MAPS Group

Our Interests

We are a research group interested in human genetics, human evolutionary history, and phylogeography.  One of our main goals is to study genetic variation in human populations (past and present) to improve our knowledge of human health and human evolution.

Currently our studies are focused on three main areas:

  1. Cytokine polymorphisms, brain disorders, and evolution
  2. Cytokine polymorphisms in human populations
  3. Phylogeography of Tsuga canadensis (yes it's a tree...hey, we're multidisciplinary!)

Our group is committed to developing a program for training undergraduate and graduate students in the theory and methods of molecular anthropology.

MAPS People

Alive and Kicking Members

MAPS Alumni

  • Chandler Gatenbee, BA UofL,  MA in Anthropology at Utah, PhD UofL
  • Rachel Hart.  Undergraduate student in Biology.  Off to medical school in Ohio.  Go Rachel!
  • Kara Keeton, BA UofL, MPH SPHIS at UofL
  • Allison Mann, MA UofL, PhD Candidate at Oklahoma with Cecil Lewis
  • Meghan Mott. Finished PhD in Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology. Now post doc at the NIH.
  • Brandy Schwallie, BA UofL (Technician Emerita).
  • Nicholas Short, BA UofL, PhD Candidate in Biology at UofL with Paul Ewald.
  • Joanna Yun, BA UofL, plans for medical school in near future.


At the University of Louisville

  • Michael Perlin, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Biology


Active Research Projects

Cytokine polymorphisms, neuroinflammation and brain disorders:

One area where neurobiology and immunology overlap is the biology of cytokines.  The brain is now seen as capable of responding and/or influencing the immune response.  The basis for cytokine involvement in multiple general medical illness such as type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma is very well known.  Now, growing evidence is showing that we must include on this list different neuropsychiatric conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's disease and major depression.  Currently, we are studying different cytokine polymorphisms (CP) and their potential association with autism, progressive supranuclear palsy, and Alzheimer's disease.

Cytokine Polymorphisms in Human Populations:

It has been known for some time that cytokines and their receptors are often encoded by highly polymorphic genes, and these polymorphisms may be responsible for observed inter-individual differences in cytokine production.  However, few studies have been conducted to analyze the cytokine polymorphism (CP) distribution in different human populations.  This research will allow us to estimate the distributions of different cytokine alleles and establish the potential usefulness of cytokine polymorphisms as potential markers for future studies of health significance.

Phylogeography of Tsuga canadensis

Using samples collected throughout North America, we are sequencing several loci in order to better understand the phylogeographic distribution of genetic variation of the Canadian hemlock.  As I write, this tree is being decimated by the wooly adelgid.

Past research endeavors of the MAPS Group

Frankfort Cemetary Project: An ancient human DNA study:

The Frankfort Cemetary Project is a cultural resource management effort by the Kentucky Archaeological Survey to document materials and remains found in a 19th century cemetary in Frankfort, Kentucky.  One of three early cemetaries, this particular cemetery is a bit of a black box, as there  are almost no records.  Through the analysis of mitochondrial DNA recovered from teeth, we were able to provide information about the population history of the area.  We established that, at least according to the sampled mitochondrial matrilines, there were African and non-African individuals buried in the cemetary, thus leveraging the anthropometric information collected.  In several cases involving juvenile remains, a mitochondrial haplogroup was able to provide some information where traditional anthropometrics were not sufficient.  The results of this project were presented at the annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (Anchorage, Alaska 2006) and the Society for American Archaeology (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2006).  Having submitted a report to KAS, we are working feverishly on the final manuscript.


We are always interested in the possibiltiy of incorporating new undergraduate and graduate students in our laboratory.  Please contact one of us if you are interested in training and working in the lab. 
Click here for details concerning the guidelines of the Undergraduate Research Training in Molecular Anthropology (URTMA).

More opportunities for Undergraduate Research