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Icons of Progress

The Mapping of Humanity's Family Tree

The Genographic Project is made possible through the efforts of hundreds of thousands of individual people from every corner of the globe. Participation by indigenous and traditional communities and the general public enable the important work of the Genographic Project, while entire organizations such as National Geographic, IBM and The Waitt Family Foundation have contributed innumerable personnel, knowledge and resources to this historic effort. Below are a few key members of the Genographic Project.

  • Dr. Spencer Wells 

    Spencer Wells
    “Your DNA contains the greatest history book ever written”

    Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist, director of the Genographic Project and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. This scientist, author and documentary filmmaker has travelled the world in search of human populations who hold the history of humankind in their DNA. Dr. Wells enrolled at the University of Texas at age 16, where he completed his undergraduate work in three years. He pursued his PhD at Harvard University under distinguished evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin. Beginning in 1994, Wells conducted postdoctoral training at Stanford University's School of Medicine with famed geneticist Luca Cavalli-Sforza—known as the "father of anthropological genetics." It was there that Wells became committed to studying genetic diversity in indigenous and traditional populations and unraveling age-old mysteries about early human migration. Spencer currently lives with his wife, a documentary filmmaker, in Washington, D.C.

  • Nick Donofrio 

    Nick Donofrio
    “If all you strive for is the status quo, then you won't get anything more out of life than that. And, by the way, you will be missing out on a whole lot of fun.”

    Nick Donofrio joined IBM in 1967 and spent 41 years at the company before his retirement in October 2008. He spent the early part of his career in integrated circuit and chip development as a designer of logic and memory chips, and held numerous technical management positions before leading several of IBM’s product divisions—eventually becoming executive vice president of innovation and technology. Donofrio’s technical and management experience prepared him to oversee IBM’s efforts in the Genographic Project, which named him to the project’s Advisory Board. He is the holder of seven technology patents, and is a member of numerous technical and science honor societies. In 2002, Donofrio was recognized by Europe's Institution of Electrical Engineers with the Mensforth International Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to the advancement of manufacturing engineering. In 2008, IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano elected Donofrio IBM Fellow, the company's highest technical honor.

  • David Yaun 

    David Yaun
    "Genographic shows that what makes us remarkable is not our differences, but the common links we all share."

    Currently vice president of marketing and communications, global industries, David Yaun effectively became an IBMer in 1967, when his father joined the company in Kingston, NY. Yaun himself joined the company 29 years later as part of the media relations team working on the Deep Blue project at IBM Research. He named and helped launch IBM’s ground-breaking Blue Gene® supercomputer in 1999. During the four years he ran IBM’s corporate innovation programs, Yaun helped conceive and manage the Genographic Project, the Global Innovation Outlook and the company’s two seminal INNOVATIONJAM®s, which identified a series of new multi-billion dollar market opportunities that have become foundational to IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy. Yaun’s Genographic Project public participation kit results suggest he is of Viking heritage, which may have surprised David but not necessarily his colleagues.

  • Ajay Royyuru 

    Ajay Royyuru
    “It will be fascinating to discover: Who am I?”

    Born and raised in central India, in the state of Chattisgarh, Ajay joined IBM Research in 1998, initiating research in structural biology. Today, Royyuru heads the Computational Biology Center at IBM Research as its senior manger, engaged in basic and exploratory research at the intersection of information technology and biology. Royyuru also currently leads the IBM Research team working with National Geographic Society on the Genographic Project. Ruyyuru has a bachelor of science degree in human biology and a master of science in biophysics from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. He obtained his PhD in molecular biology from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

  • Kristopher J. Lichter 

    Kristopher Lichter

    Currently the director of IBM’s public sector marketing and communications, Kris applies IBM’s extensive portfolio of smarter solutions, business consulting services and technologies to build client value across the more than 180 countries in which IBM operates. Formerly, Kris led IBM’s global innovation initiatives on behalf of the Chairman’s Office where he led such programs as the Global Innovation Outlook and the Genographic Project. Kris has also led IBM’s life sciences alliances team and served as program manager for the emerging technologies business development and marketing programs. Kris holds a bachelor of arts in biology and economics from Bucknell University as well as a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University. He currently resides in San Diego, California, with his wife and two children.