African Diaspora, Genetics and Genealogy
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African Diaspora and the Atlantic
World Research Circle


Africa, African Diaspora, Genetics and Genealogy
A conference to be held March 12

- Keynote Speakers -

Dr. Shomarka Keita | Dr. Michael Campbell | Dr. Fatimah Jackson

Dr. Shomarka Keita
Senior Research Associate, National Human Genome Center, Howard University. Research Associate, Deptartment of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institute

Shomarka Omar Y. Keita is a biological anthropologist and physician who has long been interested in human variation, especially in Africa, as well as multidisciplinary approaches to the past. He has authored or coauthored publications in peer reviewed science and humanities journals including  the American Journal of Human Biology, Science, American Anthropologist, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Nature Genetics, and History in Africa. His research has been in the areas of craniofacial variation, paleopathology, ancient Egyptian skeletal biology, the syntheses of biology, linguistics, and archaeology in order to study African population history, and the history of ideas about "race" and human variation in Africa. Recently Dr. Keita has developed an interest in the issue of building capacity to produce endogenous knowledge in Africa and the diaspora as a need for development. He is currently Senior Research Associate at the National Human Genome Center at Howard University, Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institution, and a medical officer at St Elizabeths Hospital in the District of Columbia. He received the doctorate in medicine from  Howard University, a masters in general anthropology from SUNY-Binghamton, and the master of science and doctorate in biological anthropology from Oxford University

Dr. Michael Campbell
Postdoctoral Researcher, Tishkoff Lab, University of Pennsylvania

Dr Michael Campbell received his PhD in Biological Anthropology from Columbia University in 2007. He is now engaged in postdoctoral research at the Tishkoff Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. He describes his interests this way: “Across broad geographic scales, human populations have shown clear differences in levels of genetic diversity. Particularly, sub-Saharan Africans are found to possess the largest total number of alleles, as well as the largest number of unique alleles compared to non-African populations. Also, Africans have lower levels of linkage disequilibrium (LD) between alleles and more divergent patterns of LD than non-African populations. These patterns of diversity in non-Africans are consistent with the expansion of modern humans from Africa within the last 100,000 years. However, a continued challenge in evolutionary studies has been to characterize genetic variation among ethnically diverse human populations within continental regions, particularly in Africa. Given the central role of African populations in human evolution, understanding their patterns of genetic diversity and LD is crucial for reconstructing human prehistory. I am interested in studying the levels and patterns of African diversity to expand current knowledge concerning relationships among African populations, demographic history and modern human origins. Additionally, I am interested in identifying functionally significant variants involved in complex traits/complex disease using association studies to better understand genotype/phenotype correlations in populations of African descent.”

Dr. Fatimah Jackson
Professor and Director of Institute of African-American Research, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Dr. Fatimah Jackson received her PhD from Cornell.  She is an expert on the biohistory of African peoples and their descendants in the diaspora.  She is widely recognized for her stress on interdisciplinary and interactive approaches to scientific research.  During the 1990s, she was coordinator for genetics research on the African Burial Ground Project in New York City.  In 2002, she co-founded the first human DNA bank in Africa (based at the University of Yaounde I in Cameroon) with the aim of changing the way that anthropological genetic research is done on the African continent (moving away from the colonial approach), enhancing local infrastructure and expertise, and dramatically improving the potential for scientific understanding of the interactions of genotypes and environmental factors in producing specific phenotypes (by providing a local context for data analysis and interpretation). With the cooperation of local scientists, the project continue to amass a large and diverse database of African and non-African genotypes which is unique in its ethnographic detail. This research effort will upgrade the quality of genetic data on Africans (and its interpretation) by placing the molecular information within a sophisticated anthropological context.  Jackson has published more than 30 articles in a variety of refereed journals including Human Biology, American Anthropologist, Annual Review of Anthropology, Journal of Black Studies, American Journal of Human Biology, Seton Hall Law Review, and the British Medical Bulletin.  Most recently, she appeared in the BBC documentary, “Motherland: A Genetic Journey,” chronicling the search by three African Americans in their search for their genetic roots in Africa.

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