Professor Townsend received his Ph.D. in 2002 in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University, under the advisement of Daniel Hartl. His Ph.D. was entitled "Population genetic variation in genome-wide gene expression: modeling, measurement, and analysis", and constituted the first population genetic analysis of genome-wide gene expression variation. After making use of the model budding yeast S. cerevisiae for his Ph.D. research, Dr. Townsend accepted an appointment as a Miller Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, where he worked to develop molecular tools, techniques, and analysis methodologies for functional genomics studies with the filamentous fungal model species Neurospora crassa, co-advised by Berkeley fungal evolutionary biologist John Taylor and molecular mycologist Louise Glass. In 2004, he accepted his first appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Connecticut. In 2006 he was appointed as an Assistant Professor the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. In 2013 he began to work on statistical approaches to fit mathematical models of disease spread and emergence, and to work on the somatic evolution of cancer, and was appointed as an Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, in 2017 he was named Elihu Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and in 2018 he was appointed Elihu Professor of Biostatistics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.