Genetic Anthropology and Bio-Cultural Studies Lab


WELCOME. The Genetic Anthropology and Bio-cultural Studies Laboratory consists of two facilities, a modern and an ancient (aDNA) genetics laboratory.  The labs are housed on the 5th floor of Stevenson Center 2 on the Vanderbilt University Main campus.  The labs were founded in 2017 and are directed by Dr. Jada Benn Torres.

ABOUT US. Anthropology is the study of humankind in a cross-cultural context: Anthropos- = human and  -ology= the study of. As a field, anthropologists focus on what biology, prehistory, language, culture, and social institutions reveal about what it means to be human. Within anthropology there are four main sub- disciplines: cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology and  biological anthropology. Anthropologists that focus on biological and biocultural aspects of human experience are Biological Anthropologists (physical anthropologists) and generally fall into one of the following categorizations shown in the picture below (Fig1.)  Genetic Anthropology, a sub discipline within Biological Anthropology, borrows the tools and techniques of molecular genetics to address anthropological questions. Recognizing that humans are more than a sum total of their genetics we emphasize the use of  biocultural approaches to understand how culture affects and influences patterns of human genetic variation.

RESEARCH INTERESTS. Our research foci fall into three broad areas:

(1) Genetics and Ethnogenesis:  Using population genetic perspectives, we study how culture and biology come together to shape community history and experience.

(2) Race and Health: We use epidemiological approaches and anthropological insights on identity and genetics to address broader medically related questions.

(3) Genetics in Society:  We consider the broader societal interfaces between genetic data, local knowledge, and identity politics.

PUBLIC OUTREACH. In the GABS lab, we draw on the principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR) to guide research questions. CBPR principles are integrated in our research designs and include regularly returns results to participants and contributing study findings to permanent exhibits within local communities. In addition, we are dedicated to supporting the efforts and education of the next generation of scholars through public lectures and volunteering.

JOIN US. Dr. Benn is currently accepting graduate students through the Department of Anthropology.  Application deadline for the AY 2018-2019 is January 15. Apply through the VU Graduate School: https://as.vanderbilt.edu/anthropology/graduate/