December 14, 2007
Colloquium Speaker: Spencer Wells
Spencer Wells is a geneticist and anthropologist, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, and director of the Society's Genographic Project. His fascination with the past has led him to the furthest reaches of the globe in search of human populations who hold the history of humankind in their DNA. Dr. Wells graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas at Austin at the age of 19. In 1989 he began his doctoral work studying what genetics can tell us about biological history, and received his PhD under Richard Lewontin at Harvard University. Spencer then studied under population geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza at Stanford University, where his work focused on the use of the Y-chromosome to infer when and how our species populated the planet. Spencer's long-term focus has been on the populations of Central Asia, and he has undertaken several major expeditions to the region over the past decade. After heading a research group at Oxford University in the late 90's, Spencer briefly served as research director of a biotech company in Cambridge, MA. He was writer and presenter of the award-winning 2003 PBS/National Geographic documentary, Journey of Man, and author of the book of the same name, published worldwide in 10 languages. His second book, Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project was published last year.
One of the most ambitious research initiatives ever undertaken, the Genographic Project - a joint effort of the National Geographic Society, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation - is seeking to unravel the history of human migration across the planet from our common homeland in Africa. Begun in 2006 under the direction of geneticist and Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells, the project is a five-year effort to assemble and analyze the world's largest collection of DNA samples gathered from hundreds of thousands of participants around the world. At this presentation, Dr. Wells will share the latest information about the data gathered during recent world-wide expeditions, and will discuss plans for the future of this ground-breaking project.