At the Bergey Lab in the Rutgers University Department of Genetics, our research aims to understand how organisms adapt to their environment with a focus on the evolution of complex, polygenic traits. To do so, we use population, evolutionary, and functional genomic approaches to understand the effects of past selection on modern medically-relevant phenotypes, testing evolutionary hypotheses in humans, non-human primates, and disease vectors.
Our group has a particular interest in understanding the factors that influence infection and mortality from infectious diseases that disproportionately impact the poor and marginalized. An increasing focus of our research is the role of climate change and habitat disturbance on infectious disease risk.
We closely partner with in-country researchers and prioritize scientific capacity building in the places we work, most often in tropical Africa. Engagement with participant communities as well as local hospitals and NGOs is also a vital cornerstone of our research.
Our current major projects include:
- understanding the co-evolution of malaria, its human and primate hosts, and its mosquito vector,
- determining how viruses that cause acute respiratory tract infections interact with the host immune system, other co-infecting viruses, and the microbiome,
- investigating human adaptations to life in the rainforests of Africa, including the evolution of small body size (the “pygmy” phenotype) in hunter-gatherers, and
- exploring how primates have adapted to their environments and human activities, as well as applying comparative methods across primates to understand human medical conditions ranging from pathogen response to fertility.
Please see here for information about open and upcoming postdoctoral and student positions.