Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pioneering scientist to visit FLCC Nov. 8

A pioneering molecular biologist will visit Finger Lakes Community College on Monday, Nov. 8, to discuss the Roots Project, which uses DNA to trace African-American ancestry to tribes in West Africa.

Bruce A. Jackson, molecular biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell and founder and director of the Roots Project, will speak at 7 p.m. in Room D216 at the main FLCC campus, 3325 Marvin Sands Drive. His talk is free and open to the public.

The African-American DNA Roots Project uses DNA analysis to attempt to identify signature sequences among African-Americans that might link them to particular West African tribes. During the slave trade, people were kidnapped from their homes, primarily in western Africa. The goal of the project is to help modern Americans find the culture and history stripped from their family lines in the slave trade.
Scientists with the Roots Project are building a computer databank of DNA from African-American families as well as members of clans and tribes from six West African nations where most African-Americans are believed to emanate from: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Uganda, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast.
At FLCC, Jackson’s illustrated lecture will explain how the Roots Project took shape and give the results to date. His presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

Jackson is director of the biotechnology programs at Massachusetts Bay Community College where he launched a research-based biotechnology associate degree designed specifically for nontraditional students in 1993. The program has produced an unprecedented 17 Goldwater Scholars, America’s highest undergraduate science award.

A nationally known forensic DNA expert, Jackson consults for federal, state and local law enforcement and archeological agencies as well as defense and appellate attorneys. In 1995, he created the world’s first forensic DNA degree program at Massachusetts Bay Community College.

Jackson also works with James Hewlett, director of biotechnology at FLCC, on a project to study the effects of ash-borne heavy metals from the Soufriere Hills volcano on the coral ecosystems of Montserrat in the West Indies.

“He is regularly asked to participate in meetings at the National Science Foundation to help direct science policy in the U.S. and is highly regarding by his colleagues,” said Hewlett.

Finger Lakes Community College’s biotechnology degree is one of 54 degree and certificate programs at the college.

For information on Jackson’s visit or the FLCC biotechnology program, contact James Hewlett, at (585) 785-1325 or

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