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The Genomic Journey: Searching for Your Roots

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm

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We share a basic drive to discover our own personal stories that explain who we are—and where we come from. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is very familiar with this imperative. In the 2012 PBS series, Finding Your Roots, he explored “the DNA of American culture.” On TV, Gates enlisted his own corps of discovery—leading genealogists, geneticists, and ancestry genetic testing companies—to uncover the ancestry of celebrities in each episode. This very team has been busy tracing the genetic histories of tonight’s guests, the Smithsonian’s own Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Washington Week’s Gwen Ifill. Gates will reveal their ancestral backgrounds, discovered through historical records and genomic data, live on stage. Ifill and Bunch will explore the results and comment on what they’ve learned.  

After the ancestral reveal, the program opens to a discussion on the promise and limitations of genomic research and ancestral inference genetic testing. Panelists include Aravinda Chakravarti, professor, McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University; Charmaine Royal, faculty, Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, and associate research professor, Department of African and African American Studies, Duke University; and Joanna Mountain, senior director of research, 23andMe. The panel moderator is Vence Bonham, associate investigator, National Human Genome Research Institute. A question-and-answer session with the audience follows.

Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. 

Programming is made possible thanks to generous grants and gifts made through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Presented in partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of Natural History, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.