Students to have chance to trace their own family ancestry
Through a painless cheek swab, students can take a sample of their own DNA, which will be analyzed to determine their migratory history.
Brandeis students will have the opportunity to trace their family ancestry back to the earliest humans as part of the Brandeis Explores the Journey of Humankind Project.
The Brandeis-based project is part of the larger Genographic Project, a non-profit, five-year global research partnership of National Geographic and IBM that seeks to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species and answer old-age questions surrounding the genetic diversity of humanity. The Genographic Project is led by renowned scientist, author, and documentary filmmaker Spencer Wells.
The Genographic Project highlights the existence of a shared human history. “Although our outward appearances vary and we have different cultural or religious traditions, all of us share common roots,” said Jules Bernstein ’57, a friend of Wells who invited him to Brandeis to discuss his work.
“Brandeis is a natural place for this type of exploration because of the University’s foundational commitment to advancing social justice; its rich history of interdisciplinary work; and the racial, religious, and ethnic diversity of the student body,” Bernstein said.
Brandeis Explores the Journey of Humankind Project is sponsored by the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, which was created in 2006 by an anonymous alumnus to provide resources for activities that underscore the University’s social-justice mission. Project co-sponsors include the Health: Science, Society, and Policy program, and the departments of sociology, anthropology, and biology.
Students in select classes will have the opportunity to participate in the Brandeis Explores the Journey of Humankind Project. Through a painless cheek swab, students will take a sample of their own DNA, which will be submitted to a Genographic Project lab for analysis of their migratory history. Participants can choose to test either their mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child and reveals direct maternal ancestry; or their Y chromosome (males only), which is passed down from father to son and reveals direct paternal ancestry.
Two public events will be held on campus as part of the Brandeis Explores the Journey of Humankind Project:
Documentary screening (April 8, 7 p.m., Faculty Club) – The Journey of Man, the award-winning PBS/National Geographic documentary featuring Spencer Wells, will be screened. Peter Conrad, the Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences who directs the Health: Science, Society, and Policy interdisciplinary program at Brandeis, will provide an introduction. Refreshments will be served.
Spencer Wells lecture (October 23, time and place to be announced) – Spencer Wells will present a lecture, Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project, and discuss the genetic migratory results of individual members of the Brandeis community who have chosen to become involved in the project.