Eske Willerslev appointed as Chair of Geogenetics in D-IAS


Danish Institute for Advanced Study (D-IAS) has appointed the highly recognized and world-renowned scientist Professor Eske Willerslev as Chair of Geogenetics. 

By Susanne Siig Petersen

GEOGENETICS: The appointment of Professor Eske Willerslev as Chair of Geogenetics in D-IAS happens as he is now Affiliated Professor at Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

Eske Willerslev holds a Lundbeck Foundation Professorship at University of Copenhagen and is the Director for Centre of Excellence in Geogenetics. He also holds the Prince Philip Chair in Ecology and Evolution at the University of Cambridge. Eske Willerslev is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences and part of Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers with more than 50 publications in the journals Nature and Science.

Regarding the appointment of Eske Willerslev as Chair of Geogenetics, Director of D-IAS Nikolaj Malchow-Møller states:

 “On behalf of D-IAS, I’m very pleased to welcome Professor Eske Willerslev on board as our new D-IAS Chair of Geogenetics. It goes without saying that Eske Willerslev is an outstanding researcher, and that he is also a perfect match with D-IAS and our vision became obvious to everyone when he visited D-IAS in September. I am therefore both happy and proud to be able to count him among our D-IAS Chairs.” 

 As a response to the election as Chair in D-IAS, Professor Eske Willerslev responds:

 It’s a great honour being elected D-IAS chair and I’m looking very much forward taking on this important responsibility. The basic idea behind   D-IAS is to get excellent researchers together across different scientific disciplines and through their interactions produce results that are greater than their individual contributions. I’m in great favour of this strategy. Importantly, the D-IAS setup allows multidisciplinarity taking place in a university structure, something that has otherwise proven difficult.”

Highly visionary

Professor Susanne Mandrup is D-IAS Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and she is also happy on behalf of D-IAS as well as for the future opportunity to work with Eske Willerslev as a coming colleague at SDU:

“I am truly excited that Eske Willerslev is now Adjunct Professor at our department and D-IAS Chair of Geogenetics. He is a highly visionary and inspirational scientist and a great advocate for interdisciplinary research, so he fits perfectly into our vision for
she says.

Susanne Mandrup is the Head of the Functional Genomics & Metabolism Research Unit at SDU and will be working with Eske Willerslev and his group:

“I see lots of opportunities for exciting collaborations between his research group and several research groups, including my own, at SDU. On top of that, I am convinced that his engagement and passion for interdisciplinary science will inspire a lot of colleagues and catalyze many exciting new ideas in the SDU research landscape.” 

Groundbreaking research

Head of Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Associate Professor Jakob Møller-Jensen has also been following the work of Professor Eske Willerslev for years and he describes his background and research with great enthusiasm:

“First and foremost, we are of course very proud to pronounce Eske Willerslev as Adjunct Professor at Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and D-IAS Chair of Geogenetics. He is a world-class scientist and will be a strong asset to our department as well as D-IAS. The idea to affiliate Eske with our department was born during his visit at SDU to give a D-IAS lecture in September. He was very inspired by the whole vision of D-IAS and the interdisciplinary way of thinking.”

 Jakob Møller-Jensen continues:

“Eske Willerslev is a great inspiration and his interdisciplinary and groundbreaking research on ancient humans addresses some of the greatest and most fundamental questions: Where do we come from? He has established a completely new field of research within molecular biology and developed new methods that enable us to uncover information about our past that is hidden in ancient DNA.” 

“Find yourself a great mentor”

As mentioned, Eske Willerslev recently visited D-IAS at SDU in Odense giving his lecture:
“What we can learn from ancient genomics” in front of 200 people.

In D-IAS, we asked him a couple of questions back then – and he gave some good advice to our young researchers based on his own extraordinary academic career:


About Eske Willerslev

Professor Eske Willerslev is a well-known Danish DNA researcher and evolutionary geneticist notable for his pioneering work in molecular anthropology, paleontology and ecology. He is full professor at University of Copenhagen, Center for Geogenetics under the National Museum of Natural History. In 2015 he was appointed Prince Philip Professor at the University of Cambridge.

Eske Willerslev is recognized all over the world as an outstanding academic capacity – but also as a great storyteller and with him evolutionary biology is never boring. As a DNA detective, he has revealed revolutionary truths about the past and about the unknown’s in human history.
In his book “Eske Willerslev – makes the dead alive” you can read about his exciting life as an explorer.

In 2016 New York Times brought a portrait on him as a world known scientific profile.

Eske Willerslev has currently obtained nothing less than 21 prizes and acknowledgements. Some of these are:

The Preservation Hero Award (2017)
From the Department of Archaeology and Historical preservation in Washington State for his work on the Kennewick Man Genome.

Order of the Dannebrog (2017)
Issued by her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

The Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF) Award (2015) 
For the best research published within the field of archaeology in 2014-2015.

Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA (NAS) (2014)
This membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honours that a scientist can receive. The NAS foreign membership totals only 440 associates worldwide.

Honorary Doctor (doctor honoris causa) at University of Oslo (2014)
These honorary degrees are conferred on a very few international distinguished researchers every three years to honour their overall contribution to science.


Read more about Eske Willerslev (in Danish) at