Brenna M. Henn, Assistant Professor (
Stanford University, 2009
Human evolution, population genetics, genomics
Lab Website: Henn Lab Website
My research lab investigates patterns of human genetic diversity and evolution by pairing genomic datasets with information about phenotype, language and prehistory. I am committed to understanding genetic diversity in under-represented populations and hypothesize that the determinants of phenotypic traits and disease in these populations may be influenced by alleles that are population-specific or generally rare. I am broadly interested in refining models of human migration and understanding the adaptive significance of healthy phenotypes such as life history traits, pigmentation and disease resistance. We are particularly focused on the complex demographic history of African populations. In collaboration with African geneticists, we currently work with Khoe-San populations at several field sites in the Kalahari Desert and Richtersveld to collect DNA samples, ethnographic data and basic phenotypes like skin pigmentation and height. By leveraging reduced environmental variability in these populations, low linkage disequilbrium and historic endogamy, we can jointly address questions regarding the genetic basis for different phenotypes and their evolutionary history. Are there loci of large effect for height and skin pigmentation? Are estimates of heritability for these phenotypes similar or different to estimates from cosmopolitan populations? Was the ancestral population of humans of short stature or tall? I have an interdisciplinary research background obtained during my Ph.D. in anthropology and as a postdoctoral fellow in human genetics, both at Stanford University, as well as industry experience in 'personal genomics'.