The primary goal of the Atkinson Lab is to reduce the disparity in genomics research across ancestries. We accomplish this goal by leveraging global genomic datasets and cutting-edge computational techniques to build and apply resources for the improved statistical genetic study of diverse human populations that genomics has so far underserved. Our work is centered around neuropsychiatric traits with particular focus on admixed American populations and groups of African descent, though many of the tools we build are broadly applicable across phenotypes and populations, giving them the potential for widespread impact on human health.
A necessary precursor to accounting for global diversity in genomics research is a thorough understanding of population history and evolution, which shapes the naturally occurring patterns of genetic variation. Therefore, a second line of inquiry my research group explores is characterizing key aspects of human evolution with ancestrally-tuned evolutionary statistics using global DNA collections. Elucidating the forces shaping the genetic variation of key (brain) genes in modern populations is not only of significant academic interest, but is vital for determining the appropriate methods for statistical and medical genomic analyses of diverse datasets.
We are in the leadership of multiple international consortia, including the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PTSD working group), Neuropsychiatric Genetics in African Populations (NeuroGAP) and the Latin American Genomics Consortium (LAGC), affording trainees access to a wealth of diverse genetic datasets containing a wide range of phenotypes for potential study.