Most couldn’t guess what the future would hold for someone who graduates summa cum laude with majors in chemistry, computer science, and mathematics. With Eric Stahlberg, the world was gifted with someone poised to make a mark in the field of bioinformatics and the fight against cancer.
After graduating from Wartburg in 1986, Eric continued in his studies at The Ohio State University, earning a Ph.D. in computation chemistry and completing a post-doctoral appointment with the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. He began his career as a scientific programmer at Cray Research Inc., working on molecular modeling software. He continued his career as a systems manager at the Ohio Supercomputer Center in Columbus, where he started working in high-performance computing in the field of bioinformatics, which combines mathematics, computer science, information engineering, statistics, and biology to interpret and analyze biological data. In 2001, he began efforts in Ohio to build statewide capabilities to enable scientists across the state to use greatly expanded levels of high-performance computing for their bioinformatics research in medicine and agriculture.
In 2007, he became a computational scientist in residence at Wittenberg University in Ohio, where he stayed through 2010. His move to Maryland in 2011 was a jump geographically and professionally. Eric saw the opportunity to use supercomputing for cancer research at the national level. He became the director of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research Bioinformatics Core at Frederick National Laboratory. His leadership helped build a collaborative relationship between the national lab and the National Cancer Institute.
In 2012, the fight against cancer became personal as Eric’s sister, Carla Stahlberg Schulz ’86, developed a rare form of cancer. He saw the gap between cancer research and the treatments available to cancer patients. As Carla says, “He was determined to narrow that gap by using bioinformatics. He led colleagues in collaborating with the Department of Energy and accelerated the progress in precision oncology and computing.” Not only is Carla grateful for Eric’s work personally as a cancer survivor, as a physician she has seen his work enhance the care of her own patients.
In 2017, Eric was recognized among Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100, which honors leadership in advancing government agency missions through information technology. He was named the Frederick National Laboratory’s director of biomedical informatics and data science in 2018. Outside of work, Eric has been involved with his local church, Boy Scouts of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. “His faith in God took him where he needed to be in order to fully pursue bioinformatics and predictive oncology to help many patients,” a nominator wrote.