CCNY And The NYC Ancestry Project Give a Peek of the Past
When one ignores the past, they are often unprepared for the future. Genetics can give us interesting insight into our past and overall, the human story. The New York City Student Ancestry Project, led by The City College of New York, convened 200 undergraduate student volunteers from eight colleges and universities to trace their ancient family history with National Geographic’s Genographic Project. The Genographic Project is a research initiative led by project director, Spencer Wells, that gathers and analyzes genetic data from DNA to learn more about how people moved across the globe over centuries and how the world was populated. Since its start, over a half million people have participated in the project.
The student participants in the NYC Student Ancestry Project had been gathered at the American Museum of Natural History to provide DNA cheek swab samples. Throughout the semester the students have engaged in classroom learning focusing on the complexities surrounding genetic testing. The students were then invited back to learn about and discuss their collective DNA ancestry results. The project was tied to a number courses across the city which these students came from. Alexander Xue, a teaching assistant for one of these courses at The City College of New York, spoke of the experience stating, “having such ancestry analysis so easily accessible and understandable is an unbelievable privilege and a testament to how far genomic technology has come.”
Spencer Wells and Mike Hickerson, assistant professor of biology, The City College of New York/Graduate Center-CUNY, provided detailed presentations on the results calling on student participants to share their feelings regarding their results with one another. Following the presentations, Wells was joined by other prominent genetic specialists and scientists to answer questions from the audience regarding their genetic discoveries and what it meant for the future. Student participants then had the opportunity to join smaller roundtable discussions with the expert panelists.