Benedikt Hallgrímsson

Dr. Benedikt Hallgrímsson

Pronouns: he/him


Deputy Director

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Child Health & Wellness Researcher

Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute

Department Head

Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy


Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy

Full Member

McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health

One Child Every Child Precision Health and Wellness Co-lead

University of Calgary

One Child Every Child Comprehensive Data Co-lead

University of Calgary

Contact information

Phone number

Office: 403.220.3060

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Educational Background

B.A. Anthropology, University of Alberta, 1989

Doctor of Philosophy Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1995

M.A. Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1990


I am Professor and Head of the Dept of Cell Biology & Anatomy at the University of Calgary. The central motivating question for my research program is how genetic and environmental influences impact developmental systems to produce anatomical variation. My program uniquely integrates advanced imaging and measurement (morphometrics) with developmental biology to understand the underlying mechanisms for phenotypic variation. My work extends to the mechanisms that underlie structural birth defects such as craniofacial anomalies, to the anatomical aspects of genetic disease as well as the relationship between evolution and development. I am the Deputy Director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and I co-lead One Child Every Child's Precision Health and Wellness Theme, and Comprehensive Data Accelerator.  which aims to improve outcomes for child health in Canada. I was awarded the Rohlf Medal for Excellence in Morphometrics in 2015 and I am a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2020).


Areas of Research

Congenital Malformations
Developmental Genetics

1. The developmental genetic basis for phenotypic variation. Despite the tremendous progress made in recent years towards understanding fundamental developmental mechanisms, we know very little about the genetic or developmental causes of phenotypic variation within species or among related species. This is a central area for evolutionary biology as phenotypic variation is the raw material on which evolution acts. It is also an area that has important implications for understanding etiologically complex malformations such as cleft lip and palate. Such malformations occur at the extremes of multifactorial phenotypic distributions and must be understood within the same theoretical framework as other aspects of variation.

2. The developmental-genetic basis for variation in canalization, morphological integration, and developmental stability. How developmental systems modulate the translation of genetic into phenotypic variation is a fundamental question in current evolutionary developmental biology. It is clear that most genetic variation is cryptic, as evidence by the ubiquity of recessivity. It is also clear that the expression of genetic variation is dependent on genetic background and that pleiotropy is the norm. At the phenotypic level, the complexities of the genetic to phenotypic translation can be grouped into three phenomena. Canalization and developmental stability (DS) refer to the tendency of developmental processes to follow particular trajectories despite external or internal perturbation. Canalization is the tendency for development of a specific genotype to follow the same trajectory under different conditions (different environment or different genetic backgrounds) while DS is the tendency for development of a specific genotype to follow the same trajectory under the same conditions. Morphological integration refers to the tendency for structures to show correlated variation because they are affected by shared developmental processes. All three phenomena are emergent properties of developmental systems that complicate the translation of genetic to phenotypic variation.

Participation in university strategic initiatives


  • award, Stony Brook University. 2015
  • award, Government of Alberta. 2014