Introduction

Our research group uses computational tools to study genetic diversity in natural populations.  Our goal is to develop widely used statistical methods for intelligently extracting information from large-scale genomic data with the aim to improve understanding of: (1) basic genomic biology, (2) the biology of heritable disease traits, (3) the genetic basis of evolutionary processes, and (4) the history and evolution of various species, especially humans.

From a disciplinary perspective, most of the ideas we use are from theoretical population genetics, statistical genetics, and computational statistics.  Much of our work is invigorated by addressing data from emerging genotyping and sequencing technologies applied to large or particularly interesting population samples.

A sample of our on-going research interests are:

Population genetic methods and theoryEuropePC1PC2 PCgradients

  • Methods for studying  and visualizing population structure
  • Haplotype-based methods for inference in population genetics
  • The impact of population structure on genome-wide association studies and methods to correct for the effects of population structure
  • Inference of the relative strength of selection and dispersal based on the geographic spread of advantageous alleles

Human Population GeneticsHGDPexample

  • Patterns of population structure in human populations especially within world regions and finer spatial-scales
  • The impact of recent demographic processes, particularly rapid recent growth, on human genetics
  • The interaction of selection and demographic history in human evolutionary history
  • Correcting for population structure in human genome-wide association studiesExampleQQplot
  • Personalized genomics: Inference of detailed individual ancestry from genetic data
  • The insights that can be gained from studies of human ancient DNA

Population genetics of canids

In collaboration with Bob Wayne and the larger CanMap project:wolf_print

  • The genetic basis of adaptive evolution during early dog domestication from grey wolves
  • The demographic history of early dog domestication
  • Population structure and signatures of selection among arctic wolf ecotypes (e.g. tundra vs. taiga forms)

Training Goals

Beyond our research goals, we have the following training and outreach aims:

  • Train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the interdisciplinary skills necessary to make independent, insightful contributions to contemporary research problems in human genetics and evolutionary biology.
  • Develop teaching materials and courses to help: (1) prepare a new generation of biologist that will need strong skills in quantitative reasoning and computation to address the vast amounts of data now readily available; (2) prepare future citizens who are well-informed and capable of sound decision-making in a world in which science and particularly genetics will play an increasingly important role for society.
  • Promote international collaborative experiences for students to help foster individual growth and to strengthen scientific institutions and training programs through exchange.

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