Henn Lab for Population Genetics


HPIM03811Brenna Henn: Principal Investigator

Brenna Henn began her PhD by studying the deep population structure and complex migration patterns of African hunter-gatherer groups. She continues to have an interest in diverse, indigenous populations from around the world who harbor genetic (and linguistic and phenotypic) variation that is often overlooked in more commonly studied urban populations. Motivated by her prior PhD (2009) training in anthropology and evolutionary genetics at Stanford University, she aims to approach questions of genetic and phenotypic diversity from an interdisciplinary standpoint. After her Phd, she enjoyed a ‘personal genomics’ interlude at 23andMe, Inc. working on their ancestry team and doing research development with Dr. Joanna Mountain. Brenna then began a postdoctoral position in Dr. Carlos Bustamante’s lab (2010) in the Dept. of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine. During the postdoc, Brenna led several African genomic projects aimed at understanding the origins of modern humans and dispersals Out-of-Africa. Recently, Brenna joined Stony Brook University, SUNY as an assistant professor in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolution (2013).

Cambodia_PhotoElizabeth Atkinson: Postdoctoral Scholar

Elizabeth Atkinson works in human evolutionary and population genomics. After attending Williams College for her undergraduate degree in Biology, she did her PhD work at the medical school of Washington University in St. Louis, conducting an interdisciplinary project examining the genetic architecture and evolvability of brain traits in a pedigreed baboon population. For this, she utilized quantitative genetic tools and QTL mapping to isolate the genomic regions that affect variation in brain cortical folding and characterized its modularity structure across a number of biological domains: genetic, developmental, anatomic, and connectivity. Joining the Henn lab as an IRACDA Fellow at Stony Brook University, Elizabeth is working on a variety of biomedical and evolution-oriented projects utilizing the lab’s extensive datasets of next-generation DNA sequences from Southern African human populations. Specifically, her work focuses on investigating the molecular history of genes significant to the evolution of our species, identifying specific genetic variants associated with disease risk in African populations, and characterizing patterns of genetic diversity within Africa. All of her projects are tailed with an eye towards building a more solid genetic understanding of human groups that are underrepresented in medical studies.



Laura_islandLaura R. Botigué: Postdoctoral Scholar

Laura is interested in using genetic diversity in human populations to reconstruct the demographic processes and selective pressures that have shaped modern humans since their origins. She centered her recently finished PhD (2012) around analyzing SNP genotype data from North African populations to describe patterns of genetic diversity within the region and investigate gene flow mainly between North Africa and Europe. While her research, until now, has been focused on demographic processes, she plans on using next generation sequence data to characterize variants that are highly diverged between populations, with the hope of understanding the main evolutionary mechanisms that fuel genetic differences across populations. Finally, Laura also intends to incorporate genomic data from other species that have been linked to human history and evolution to shed new light to processes (e.g. domestication) that cannot be completely understood using only human genetic information.



Dean Bobo: Bioinformatics Research Scientist

Dean received his Bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a major in biology and minors in bioinformatics and chemistry. He completed a bioinformatics research internship at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. There he worked on bioinformatics web tools and databases for the SOL Genomics Network, which was sequencing the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Dean then went on to Johns Hopkins University and obtained his Master’s in Biotechnology. After graduating, he briefly worked as a  systems administrator and IT consultant for small businesses in New Jersey. In March of 2013, he joined the Henn Lab as a bioinformatics scientist and is studying human evolution and population genetics of the Out-of-Africa migration.




Shyamie Gopalan: PhD Graduate Student

Shyamie is a PhD student in the department of Ecology and Evolution. As an undergraduate, she developed an interest human origins, migrations and adaptations. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from McGill University in 2012, where she concentrated in human genetics and minored in anthropology. She began her graduate studies in 2013 in the Henn lab at Stony Brook University. Currently, she is working with single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and methylation profiles from various African populations and is interested in using this data to study past demographic events (such as the expansion of agriculture) as well as to identify novel biomarkers of aging.





Meng Lin: PhD Graduate Student

Meng (Lemon) is a PhD student from the graduate program in genetics. She got her Bachelor degree of biology in Nanjing University, China (2012). With a broad interest in genomics, evolution, and bioinformatics, she started her research training in Dr. Henn’s lab. Currently focusing on using genetic data sequenced from populations in southern Africa (e.g. KhoeSan) to associate with certain phenotypes and carry out comparative study, she hopes to gain an insight of genetic contribution to traits in these ancient and divergent populations. While continuing to learn about population genetics and human evolutionary patterns, she is carrying out further research in these fields.




Caitlin Uren: Collaborating PhD student

Caitlin Uren is a PhD student at Stellenbosch University, South Africa with strong ties to the Henn Lab after completing a 3 month internship in 2014. Once completing her BSc (Hons) in Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University in 2014, she has been interested in the cultural and genetic history of southern Africa. Her thesis investigates the population structure present in southern Africa, especially in KhoeSan populations and how this relates to genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases. Caitlin continues to perform field work in the Northern Cape, jointly supervised by Dr. Henn, Dr. Marlo Moller and Dr. Eileen Hoal.

RebeccaRebecca Siford: Master’s Student

Rebecca is a Master’s student in the department of Ecology and Evolution. She got her undergraduate degree at the University at Buffalo in 2015, receiving her B.S. in Biological Sciences. While there, she developed interests in cultural and anthropology, human genomics, and bioinformatics. While at Stony Brook, she hopes to gain a better understanding of population genetics, human evolution and research methods. Currently, she is working with single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to form haplotype networks to further understand the history of pigmentation within African populations.


gregGregory Smith: Undergraduate Student

Greg is an undergraduate student majoring in Biochemistry at Stony Brook University. He is currently interested in modern human origins, human genomics, and bioinformatics. As of late, he has been working with Dr. Elizabeth Atkinson to clarify the disputed role of FOXP2 in modern human origins. While at Stony Brook, he hopes to gain a deeper understanding of genomics, genetics, and computational methods. Beyond the field of biology, he holds interest in the fields of philosophy, English, and political science.