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Spencer Wells        

Geneticist, anthropologist, author, entrepreneur, adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin

Spencer Wells is a geneticist, anthropologist, author and entrepreneur. For over a decade he was an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Director of the Genographic Project, which collected and analyzed DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people around the world in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the planet, in the process launching the consumer genomics industry. Wells graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas at Austin, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at Stanford and Oxford. He has appeared in numerous documentary films and is the author of three books, The Journey of Man, Deep Ancestry and Pandora's Seed. His work has taken him to more than 100 countries, where he has collaborated with everyone from heads of government and Fortune 500 corporations, to tribal chieftains eking out a precarious living in places as remote as Chad, Tajikistan and Papua New Guinea. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is founder and CEO of consumer genomics startup Insitome, an adjunct Professor at the University of Texas and owner of the iconic blues club Antone’s.

Speech Topics


The Human Journey: A Genetic Odyssey

Join Wells on an epic journey that spans the globe, using DNA to trace the migration routes of our ancient ancestors and revealing the incredible tapestry of human diversity created along the way.

Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization - Terrorism, pandemic disease, and global warming -- what do these have in common?

To find the answer we need to go back ten millennia, to the wheat fields of the Fertile Crescent and the rice paddies of southern China. It was then that our species made a radical shift in its way of life, progressing from a largely hunter-gatherer society to controlling our food supply by domesticating animals and plants. Journey with Dr. Wells on a 10,000-year tour of human history as he charts the rise to power of Homo agriculturis and the effects this radical shift in lifestyle has had on our species, and speculates on where we might be headed in the future.

Innovation: An Evolutionary Imperative

It has been said that the only certainty is change. Today this seems to be truer than ever, as we deal with economic and ecological upheaval our ancestors never could have imagined. Or could they? Creator and director of National Geographic and IBM's Genographic Project and author of three popular books on humanity's ancient past, Wells takes a much broader view. From the evolutionary origins of human innovation to our modern preference for technologies that appeal to hunter-gatherer minds, Wells provides lessons that resonate in today's rapidly changing world.

Consumer Genomics: The 30,000-foot view

The consumer genomics industry is a product of the past decade. The Genographic Project, which launched in 2005, is widely credited with its creation, and companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA now collectively sell more than 1 million DNA testing kits a year. In this talk, Wells presents a broad view of the industry from its “cottage” roots to its broader acceptance by the general public in North America. Topics covered include ancestry testing, the viability of testing for health-related traits, and the regulatory environment in which consumers for the first time in history have a means to read their own genetic blueprints. A rare first-person account of the dawn of a new industry, presented by one of its founders and leading advocates.

News


Geneticist Spencer Wells tells Springfield Forum audience interest in ...

Wells answered questions from students in the scholars program organized by Wilbraham & Monson Academy.

Spencer Wells on George’s Deep Ancestry

On the show tonight: As Director of the Genographic Project, population geneticist Spencer Wells is in the process of charting new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species. His team has collected DNA samples from half a million people around the world - including George's! In this clip, Spencer shares some rather surprising test results with our unknowing (and admittedly nervous) host....

A Q&A about Our DNA with Geneticist Spencer Wells

We recently spoke with one of the panelists, Dr. Spencer Wells, a population geneticist who as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence is leading the Genographic Project, a not-for-profit, multi-year, global research initiative that works to uncover our collective past by advanced analyses of DNA.

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