Stories Beyond DNA

Stories Beyond DNA

Stories Beyond DNA

This year marks the 20th anniversary of human genome sequencing and, with that, the very first DNA-based ancestry tests. 

Over the years, both genomics experts and privacy advocates have weighed in on the impact of “at-home genealogy” kits. But, this week, Fischell Department of Bioengineering Assistant Professor Gregg Duncan joined six other young scientists from around the world in sharing their take on how such tests can shed new light on the stories, traditions, and culture that span one’s lineage. Their personal stories were published in a unique feature in Science titled “Beyond DNA: The rest of the story.”

Duncan opens his piece by describing the perfect meal: oxtail, fried dumplings, and ackee with saltfish – his mom’s Christmas dinner classic that incorporates traditional Jamaican spices, reflective of her family’s heritage. 

Duncan’s family traces its roots to Jamaica and the Virgin Islands. But, exploring their collective history beyond a few generations is incredibly challenging.

“My DNA test results confirmed that we have some background in Europe and likely moved to the Caribbean through the slave trade,” Duncan wrote. “The details echoed a story on my mom’s side of the family that one of our ancestors was the child of an Irish slave master and a woman he enslaved.”

Although Duncan, himself, has what he described as “mixed feelings” about consumer DNA tests, he acknowledges that it was important to his mom that they take the opportunity to further explore their ancestry.

“The results confirm for us in a tangible way the complexity of our family history and the resolve of our ancestors must have had to make better lives for themselves against all odds,” Duncan said. 

The full Science article is available online. In addition to Duncan, Yongsheng Ji (University of Science and Technology of China), Marie-Caroline Lefort (Universite de Tours, France), Ruty Mehrian-Shai (Sheba medical Center, Israel), Prosanta Chakrabarty (Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science), and Maria Fernanda Torres Jimenez (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) shared their personal stories.

Related Articles:
Clyne Named BIOE Associate Chair, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Finding Community Among Hard Conversations
$100,000 investment from Amazon to power Clark School initiatives in diversity, robotics research and education
Gearing Up for the Future
Five Years of WIAA at the University of Maryland
Lockheed Martin Awards $3M to Clark School
Dr. Silvia Muro, Genisphere Partner to Advance Drug Delivery Systems

February 21, 2021

Prev   Next

Current Headlines

Bentley Granted SBE Award for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering

Min Wu Elected President of IEEE Signal Processing Society

Mohammad Hafezi Named 2021 APS Fellow

USMSM Debuts SMART Innovation Center

Wu, Ranadive developing accurate, convenient home heart monitoring system

Incentive Awards Program, Engineering Lab Building Named for Mote

Improving Disaster Communication for Marginalized Communities

Diamonds Are a Quantum Sensing Scientist’s Best Friend

News Resources

Return to Newsroom

Search News

Archived News

Events Resources

Events Calendar