugden, Ph.D.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Engagement Methods Unit
Molly Bird
Molly Bird, Ph.D.
  • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
  • Policy and Program Analysis Branch
Gabriela Ramirez Renta
Gabriela Ramirez Renta
  • Postbaccalaureate Fellow
  • Engagement Methods Unit
Ann Hilliard
Anna Hilliard
  • Postbaccalaureate Fellow
  • Engagement Methods Unit
Lily Barna
Lily Barna
  • Postbaccalaureate Fellow
  • Engagement Methods Unit

Last updated: March 5, 2024