Center for Computational Biology Seminar: Reconstructing Human Population History in Africa using Genomic Data
Seminar | October 2 | 4-5 p.m. | 125 Li Ka Shing Center
Brenna Henn, Associate Professor, UC Davis
Over twenty-five years ago, geneticists sequenced mitochondrial DNA from a diverse sample of human populations and hypothesized that all humans have a common origin in Africa 200,000 years ago. The broad outlines of this hypothesis remain remarkably unaltered, but many details of our African origin continue to be elusive. After decades of advances in human genetics, we are no longer data limited - either in terms of DNA samples or genomic loci, but there is little consensus on many key issues. These include: where in Africa did the species originate? Is there a discordance between anatomically modern humans and behaviorally modern humans? Specifically, Dr. Henn will discuss patterns of genetic diversity across Africa and models for modern human origins. Additionally, she will explore computational challenges for working on African genomes, such as inference of pedigrees using identity by descent and bioethical challenges we tackle in the field when sampling DNA.
Dr. Henn began her PhD research (Stanford University, 2009) by studying the deep population structure and complex migration patterns of African hunter-gatherer groups. She continues to be committed to understanding genetic diversity in under-represented populations and, based on the last decade of genetic research, hypothesize that the determinants of phenotypic traits and disease in these populations may be influenced by alleles that are population-specific. One long-term objective as an independent investigator is to extend trait mapping and evolutionary genetic techniques to identify loci associated with biomedical traits in diverse populations where collection of large cohort sizes remains challenging. Dr. Henn works at field sites in South Africa, Namibia and Ethiopia building cohorts, and interfacing with local academics and indigenous communities. In January 2018, she joined the Dept. of Anthropology, and the Genome Center at UC Davis as an Associate Professor.
Light refreshments will be provided at reception from 3:30 - 4:00pm, 125 LKS foyer.