Jennifer Raff

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Jennifer Raff
Jennifer Raff at Down House.jpg
Jennifer Raff at Down House, 2015
Born (1979-08-29) 29 August 1979 (age 40)
Alma mater
Known for
  • Ancient DNA in the Americas
  • Scientific literacy education
Scientific career
ThesisAn ancient DNA perspective on the prehistory of the Lower Illinois Valley (2008)
Doctoral advisorFrederika Kaestle
Other academic advisors
  • Dennis O'Rourke
  • M. Geoffrey Hayes
  • Deborah Bolnick

Jennifer Anne Raff (born 1979) (née Kedzie) is an American geneticist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. She specialises in anthropological genetics relating to the initial peopling of the Americas and subsequent prehistory of indigenous populations throughout North America. She is the President of the American Association of Anthropological Genetics. Alongside her research Raff is a science communicator who writes and gives public talks about topics in science literacy.

Early life and education[edit]

Raff was born in Carbondale, Illinois. She moved from Missouri to Indiana when she started high school.[1] While she was a child her mother started a doctoral degree in neuroscience, which inspired Raff to follow a career in scientific research. During her last year of high school Raff asked a professor in a nearby university if she could join his laboratory, and started to work on molecular biology.[1] She received a B.A. in biology and anthropology from Indiana University in 2001,[2] after which she worked for a year in a yeast molecular genetics lab. She received a master's degree in anthropology in 2008, and a doctoral degree in genetics and biological anthropology in 2008, also from Indiana University.[3]

Research and career[edit]

Raff was a postdoctoral scholar working with Dennis O’Rourke at the University of Utah,[4] with M. Geoffrey Hayes at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago Illinois, and with Deborah Bolnick at the University of Texas at Austin.[5]

In 2015 she was appointed Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology at the University of Kansas where she conducts population genetics research on ancient and contemporary North American populations from the North American Arctic, the Midwest, and Texas.[2] Her research involves the analysis of genomes in ancient and contemporary DNA, which she uses to understand the histories of human populations.[6] In particular Raff has focussed on the development of new approaches to extract ancient DNA.

In 2019 Raff was awarded an National Science Foundation Search Grant to investigate the genetic history of the Aleut people.[7][8] The project will see Raff investigating genomic information from ancient people for the Aleutian Islands.[8] That year she was appointed a Docking Faculty Scholar.

As well as research Raff teaches courses on Fundamentals of Physical Anthropology, on Human Evolution, and on Critical Analysis of Scientific Literature.[2] She is a faculty member with the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics, a program designed to increase representation of indigenous peoples in the field of genetics. In 2018 Raff was made Vice President of the American Association of Anthropological Genetics and promoted to President in 2019.[9]

Raff is represented by the agents Janklow & Nesbit and publishers Twelve Books. Her first book, Origin, is due in 2020.[10] The book will be a genetic history of humans in North and South America and looks to teach people about the fundamental science of genetics.

Public engagement[edit]

Raff has written for public audiences, on her blog "Violent Metaphors",[11] in the Huffington Post,[12] for Forbes[13] and for The Guardian.[14] She has written about the importance of vaccination – in particular, her article "Dear parents, you are being lied to" has been translated into several languages,[15][16][17] including German,[18] Italian,[19] Norwegian,[20] Vietnamese,[21] Croatian.[22] She has spoken about the dangers of scientific racism and, in particular, Nicholas Wade's book A Troublesome Inheritance.[23][24][25] Raff was included in Angela Saini's Superior: The Return of Race Science.[26]

Raff provided testimony to the Texas Board of Education concerning the teaching of evolution in schools.[27] She also provided a commentary about the information that could be learnt from Elizabeth Warren's DNA test.[28]

Raff has worked to improve public understanding of the scientific process.[29] She has appeared on several podcasts, including Science for the People,[30] NPR Science Friday,[31] Inside Science[32] and on the BBC World Service.[33] She was part of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki episode on the Ice bridge.[34] She frequently gives public talks on science literacy issues, and was an invited speaker at Skepticon.[35]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Raff, Jennifer (2016). Handbook on Science Literacy. Kendall Hunt. ISBN 9781524907358.
  • Raff, Jennifer; O'Rourke, Dennis H. (2010-02-23). "The Human Genetic History of the Americas: The Final Frontier". Current Biology. 20: 202–207. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.051.
  • Raff, Jennifer; O'Rourke, Dennis H. (2010-02-23). "Ancient DNA perspectives on American colonization and population history". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 146. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21594.

Personal life[edit]

Raff has trained in various martial arts alongside her sister, retired mixed martial artist Julie Kedzie. . She holds a third dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do[36]. She has also trained in MMA[37][38]. She reached the semifinals in the Chicago Golden Gloves Women's 156 pound Senior Novice division in 2012, but lost the title bout to Allie Ayers[39] [40].

She is married to Kenneth Colin McRoberts, and lives in Lawrence, Kansas. They have one son.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Jennifer Raff". STEM Women on Fire. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  2. ^ a b c "Jennifer A. Raff". Department of Anthropology. 2015-08-18. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  3. ^ Raff, Jennifer (2008). An Ancient DNA Perspective on the Prehistory of the Lower Illinois Valley (PhD thesis).
  4. ^ Guglielmi, Giorgia (2019-04-16). "Facing up to injustice in genome science". Nature. 568: 290–293. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-01166-x.
  5. ^ "Genetic data does not support ancient trans-Atlantic migration, professor says". Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  6. ^ "Jennifer Raff". The Evolution Institute. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  7. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award#1849338 - The Genetic History of the Aleut People". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  8. ^ a b "New research will illuminate history of Aleutian Island peoples by analyzing their genomes". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  9. ^ "Officers". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  10. ^ "ORIGIN | Books | Janklow & Nesbit". Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  11. ^ "Violent metaphors". Violent metaphors. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  12. ^ "Jennifer Raff | HuffPost". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  13. ^ "Jennifer Raff". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  14. ^ "Jennifer Raff | The Guardian". the Guardian. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  15. ^ Raff, Jennifer (2014-03-26). "Dear parents, you are being lied to". Violent metaphors. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  16. ^ "Dear Parents, You Are Being Lied To". HuffPost. 2014-04-08. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  17. ^ Raff, Jennifer (2014-04-11). "Dear parents: you are being lied to about vaccines". Essential Baby. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  18. ^ "Liebe Eltern, Sie werden angelogen". (in German). 2014-06-04. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  19. ^; "Cari genitori, vi stanno mentendo. |". (in Italian). Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  20. ^ Raff, Jennifer. "Kjære foreldre. Dere blir løyet til". Aftenposten (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  21. ^ (2016-05-03). "Các bố mẹ ạ, có lẽ chúng ta đã hoàn toàn hiểu sai về vắc-xin và tiêm phòng cho con!". aFamily (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  22. ^ Krpan, Hrvoje (2014-04-10). "Dragi roditelji, lažu vas!". Znanost Blog (in Croatian). Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  23. ^ Raff, Jennifer; Anthropology, ContributorAssistant Professor of Physical; Kansas, University of; genetics, joint Ph D. in; anthropology (2014-05-27). "Nicholas Wade and Race: Building a Scientific Façade". HuffPost. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  24. ^ Mirsky, Steve. "Social Construct of Race Imposes Biology". Scientific American. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  25. ^ UCL (2019-02-13). "Problematical theories". UCL Division of Biosciences. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  26. ^ Saini, Angela (2019). Superior: The Return of Race Science. Beacon Press. pp. 131–132. ISBN 978-0-8070-7691-0.
  27. ^ "Report of the State Board of Education Committee of the Full Board Public Hearing September 17, 2013!" (PDF).
  28. ^ Raff, Jennifer. "What Do Elizabeth Warren's DNA Test Results Actually Mean?". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  29. ^ May 9th; communication, 2016|Academic; writing, Academic; Comments, Resources|62 (2016-05-09). "How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists". Impact of Social Sciences. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  30. ^ "#287 - Troublesome Inheritance: Science for the People". Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  31. ^ "How Do We Study Ancient Americans?". Science Friday. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  32. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - BBC Inside Science, Antarctic, Kew, Paleogenomics, Sea birds". BBC. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  33. ^ "BBC World Service: BBC Newsday - Where did Native Americans come from?".
  34. ^ "CBC, The Solutrean Hypothesis, and Jennifer Raff - Episode 92 — Pseudo-Archaeology". #archpodnet. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  35. ^ "The Misuse of Genetics in Pseudoscience".
  36. ^ "Monroe County Martial Arts".
  37. ^ "Katalina Malungahu". Awakening. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  38. ^ "Jennifer Raff vs. Katalina Muti Malungahu". Non Stop WMMA. nonstopwmma blogs. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  39. ^ "Chicago Tribune: Action-filled night in Chicago Golden Gloves at Gordon Tech".
  40. ^ McRoberts, Colin. "Colin McRoberts Facebook page". Facebook. Retrieved 10 December 2019.