2019 Speaker Interviews, Speakers, TEDxColumbus

An Interview with Speaker Peter White

A TEDxColumbus interview with Speaker Peter White.

TEDxColumbus: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

PW: I am a genomics scientist and innovator, who from an early age was intrigued by biology and computers. In recent years I found my true vocation in a field that brings both of these disciplines together to help kids with genetic disorders.

I lead the Computational Genomics Group at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, using cutting edge DNA sequencing technology, cloud computing and bioinformatics to discover the genetic underpinnings of disease.

My own family has been touched by rare disease, and sharing in the personal experiences of the families I work with drives me to create a future where no child with genetic disease goes undiagnosed.


TEDxColumbus: What do others consider to be the most surprising thing about you?

PW: I think my teachers at school would be stunned to see me now – I was not the best student, but I have been given some incredible opportunities and I work hard as I care about what I do. When I meet new people, I try not to bring up what I do, as I am just a regular guy, married for 22 years with four kids, who enjoys drinking beer and walking the dog. One of my favorite memories is of two friends from church, that had known me for two years before they found out more about my day job, and incredulously stated “You have a PhD!!”


TEDxColumbus: What inspired your interest in TEDxColumbus?

PW: I really enjoy talking to members of the public about genomics, making them aware of what is now possible, and how advances in genomic science and precision medicine are impacting healthcare. I’m also very passionate about rare diseases and want to share the story of the too often forgotten kids impacted by genetic disorders.


TEDxColumbus: What are you most looking forward to as a TEDxColumbus speaker/performer?

PW: Nothing, I’m terrified. Seriously though, it’s an incredible honor to have been asked to do this, and a tremendous privilege to have those twelve minutes to share my story.


TEDxColumbus: What previous TED or TEDxColumbus talk was most meaningful to you?

PW: Brene Brown talking about vulnerability and shame has been the most impactful TED talk for me. Science is not traditionally a place where showing vulnerability is modelled, but it has been one thing that has helped me be a better leader, and is something I try to model on a daily basis.


TEDxColumbus: Why​ ​would you encourage others to attend TEDxColumbus?

PW: It’s an opportunity to hear ideas and stories from people that are likely to be very different to you, yet will invite you in to connect with them and understand a little of what drives them and what their passions are.


TEDxColumbus: What inspires you about the future of Columbus?

PW: In the 11 years my family and I have lived in Columbus we have seen tremendous growth and development of our city. My own workplace, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has doubled in size over that time and had become one of the top Children’s hospitals in the country.


TEDxColumbus: When you host visitors from outside of Columbus, where will you typically take them?

PW: Being British, my family has a lot of visitors from the United Kingdom – shopping here is a lot less expensive than in the UK, so we often end up at Easton – FOR HOURS! With kids of our own, we enjoy taking visitors to Franklin Conservatory, our phenomenal Zoo and Science Museum. German Village is also a lot of fun, a trip to the Bookloft and Schmidt’s for Bahama Mama and cream puff is a must! We also love to walk around the local shops in Uptown Westerville – great way to spend an afternoon.


TEDxColumbus: What do you consider to be a hidden gem of Columbus?

PW: The brewery scene in Columbus is really, really good and so exciting to see it continue to grow. On the opposite side to that, the Cambridge Tea House is a fabulous small restaurant to get a real English tea and scones – honestly great for a romantic date afternoon.


TEDxColumbus: If you could give advice to yourself as a high school student, what would it be?

PW: Pursue what you love, try different things and trust that God is walking right along beside you – you are not alone.


TEDxColumbus: How did you select your career choice?

PW: I took a very non-traditional route to get into the career I have today. I pursued what I enjoyed, found a career where I can help other people and go home at the end of the day knowing I have made a difference.


TEDxColumbus: Who inspires you?

PW: As a Christian, I am very inspired by those who have devoted their careers to ministry, be that a minister working in local church, or a foreign missionary working in areas where freedom of religion is not a given.


TEDxColumbus: What is your favorite book and why?

PW: So, I truly love the Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s the story of heroes facing tremendous challenges and difficulties, and ultimately overcoming evil. My favorite character is Sam, Frodo’s friend and companion, his loyalty and bravery ultimately save the day.


And just for fun:

TEDxColumbus: Dog or Cat

PW: Dog – big time!


TEDxColumbus: NetFlix or Theater

PW: Theatre


TEDxColumbus: Facebook or Twitter

PW: Instagram


TEDxColumbus: Phone Call or Text

PW: Phone call


TEDxColumbus: Form or Function

PW: Function


TEDxColumbus: Beach or Mountains

PW: Beach


TEDxColumbus: High Tech or Low Tech

PW: High Tech


TEDxColumbus: Big Party or Small Gathering

PW: Small gathering


TEDxColumbus: Work Hard or Play Hard

PW: Work hard


TEDxColumbus: Train or Plane

PW: Plane


TEDxColumbus: Summer or Winter

PW: Summer