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Lactase persistence and the early Cultural History of Europe  
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VISITING SCIENTIST: BETH SHAPIRO

Beth Shapiro: (C) Carolyn Djanogly, Smithsonian MagazineDr Beth Shapiro (The Pennsylvania State University) is a world leader in the development and implementation of statistical techniques for analysing data collected from non-contemporaneous sequences in a phylogenetic framework, in particular aDNA sequences. She has been involved with developing techniques to estimate the demographic history of populations from sequence data (Barnes et al, Curr Biol, 2007, 17: 1072; Drummond et al, Mol Biol Evol, 2005, 22: 1185; Shapiro et al, Science, 2004, 306: 1561), and in designing evolutionary models with the capacity to appropriately account for statistical error due to the incorporation of incorrect nucleotides during PCR amplification, which is a well known problem in aDNA research as a consequence of sequence damage (Ho et al, Mol Biol Evol, 2007,24: 1416), and to appropriately model coding sequence data (Shapiro et al Mol Biol Evol, 2006,23: 7). As well as her television work, Shapiro also has considerable experience teaching students and researchers with various levels of experience both the theory and the practical implementation of the phylogenetic tools that are currently used to analyse sequence data. To this end, she organised and led a workshop held at Oxford University in July 2006 which attracted applicants from across Europe, and is a teacher in similar, annual workshops organised by the Rega Institute Leuven, Belgium, which attract participants from around the world. Consequently, one of the main roles of the Visiting Scientists will be to organise a similar course for the ESRs and ERs in the ITN, in particular for those who will be generating molecular data for which a multitude of options for analysis will be available. The role of the VS will be to identify the most appropriate analysis techniques within her area of expertise, and to provide access and training, as well as to extend, if necessary and appropriate, existing software packages (e.g. BEAST; http://beast.bio.ed.ac.uk) by composing novel models that may be more amenable to the data generated by this network. The VS will also participate in other ITN meetings, and will provide advice and guidance to ESRs as to how best to incorporate the range of available software and statistical tests into their analyses. Additionally, it will be possible, although not required, for ESRs to travel to the laboratory of the VS for intensive training on phylogenetic analysis techniques. Penn State is a member of the WUN Biomolecular Archaeology grouping who are also supporting LeCHE .