I’m a physical anthropologist specialising in ancient DNA and infectious disease.
Techniques in ancient DNA retrieval now allow us to sequence enough DNA from preserved archaeological tissues so that we can computationally reconstruct ancient pathogen genomes. From this we can identify diseases from hundreds of years ago and determine their genetic relationships to modern forms. So far I’ve used these techniques to contribute to work on the Black Death and other Yersinia pestis infections, leprosy, cholera, tuberculosis, and most recently paratyphoid fever.
I’m currently the Research Group Leader for Molecular Palaeopathology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. My team tackles historical questions relating to the changing landscape of infectious disease over time, host-pathogen coevolution, and the biological consequences of European and New World contact.
After receiving my PhD from McMaster University in 2012, I did two years of research as a SSHRC-funded postdoctoral fellow in the department of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Tuebingen. Following this, I did an additional research year in this department funded by a grant from the European Research Council (ERC).