USC students to uncover ancestry using DNA

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USC students to uncover ancestry using DNA


USC studentsYannick Carroll, Megan Fischer and Joseph Young display the swabs that will be used for their History of Humanity project.

1 April 2014

Undergraduate History students from the University of the Sunshine Coast are taking part in an exciting new project to map their genetic ancestry using DNA analysis.

Students enrolled in the first-year course Global Citizens: A History of Humanity will participate in a genetic ancestry test designed to illuminate key concepts explored in the course, including the evolution of human history and identity.

Lecturer in History and Futures Dr Marcus Bussey said three randomly selected students from different ethnic backgrounds would take National Geographic’s Genographic Project test in class, and will receive detailed results based on their unique DNA profiles.

These results will outline the migration paths students’ ancestors followed over thousands of years.

“The idea is that we trace our origins from the Big Bang, which in itself is a challenging concept for some students, to the present period,” Dr Bussey said, adding that the DNA analysis provided by the Genographic Project results will allow students to contextualise that progression in light of an individual’s ancestry.

“The students who sign up will have ownership of their results, but they will also share those results with the class so we can see the stories that emerge, and reflect on these in light of the key concepts explored in the course,” Dr Bussey said.

“In the course we’re looking at two levels – one is genetic and one is mimetic, around cultural learning. Based on these results we can then ask questions about global issues today.”

As an emerging sense of global citizenship forces societies to rethink their understanding of genetic or cultural differences, Dr Bussey said he hoped the project would allow students to connect with those questions on a more personal level.

“Every one of us carries a story and that story is intimate – part of our physiology,” he said. “It’s not just something we carry in our head.

“Often, sharing and exploring these stories can help to challenge our understanding of difference.”   

— Jarna Baudinette

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