Kittles, Rick (Geneticist)

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kittles_rick_2_300x300Rick Antonius Kittles (born in Sylvania, Georgia, United States) is an American biologist specializing in human genetics. He is of African-American ancestry, and achieved renown in the 1990s for his pioneering work in tracing the ancestry of African Americans via DNA testing.

Kittles grew up in Central Islip, New York. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from the Rochester Institute of Technology (1989), where he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, and a Ph.D. in biology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1998). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

In 1990 he began his career as a teacher in several New York and Washington, D.C. area high schools. From approximately 1995 until 1999, as a researcher with the New York African Burial Ground Project (NYABGP), a federally funded project in New York City, in which Howard University researchers, led by anthropologist Michael Blakey, exhumed the remains of 408 African Americans from an 18th-century graveyard;Kittles gathered DNA samples from the remains and compared them with samples from a DNA database to determine from where in Africa the individuals buried in the graveyard had come.

Beginning in 1998, as he was completing his Ph.D. at George Washington University, Kittles was hired as an assistant professor of microbiology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and also named director of the African American Hereditary Prostate Cancer (AAHPC) Study Network at the university’s National Human Genome Center. Kittles also co-directed the molecular genetics unit of Howard University’s National Human Genome Center. He served in these positions until 2004. Beginning in 2004, he served as an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics at the Tzagournis Medical Research Facility of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

He is currently Scientific Director of the Washington, D.C.-based African Ancestry Inc., a genetic testing service for determining individuals’ African ancestry, which he co-founded with Gina Paige in February 2003. He also serves as an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

He was featured in the BBC Two films Motherland: A Genetic Journey and Motherland – Moving On (released in 2003 and 2004, respectively), as well as in part 4 of the 2006 PBS series African American Lives (hosted by Henry Louis Gates).[3] On October 7, 2007, he was featured on the American TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes. In February 2008 he appeared in part 4 of African American Lives 2.

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