Dr. Mark C. Harrison

Postdoctoral Research Associate and Principle Investigator

Email: m.harrison@wwu.de

Tel.: +49-(0)251-83-21508

Room: Hüfferstrasse 1a, room 3


ORCID iD iconORCID: 0000-0003-3095-019X



Research Interests

  • Comparative genomics
  • Evolution of complex traits in insects, especially in Blattodea
  • Evolution of eusociality in insects
  • Evolution of longevity and healthy ageing

Current Projects

  • Discovering the secrets of a long life in naked mole-rats with co-expression network analyses, since July 2023. Research Module, Maybritt Heß.
  • Investigating the molecular footprints of eusociality with machine learning, since March 2023. BSc thesis, Alina Jänsch.
  • Evolutionary Genomics of Sociality in Beetles (Within DFG SPP GEvol), in collaboration with Sandra Steiger, Volker Nehring, Peter Biedermann and Martin Schebeck, since November 2022. Responsible PhD student: Sarah Rinke-Stack.
  • Genomic innovations underlying the evolution of termite sociality (DFG project number 433073542), in collaboration with Dino McMahon (McMahonLab), since April 2020. Responsible PhD student: Alina Mikhailova.
  • DieTerm (HFSP), Defying the reproduction-maintenance trade-off: role of Diet in long-lived Termite reproductives, since July 2018. In collaboration with Mireille Vasseur-Cognet, Erich Bornberg-Bauer and others. Responsible PostDoc: ALun Jones
  • Sociogenomics in Blattodea (ANR/DFG) - Genomics of the evolution of subsociality in cockroaches, since 2020. In collaboration with Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Frederic Legendre amd Philippe Grandcolas. Responsible PostDoc: Bertrand Fouks

Open Student Projects

Available as BSc thesis, MSc thesis or research module (Forschungsmodul)

Former Projects

  • SoLong (DFG FOR 2281), comparative genomics of the molecular basis of ageing in social insects (2016 - 2022). Responsible PostDoc: Elias Dohmen
  • The role of selection in the emergence of caste-biased genes in termites. MSc thesis, Sarah Rinke-Stack, October 2022.
  • Molecular footprints of sociality in blattodean genomes. BSc thesis, Lea Steinbach, December 2022.
  • Effects of sociality and ageing on selection in termites. Erasmus student, Melih Yildiz, September 2021 - December 2021.
  • Influence of Sociality and Selection on Blattodean Genomes. BSc thesis, Judith Ryll, August 2019.
  • Annotation and Analysis of Ionotropic Receptors in Blattodea. MSc thesis, Jan Berghöfer, June 2019.
  • Dynamics of Gene Families Implicated in the Evolution of Termite Eusociality. MSc thesis, Lukas Kremer, July 2017.


I encourage every student to come to us and learn bioinformatics. I make my projects accessible to anyone by offering entry at all levels of experience. We provide support materials and introductory texts in advance to gain first skills before projects begin.

I am responsible for two MSc advanced courses and two MSc research modules:

  • Biocomputing 1: Python for beginners.
  • Biocomputing 2: Python for advanced students.
  • Evolutionary Genomics
  • Biological Data Analysis

I also regularly teach in the following courses:

  • Bioinformatics II (BSc lectures)
  • Molecular Phylogenetics (MSc advanced module) - practical: Molecular evolution and selection
  • Computational analysis of transcriptomes and proteomes (MSc advanced module) - practical: "Genomics and Transcriptomics"
  • Animal Evolutionary Ecology (BSc module) - lecture: Ageing in animals - evolutionary and ecological considerations; and supervision of student projects.
  • Concepts and Current Topics in Evolutionary Biology (MSc advanced module) - lecture: Comparative Genomics
  • Integrated Biology (MSc advanced module) - project: "Evolution of caste-specific expression"

Scientific Career and Education

  • 05/2018 - present: lecturer (wissenschaftlicher Assistent) at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster
  • 05/2016 - 04/2018: Postdoc at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster
  • 10/2012 - 04/2016: PhD in Evolutionary Biology at University of Leicester, UK with Dr Rob Hammond and Dr Eamonn Mallon. Titel: "The influence of ploidy-specific expression on selection." https://lra.le.ac.uk/handle/2381/38035)
  • 10/2010 - 09/2012: MSc Biology (Biodiversity) at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. Master thesis with Prof. Florian Leese, title: "The application of next generation sequencing technology in phylogeography and population genetics: A test case using Antarctic brittle stars."
  • 10/2007 - 10/2010: BSc Biology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany.


  • Fouks B*, Harrison MC*, Mikhailova AA, ..., Benoit JB, Bornberg-Bauer E, Tobe SS. "Live-bearing cockroach genome reveals convergent evolutionary mechanisms linked to viviparity in insects and beyond" - iScience (in print). Preprint: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.02.03.478960
  • Post F, Bornberg-Bauer E, Vasseur-Cognet M, Harrison MC. "More effective transposon regulation in fertile, long‐lived termite queens than in sterile workers" Molecular Ecology, 2023.
  • Berger J, Legendre F, Zelosko KM, Harrison MC, Grandcolas P, Bornberg-Bauer E, Fouks B. "Eusocial Transition in Blattodea: Transposable Elements and Shifts of Gene Expression" Genes, 2022.
  • Harrison MC, Dohmen E, George S, Sillam-Dusses D, Seite S, Vasseur-Cognet M. "Complex regulatory role of DNA methylation in caste-specific expression of a higher termite" Open Biology, 2022.
  • Séité S*, Harrison MC*, ..., Bornberg-Bauer E, Vassseur-Cognet M. "Lifespan prolonging mechanisms and insulin upregulation without fat accumulation in long-lived reproductives of a higher termite" Communications Biology, 2022.
  • Harrison MC, Niño LMJ, Rodrigues MA, Ryll J, Flatt T, Oettler J, Bornberg-Bauer E. "Gene Coexpression Network Reveals Highly Conserved, Well-Regulated Anti-Ageing Mechanisms in Old Ant Queens" Genome Biology and Evolution, 2021.
  • Séguret, A, Harrison MC, ..., Paxton, RJ. "Transcriptomic signatures of ageing vary in solitary and social forms of an orchid bee" Genome biology and evolution, 2021.
  • He S, Sieksmeyer T, Che Y, Esparza Mora MA, Stiblik P, Banasiak R, Harrison MC, Šobotník J, Wang Z, Johnston PR, McMahon DP. "Evidence for reduced immune gene diversity and activity during the evolution of termites" Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2021.
  • Harrison MC, Chrenyshova AM, Thompson GJ. "No obvious transcriptome-wide signature of indirect selection in termites" Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2020.
  • Harrison MC, Mallon EB, Twell D and Hammond RL. "Deleterious mutation accumulation in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen genes: a role for a recent relaxation of selection" Genome Biology and Evolution, 2019.
  • Bornberg Bauer E, Harrison MC, Jongepier E. "The first cockroach genome and its significance for understanding development and the evolution of insect eusociality" (editorial) Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B, 2018.
  • Harrison MC, Arning N, Kremer LPM, ..., Bornberg-Bauer E, ..., Schal C. "Expansions of key protein families in the German cockroach highlight the molecular basis of its remarkable success as a global indoor pest" Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B, 2018.
  • Harrison MC*, Jongepier E*, Robertson HM, ..., Belles X, Korb J, Bornberg-Bauer E. "Hemimetabolous genomes reveal molecular basis of termite eusociality". Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2018.
  • Price J, Harrison MC, Hammond RL, Adams S, Gutierrez-Marcos, JF, Mallon, EB. "Alternative splicing associated with phenotypic plasticity in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris". Molecular Ecology, 2018.
  • Lopez-Ezquerra A, Harrison MC, Bornberg-Bauer E. "Comparative analysis of lincRNAs in insect species" BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2017.
  • Harrison MC, Hammond RL, and Mallon EB. "Reproductive workers show queenlike gene expression in an intermediately eusocial insect, the buff-tailed bumble bee Bombus terrestris" Molecular ecology, 2015.

* Equal contributions

Manuscripts in prep

  • Mikhailova AM, Dohmen E, Harrison MC. "Major changes in domain arrangements are associated with the evolution of termite castes" - submitted. Preprint: https://doi.org/10.1101/2023.05.15.540413
  • Feldmeyer B, Bornberg-Bauer E, Dohmen E, Fouks B, Heckenhauer J, Huylmans AK, Jones ARC, Stolle E, Harrison MC. "Comparative Evolutionary Genomics in Insects" - submitted