Erik Andersen

Erik Andersen

Contact Information

Research Interests: Genetics and genomics of complex traits; host-pathogen genomics and drug resistance; evolutionary genetics

Erik Andersen is geneticist with extensive experience in molecular, quantitative, and population genetics and genomics. He received his B.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, where he also was awarded the Firestone Medal for Excellence in Research given to the top undergraduate researcher each year. He received his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was an Anna Fuller Cancer Research Fellow, studying the developmental genetics of chromatin remodeling in Caenorhabditis elegans advised by Dr. H. Robert Horvitz.

His research interests shifted to quantitative genetics and genomics for his NIH NRSA Post-doctoral and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship with Dr. Leonid Kruglyak at Princeton University. From 2013 to 2023, his work at Northwestern University focused on a central question in evolutionary genetics: what are the genes and molecular mechanisms that underlie phenotypic differences? These mechanisms from nematodes, as a model animal, enable large-scale genetics and genomics studies not possible in other animal systems. His laboratory, in the departments of Molecular Biosciences and Cell and Developmental Biology, created huge species-wide collections of wild strains for multiple nematode species to allow them to answer questions of evolutionary relevance ranging from molecular interactions in epistasis to niche preferences in nature.

He has contributed discoveries across genetic, genomic, physiological, systems, and ecological perspectives. Erik is a Pew Biomedical Scholar, a National Science Foundation CAREER recipient, Fulbright Global Scholar recipient, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar, a Human Frontiers Science Program Grantee, and a March of Dimes Basil O’Conor Awardee. In 2023, his laboratory moved from Northwestern University to Johns Hopkins University to further pursuits of genetics and genomics in Caenorhabditis and other nematode species.

Model organisms provide the opportunity to experimentally test the correlations between genetic variation and trait differences across populations because of the ease of manipulation and powerful tools.

However, most model organism research is based on a single wild-type strain background with little connection to natural variation, which is like studying a single person to make conclusions about the entire human species. Selfing Caenorhabditis species, including C. elegans, are isolated worldwide, have ample variation, rich ecological histories, and experimentally tractable traits and genomes. Therefore, these species provide the opportunities to identify the genes that vary among individuals and the molecular mechanisms for how genetic variation causes phenotypic differences.

We can use variation within and across different Caenorhabditis species. Our lab uses a variety of genetic and genomic tools to discover the molecular mechanisms of evolutionary change in Caenorhabditis natural populations. Because parasitic nematodes infect billions of people and cause widespread hardship, we are working to establish new model parasitic nematode species, including ascarids that infect rodents or poultry, to investigate drug resistance and host-pathogen biology. These systems allow us to validate our Caenorhabditis findings in tractable parasitic helminths and require building new genomes and gene models. Please see our lab website for more information. 

Staff Scientists

Robyn Tanny

Post-doctoral researchers

  • JB Collins
  • Amanda Shaver

Graduate students

  • Ryan McKeown
  • Nic Moya


Etta Schaye