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Evolutionary Medicine at Durham

Staff Biographies and Interests

Prof Helen L. Ball

Helen Ball is Professor of Anthropology at Durham University and directs the Parent-Infant Sleep lab. She has been using an evolutionary-informed approach to research parent-infant sleep, infant care and breastfeeding for 15 years and supervises a team of 11 researchers. Together they conduct research in the sleep lab, local hospitals and the community, now expanding their interests to relationships between child sleep and health, and to adult sleep education and insomnia. Helen teaches undergraduate and postgraduate modules on the evolutionary medicine of reproduction and infant health. She contributes to national and international guidelines on parent-infant bed-sharing, breastfeeding, infant sleep and SIDS, advises hospitals on infant sleep policies, and is invited to speak at conferences all around the world. She serves on the Research Advisory Board of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the Panel of Professional Advisors for La Leche League GB, and the Advisory Board for Attachment Parenting EU.

Prof Gillian Bentley

In terms of Evolutionary Medicine, Professor Bentley is interested in breaking down "normative" paradigms that govern much of clinical practice by highlighting the extent of variability in reproductive function across populations, and what implications arise from this variability for health across the life course.  She is currently using migrant Bangladeshis in the UK to explore how different developmental environments can produce variation in adult reproductive function and how, in the case of South Asians, poor developmental environments can tip individuals towards an increasing risk for conditions such as polycystic ovarian function and related metabolic disorders including obesity.   Her previous field and laboratory research has encompassed populations in Central Africa, the USA and Bolivia.  She has taught courses in Evolutionary Medicine since 2001, and has contributed papers to edited volumes in this emerging area.  She has also participated in many international meetings in evolution and health.

Dr Jeremy Kendal

Jeremy Kendal is a RCUK Academic Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Durham University.  He completed his PhD (2003) on animal social learning from the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Kevin Laland. Since then, he has developed an increasing interest in human cultural evolution and gene-culture coevolution, developing mathematical models of human cultural evolution with Marc Feldman (Stanford University), before carrying out experimental and theoretical analysis on the evolution of social learning strategies with Kevin Laland (St Andrews University). His current research interests include social learning, cultural evolution, gene-culture coevolution and niche construction.

Dr Tessa M. Pollard

Tessa Pollard applies an evolutionary perspective to her research on risk factors for metabolic disorders, principally type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in western and westernising environments. She works on physical activity, diet and stress, looking at how adaptations to past environments may have led to current health problems, and has a particular interest in populations that have migrated from the developing world to the west.  She was one of the first to highlight the importance of the emerging body of work on developmental origins of health and disease for such migrant populations and has pursued this issue by investigating how risk factors for type 2 diabetes change over generations in British Pakistanis. Her book Western Diseases: An Evolutionary Perspective grew out of her research-led teaching of evolutionary medicine as part of the Health and Human Sciences and Anthropology degrees at Durham over the past 10 years.

Professor Charlotte Roberts

A bioarchaeologist, I have a background in archaeology, environmental archaeology and human bioarchaeology. I have studied and interpreted human remains from archaeological sites for the past 25 years, and I am specifically interested in the interaction of people with their environments in the past by exploring patterns of health and disease (and especially those health problems that are common today). I also try to utilize multiple lines of evidence for reconstructing past health, including exploring the application of medical anthropological approaches to bioarchaeology. A State Registered Nurse initially (1975-8), I completed a BA in Archaeological Studies (Leicester - 1979-1982), a MA Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy (Sheffield - 1983), and PhD (bioarchaeology/ palaeopathology/ medical history - Bradford 1988). I currently have an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant (Bamburgh Bowl-Hole Anglian Cemetery: a contextual study) and Natural Environmental Research Council grant (Biomolecular archaeology of ancient tuberculosis in Britain and Europe) but also have a current project on the impact of mobility on late medieval syphilis, am involved with the Global History of Health Project based at Ohio State University, am completing a book on the bioarchaeology of leprosy, and a co-edited volume on the history of palaeopathology.

Dr Paul Denny

Protozoan parasites are the causative agents of a wide range of important human and animal diseases, including malaria. Current work in Paul's laboratory is focused on furthering the understanding of the role of lipid biosynthesis and membrane trafficking in host-pathogen interactions, with a view to elucidating protozoan specific activities amenable to therapeutic intervention. Previous to his appointment as Lecturer in 2004 Paul worked in research posts at Imperial College London and at the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research. Current projects include: mapping the apicomplexan sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway (with Dr Ehmke Pohl), targeting protozoan sphingolipid biosynthesis (with Dr Patrick Steel), antimicrobial peptides as antileishmanials (with Dr Steven Cobb)

Dr Paul Yeo

Paul was appointed as Lecturer in Microbiology in 2004 in the School for Medicine and Health after seven years working in the Medical Research Council's Virology Unit (Glasgow) as a senior scientist. Prior to that, he worked in the University of Reading on HIV. His current research interests, performed under the umbrella of the Biophysical Science institute (BSI) are focused on Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) a major cause of respiratory disease in infants and the elderly. Throughout his research career Paul has focused upon the study of viral proteins for their structure, function and ultimately to use this information in the design of novel therapeutics. Within the BSI Paul's research is cross-disciplinary in nature reaching across biology, chemistry and latterly physics.  The results of this work will lead to a greater understanding of how viruses replicate and cause disease. He has identified potential targets for intervention particularly against the interaction between the RSV nucleocapsid and the polymerase. Further work on validating these targets as therapeutics is ongoing but they provide proof of principle that there are alternative strategies to be taken in the search for new reagents