Dr Alex Dornburg

Principal Investigator

The 21st century is fundamentally different from any other point in human history. We have achieved unprecedented technological advances and global connectivity. However, we are also faced with the emergence of new diseases that threaten our health and the loss of species and habitats that threatens our global economy

In my lab group, we integrate tools from genomics, bioinformatics, immunogenetics, and evolutionary biology to provide the basis for forecasting changes in biodiversity as well as unknown aspects of emergent diseases. This work empowers us to be better stewards of our planet and effectively respond to global threats to human health

We are currently focusing on three core research topics:

  • Understanding the factors that shaped marine fish biodiversity; with an emphasis on the mechanisms and functional consequences of gene family diversification in the innate immune system
  • Leveraging the power of methods from evolutionary biology to better fill in gaps in our knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses. We are particularly focused on the durability of immunity following natural infection and/or vaccination as well as the genetic mechanisms that enable zoonosis
  • We are continuing to resolve various branches of the Tree of Life. In addition, we are actively developing theory and software to empower robust and stable evolutionary estimates using phylogenomic data
  • By harnessing the power of comparative evolutionary methods, our evolutionary informatics approaches work towards two overarching goals of our group. First we aim to illuminate general rules of vertebrate evolution. Second, we aim to utilize evolutionary biology to learn from the history of pathogen evolution to be able to address unknowns in the face of emergent diseases. Collectively, these goals empower us to be more effective stewards of our planet and also provide critical, quantitative context for public health decision making


    Office: Bioinformatics 357
    Email: adornbur AT uncc.edu


    • 2008—2014 Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
    • 2008—2010 M.S. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
    • 2005—2008 B.S. Zoology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA.


    • BINF 3121 Statistics for Bioinformatics