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Experience Makes a Difference

Academic studies. Career exploration. Community involvement.

We aim to enrich undergraduate education in the Faculty of Social Sciences through fostering unique approaches to learning within the classroom and more actively engaging students in the community, as well as promoting strong relationships between academic studies, career exploration and community involvement.

About Us

The McMaster Ancient DNA Centre approaches a wide range of evolutionary and molecular biological questions using DNA and proteins from archaeological, paleontological, and forensic remains. We use state-of-the-art techniques to extract and sequence these molecules, discerning origins and population histories of a wide range of species, both extinct and extant. This allows us to follow evolution in action, directly testing models based on modern theory and observation.

The questions we address range from highly technical ones such as…

  • How long and under what circumstances does DNA persist in various fossil and geologic contexts?
  • How can we reliably and efficiently access even the most degraded of DNAs?
  • Can ancient DNA be repaired to make it more accessible?
  • How can we adapt modern techniques in DNA sequencing to ancient and forensic DNA?

To more evolutionary based questions…

  • How were past diseases different from their present-day strains?
  • What was the genetic diversity in extinct mammoth populations?
  • Why did the North American megafauna (mammoths, sloths, horses) all go extinct?
  • What were the giant ground sloths of the American Southwest eating over the last 40,000 years?

The genetics of Civil War era smallpox vaccination

McMaster Ancient DNA Centre researchers characterize the genetics of early smallpox vaccinations, extracting ancient DNA from the preserved scabs and lymph used to inoculate Civil War soldiers.
Jul 20, 2020

Expert Perspectives on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Hendrik Poinar explains viral evolution and why so many diseases seem to come from animals in New Yorker expert panel.
May 08, 2020

New software opens doors for biologists working with publicly available data.

Research software from McMaster provides new avenues for geneticists to access and interpret datasets from the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Feb 26, 2020