Emeritus Professor Simon Easteal

ANU College of Health and Medicine
T: 0405 143 701

Areas of expertise

  • Anthropological Genetics 060401
  • Bioinformatics 060102
  • Biological Adaptation 060303
  • Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology) 170101
  • Developmental Psychology And Ageing 170102
  • Epidemiology 111706
  • Gene Expression (Incl. Microarray And Other Genome Wide Approaches) 060405
  • Genomics 060408
  • Mental Health 111714
  • Molecular Evolution 060409
  • Population, Ecological And Evolutionary Genetics 060411
  • Quantitative Genetics (Incl. Disease And Trait Mapping Genetics) 060412

Research interests

My research focuses on the evolution of human diversity and the influence of our evolutionary past on our current heath and wellbeing. I research: how environmental factors influence the function of the human genome; how the human genome has evolved in response to environmental change; how individual differences in genome structure modify environmental influences on development, ageing, performance and health; how differences in genome structure and function can indicate health status and biological functioning.  


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.

Researcher's projects

Gene-environment interactions affecting mental health and cognitive decline in late age.

Gene-environment interactions in human social and affiliative behaviour.

Genetics and evolution of human psychological diveristy.

Genomic responses to environmental change in humans.

Human genome diversity and evolution.

Available student projects

Gene environment interactions associated with mental health and age-related cognitive decline.

Evoultionary analysis of haplotype variation in the human genome.

Development and application of novel approaches to mapping human genome sequence variation associated with continuous traits and disease phenotypes.

Gene-environment interactions associated with social and affilative behaviour.

Evolutionary analysis of tandem repeat variation.


Current student projects

The effect of cooperative behaviour on the evolution of senescence.

The role of argenine vasopressin receptor gene variation in male social and affiliative behaviour.

Variation in human AVPR1a and OXTR genes: cellular function and influence on social behaviour, personality and health.

Mapping genes associated with sex-specific survivorship in humans.

Bioinformatic approaches to characterizing transfusion transmitted viruses: occult hepatitis B virus.

Development, implementation and application of new algorithms for genotyping tandem repeat variation from human genome sequencing.

Past student projects

Telomere length variation and age-related decline in a large population sample.

Genotype-environment interations in determining common forms of mental illness associated with anxiety and depression.

The functional effects and evolutionary history of a common null allele in the human ACTN3 gene.

Patterns of genetic variation in peoples of mainland Papua New Guinea.

Genetic and environmental determinants of antisocial behaviour patterns in humans.

Evolution of the Gerbich negative allele of glycophorin C: Co-evolution of malaria and its human hosts.

Analysis of the relationship between the 7-repeat allele of the DRD4 gene and ADHD with comorbid depression.

Variation in Natural Selection in 647 Environmental Health Related Genes.

Evolution of Genetic Loci Associated with the Size of the Neurocranium and Brain: Results from the Alpha Thalassaemia/ Mental Retardation X-linked Gene ATRX

The role of oxytocin in affiliative behaviour: A study of naturally occurring variation in the human oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR).

A role for Apoptosis and Mitochondrial Haplogroup J in Human Ageing.

Effect of Microsatellite Variation on the Expression of the Human Arginine-Vasopressin Receptor-1a (AVPR1a) gene.

Association of Polymorphisms of the Estrogen Receptor Gene with Human Behaviour Traits.



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Updated:  22 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers