Dr. Jada Benn Torres

Vanderbilt University, Department of Anthropology .

I am a genetic anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. I have been a member of the department since 2016 and am currently an Associate Professor. Prior to arriving at Vanderbilt, I was in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame for seven years.

I completed my undergraduate studies with BA in Pre-professional Studies/Anthropology and Computer Applications in 1999 at the University of Notre Dame. I then earned a MS degree in 2002 followed by a doctorate in anthropology in 2006 from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.  After graduate school, I was a post-doctoral fellow for two years in the Department of Medicine, Section of Genetic Medicine at the University of Chicago. Under the tutelage of Dr. Rick Kittles, I worked on various research projects involving molecular epidemiology of prostate and colorectal cancers.

Currently, my primary research area is the Anglophone Caribbean where I explore genetic ancestry and population history of African and Indigenous Caribbean peoples. As part of this research, I have been involved with National Geographic’s Genographic Project.  I’ve published studies that consider numerous Caribbean communities, including the Garifuna of St. Vincent, the First People’s Community of Arima in Trinidad, and the Accompong Town Maroons of Jamaica. Most recently, I’ve expanded this research to consider the ancestry of African descendants in Puerto Rico. 

A second emerging area of my research combines the tools and theories of genetic epidemiology with anthropology in  to holistically examine health disparities across human populations.  This work focuses on women’s health, with a specific focus on the prevalence of uterine fibroids among African descendant women. In this work, I consider how the intersectional aspects of a person’s identity impacts how they understand and experience uterine fibroids. The overall goal of line of research is to unpack the how and in what ways race, specifically ‘Black race’ is a risk factor for uterine fibroids.

Benn Torres CV

Recent Publications


Genetic Ancestry: Our Stories, Our Pasts

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Mullings, L., Benn Torres, J., Fuentes, A., Gravlee, C.C., Roberts, D. and Thayer, Z. 2021. The Biology of Racism. American Anthropologist. https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13630

Benn Torres, J. 2020. Anthropological perspectives on genomic data, genetic ancestry, and race. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 171(Suppl. 70):74–86. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23979.

Benn Torres, J. , Martucci,V., Aldrich,MC., Vilar MG., MacKinney, T., Gaieski, JB., Hernandez, RB, Browne, ZE., Stevenson, M., Wendell Walters, W., Tariq, M.,Schurr, TG., and The Genographic Consortium. 2019. Analysis of biogeographic ancestry reveals complex genetic histories for indigenous communities of St. Vincent and Trinidad. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 169:482–497. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23859.

Benn Torres, J. 2019. A parrot among John Crows: diversity as risk and reward. American Anthropologist, 121(2):474-476. DOI:10.1111/aman.13217.

Benn Torres, J. 2019. Race, rare genetic variants, and the science of human difference in the post-genomic age.Transforming Anthropology, 27(1), 37-49. DOI:10.1111/traa.12144.

 Fuller, H. and Benn Torres, J. 2018. Investigating the ‘Taíno’ Ancestry of the Jamaican Maroons: A New Genetic (DNA), Historical and Multidisciplinary Analysis and Case Study of the Accompong Town Maroons. Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Vol. 43(1).

Benn Torres, J. 2018. ‘Reparational’ Genetics: Genomic data and the case for reparations in the Caribbean. Genealogy, 2(1), 7; doi:10.3390/genealogy2010007

Benn Torres, J. 2018. Effective Population Size in The International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology, W. Trevathan (ed).  John Wiley and Sons, Inc. (In press).

Benn Torres, J. and Torres Colon, G. 2017.  ¿Afrocaribeños y originarios? Genética, memoria y presencia africana en el Caribe. Anales del Caribe (in press).

Benn Torres, J. 2016. A history of you, me, and humanity: mitochondrial DNA in anthropological research. AIMS Genetics, 2016, 3(2): 146-156. doi: 10.3934/genet.2016.2.146

Benn Torres, J. 2016. Genetic Anthropology and Archaeology: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Human History in the Caribbean. PaleoAmerica, 2(1), 1-5.

Benn Torres, J., Vilar, M., Torres, G. , Gaieski, J., Bharath Hernandez, H., Browne, Z.,Stevenson, M., Walters, W.,. Schurr, TG., and The Genographic Consortium. 2015. Genetic Diversity in the Lesser Antilles and Its Implications for the Settlement of the Caribbean Basin. PloS one, 10(10), e0139192.

Benn Torres, J. and Torres Colon, G.  2015. Racial Experience as an Alternative Operationalization of Race. Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints. Paper 76

Madrilejo, N., Lombard, H., and Benn Torres, J. 2014. Origins of Marronage:  Mitochondrial Lineages of Accompong Town Maroons. American Journal of Human Biology 27(3):432-7

Benn Torres, J. 2014. Prospecting the past: genetic perspectives on the extinction and survival of indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. New Genetics and Society 33(1): 21-41.

Benn Torres, J., Stone, A., Kittles, R. 2013. An Anthropological Genetic Perspective on Creolization in the Anglophone Caribbean. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 151(1):135-43.

Benn Torres J., Doura M.B., Keita S.O.Y., and Kittles R.A. 2012. Y Chromosome Lineages in men of West African Descent. PloS one 7(1): e29687.

Hooker S., Hernandez W., Chen H., Robbins C., Benn Torres J., Ahaghotu C., Carpten J.,Kittles R.A. 2010. Replication of prostate cancer risk loci on 8q24, 11q13, 17q12, 19q33, and Xp11 in African Americans. Prostate 70(3): 270-275.

Kupfer S.S., Benn Torres J., Hooker S., Anderson J.R., Skol A.D., Ellis N.A., Kittles R.A. 2009. Novel single nucleotide polymorphism associations with colorectal cancer on chromosome 8q24 in African and European Americans. Carcinogenesis 30(8): 1353-1357.

Kupfer S., Benn Torres J., Hooker S., Anderson J.R., Ellis N.A., Kittles R.  2009. 768 novel SNP associations with colorectal cancer on 8q24 and 5q in African and European Americans. Gastroenterology 136(5): A-120.

Giri V.N., Egleston B., Ruth K., Uzzo R.G., Chen D.Y.T., Buyyounouski M., Raysor S., Hooker S., Benn Torres J., Ramike T., Mastalski K., Kim T.Y., Kittles R. 2009. Race, genetic west African ancestry, and prostate cancer prediction by prostate-specific antigen in prospectively screened high-risk men. Cancer Prev Res 2(3): 244-250.

Benn Torres J, Bonilla C., Robbins C.M., Waterman L., Moses T.Y., Hernandez W., Santos E.R., Bennett F., Aiken W., Tullock T., Coard K., Hennis A., Wu S., Nemesure B., Leske M.C., Freeman V., Carpten J., Kittles R.A. 2008. Admixture and population stratification in African Caribbean populations. Annals of Human Genetics 72(1): 90-98.

Robbins C., Benn Torres J., Hooker S., Bonilla C., Hernandez W., Candreva A., Ahaghotu C.,Kittles R.A., Carpten J. 2007. Confirmation study of prostate cancer risk variants at 8q24 in African Americans identifies a novel risk locus. Genome Res. 17(12): 1717-1722.
Benn Torres J., Kittles R.A. 2007. The relationship between “race” and genetics in biomedical research. Curr Hypertens Rep 9(3): 196-201.

Benn Torres J., Kittles R.A., Stone A.C. 2007. Mitochondrial and Y chromosome diversity in the English-speaking Caribbean. Ann Hum Genet 71(Pt 6): 782-90.

Book Chapters
Schurr TG, Benn Torres J, Vilar MG, Gaieski JB, Melendez, C. 2016. A History of Indigenous Caribbean Populations:  Insights from Archeological, Ethnographic, Genetic and Historical Studies. In: Zuckerman M, Martin DL, editors. New Directions in Biological Anthropology: Papers Honoring the Legacy of George Armelagos. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, pp. 385-402.

Benn Torres J, Kittles RA. 2009. Race and genetics. In: Ferdinand K, Armani A, editors.Contemporary Cardiology: Cardiovascular Disease in Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Humana Press. pp. 81-91.

Kyker,K.D., Likos, A.M., Blair, F.C., Kurien, B.T., Hala′sz, H., Benn. J, and Broyles, R.H. 1994. Hemoglobin switching in heterokaryons; Conservation of trans-acting factors that mediate developmental gene regulation. In Molecular Biology of Hemoglobin Switching. G.Stamatoyannopoulos (Ed) Intercept Ltd,. Andover, Hampshire, UK, Chap. 26, pp. 313-329.

Invited Publications
Benn Torres, J. 2014. Out of many, one people: Genetic ancestry in the Caribbean. Genewatch 27-2.

Benn Torres, J. 2014. Ensuring careful consideration of potential impacts. Commentary for

Zócalo Public Square’s program on Synthetic Biology, held September 23, 2014. http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2014/09/22/with-great-scientific-power-comes-great-responsibility/ideas/up-for-discussion/#Jada+Benn+Torres+
(Reprinted in Time Magazine, http://time.com/3419445/if-synthetic-biology-lets-us-play-god-we-need-rules/)

Other Publications
Technical reports

Ozlins E.G., Carson E.A.; Benn J., Potter W.E., 2000. Report of Investigation: OMI #3545-7000-IRA

Ozlins E.G., Rhoads M.L., Benn J, Potter W.E., Prilop V. 2000. Report of investigation: OMI #476-200-13V

Komar D., Benn, J. 2000. Report of Investigation: OMI #4115-800-3