UW News

March 2, 2000

“Genomic Views of Human History” is topic of March 14 lecture

Dr. Mary-Claire King, University of Washington professor of medicine and genetics, will give the third and last in this year’s series of free public lectures sponsored by the newly created University of Washington Science Forum.

Her lecture, “Genomic Views of Human History,” will be held at 7:30 pm. Tuesday, March 14, in Kane Hall room 130 on the UW campus. The talks are accessible to people with a high school science background, and are designed to share exciting frontier research at the UW and show how it fits into the big picture of scientific knowledge.

King, whose lab mapped the gene for BRCA1, a gene implicated in breast and ovarian cancer, is an engaging speaker who addresses lay and scientific audiences around the world. She moved her lab to the UW from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995.

In addition to breast cancer genetics, her lab is seeking the genetic basis of a number of other diseases. She is also involved in human rights work, doing DNA identifications of victims of human rights violations in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

She is the author, with Kelly Owens, of “Genomic Views of Human History,” a Viewpoint article in the journal Science (Oct. 15, 1999). She states that new tools of genomic analysis are being used to shed light on historical puzzles. Migrations of ancient peoples, the effects of geographic boundaries on human movements, origins of ethnic groups, and racial differences are now the focus of integrated analysis by historians, anthropologists and geneticists.

“When people move, they take their genes along and pass them on to their descendants in their new homes,” she states. “Thus, every present-day population retains clues to its ancient roots. Common ancestries can be confirmed and human migrations traced by comparing DNA sequences of present-day populations.”

In addition to the public lectures, the new UW Science Forum is aimed at bringing together faculty and graduate students once a month to discuss topics in a wide range of scientific disciplines.

Earlier lectures were given by Dr. Bruce Margon, professor of astronomy, and Dr. John Delaney, professor of oceanography. These lectures, and that of King, are being videotaped for later broadcast on UWTV. The schedule of cable broadcasts is at www.washington.edu/uwtv/sciforum/