From Mendel’s garden to DNA fingerprinting topic of Sept. 8 WSU Common Reading lecture by Brian Kemp

PULLMAN, Wash.—How did 19th century monk Gregor Mendel’s observations of pea plants lead to DNA analysis used in forensic sciences today?

Washington State University molecular anthropologist Brian Kemp will introduce aspects of DNA and the human genome structure at a free public lecture set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8 in room 203 of the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education.

The event is hosted by the WSU Common Reading Program, part of WSU Undergraduate Education. The lecture ties to the common book, Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, which is used in students’ first-year and other classes in 2015-16.

Kemp researches ancient human genetics. In his lab, the award-winning researcher works side-by-side with graduate and undergraduate student investigators. He applies DNA research to evolution; he also focuses on improving methods for the recovery of genetic data from ancient remains, which has direct applicability to forensic sciences.

He has received research grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice. A $249,983 grant in 2012-13 from the latter funded work on “Bait and Capture: Holding on to Molecules of Interest” and a $595,196 institute grant in 2008-12 funded “NIJ Proposal to Enhance Methods of Studying Degraded DNA.” He is currently a co-principle investigator on a $24,207 Washington Sea Grant, “Genetic Analysis of Chinook Salmon using ancient, historic, and modern DNA.”

His Ph.D. in anthropology in 2006 is from the University of California- Davis, and his bachelor’s degree in anthropology/ zoology is from the University of Michigan. An associate professor in WSU’s Department of Anthropology and the School of Biological Sciences, he has been at WSU since 2007.

Kemp delivered the very first Common Reading guest-expert lecture nine years ago. The program, with partners across many disciplines, organizes a robust series of events, expert lectures, film showings, and more that address topics raised in the common book.

It also sponsors the annual Common Reading Invited Lecture, which will bring author Brian Stevenson, to campus Dec. 1 for a public lecture in Beasley Coliseum.

Read more about the program, the book, events, and nominating a book for next year at Recommendations for the 2016-17 common reading, which will also address the two-year theme of “leadership and social justice,” will close Oct. 15.

MEDIA: Karen Weathermon, WSU Common Reading Program co-director, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-5488,

Emma Epperly, Communications and Marketing Junior Assistant, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-9458,