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  • University of Guam

Geneticist working on CHamoru origins will teach at UOG

University of Guam students will have a unique opportunity this summer to take a class taught by a National Geographic scientist who has been researching the genetics and origins of Micronesians. Miguel G. Vilar leads the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, a 14-year-old project that analyzes historical patterns in human DNA and maps human migration across the continents over time. His work in the project focuses on the people of Latin America and the Pacific.

Vilar will teach Biological Anthropology, an introductory anthropology course, from July 8 to 29. The course has not been taught for years since the retirement of UOG’s last biological anthropology professor.

Anthropology is a subject that many college students miss out on, Vilar said.

“It's a subject matter that is eye-opening and can be very captivating to many students, so I encourage as many people as possible to take the course this July,” he said.

Vilar’s advisor, Koji Lum, first brought human genetics to Micronesia, taking genetic samples for analysis in Guam, Saipan, Rota, Palau, and Yap. Vilar then picked up where Lum left off and has since involved more than 200 CHamorus from Guam and Saipan in the project during his visits in 2013 and 2016. He presented his findings on the origins and genetic distinctiveness of CHamorus as the speaker of the 29th Presidential Lecture Series in January 2016. The recording of that talk is here

The opportunity to teach a course at UOG was presented when Vilar met with former UOG President Robert A. Underwood and Associate Professor of Biology Frank A. Camacho last October.

Miguel G. Vilar, lead scientist of that National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, delivers his presentation “Researching the Origins and Genetic Distinctiveness of Chamorros: A Bi-Parental Analysis” as the speaker of the University of Guam’s 29th Presidential Lecture Series on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo courtesy of University of Guam

“I had talked to them at length about my research on genetics of CHamorus and how I would like to spend more time on the island, work with more people, do research at the libraries, and — if the opportunity presented itself — I would offer to teach a course,” Vilar said.

Vilar hopes to build stronger connections within UOG and throughout Guam during his time on island this summer. He encourages UOG students to study anthropology and even to learn field methods and take his work further forward.

Vilar holds bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and in physical and biological anthropology from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, a master’s in journalism from Columbia University in New York, and a doctorate in physical and biological anthropology from Binghamton University in New York.

[Course Registration Still Open

Students interested in registering for Biological Anthropology (AN222) can register until May 29 for continuing and returning students and until May 31 for newly admitted students. The course is open to students of any major and does not require any prerequisites, though it will have a moderate science content. The class lectures will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from July 8 to July 29, and the labs will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Students may register at or by contacting the Office of Admissions & Records at (671) 735-2202 or]


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