The Genomic Landscape of Southern African Populations

IOWC Sponsored Lecture: Himla Soodyall

October 10th, 2008 at 9am The Montreal Children's Hospital, Room C-417 2300 rue Tupper, Montréal, QC

When studying mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome DNA in people around the world, the oldest surviving lineages in the present-day gene pool have been found to originate in Africa and are placed on the deepest branches of the tree. In fact, some of the oldest mtDNA lineages have been retained in people who self identify as San and Khoe from southern Africa dating to about 100,000 years ago. Moreover, the gene pool of extant southern Africans has been shaped by both ancient (to the beginnings of our evolutionary history) and recent history (migration of Bantu-speaking people; immigration of Europeans in the past 350, the arrival of indentured labourers from India, China and Indonesia). Our research attempts to write this history using the narrative of the genes and examines how males and females have contributed to shaping the gene pool of southern African populations.

Professor Himla Soodyall is Director of the Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit (HGDDRU) established by the South African Medical Research Council in conjunction with the National Health Laboratory Service and University of the Witwatersrand.

She received degrees from the University of Durban-Westville: B.Sc: (Microbiology, Biochemistry), 1985; B.Sc (Honours): (Microbiology), 1986 and the University of the Witwatersrand: M.Sc: (Biotechnology), 1986; PhD: (Human Genetics), 1993. Professor Soodyall was nominated to the Academy of Science, South Africa in 2003 and received the Order of Mapungubwe, Bronze medal, from President Mbeki for her contribution to science.

In 2005, Professor Soodyall became the sub-Saharan African Principal Investigator of the Genographic Project  in which capacity she has forged a collaboration with Gwyn Campbell of the Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill.