Julie Horvath

Research Adjunct


  • PhD in Human Genetics, Case Western Reserve University, 2004
  • BS in Zoology (Concentration in Genetics), Michigan State University, 1996


  • Jointly Appointed Research Associate Professor, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina Central University
  • Adjunct Assistant Research Professor, Evolutionary Anthropology Department, Duke University
  • Associate Director, Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine
  • Member, Comparative Medicine Institute

Research Interests

Dr. Horvath is a comparative evolutionary genomicist interested in understanding the evolutionary forces that have shaped primate genomes and that impact health and disease. Genetic and genomic comparisons between humans and our closest relatives, the primates, are crucial for understanding our own evolution and unique characteristics. The foundation of her research is based on species relationships, or phylogenies, which she first established for lemurs (Horavth et al. 2008), and more recently, for all primates (Perelman et al. 2011). These species relationships are applied to many of her research questions. Many of her research projects investigate the connection between genotype (DNA sequence) and phenotype (traits and characteristics) that make flora and fauna unique.

Dr. Horvath's comparative genomic foundation provides an exciting way to integrate research from multiple disciplines since genomic analyses can be applied to many different research questions. In collaboration with Michael Platt, Lauren Brent, and Pate Skene at Duke University, Karli Watson of University of Colorado as well as Laurie Santos at Yale and members of the Caribbean Primate Research Center, she is incorporating genetic and genomic techniques with behavioral and neuroscientific methods to elucidate genotype-phenotype associations in rhesus macaques. This work was originally funded through an NIH stimulus grant and is now continued with a 5-year NIH research grant. This collaborative project is identifying macaque genotypes that are associated with social behavior heterogeneity and have similarities to human autism spectrum disorders. The population of rhesus macaques lives on the small island of Cayo Santiago, off the coast of Puerto Rico, and offers many future opportunities to combine field-based research with genomic methods to study macaque behavior and ecology.

In collaboration with Julie Urban, Sarah Council, and Rob Dunn’s group at NC State University, she has begun an armpit biodiversity project to identify the microbes that live under primate armpits. This entails a sample swab under the armpits that is genetically analyzed by sequencing small regions of the genomes of the microbes that live there. This initiated as an exploratory project to identify armpit microbes relying on citizen scientists to collect some of the human data. Since animal “fragrance” is partially determined by what is under the armpit, and it is the microbes living on skin that produce body odor, this has implications for mate choice and has exciting evolutionary implications. Her team recently swabbed armpits from a diversity of non-human primates to compare to humans. Citizen scientists can help explore some of the factors affecting microbe biodiversity, which may be dictated by the deodorant or antiperspirant used, geographic location and the type of soap and water used for bathing. These studies have implications for our health and well being, as well as our understanding of what constitutes a “healthy” skin microbiome.

Follow Julie on Twitter @NRCjulie

Select Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Chiou, K.L., Montague, M.J., Goldman, E.A., Watowich, M.M., Sams, S.N., Song, J., Horvath, J.E., Sterner, K.N., Ruiz-Lambides, A.V., Martínez, M.I., Higham, J.P., Brent, L.J.N., Platt, M.L., and Snyder-Mackler, N. (2020) Rhesus macaques as a tractable physiological model of human ageing. Philosophical Transactions B. 375: 20190612. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0612
  • Xue, C., Raveendran, M., Harris, R.A., Fawcett, G.L., Liu, X., White, S., Dahdouli, M., Rio Deiros, D., Below, J.E., Salerno, W., Cox, L., Fan, G., Ferguson, B., Horvath, J., Johnson, Z., Kanthaswamy, S., Kubisch, H.M., Liu, D., Platt, M., Smith, D.G., Sun, B., Vallender, E.J., Wang, F., Wiseman, R.W., Chen, R., Muzny, D.M., Gibbs, R.A., Yu, F., Rogers, J. (2016) The population genomics of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) based on whole-genome sequences. Genome Res 12:1651-1662.
  • Council, S.E., Horvath, J.E. (2016) Tools for citizen science recruitment and student engagement in your research and in your classroom. J Microbiology and Biology Education, 17: 38-40. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v17i1.1018
  • Council, S.E., Savage, A.M., Urban, J.M., Ehlers, M.E., Skene, J.H.P., Platt, M., Dunn, R.R., Horvath, J.E. (2016) Diversity and evolution of the primate skin microbiome. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B 283:1822. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2586
  • Urban, J.M., Fergus, D.J., Savage, A.M., Ehlers, M.E., Menninger, H.L., Dunn, R.R., Horvath, J.E. (2016) The effect of habitual antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome. Feb 2;4:e1605. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1605