R. SPENCER WELLS
Explorer-in-Residence and Director of The Genographic Project at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.
Dr. Wells has both outstanding scientific credentials (PhD at Harvard 1994, postdoc at Stanford School of Medicine, 1994-98) and has established himself as an excellent communicator to the public. He is the author of 41 scientific papers, three books, has been the subject and scientific advisor for 8 films (one of the latest, “China’s Secret Mummies,” earning an Emmy nomination for “best historical documentary” in 2007). He has lectured at universities and to the public around the world, and his work and engaging style of presentation has made him a popular and effective communicator with the print, radio and TV media.
As a scientist, author, and documentary film-maker Spencer Wells has dedicated much of his career to studying humankind's family tree and closing the gaps in our knowledge of human migration. Wells was recently named project director of the groundbreaking multi-year Genographic Project, which uses DNA samples to trace human migration out of Africa over 60,000 years ago. For Wells, the assignment is a dream come true, marrying his two passions of biology and history. Wells's own journey of discovery began at the University of Texas, where he enrolled at 16, majored in biology, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa three years later. He then pursued his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Beginning in 1994, he conducted postdoctoral training at Stanford University's School of Medicine with Luca Cavalli-Sforza, considered the "father of anthropological genetics." It was there that Wells became committed to studying genomic diversity in indigenous populations and unraveling age-old mysteries about early human migration."The Genographic Project" is a creative partnership between the National Geographic Society and the IBM Corporation that brings the exciting science of genetic analysis of human ancestry to the public in a way that is educational, informative, and engaging. The insights into genetic ancestry also bring about important new ethical, legal and social issues and challenges, ones about which every citizen should be informed.