Faculty Spotlight


John Novembre

I am a population geneticist interested in how evolution occurs at a genetic level, and in particular understanding the evolutionary history of humans. There are now increasingly excellent databases on the genetics of human populations that we can use to better understand this history. Within the last 100,000 years or so, humans have expanded across the globe, occupying new habitats and innovating new forms of subsistence. In response to these novel environments, humans have been evolving due to natural selection. We have recently published a review of how natural selection has shaped spatial patterns of variation in human populations across the Earth. The results are exciting because not only are we learning about human evolutionary history, but more generally, we are also seeing how the processes of selection, dispersal, and mutation all interact to affect the adaptive response of a species to a novel environment. Much of this research is highly relevant for understanding the origins of disease traits in humans and for the emerging field of "personalized" genomics. At the current time, the genetic data on humans are the best and most voluminous there is on any organism. However, this will soon change as more and more genetic information becomes available on other species, and we will be able to evaluate how general the results from the study of human evolution are.

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