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Event Detail (Archived)

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

Event Details

Friday Lecture Series
David Reich, Ph.D., professor of genetics, Harvard Medical School; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Massive technological innovations now allow scientists to extract and analyze ancient DNA as never before, and genomics is emerging as important a means of understanding the human past as archeology, linguistics, and the written word. In this talk, Dr. Reich will describe how the human genome provides not only all the information that a fertilized human egg needs to develop but also contains within it the history of our species. He will discuss how the genomic revolution and ancient DNA are transforming our understanding of our lineage as modern humans, and how DNA studies reveal a deep history of inequality—among different populations, between the sexes, and among individuals within a population. A particular focus will be on how genomics and ancient DNA are now helping to solve the more than 200-year-old problem of the origins of Indo-European languages.

Dr. Reich carried out his doctoral work in statistical methods for learning about evolutionary history at the University of Oxford (mentor David Goldstein), graduating in 1999. He completed his postdoctoral work at the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research in 2003 (mentor Eric Lander), before starting as a faculty member in Harvard Medical School's department of genetics. Dr. Reich's work focuses on studying population mixture, with application to both medicine and human history. In medical genetics, he has developed and applied methods to use the history of mixture of populations in the history of African Americans to find genetic risk factors that contribute to health disparities. Much of his work at present focuses on using the transformative power of ancient DNA to gain new insight about medical and evolutionary genetics.​ His new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past summarizes the state of this field.

Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785
Open to
Michael Young, Ph.D.
Refreshments, 3:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m., Abby Lounge
Justin Sloboda
(212) 327-7785

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