MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winner to speak at UB

Published January 17, 2020

Evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist Jenny Tung, a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship winner, will be the keynote speaker at the 15th Biological Sciences Research Symposium at UB. The fellowship is often referred to as the MacArthur “genius grant.”

Tung’s lecture, titled “Social interactions in primate genomics, life history and evolution,” will take place at 4 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Center for the Arts, North Campus.

The event is presented by the Biology Graduate Student Association in association with the Department of Biological Sciences.  

Tung is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and biology at Duke University and an affiliate of the Duke Population Research Institute and the Center for Genomic and Computational Biology.

According to her biography on the MacArthur Foundation’s website, she researches “the interplay between social experiences, genomics and health. Combining field research with cutting-edge techniques for studying many genes at once, Tung is revealing the molecular mechanisms by which social and environmental stressors have long-lasting impacts on health, longevity and evolutionary fitness.”

The lab is particularly interested in how social environmental variables of known biodemographic importance, such as social status and social connectedness, feed back to influence gene regulation and population genetic structure.

Most of her team’s work centers on a longitudinally studied population of wild baboons in Kenya — Tung co-directs the Amboseli Baboon Research Project — and captive rhesus macaques at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Her research has implications for understanding human health.