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Human Evolutionary Genetics Unit
Pasteur Institute


In general

My research interest is focused in studying human evolution from a genetics/genomics perspective, which I find to be a promising way to bridge the fields of Humanity and Science.

Coming from a 'Humanity' family (my dad is an artist and my mom is a poet), I however did my BSc in Biology. That made me think of a career combining both 'Humanity' and 'Science'. When pursuing my MSc, studying comparative genomics of nematodes, I learned broad topics in bioinformatics, genomics and evolutionary biology. Among those topics, the research of studying population genentics/genomics to investigate human evolutionray questions really caught my attention, and I siad to myself: 'this is the career I was looking for!'. Fortunately, I got an opportunity to pursue this dream and did my PhD in studying human population genomic diversity and histroy in the amazing MPI-EVA. Now, I am postdoc at Pateur Institute to study more on the demographic and adpative history of human populations!

Research at MPI-EVA

Southeast Asia and Oceania occupy a vast portion of the earth’s surface and have experienced human activity for a very long time. The earliest evidence for modern humans outside of Africa arrived in these regions at least 50,000 years ago. After that, these regions have been relatively isolated until the massive migration events accompanying the spread of agriculture and the movements of several language families starting from the Neolithic period. One well-known example is the Austronesian expansion. As a result of these complexed human population histories, there are over 1000 ethnolinguistic groups in these regions nowadays. I am interested in the genetic diversity of present day populations living in Southeast Asia and Oceania and its relathionship with the cultural variation of these populations. Additionally, I want to ask what demographic processes happened in the past and how they shaped the genetic diversity we see in the present day populations.

Genome-wide data have been shown to be a powerful tool to investigate human population diversity and history. Each of the genetic markers can be traced back to a large number of shared ancestors, and the population relatedness and demographic processes can thus be inferred through the patterns of sharing of markers within and between populations. Therefore, to address the questions above, my research is focusing on genome-wide analyses of data sampled from those regions. In particular, I was working on data from populations from Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and Papua New Guinea (for my PhD, and a bit postdoc at MPI-EVA).

Research at Pasteur

Polynesia and its inhabitants represent an exciting area of research in the field of human genomics for at three main reasons. First, the settlement of Polynesia represents the last human expansion into empty territories. Second, some Oceanian groups, including Polynesians, have inherited the highest proportions of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry worldwide, allowing to investigate the role of ancient interbreeding in genetic adaptation. Third, the high prevalence of certain health conditions among Polynesians, such as obesity and metabolic diseases, has attracted the interest of medical geneticists. One hypothesis to explain these observations is a textbook example of an evolutionary mismatch, i.e. genetic adaptation to environments and modes of subsistence of the past has become deleterious in the post-industrialized world. However, this hypothesis has not been formally tested, and other explanations exist, such as greater drift, founder effects or gene-by-environment interactions. Furthermore, the genetic diversity of Polynesians remains to be characterized in detail. To dissect the adaptive history of Polynesian islanders, a comprehensive model of their demographic history is needed, and requires whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data from an extensive geographic sampling of Polynesians, which is currently missing.

As a postdoc in the Human Evolutionary Genetics Unit at Pasteur Institute, I will study the demographic and adaptive history of Polynesians using WGS data.



Working on it : D.


Liu, D.*#, Ko, A. M. S.*, & Stoneking, M.# (2023). The genomic diversity of Taiwanese Austronesian groups: Implications for the "Into- and Out-of-Taiwan" models. PNAS Nexus. (*: contributed equally as first authors; #: correspondence).

Stoneking, M.*, Arias, L.*, Liu, D.*, Oliveira, S.*, Pugach, I.*, & Rodriguez, J. J. R. B.* (2023). Genomic perspectives on human dispersals during the Holocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (*: contributed equally as first authors).

Liu, D., Peter, M. B., Kayser, M. & Stoneking, M. (2022). Assessing human genome-wide variation in the Massim region of Papua New Guinea and implications for the Kula trading tradition. Molecular Biology and Evolution.


Kutanan, W.*, Liu, D.*, Kampuansai, J., Srikummool, M., Srithawong, S., Shoocongdej, R., Sangkhano, S., Ruangchai, S., Pittayaporn, P., Arias, L., & Stoneking, M. (2021). Reconstructing the human genetic history of mainland Southeast Asia: insights from genome-wide data from Thailand and Laos. Molecular Biology and Evolution. (*: contributed equally as first authors).

Liu, D., Duong, N. T., Ton, N. D., Van Phong, N., Pakendorf, B., Van Hai, N., & Stoneking, M. (2020). Extensive ethnolinguistic diversity in Vietnam reflects multiple sources of genetic diversity. Molecular Biology and Evolution.

-- Press release from Max Planck Society.

Srithawong, S., Muisuk, K., Srikummool, M., Kampuansai, J., Pittayaporn, P., Ruangchai, S., Liu, D., & Kutanan, W. (2020). Close genetic relationship between central Thai and Mon people in Thailand revealed by autosomal microsatellites. International Journal of Legal Medicine.


Kanzaki, N., Tsai, I. J., Tanaka, R., Hunt, V. L., Liu, D., Tsuyama, K., Maeda, Y., Namai, S., Kumagai, R., Tracey, A., Holroyd, N., Doyle, S. R., Woodruff, G. C., Murase, K., Kitazume, H., Chai, C., Akagi, A., Panda, O., Ke, H. M., Schroeder, F. C., Wang, J., Berriman, M., Sternberg, P. W., Sugimoto, A., & Kikuchi, T. (2018). Biology and genome of a newly discovered sibling species of Caenorhabditis elegans. Nature Communications.

Ke, H. M., Liu, D., Ogura, Y., Hayashi, T., Urbanczyk, H., & Tsai, I. J. (2018). Tracing genomic divergence of Vibrio bacteria in the Harveyi clade. Journal of bacteriology.

Liu, D., Hunt, M., & Tsai, I. J. (2018). Inferring synteny between genome assemblies: a systematic evaluation. BMC Bioinformatics.

Chung, C. L., Lee, T. J., Akiba, M., Lee, H. H., Kuo, T. H., Liu, D., Ke, H. M., Yokoi, T., Roa, M. B., Lu, M. Y., Chang, Y. Y., Ann, P. J., Tsai, J. N., Chen, C. Y., Tzean, S. S., Ota, Y., Hattori, T., Sahashi, N., Liou, R. F., Kikuchi, T., & Tsai, I. J. (2017). Comparative and population genomic landscape of Phellinus noxius : A hypervariable fungus causing root rot in trees. Molecular Ecology.

Curriculum Vitae

Download my CV from here.