Dr Sandra Beleza

Lecturer in Genetics

School/Department: Genetics and Genome Biology, Department of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 294 4548



Dr Sandra Beleza attended the University of Porto, Portugal, and then worked for two years in cell biology research at the Institute of Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (IPATIMUP), before joining the graduate program in Forensic and Population Genetics at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain in January 2001.

Dr Beleza’s dissertation project focused on using uniparental markers (Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA) in European and African populations to address forensic population genetics and evolutionary questions.

Upon completing the PhD in 2005 Dr Beleza accepted a postdoctoral position at IPATIMUP and afterwards took up a role as a research associate at the Department of Genetics, Stanford University, California. During this time Dr Beleza focused on recently admixed populations of Africans and Europeans, and analysed genome-wide data to study the genetic architecture and evolution of morphologic and biomedical traits.

In November 2013 Dr Beleza joined the Department of Genetics and Genome Biology at the University of Leicester to establish a laboratory of human and microbial population genetics and evolution.


Dr Beleza’s laboratory uses genomic tools, population genetics and statistical genetics to address questions in human and microbial evolutionary genetics.

The group are focussed on the analysis of genetic variation and population history of African and African-descended populations, and in elucidating the genetic architecture and evolution of adaptive and health-related traits in these populations. Some of these traits include phenotypes with anthropological relevance, namely skin and eye colour, and phenotypes with biomedical relevance, such as the large heterogeneity in susceptibility to Helicobacter pylori.

The lab is also particularly interested in understanding the distribution of genetic variation of human-associated microbes across the world, and co-evolution with their host including evolution of antimicrobial drug resistance.

To accomplish these goals research funding has been obtained from the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Academy of Medical Sciences. A research collaboration contract has also been obtained with the USA-based company 23andMe to study the genetics of pre-historical and historical African migrations.

ORCID number: 0000-0002-7004-3431


For a full list, please visit:

Korunes KL, Soares-Souza GB, Bobrek K, Tang H, Araújo II, Goldberg A, Beleza S (2021) Sex-biased admixture and assortative mating shape genetic variation and influence demographic inference in admixed Cabo Verdeans.
bioRxiv 2020.12.14.422766; doi: 10.1101/2020.12.14.422766

Ebel ER, Reis F, Petrov DA, Beleza S (2021) Historical trends and new surveillance of Plasmodium falciparum drug resistance markers in Angola. Malar J. 20: 175. doi: 10.1186/s12936-021-03713-2.

Hamid I, Korunes KL, Beleza S, Goldberg A (2021) Rapid adaptation to malaria facilitated by admixture in the human population of Cabo Verde. Elife 10: e63177. doi: 10.7554/eLife.63177. 

Wysocka M, Monteiro T, de Pina C, Gonçalves D, de Pina S, Ludgero-Correia A, Moreno J, Zamudio R, Almebairik N, Gray LJ, Pareek M, Jenkins DR, Aires-de-Sousa M, De Lencastre H, Beleza S, Araujo II, Conceiçāo T, Oggioni MR (2021) Whole-genome analysis uncovers loss of blaZ associated with carriage isolates belonging to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) clone ST5-VI in Cape Verde. J Glob Antimicrob Resist. 26:77-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jgar.2021.04.018. 

Micheletti SJ, Bryc K, Ancona Esselmann SG, Freyman WA, Moreno ME, Poznik GD, Shastri AJ; 23andMe Research Team, Beleza S, Mountain JL (2020) Genetic Consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the Americas. Am J Hum Genet. 107: 265-277. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.06.012 

Lloyd-Jones LR, Robinson MR, Moser G, Zeng J, Beleza S, Barsh GS, Tang H, Visscher PM (2017) Inference on the Genetic Basis of Eye and Skin Color in an Admixed Population via Bayesian Linear Mixed Models. Genetics 206: 1113-1126. doi: 10.1534/genetics.116.193383. 

Beleza S, Johnson NA, Candille SI, Absher DM, Coram MA, Lopes J, Campos J, Araújo II, Anderson TM, Vilhjálmsson BJ, Nordborg M, Correia E Silva A, Shriver MD, Rocha J, Barsh GS, Tang H (2013) Genetic architecture of skin and eye color in an African-European admixed population. PLoS Genet 9: e1003372. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003372.

Beleza S, Campos J, Lopes J, Araújo II, Hoppfer Almada A, Correia e Silva A, Parra EJ, Rocha J (2012) The admixture structure and genetic variation of the archipelago of Cape Verde and its implications for admixture mapping studies. PLoS One 7: e51103. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051103. 

Reiner AP, Beleza S, Franceschini N, Auer PL, Robinson JG, Kooperberg C, Peters U, Tang H (2012) Genome-wide association and population genetic analysis of C-reactive protein in African American and Hispanic American women. Am J Hum Genet 91: 502-512. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.07.023. 

Miller CT, Beleza S, Pollen AA, Schluter D, Kittles RA, Shriver MD, Kingsley DM (2007) cis-Regulatory changes in Kit ligand expression and parallel evolution of pigmentation in sticklebacks and humans. Cell. 2007 Dec 14;131(6):1179-1189. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2007.10.055. 

Beleza S, Gusmão L, Amorim A, Carracedo A, Salas A (2005) The genetic legacy of western Bantu migrations. Hum Genet 11: 366-375. doi: 10.1007/s00439-005-1290-3.


Dr Beleza’s primary research topics are:

  • Discovering and measuring human genetic diversity and structure related to either ancient population history or recent admixture
  • Identifying genomic regions apparently affected by natural selection in African and Africa-descended populations such as Brazil, Cape Verde, Angola, and Mozambique.
  • Studying the genetic architecture of genotype-phenotype correlations and evolution of complex traits. Specifically the evolution of phenotypes such as skin and eye colour, anthropometric features such as height and BMI, and susceptibility to infectious disease.
  • Tracing the evolutionary relationships between humans and host-associated microbes in genetically diverse populations, with particular focus on Helicobacter pylori infections and the oral and gut microbiomes.
  • Determining the epidemiology and molecular evolution of antimicrobial drug resistance of pathogens in African and Africa-descended populations


Dr Beleza teaches and co-convenes undergraduate modules in Medical and Biological sciences that focus on Introductory Genetics, and current ethics issues in Medical Genetics.

Dr Beleza’s teaching interests span the fields of human medical and evolutionary genetics.

Press and media

Genetics of African populations and of the trans-Atlantic slave trade

Estimating and tracing the genetic ancestry of the individuals

Genetic basis and evolution of common disease, and of skin and eye colour

Studying human and microbe co-evolution in health and disease

Studying the evolution of antimicrobial drug resistance in human-associated microbes

Back to top