The child of Bill and Dee Dee Quiggle, who participated and excelled in sports and was CBCS’s first state champ in track and field in both her freshman and sophomore years, is now a senior scientist researching and implementing innovative cell technology. With a scholarship for cross-country skiing, Ashley attended Western State College in 2005, receiving a BA in biology in 2010 with minors in Chemistry and Exercise and Sports Science. “A big part of my life was sports, but I was a little bored with just understanding basic physiology,” she says and began a Masters/PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “The biggest thing I learned in grad school was not to cry. It was brutal,” she admits, earning a PhD in Molecular Genetics and Genomics in 2016.
She did post-doctoral work at Washington University focused on human genetics of rare diseases and genetic engineering in cell lines. “I can take a cell grown in culture, delete a gene or create a mutation to see how the cell functions,” she explains. “Manipulating DNA is what I really love. There are a lot of human diseases that have an underlying genetic basis – people who might have the same disease but that disease is caused by mutations in different genes within different people. The implication of that is, even if two people have the same disease, there’s always a chance that certain drugs won’t work the same in two different people.”
Her first position in 2020 was in St. Louis, working in a cell design studio for MilliporeSigma, a large international bio-tech company based in Germany. Her group would make custom, genetically engineered cell lines for research clients. Her specialty is working to reprogram cells as close to an embryonic state but without using embryonic cells. She likens the cells to, “Having a bunch of pets I have to check in on every day.” Some of her created cells are used for Alzheimer’s, neuro-degenerative diseases, muscular cellular diseases, polycystic diseases and eyesight research. She loves the industry because, “I’m doing something different and new all the time.”
Ashley recently began new work as a senior scientist at Eurofins, a multinational contract research organization.
Ashley met her wife, Brittany Burke, “At a local dive bar where we had a lot of mutual friends.” The couple has been together for 10 years and married in 2015. “I love living the St. Louis city life. I can walk or take public transportation anywhere I want. There are great restaurants, bars and shops. CB was rural but there was always some sort of play, cultural event or music going on. The things keeping me in the city are some of the same things I love about CB.” The couple has season tickets to the theater, symphony and they like to travel. “We like spending our money and time on experience type things. And we play a lot of D&D,” she grins.
Although she says CB will always be where she’s from, she has no plans to return here to live. “So many of the things I love about growing up in CB are probably the same as every kid who grew up there. I knew it was very special. I loved that I could run and in a mile or two you’re in the mountains.”
Being born and raised in the Butte made Ashley always willing to meet new people and have new experiences, she says. “While there are a lot of locals, there are also transient residents and tourists. I got to meet a lot of people from all over the world. It’s one of the reasons I like living in a city, I’m constantly meeting new people from all over the world and every walk of life. CB made me very open-minded, as most people there are, and so kind. When I moved, that was something I was able to take with me.”