LAK
  • Chair Department of Anthroplogy
  • Professor, Anthropology Department
801-581-6251

Research Summary

My research has primarily focused on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, which are critical for immune response. I study how MHC genes vary in humans and primates and how MHC diversity is generated and maintained via disease resistance, sexual selection, inbreeding avoidance and reproductive failure. I am also interested in other genetic polymorphisms such as dopamine receptor genes, which are believed to influence primate behavior.

Education

  • B.A., Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • M.A., Biological Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • PhD, Biological Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles. Project: Reproductive Success in Pigtailed Macaques (Macaca nemestrina):The Influence of the Major Histocompatibility Complex.

Biography

I was broadly trained as an anthropologist and completed my PhD in Physical (Biological) Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1994.  My doctoral research focused on the investigation of immunogenetic factors, particularly immunological similarity between mates, contributing to pregnancy wastage in pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina).  As a postdoc, I studied the evolution of immune response (major histocompatibility complex, MHC) genes in primates, researching the antiquity of particular MHC loci and evaluating the relationship between habitat, MHC genes and disease.

Beginning in 1997, when I joined the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, I launched an independent career studying molecular genetics, human, and especially nonhuman primate, evolution.  At Cambridge, I established the PrIME (Primate Immunogenetics and Molecular Ecology) genetics laboratory and research group for the study of nonhuman primates, humans, and ultimately other mammals such as endangered Darwin’s foxes, Fuegian foxes and grey seals.  I supervised eight postdoctoral researchers and 16 PhD students to completion in my laboratory.  The PrIME lab also hosted international researchers from Japan, France, Switzerland, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and the USA. 

During my 15 years at Cambridge, I spent sabbaticals in Biology Departments at the University of Veracruz, Mexico and the University of Rennes, France.  I was also an Academic Guest in the Interdisciplinary Biological and Biomedical Sciences at the University of New Mexico. 

I joined Utah's Anthropology Department in July 2013.  My research interests in human and non-human primate genetics and evolutionary biology complement the research activities of the faculty members in the Department and I have established several new research collaborations with faculty.  Currently, we are working on genes that include dopamine receptors, Toll-like receptors and, of course, MHC and microsatellites.