Welcome to the Noonan Lab!

Exploring the genetic origins of human biological uniqueness

What makes us human? Our capacities for invention, language and abstract thought set us apart from all other living things. With the sequencing of the human genome and the genomes of our closest primate relatives, locating the origins of such uniquely human characteristics has become a tractable genetic problem.

Many human traits are based on anatomical changes, including increased brain size and changes in the morphology of the limbs, that evolved due to genetic changes in development. Our laboratory uses a combination of computational and in vivo experimental approaches to study human-specific changes in developmental gene regulation.  We are pursuing an integrated strategy that synthesizes maps of human-specific accelerated evolution in noncoding DNAs, in vivo analysis of cis-regulatory elements, and functional genomic atlases of human development to reveal the genetic basis of unique human biology.

Postdoctoral positions available 


We are recruiting three Postdoctoral Associates. Candidates interested in any of these positions should send their CV and references to Jim Noonan at noonanlab@gmail.com. Please include the phrase Postdoctoral position in the Noonan lab in the subject line.

1. We are recruiting a Postdoctoral Associate to identify and experimentally characterize human-specific changes in developmental gene regulation. This project will build on our previous efforts using both comparative genomics to identify human-specific enhancer functions (e.g., Science 321: 1346 (2008)), and comparative epigenomics to directly study regulatory functions in homologous embryonic tissues (e.g., Cell 154:185 (2013), Science 347:1155 (2015)). Candidates must have a Ph.D. in Genetics, Neuroscience or a related field, as well as significant experimental expertise in functional genomics or developmental biology. Candidates with experience in implementing massively parallel enhancer assays or mouse models of neurodevelopment will be highly competitive for this position.

2. We are also recruiting a Postdoctoral Associate to reconstruct gene regulatory networks associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during neurodevelopment. Genetic studies indicate that loss-of-function mutations in chromatin modifiers are significantly associated with ASD risk.  We recently identified the targets of the ASD-associated chromodomain helicase CHD8 in the mid-fetal human brain, and found that CHD8 directly regulates other genes associated with ASD (Nature Commun. 6:6404 (2015)). We are now expanding these studies to additional chromatin modifiers in order to reveal common regulatory pathways underlying ASD. Candidates must have a Ph.D. in Genetics, Neuroscience or a related field, as well as experimental expertise in functional genomics (notably ChIP-seq).

3. We are also recruiting a Postdoctoral Associate interested in large-scale integrated computational analysis of gene regulatory networks using high-resolution functional genomics datasets in developing tissues. These datasets include cell-type specific measures of gene expression, protein-DNA and protein-protein interaction data in humanized mouse models and mouse models of ASD. Candidates must have a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics, Computational Biology or a related field. Candidates with prior experience in genome-wide data analysis will be highly competitive. 

Principal Investigator

James Noonan, PhD

Associate Professor of Genetics and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


  • Kavli Foundation
  • Simons Foundation