Kelley Harris, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Kelley Harris is a computational biologist. She uses population genetic theory and high-throughput biological sequence analysis to study recent evolutionary history in humans and other species. One of her primary interests is the evolution of mutagenesis, the spontaneous and/or exposure-driven processes by which genetic mutations come about. Although DNA is replicated and repaired by well-maintained housekeeping pathways, the mutation rate appears to evolve surprisingly fast over evolutionary time. Harris’ lab works to decipher how this variation is genetically and environmentally determined and what evolutionary pressures (such as cancer, congenital disease or life history) might drive mutagenesis to change. Other research interests include the impact of demography, inbreeding and hybridization on the dynamics of natural selection, particularly in the wake of gene flow between humans, Neanderthals and other extinct hominids. She and her colleagues have developed statistical models that refine our understanding of how genomes and populations evolve.