George (PJ) Perry - Principal Investigator

Chair, Bioinformatics & Genomics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

Associate Professor
Departments of Anthropology and Biology
Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Pennsylvania State University
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 513
Email: ghp3 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @grg_perry

 

Christina Bergey - Postdoc

Departments of Anthropology and Biology
NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA (F32) Postdoctoral Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 514
Email: cxb585 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @bergeycm

Christina's previous experience included training in both anthropology and computational biology; she uses genomic-scale data to study interactions among gene flow, admixture, natural selection, and behavioral ecology in human and non-human primate populations. She is currently leading several of our lab's NIH-funded rainforest hunter-gatherer functional and evolutionary genomics projects.

 

Stephanie Marciniak - POSTDOC

Department of Anthropology
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 516
Email: szm316 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @AnthroSteph

Stephanie recently completed her PhD in Anthropology at McMaster University, where her dissertation research integrated ancient DNA and historical data to study human pathogens and health in antiquity. She is currently directing the ancient DNA laboratory at Penn State and developing archaeogenomic projects focused on reconstructing human population and disease histories.

 
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Kathleen Grogan - Postdoc

Departments of Anthropology and Biology
NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA (F32) Postdoctoral Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 516
Email: keg50 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @Dr_KatieG1

Katie is interested in the interactions among genetic and epigenetic variation, individual fitness, and the environment. She joins our lab from Duke University where she earned her PhD and Emory University where she was an NIH FIRST Postdoctoral Fellow. She previously worked with aphids, ring-tailed lemurs, and white-throated sparrows. In our lab, she is studying human functional genomic and epigenomic variation and evolution!

 

RICHARD BANKOFF - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Anthropology; Dual-title PhD program in BioEthics
Email: rjb398 (at) psu (dot) edu

Richard is interested in the ethics of conservation and lemur evolutionary ecology. Specific areas of focus include dietary and behavioral niche specialization, with an eye towards how these variables can factor into the implementation of conservation efforts that minimize human-lemur resource conflicts. He recently conducted ethnographic and ecological fieldwork in Madagascar for his dissertation research.

 
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ALEXIS SULLIVAN - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Biology
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 514
Email: aps216 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @ap_sullivan

Alexis is a Biology graduate student with strong interests in evolution. Her dissertation research is focused on how human behavior impacts non-human evolutionary biology, including the morphological and evolutionary genomic characterization of size changes in response to human hunting and harvesting pressures. The introduction chapter of her dissertation chapter has been published as a review article, which you can read to learn more! Alexis also maintains a research blog as part of her website.

 

DAVID VILLALTA - GRADUATE STUDENT

Graduate Program in Ecology
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Email: dav141 (at) psu (dot) edu

David joins the lab through the Penn State’s interdisciplinary Ecology program. He has major interests in evolutionary ecology, ecological genomics, and conservation biology. He is currently exploring ideas for bioinformatics research on aye-aye sensory ecology and evolution - including comparative genomics analyses with the striped possum (Dactylopsila trivirgata), a marsupial species sharing many morphological and behavioral convergences with aye-ayes!

 
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Maggie Hernandez - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Anthropology
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 516
Email: mzh235 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @ScientistaMaggs

Maggie is interested in understanding how genetics, environmental factors, and access to healthcare influence disease progression in Cuban immigrants and Cuban-Americans. She is also passionate about education, teaching, and scientific outreach/engagement; she maintains a blog and an Instagram account titled Mystery Magnification as part of her outreach initiatives.

 

Diego hernandez - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Anthropology
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 514
Email: dah65 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @BioAnthKid

Diego is broadly interested in human evolutionary genomics. For his dissertation research he is developing several functional and evolutionary genomics projects with human parasites, from which to make proxy insights about key time periods and cultural innovations in human evolution. His current major experimental project is with bedbugs!

 
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ebony creswell - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Anthropology
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 512
Email: euc486 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @ebonycreswell

Ebony is broadly interested in the paleoepidemiology of infectious diseases. She also has extensive archaeological field experience. For her master’s thesis (University of Wyoming) she created an agent-based model to simulate the spread of tuberculosis in a hunter-gatherer social context. During her PhD, Ebony would like to integrate genomic, ethnographic, and archaeological data to help advance our understandings of how different social systems affect disease spread and overall human health.

 
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Emily Gagne - GRADUATE STUDENT

Graduate Program in Ecology
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 512
Email: erg5315 (at) psu (dot) edu

Emily is a Ph.D. student in the Ecology interdisciplinary graduate program who is broadly interested in how human behavior directly and indirectly (e.g. via climate change) impacts the evolutionary biology of non-human species. Specifically, she is developing projects to study adaptation to thermal shifts in non-human mammals using both genomic and environmental data.

 
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Natalia Grube - GRADUATE STUDENT (Rotation)

Department of Biology
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 512
Email: ntg5079 (at) psu (dot) edu

Natalia is currently conducting a rotation project with our group. Her research interests include parasitology and evolution, and in our lab she is using computational approaches to study the evolutionary genomics and population structures of human parasites, and the co-evolutionary relationships between parasites and their hosts.

 
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Audrey Arner - UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT

Majors in Biological Anthropology and Biology
Schreyer Honors College
Millennium Scholars Program
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 516
Email: ama6560 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @arneraudrey

Audrey is a Millennium Scholar interested in human evolutionary genomics. She is leading a project on the evolutionary genomics of human sexual dimorphism, based on large-scale UK BioBank datasets. Audrey was also appointed to Penn State's prestigious, three-year Presidential Leadership Academy.

 

 
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Mariah elser - UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT

Major in Biological Anthropology; Minors in Spanish, Biology, and CAMS
Schreyer Honors College
Paterno Fellows Program
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 514
Email: mee5243 (at) psu (dot) edu; Twitter: @elser_mariah

Mariah is a sophomore Paterno Fellow interested in human anatomy and osteology, evolutionary genomics, and anthropological science. She is currently doing experimental research with parasites as proxies for studying human evolution.


Co-advised Lab Members:

Ziyu (Raining) Wang - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Anthropology
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
Office: Carpenter Building - Room 516
Email: zzw117 (at) psu (dot) edu

Raining’s primary advisor is George Milner. Raining is interested in paleoepidemiology of infectious disease. Using human skeletal remains from archaeological sites, she intends to incorporate ancient DNA methods to better understand transmission patterns of ancient infectious diseases with the interaction between prehistoric migration, settlement pattern, and environmental changes.

 
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Heritiana Randrianatoandro - GRADUATE STUDENT

Department of Paleontology and Biological Anthropology
University of Antananarivo, Madagascar

Our lab is supervising Heritiana’s PhD research -- he is collecting paleogenomic and morphological data to test existing species definitions (and potentially identify cryptic species) within the extinct subfossil lemur genus Archaeolemur. Heritiana’s co-advisors for this project are Laurie Godfrey (University of Massachusetts) and Jeannot Randrianasy (University of Antananarivo). He was recently at Penn State for one year for ancient DNA labwork and dissertation research.

 


Previous lab members:

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Kathryn turner

2017-2019: Eberly Science Postdoctoral Fellow (Biology)
Currently: Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University

Kathryn received a prestigious Eberly Fellowship to support mentored independent research; her co-mentor at Penn State was Jesse Lasky. Kathryn is an evolutionary ecologist who uses invasive and introduced plant systems and both modern genomic and ancient DNA-based methods to understand rapid evolution and range expansion in novel environments.

 

Rindra Rakotoarivony

2015-2019: Graduate student (University of Antananarivo, Madagascar)

Our lab advised Rindra’s Malagasy human population genetics PhD project, with University of Antananarivo co-advisor Spiral Germain Jules. Rindra collected 200 DNA samples from across the island of Madagascar and worked in our lab at Penn State for bioinformatics training and population genomic data analysis. He successfully defended his dissertation in 2019!

 
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Monica Guardado

2015-2017: Undergraduate (Biology major)

Monica is interested in the evolution of the human microbiome and the role it plays in human health and disease. In our lab, she worked with multiple collaborators including Emily Davenport on a project to study whether chimpanzees acquire functional microbiome components from the termites they consume.

 

 

 

Angela Battaglia

2015-2017: Undergraduate (Biology major; Schreyer Honors College)

Angela's interests include medicine, bioinformatics, and evolutionary biology. While part of our lab, she completed an honors thesis project on a biogeographic (population genetic) analysis of diverse human parasite species to test hypotheses of parasite transfer from archaic hominin to modern human populations.

 

 

 

Abby Koenig

2015-2016: Undergraduate (Immunology & Infectious Disease and Statistics majors)

Abby's interests included the development and application of computational biology methods for studies with immunology and infectious disease components. While a member of our group, Abby worked on bioinformatic analyses of tapeworm genome sequence data and helped conduct functional genomics experiments on the human tapeworm cyst heat response in Peru!  

 

 

 
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MAYA EVANITSKY

2013-2016: Undergraduate (Biochem & Mol Biol major, Anthropology minor; Schreyer Honors College)
Currently: PhD student, Duke University - Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

For her honors thesis, Maya led an ancient DNA study of the “Nittany Lion” genome. Mountain lions are now extinct in PA, but Maya is used our clean lab to extract DNA and analyze mitogenomic diversity from the skeletons and skins of 1800s mountain lions from this region. Here is a great PSU news story about Maya and her research.

 

 

Jacob Cohen

2014-2016: Undergraduate (Biology major; Schreyer Honors College)

Jacob's honors thesis research focused on human tropical rainforest hunter-gatherers, using population genomics data to test hypotheses of potential metabolic or thermoregulatory adaptations in these groups related to the common ecological challenges of their habitats (e.g., food limitation, high heat and humidity).

 

 

 

STEPHEN JOHNSON

2013-2015: Graduate student (Anthropology)

Stephen's interests include human evolutionary medicine, health, and disease. While in the lab he studied tapeworm biology and functional genomics as a proxy for the evolution of hominin meat eating and food cooking behaviors. He is currently pursuing a health professional career.

 

 

 

ADRIJANA VUKELIC

2014-2015: Undergraduate (Biology major, Anthropology minor)

While a member of our group, Adrijana led a bioinformatics study to test hypotheses of adaptive evolution related to human dietary history, facial shape changes, and dental variation. She has major interests in human genetics and public health and is currently pursuing a career in genetic counseling.

 

 

 

Logan Kistler

2012-2014: Postdoctoral fellow (Anthropology)
Currently: Curator (Assistant Professor), Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

While a postdoc in our laboratory, Logan focused on paleogenomic projects including mitochondrial and nuclear genome analyses of Madagascar’s extinct subfossil lemurs. He also studied the ecological history of wild New World plants related to pumpkins and squashes, including how these populations may have been affected by the extinctions of megafaunal mammals, their natural seed dispersers.

 

 

Katharine Thompson

2011-2014: Undergraduate (Anthropology and Community, Environment, and DevelopmentSchreyer Honors College)
Currently: PhD student, Stony Brook University - Department of Anthropology

For her honors thesis, Kate compared aye-aye food resource availability vs. foraging behavior (with a field-based study in Madagascar) to help understand why the home ranges for individuals of this endangered species are so huge. Here is a nice PSU article about Kate and her thesis research. Kate also received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support her graduate studies.

 

 

Jason Hodgson

2012-2013: Postdoctoral fellow (Anthropology)

Jason studied human evolution and population history, especially the fate of evolutionarily advantageous alleles in admixed populations, including among the Malagasy, the people of Madagascar.