Dr. Spencer Wells presents "The Human Journey: A Genetic Odyssey"


Open VISIONS Forum Lecture Series
8 p.m., Thursday, April 10, 2014
Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts
Tickets: $45

Image: Spencer WellsFairfield University's signature lecture series, Open VISIONS Forum, presents leading geneticist and anthropologist Dr. Spencer Wells at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 10, 2014, at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Dr. Wells is Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and director of the Genographic Project. His lecture is entitled "The Human Journey: A Genetic Odyssey". The event is sponsored by CT Humanities and TV Eyes. Moffly Media is the exclusive magazine sponsor for the series. Single tickets are $45.

Introducing Dr. Wells will be Fairfield University chemistry major Erin Sullivan '14. Following his presentation, there will be an informal conversation and discussion with Scott Lacy, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Fairfield University student Grace Schiller, and Philip Eliasoph, Ph.D., professor of art history and founder/moderator of Open VISIONS Forum.

"Through exhaustive research and scientific leadership, Dr. Wells and his Genographic Project seek and provide an increasingly accurate picture of the organic oneness of humankind," said Dr. Lacy. "Creatively weaving the fossil record with human genetics, Dr. Wells shows us how all modern humans can trace their origins to a common homo sapiens population that emerged from Africa less than 100,000 years ago and populated the world."

Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist. He was recently named project director of the National Geographic Society's multi-year Genographic Project, which uses DNA samples to trace human migration out of Africa. Since the Genographic Project began, Dr. Wells's work has taken him to over three dozen countries, including Chad, Tajikistan, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, and French Polynesia. He recently published his second book, "Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project." In his 2002 book "The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey," Dr. Wells shows how genetic data can trace human migrations over the past 50,000 years, as our ancestors wandered out of Africa to fill up the continents of the globe. By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man, sometimes called "Ychromosomal Adam," who lived in Africa around 60,000 to 90,000 years ago.

Dr. Wells obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988, and a Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard University in 1994. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University between 1994 and 1998, where he trained with famed geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza, considered the "father of anthropological genetics." It was there that Wells became committed to studying genetic diversity in indigenous populations and unravelling age-old mysteries about early human migration.

His field studies began in earnest in 1996 with his survey of Central Asia. In 1998 Wells and his colleagues expanded their study to include some 25,000 miles of Asia and the former Soviet republics. His landmark research findings led to advances in the understanding of the male Y chromosome and its ability to trace ancestral human migration. Wells then returned to academia at Oxford University where he served as director of the Population Genetics Research Group of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics.

The Genographic Project is a research project of the National Geographic Society, which encompasses work carried out by its scientific team to elucidate new patterns of human migration, as well as public testing through participation kits. The Genographic Project uses advance DNA analysis to work with indigenous communities and the general public to help answer fundamental questions about where we originated and how we came to populate the Earth. The project is a not-for-profit, non-medical, multi-year, global initiative by National Geographic that uses genetics as a tool to address anthropological questions on a global scale.

Tickets are available through the Quick Center Box Office: (203) 254-4010, or toll-free 1-877-ARTS-396 (1-877-278-7396). Tickets can also be purchased online at www.quickcenter.com.

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts is located on the campus of Fairfield University at 1073 North Benson Road in Fairfield, Connecticut. Entrance to the Quick Center is through the Barlow Road gate at 200 Barlow Road. Free, secure parking is available. Access for people with disabilities is available throughout the Quick Center for audience members and performers. Hearing amplification devices are available upon request at the Box Office. Fairfield University is located off exit 22 of Interstate-95. For further information and directions, call (203) 254-4010 or 1-877-278-7396, or visit www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Mike Horyczun, (203) 254-4000 ext. 2647, mhoryczun@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 3, 2014

Vol. 46, No. 255