About Me


Version 2Brief summary

My name is Arslan Zaidi and I’m a human evolutionary geneticist at the University of Pennsulvania. I’m interested in understanding how demographic processes such as admixture, population bottlenecks, expansions, non-random mating, and selection shape genetic variation underlying complex traits in humans.

I am from Pakistan, where I completed my undergraduate degree in genetics from the University of Karachi. My graduate work, which I did with Mark Shriver at Penn State, focused on studying the evolutionary genetics of physical traits such as skin pigmentation and 3D facial shape. Then I did a postdoc with Kateryna Makova, also at Penn State, where I studied the transmission dynamics of mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmies in human families, and mito-nuclear interactions in admixed populations. Currently, I’m a postdoc with Iain Mathieson where I’m continuing to explore the phenotypic effects of mito-nuclear interactions in admixed human populations. I’m also exploring factors that lead to biases in genome-wide association studies and polygenic risk scores. While my true passion is research, I also enjoy teaching.

When I’m not thinking of genetics, I like drawing, working out, and listening to audiobooks.


Zaidi AA*, Wilton PR*, Su MSW, Paul IM, Arbeithuber B, Anthony K, Nekrutenko A, Nielsen R, Makova KD. Bottleneck and selection in the germline and maternal age influence transmission of mitochondrial DNA in human pedigrees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2019;116:25172–8.

Zaidi AA, Makova KD. 2019. Investigating mito-nuclear interactions in human admixed populations. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3.

Zaidi AA*, White JD*, Mattern BC, Liebowitz CR, Puts DA, Claes P, Shriver MD. 2018. Facial masculinity does not appear to be a condition-dependent male ornament in humans and does not reflect MHC heterozygosity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116:1633–1638. *Co-first authors.

Ye D*, Zaidi AA*, Tomaszkiewicz M*, Anthony K, Liebowitz C, DeGiorgio M, Shriver MD, Makova KD. 2018. High levels of copy number variation of ampliconic genes across major human Y haplogroups. Genome Biology & Evolution *Co-first authors

Claes P, Roosenboom J, White JD, Swigut T, Sero D, Li J, Lee MK, Zaidi AA, Mattern BC, Liebowitz C, Pearson L, González T, Leslie EJ, Carlson JC, Orlova E, Suetens P, Vandermeulen D, Feingold E, Marazita ML, Shaffer JR, Wysocka J, Shriver MD, Weinberg SM. 2018. Genome-wide mapping of global-to-local genetic effects on human facial shape. Nature Genetics 50:414–423.

Wilton PR, Zaidi AA, Makova K, Nielsen R. 2018. A population phylogenetic view of mitochondrial heteroplasmy. Genetics 208:1261–1274.

Zaidi AA, Mattern BC, Claes P, McEcoy B, Hughes C, Shriver MD. 2017. Investigating the case of human nose shape and climate adaptation. PLOS Genetics 13:e1006616.

Claes P, Liberton DK, Daniels K, Rosana KM, Quillen EE, Pearson LN, McEvoy B, Bauchet M, Zaidi AA, Yao W, Tang H, Barsh GS, Absher DM, Puts DA, Rocha J, Beleza S, Pereira RW, Baynam G, Suetens P, Vandermeulen D, Wagner JK, Boster JS, Shriver MD. 2014. Modeling 3D Facial Shape from DNA. PLoS Genetics 10:e1004224.

Cleveland HH, Schlomer GL, Vandenbergh DJ, Feinberg M, Greenberg M, Spoth R, Redmond C, Shriver MD, Zaidi AA, Hair KL. 2015. The conditioning of intervention effects on early adolescent alcohol use by maternal involvement and dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) and serotonin transporter linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) genetic variants. Developmental Psychopathology 27:51–67.

In the news

“Ancestral climates may have shaped your nose” – The New York Times

“Climate shaped the human nose, researchers say” – The Guardian

“Breathe easy: nose shape was influenced by local climate” – Reuters

“Nose shape dependent on ancestral climate” – The Naked Scientist


“How environment shapes … your nose” – article for The Science Breaker

Science Ask Me Anything (AMA) on reddit

Understanding images: human nose shape and climate adaptation – PLoS Blogs