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PGFA Highlight | UChicago’s Dr. Constanza de la Fuente and Prof. Maanasa Raghavan cultivate partnerships between academic researchers and Indigenous communities in Chile

A group of workshop participants gather outside

Maanasa Raghavan is a molecular biologist specializing in the use of next-generation sequencing data to study human population histories. Raghavan’s current work focuses on how and when patterns of present-day genetic diversity were formed, which furthers our understanding of human population histories. 

One of Professor Raghavan's current projects, led by Dr. Constanza de la Fuente, a former postdoctoral researcher in the lab and now faculty at the Universidad de Chile, and a research team from Chile, examines the problematics of genomics and identity in Chile. While acknowledging that increased access to genomic technologies and improvements to sampling diversity have led to progress in the field, the team notes that research of Indigenous peoples has often been done on rather than with or for them. They emphasize the need for research practices in academia to empower Indigenous communities in research settings, rather than relying on the goodwill of the researchers or expecting academic institutions to make amends [1].

In AY 2021-2022 and 2023-2024, UChicago Global supported Professor Raghavan and collaborators to organize two workshops for Indigenous communities in Chile, focusing on the theme of genomics and identity in the region. The workshops were held with the goal of cultivating long-term partnerships between academic researchers and local Indigenous communities, with bidirectional purposes of integrating cultural perspectives into current research and advocating Indigenous peoples as researchers. The workshops spurred essential discussions between people from different communities, which is expected to help promote a shift in the current research ethos in the region toward community-based collaborative practices that support Indigenous interests and concerns. 

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