Spotlight

Statement on Police Violence, Racism, and Genetics
Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago
The Department of Human Genetics at the University of Chicago condemns police violence against Black people, a long-standing epidemic in American society that is finally – and painfully – being broadly recognized for what it is: an institutionalized system of brutality, intimidation, harassment and control by the state against its own citizens. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, and Tony McDade are just a few recent victims of murder by police in the context of systemic dehumanization, oppression, and discrimination that has lasted for centuries. We add our names to the growing chorus of voices saying, “Enough.” We also support and defend the right of all who engage in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to dismantle this entrenched and repugnant system. There can be no justification for deploying police and military violence against protesters who insistently defend the ideals of justice in our society. We are painfully aware that genetic science has, for more than a century, played a central role in producing the ideology that supports systemic racism. By providing a “scientific” justification for the idea that some groups of people are fundamentally different or intrinsically superior to others, genetics and geneticists have rationalized and legitimated white supremacy. In some cases, these efforts have been conscious and deliberate; in others, geneticists have played an unwitting role in the perpetuation of racism. We understand that we cannot simply disavow this history, because many of our field’s fundamental concepts and approaches were established for the purpose of advancing eugenics, under the assumption of extensive racial differences within a social hierarchy. As scientists, we commit to the work of identifying how that history influences the research and teaching that we do today, including study design, scientific focus, and the structure of basic concepts like heredity, adaptation, genetic disorders, and genetic variation within and between populations. We seek to weed out the remnants of systemic racism from our field, so that we can pursue genetics research in ways that further our values of diversity, dignity, equity, and justice. We recognize that police violence is just one symptom of racism that pervades every level of society, including academic institutions. We will redouble our efforts to increase diversity and to identify and eliminate any individual, institutional, and structural racism within our department.  We commit ourselves, as geneticists and human beings, to the effort to achieve justice and self-understanding in our society. A list of specific actions will follow shortly and will be posted on the department’s website.
Erik McIntire
Human Genetics First Year Graduate Student
The University of Chicago’s world-class genetics research attracted me as an applicant, and while attending interview weekend I recognized important strengths that uphold this reputation. The students, faculty, and staff comprise a welcoming community that fosters collaborations, friendships, and the exciting pursuit of innovative research. As I advance through my first year, I am grateful to be in an environment where students are challenged to grow as scientists, while simultaneously being so well-supported. UChicago graduate training uniquely integrates quantitative methods (R programming and statistics) with domain-specific coursework, and I know this foundation will serve me well throughout my career. UChicago already feels like home, and I’m looking forward to what the next few years have in store.  
Jeremy Berg, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics
As a new faculty member, I am extremely excited to begin building my research group at the University of Chicago. One of the many things that drew me to UofC, and the Department of Human Genetics in particular, are the rich opportunities for collaboration with other groups in the department and the broader university. Much of the work in my group will focus on understanding how population genetic forces (i.e. natural selection, mutation, recombination, gene flow and genetic drift) and biological features (e.g. pleiotropy, epistasis, polygenicity, etc.) contribute to the variation we observe among individuals for complex traits and the risk of developing complex diseases and disorders. Work in my group will be computational and theoretical, spanning the range from data analysis to pencil and paper theory. It is a real privilege to be situated on the 4th floor of CLSC, with so many other research groups who share these interests and approaches.  
Maanasa Raghavan, Ph.D.
Neubauer Family Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics
I am a new faculty member at the Department of Human Genetics. My group's research will focus on investigating evolutionary processes that have contributed to the genetic signatures in present-day humans. We use ancient DNA and genomic methods to answer questions about human population histories, disease and pathogen evolution, genetic versus cultural evolution, and other related themes. I am very excited to get new projects off the ground at UChicago, as well as coordinate projects in our upcoming state-of-the-art ancient DNA facility. Adding to the excitement is the incredible breadth of research within Human Genetics and BSD - endless discussions and collaborative possibilities.
Michael Drazer
Graduate Student Trainee in the laboratory of Lucy Godley
As a physician scientist, it was important for me to join a graduate program with robust access to patients and translational research projects. The UChicago campus is designed perfectly for multidisciplinary work. I can walk across the street and be in a clinic, the hospital, or the lab of a collaborator. This well-designed infrastructure is complemented by the robust, dynamic intellectual environment in the Department of Human Genetics.