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Jessica F Brinkworth

Profile picture for Jessica F Brinkworth

Contact Information

109 Davenport Hall
607 S. Matthews Ave.
M/C 148
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Hours

F 10:00-1:00 pm
Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Evolution of primate immunity, human immune variation, sepsis, severe infections, plague, pneumonia, Toxoplasma, SAR-CoV-2/COVID-19, host-pathogen interactions, immunogenomics, evolutionary medicine, the immunology of labour and economics. 


Research Description

I ask why do some people get severe infections? More specifically, why do some people get sick when others do not? My lab examines how both the human experience and our evolutionary past affect immune system function, health and disease. With a specific focus on severe infections and sepsis, we examine the functional divergence and diversification of primate immune systems, how past pandemics affect present day immune function diversity and how life experience and especially how the job you work affects the innate immune responses.

Our lab team also develops protocol to decrease our environmental footprint and plastic waste, and increase the resiliency of land on which we work. 

.Please see Dr. Brinkworth's website for more information


2012, PhD, City University of New York Graduate Center, Anthropology


Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, Block grant  - Project: Pop-up COVID-19 testing and Flu vaccination in vulnerable neighbourhoods  in ChampaignCounty. (Co-PI) (2020)


National Science Foundation #BCS- 1750675. Human population history and the evolution of human immune function (PI) (2018-present)

UIUC Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences - Project: Identifying SARS-COV-2 critical control points in agricultural communities (Co-PI) (2020-present)

UIUC Student Sustainability Committee  - Project: Joint Pollinator Garden and Composting Systems to Offset Environmental Impact and Reinforce Responsible Stewardship in Research (PI) (2019-present)


UIUC Student Sustainability Committee - Davenport Hall Carbon Garden (CoPI) (2018-2020)

Awards and Honors

2021        UIUC LAS Impact Award – Jessica Brinkworth “For leading efforts to provide underrepresented groups in the Rantoul and Champaign-Urbana  communities with COVID-19 testing, flu vaccinations during the pandemic.”

2021        UIUC LAS Impact Award – Labour, Health. Equity, Action Project (LHEAP). “For providing vitally important COVID-19 testing to an underserved Illinois community”. Jessica Brinkworth, Korinta Maldonado,  Ellen Moodie, Gilberto Rosas, & Rachel Whitaker

2020        Teacher Ranked as Excellent – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

2019        Gabriel W. Lasker Award for most significant contribution to the journal Human Biology in the year 2018

2018        Teacher Ranked as Excellent – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign




Courses Taught

ANTH 407 - Evolutionary Immunology

ANTH 199 - On Race and Health (soon to be Race, your Cells and Health) FALL 2021!!

ANTH 249  - Evolution of Health and Disease

ANTH 240 - Introduction to Biological Anthropology

Additional Campus Affiliations

Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (Infection Genomics for One Health, and Gene Networks in Neural and Developmental Plasticity themes)

Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior

Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences

Honors & Awards

2013-2015 Quebec Network of Applied Genetic Medicine (RGMA) Fellow

Recent Publications

Heiman, S. L., Hirt, E. R., Isch, C., Brinkworth, J. F., Cronk, L., Alcock, J., Aktipis, A., & Todd, P. M. (2023). Identities as predictors of vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Social Issues, 79(2), 556-577.

Brinkworth, J. F., & Shaw, J. G. (2022). On race, human variation, and who gets and dies of sepsis. American Journal of Biological Anthropology, 178(S74), 230-255.

Brinkworth, J. F., & Rusen, R. M. (2022). SARS-CoV-2 Is Not Special, but the Pandemic Is: The Ecology, Evolution, Policy, and Future of the Deadliest Pandemic in Living Memory. Annual Review of Anthropology, 51, 527-548.

Klunk, J., Vilgalys, T. P., Demeure, C. E., Cheng, X., Shiratori, M., Madej, J., Beau, R., Elli, D., Patino, M. I., Redfern, R., DeWitte, S. N., Gamble, J. A., Boldsen, J. L., Carmichael, A., Varlik, N., Eaton, K., Grenier, J. C., Golding, G. B., Devault, A., ... Barreiro, L. B. (2022). Evolution of immune genes is associated with the Black Death. Nature, 611(7935), 312-319.

Brinkworth, J. F., & Valizadegan, N. (2021). Sepsis and the evolution of human increased sensitivity to lipopolysaccharide. Evolutionary anthropology, 30(2), 141-157.

View all publications on Illinois Experts