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Education / Latest memorial lecture is on ‘Viking genes’

SHETLAND Museum and Archives is hosting a lecture entitled ‘Viking Genes’ by Professor Jim Wilson next Thursday.

This year’s memorial lecture, by the University of Edinburgh professor, will be dedicated to Shetland’s “great botanist” the late Walter Scott, of Scalloway.

Shetland is “famed for its Viking ancestry” and a recent Edinburgh University research project shows that 20 per cent of isles DNA is traceable to Norwegian ancestors.

Wilson will present this latest research, its “intriguing findings” and where he hopes the research will take him next.

This includes some of the latest findings from the Orkney Complex Disease Study and the Viking Health Study – Shetland. These include new insights into the genetic relationships between populations in the Northern Isles and elsewhere, through detailed assessment of the genetic uniqueness of Shetlanders to applications in health – including heart arrhythmias, lifespan, variation in the blood vessels in the back of the eye and the effects of inbreeding.

Wilson will also describe his new study, VIKING II, which seeks to recruit thousands more volunteers with ancestry from Orkney or Shetland.

Of Fair Isle heritage, Wilson grew up in Orkney where he attended the Kirkwall Grammar School, before reading genetics at the University of Edinburgh. After a year working in Bavaria, he went up to New College in Oxford where he completed a DPhil (Doctor of Philosophy) in human population genetics.

He moved back to Edinburgh in 2003 to take up a Royal Society university research fellowship.

He has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles and over the last decade he led two large genetic epidemiology studies in Orkney and Shetland.

These platform resources for health research have contributed to the “discovery of over 1000 novel associations between genes and diseases or their risk factors.”

More recently he has initiated a number of international consortia to explore interests in the genetics of complex traits.

Wilson is engaged in science communication principally through radio and TV series explaining genetics to the public – most recently Ant & Dec’s DNA Journey.

The lecture is on 16th January from 7pm to 9pm. Tickets cost £5 and should be booked in advance at