BU conference centers on quest for African ancestral heritage

For Immediate Release: April 14, 2008

BLOOMSBURG — A researcher involved in tracing African genetic heritage will deliver the keynote address at the eighth annual undergraduate interdisciplinary conference of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s Frederick Douglass Institute for Academic Excellence. The theme of the two-day conference, being held Thursday and Friday, April 17 and 18, in BU’s Kehr Union, is “Globalization, Ethnicity and the Quest for Ancestral Heritage.”

Rick Kittles, founder of the African American Genealogical Project, will speak on “From African to African American: Insight on the Genetic Ancestries of African Americans” Thursday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Kehr Union, Ballroom. The talk, open to the public free of charge, will center on his work tracing the ancestral heritage of African Americans to specific African ethnic groups. He will be introduced by BU President David Soltz.

“Dr. Kittles will focus on his groundbreaking human genome research which is helping us to understand ourselves better and appreciate how closely we are related to each other,” said conference organizer S. Ekema Agbaw, director of BU’s Frederick Douglass Institute for Academic Excellence.

Kittles is associate professor of genetic medicine at the University of Chicago and associate director for diversity and community relations at the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center. His research on prostate cancer and health disparities among African Americans has been featured in BBC and PBS television programs. He has published numerous articles and book chapter on genetic variations, prostate cancer and health disparities.

In addition to his academic work, Kittles co-founded African Ancestry Inc., a private company that provides DNA testing services for tracing African genetic lineage. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rochester Institute for Technology and a doctorate in biological sciences from George Washington University.

The conference also will feature a graduate school fair and a roundtable discussion on the graduate school experience chaired by Nameka Bates from the University of Illinois, president of the National Black Graduate Students Association; student panel discussions; and a talent show.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.