Visiting Scientist Interview – Shaun Aron

What brought you to the Department? 

The Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative was established by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund to develop and drive genomics research related to human health in Africa. A critical component of H3Africa is the development of a pan-African bioinformatics teaching and training network, H3ABioNet, in support of the research program.  Harvard is a training node of H3ABioNet, and I was given the opportunity to spend just over 3 months here in the biostatistics department as an intern. I am working with Liming Liang and the Bioinformatics Core group. 

Where are you from, and what do you do back home? 

Back home in South Africa, I am based at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, which is an H3ABioNet node. I work as part of the bioinformatics group and am involved in teaching and consulting on various projects. My current area of research is centered on the analysis of human genomics data related to GWAS and population genetics studies.

Describe the project you¹re working on here at the School.

My project aims to explore the complex historical events that have shaped the evolutionary history of Ghanaian genomes, based on the analysis of high coverage whole genome sequencing (WGS) data. In addition to exploring global ancestry patterns using the latest approaches for WGS data, we would like to estimate the local ancestry contributions to the Ghanaian genomes using additional African and public data from the 1000 Genomes Project and the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). Resolving the local ancestry of these individuals will shed light on the historical interactions and movements of populations in this region, including the extent of Eurasian and hunter-gatherer (Khoesan) admixture.

Anything else you¹d like to tell us?

I currently sit with the Bioinformatics Core group (Building 2, Room 202B), who have been a great help in getting me settled.  I look forward to hopefully getting to meet everyone from the department at some point. Stop by or stop me for a chat about my research or about why you should visit exciting, warm and beautiful Johannesburg on your next overseas trip! 

Editor¹s note: Shaun’s email address is, and he’s returning home to South Africa in mid-April.