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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 19, 2011

Update: Jeff Murray, M.D., is filling in for the original speaker, Spencer Wells, explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, who is unable to come due to a family emergency. See related AAG,

National Geographic explorer-in-residence to speak on genographic project Oct. 24

Spencer Wells, explorer-in-residence at National Geographic, will deliver the keynote lecture at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetics Student Retreat Monday, Oct. 24.

The free, public lecture, titled "Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project," is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Second Floor Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union and will be followed by Q-and-A sessions with Wells at 8 p.m. and the genetics graduate students at 8:15 p.m. in a meet-and-greet event that will promote interactions between budding scientists and members of the general public.

Wells is director of National Geographic's Genographic Project. As director, he has been leading expeditions all over the world to collect DNA samples from different human indigenous populations that are used to chart the comprehensive history of human migrations out of Africa and beyond.

"There's very valid science behind what he does, and he asks some fundamental questions that are of interest not only to scientists but to everyone with a curiosity for who they are," says retreat organizer John Manak, assistant professor of biology and pediatrics and faculty member in the Genetics Graduate Program at the University of Iowa.

"Everyone ultimately wants to know where they came from and what their distant relatives were like. Spencer Wells is trying to trace the migration of all human lineages that will allow us to make our own personal connection to the past."

Wells, a visiting professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has been interviewed by the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NBC, CNN, and PBS among others and has appeared in a number of National Geographic specials.

"His research strongly points to all humans originating from this one small region in central Africa and really drives home the message that we are all one people," Manak says.

The Genetics Graduate Program presents the lecture with support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Graduate College, Integrated DNA Technologies, the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, the Department of Pediatrics, and the Carver College of Medicine.

For more information, visit, or contact Manak at 319-335-0180 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Graduate College Office of External Relations, 205 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: John Riehl, 319-384-1309,