Emeritus Professor Simon Easteal

BSc (St Andrews), PhD (Griffith)

I was appointed Head of the Human Genetics Group, JCSMR in 1994 and Professor in 2000. From 2002 to 2003 I worked part-time as Director of the Genetic Epidemiology Unit at the Menzies Institute of Population Health Research at the University of Tasmania and from 2004 to 2005 worked as one of the foundation Trusted Intermediaries in the InnovationXchange Network. From 2008 to 2011 I was appointed as Deputy Director, JCSMR.
I have received over $22,000,000 in external research funding to support his research from a wide range of agencies including the Australian Research Council and The National Health and Medical Research Council. I have published 2 books and ~175 articles and I have been invited to give numerous international seminar and conference presentations.
I have supervised 25 PhD students and has been an advisor to many more, and 12 masters-by-research and honours students.
From 1998 to 2003 I was Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Biology and Evolution and I have served on the Editorial Boards of a number of other journals. I was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Entigen Inc. (a bioinformatics start-up company based in Sunnyvale, California; 2001), the Scientific Advisory Committee of Genetic Technologies Ltd. (a Melbourne-based genetics testing company; 2003-07), the Research Committee of the Australian Institute of Sport (2001-03), the Selection Advisory Committee of the Australian Research Council Future Fellowships Scheme (2010), the National Selection Committee of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission (2009-10) and the ARC Bioinformatics Centre of Excellence, University of Queensland (2003-10).
I have been a consultant to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), The Australian Industry Group, the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training and the University of Tasmania. I have provided expert testimony in relation to DNA evidence in the ACT, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, and I have provided expert advice to a wide range of organisations and agencies.

Research interests

The Evolution of Human Diversity and its Impact on Health and Disease. My interests are in how the evolutionary dynamic between humans and their environments has shaped the complexity of human biology, given rise to human diversity and left a lasting impact on our health and wellbeing. I have a particular interest in the role of natural selection in the evolution of differences in personality, cognitive style and social behaviour, its impact on heath, welfare and human potential, and its implications for education, healthcare and the management of organizations and social institutions. Current work in my lab involves analysis of variation at specific genes to identify and characterise both signals of natural selection and associations with personality and behavioural traits, measures of cognitive performance, and health outcomes. The evolutionary analysis is underpinned by a substantial collection of genetic samples from human and other primate species. We are developing and applying new approaches to detecting and measuring the effects of diversifying selection in non-equilibrium populations. Our work on phenotype associations is based on large, longitudinal population-based cohorts with extensive health, life history, psychometric and neuroimaging data. I also work on the contribution of genetic variation to high performance. I plan to extend our previous work on athletic performance to include cognitive and behavioural performance in academic, business and other demanding contexts. The work is carried out in a collaborative environment that includes clinicians, epidemiologists, psychologists, bioinfomaticians and molecular geneticists. I am particularly interested in genes involved in dopamine and serotonin signaling in the brain and hormone receptors, such as the vasopressin, oxytocin and estrogen receptors, with important functions in the central nervous system. Possible projects include: The evolutionary dynamics of genes associated with variation in cognition, personality and behaviour; the role of dopamine receptor variation in clinically identified subtypes of attention deficit hyperactive disorder in adults; the role of genes on late age cognitive decline and brain atrophy; the role of oxytocin and vasopressin receptor variation on social behaviour and behavioural disorders; the role of genes encoding components of the dopamine and serotonin system in anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder; genetic variation associated with athletic performance.