This WiSE Wednesday’s feature is about Dr. Sarah A. Tishkoff, a leading human evolutionary genomicist at the University of Pennsylvania. CSHL WiSE had the privilege of hosting Dr. Tishkoff as a McClintock Lecturer during the 2021-2022 CSHL Labwide Seminar Series, where she presented recent work on characterizing genomic variation across ethnically and geographically diverse African populations. Her research has shed light on the origins of modern humans, as well as identifying the genetic basis of diseases like diabetes and obesity to better inform drug development efforts.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Tishkoff was initially taking courses in cultural and physical anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology to study human history. However, she soon became inspired by Dr. Allan Wilson and Dr. Vincent Sarich in applying molecular approaches in combination with genetics, human development, and evolution to understand the genetic basis of human traits and origins as a species. In fact, Tishkoff was so inspired by this perspective and its broader implications that she graduated with bachelor’s degrees in both anthropology and genetics. She then moved across the U.S. to pursue a master’s of philosophy in human genetics from the Yale School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Kidd. It was here that Tishkoff developed a specific interest in studying African genomics and evolution. She continued in the Kidd lab to conduct dissertation research as a Ph.D. student and publish findings on the subject of global patterns of linkage disequilibrium and nuclear haplotype frequency variation in humans.
Tishkoff continued her scientific training as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Andrew Clark at the Pennsylvania State University and began researching the connection between stable polymorphisms and microsatellites in human populations. Additionally, she became a visiting research fellow at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and had the opportunity to engage with cultural anthropologists, geneticists, and individuals from diverse African genetic lineages. In 2000, Tishkoff began her own research program as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2005. In 2008, Tishkoff moved to the University of Pennsylvania where she is now currently the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology. Additionally, she holds appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences and also serves as Director of the Penn Center for Global Genomics and Health Equity.
Tishkoff’s revolutionary contributions to her field and high-impact published works have been recognized with several distinguished accolades, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and being a recipient of the NIH Pioneer Award, the David and Lucile Packard Career Award, the Burroughs/Wellcome Fund Career Award, and the ASHG Curt Stern Award.
Tishkoff continues to lead her lab in utilizing a combination of field work, laboratory techniques, and computational approaches to integrate omics data collected from various African ethnic groups in order to identify environmental and genetic factors that influence traits linked to diversity in human metabolism, immunity, and more. Furthermore, she is an active advocate for the inclusion of ethnically diverse global populations in human genetics and genomics research.
Entry courtesy of Nicole Sivetz