Himla Soodyall is the Executive Officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). She is a Research Professor in Human Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and was Principal Medical Scientist at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) previously. Soodyall is a molecular evolutionary geneticist who is recognized for her work on reconstructing the prehistory of sub-Saharan African populations. Her research have identified some of the oldest DNA found in living people today, adding weight to the theory that modern humans evolved in the area now known as southern Africa. She has also examined the genetic structure of Indian Ocean Island populations in Madagascar, Zanzibar and the Maldives. In addition, she has played a role in advancing public engagement of science in South Africa to promote science for society. She was awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe (Bronze medal) in 2004 for her contribution to science in South Africa.

Research Interests

Himla Soodyall is interested in using molecular genetic tools to reconstruct the history of sub-Saharan African populations. She advocated for interdisciplinary science and has worked closely with historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists, and paleoanthropologists to reconstruct population history. She actively participates in ethical debates and in promoting community engagement of science. Her laboratory has featured in many documentaries tracing peoples genetic ancestry. More recently, her collaboration with Swedish scientists have resulted in the use of genome sequence data to study the genetic affinities of African populations. Since joining the Academy of Science of South Africa she continues to promote science for society.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology