Solving the puzzle of mankind

Mattias Jakobsson was drawn to genetics because of its connection to mathematics. This October he will be speaking at the symposium Human Evolution in Uppsala.


What is it that makes us human and what genetic changes have been crucial for human evolution? These are some of the questions that Mattias Jakobsson addresses in his research.

− My research group is trying to solve a puzzle with an intricate pattern based on today’s genetic variation and demographic history. Our goal is to understand mankind’s evolutionary history, said Mattias Jakobsson.

The research group analyzes DNA from modern people as well as preserved DNA from older samples. They combine this with knowledge about how humans have moved across the globe, to understand the complex pattern of human genetic variation, and its effect on physiological properties.

− It is thrilling to investigate what has happened in our early history, a time for which we have no written material to rely on, and how we can explain todays genetic patterns based on population history and migration.

As a student Mattias Jakobsson started out with history, moved into mathematics and settled for biology. He found his niche in genetics, which he personally considers to be the most logic-based field of biology, suitable for someone who enjoys statistics.

Mattias Jakobsson has been involved with SciLifeLab since 2010 when he joined the program board in Uppsala. The program board had an advisory role towards the program council and included, among others, representatives from platforms. Since the merge of the Uppsala and Stockholm organizations into one, July 1st 2013, the program council has been replaced by other structures.

−The SciLifeLab structure is stronger today and nowadays my contact with SciLifeLab is primarily as a meeting place and a resource. My group uses several of the platforms, especially the Genomics platform, which we utilize on a daily basis.

During this autumn Mattias Jakobsson will be keynote speaker at the 15th biennial Southern African Society for Human Genetics conference in Johannesburg and at the symposium Human Evolution in Uppsala. The subject is the genetic variation of the Khoe-San group, which divided early on and became genetically isolated from other African groups.

− The genetic variation of the Khoe-San is very interesting from a genetic perspective since they represent one leg of the deepest branching among currently living people. It gives us the opportunity to access information about all modern human’s common ancestors that lived several hundred thousand years ago.

Short facts:

Name: Mattias Jakobsson

Profession: Assistant Professor at the Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology.

Leisure activities/hobbies: Apart from work, Mattias spends most of his time with his family. He also enjoys history, and by living in an 18th century wooden house, carpentry becomes a hobby.

What you didn’t know about Mattias Jakobsson: In 1999, Mattias Jakobsson was the first European (4th ascension ever at the time) together with 3 team-members to climb the extreme big-wall Shipton Spire in the Karakorum range of the Himalayas, which took three weeks of living on a portable ledge some 1000 meters above the Baltoro Glacier.

Research group

Published September 2013
Sara Engström


Last updated: 2013-09-26

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