Cell Symposia: Human Evolution

Speaker

Eske Willerslev, University of California, USA

Eske WillerslevLundbeck Prof Dr scient (DSc), Director, Centre for GeoGenetics
Eske Willerslev (EW) is 42 years old. He is Lundbeck professor and director for Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics and the National CryoBank and Sequencing Facility at the National History Museum of Denmark. The centre facilitates host ca. 70 people. During his PhD, EW established the first ancient DNA facility in Denmark, which, despite its small size, rapidly became internationally recognized. After finishing his PhD studentship and spending time at MD Anderson Cancer Research Centre in Texas in the US, EW obtained a prestigious Wellcome Trust Fellowship to join University of Oxford, UK. At the age of 33, EW was called back to University of Copenhagen to commence the position of Full Professor - the youngest in Denmark at the time. He is horary doctor at University of Oslo and has been Visiting Professor at Oxford University and Visiting Miller Professor at UC Berkeley.

EW is an internationally recognised researcher in the fields of ancient DNA, ancient genomics, DNA degradation, and evolutionary biology. He has 28 publications in Science and Nature (19 as first or last author) and 165 publications in other high profile peer review journals such as The Lancet; New England Journal of Medicine; PNAS; Current Biology; American Journal of Human Genetics; Genome Research, and TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution. EW has obtained more than 50 grants as PI or Co-PI from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, EU, UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand (total sum of more than 50 million Euro). EW has been awarded 12 unsolicited national and international awards and prices for his research incl. the Lundbeck Foundation Young Scientists Award, the Danish Independent Research Councils Major EliteForsk Price and The Rosenkjær Communication Prize (the most prestigious research and commination prices in Denmark). EW has given more than 70 invited or keynote talks around the World. He has supervised 25 post doc’s, 18 PhD’s, 13 visiting PhD’s and 12 MSc’s. EW’s H-index (Web of Knowledge) is: 43 (first publication 1999). He has communicated his scientific work to the public through multiple films, popular books and interviews incl. two National Geographic films. Among his scientific achievements are:

  • Establishing the field of Ice Core Genetics, today a widely recognised and active research field (PNAS 1999).
  • Establishing the field of ‘environmental ancient DNA’, obtaining DNA of higher plants and animals directly from ancient sediments (often known as “Dirt DNA”). Today widely recognised field (Science 2003).
  • Heading the team establishing a new theory of insect origins (Science 2006).
  • Leading the team challenging models claiming disappearance of the southern Greenland Ice Sheet during the last interglacial and finding oldest DNA to date ca. 700 thousand years (Science 2007)
  • Heading the team finding oldest reproducible evidence of viable cells (bacteria) on Earth ca. ½ million years (PNAS 2007).
  • Heading the team sequencing the first ancient human mitochondrial genome (Science 2008).
  • Heading the team finding oldest evidence for humans in North America (Science 2008)
  • Heading the team finding evidence for replacement of hunter-gatherers in Europe (Current Biology 2009).
  • Heading the team finding evidence for the late survival of mammoth in mainland America (PNAS 2009).
  • Heading the team sequencing the first ancient human nuclear genome (Nature 2010).
  • Heading the team conducting the first large-scale past population genetic study (Nature 2011).
  • Heading the team sequencing first Aboriginal Australian genome (Science 2011)

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