World-renowned Geneticist to Lead ASSAf

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has announced the appointment of Professor Himla Soodyall as Executive Officer with effect from 1 November 2018. She is succeeding Professor Roseanne Diab who is retiring.

Soodyall is Research Professor in Human Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Principal Medical Scientist at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).

She is renowned for her groundbreaking genetic research into the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa in which her studies 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 was awarded the National Order of Mapungubwe: Bronze, by President Mbeki (September, 2005) for contribution to science. In 2005, she was also appointed the sub-Saharan African principal investigator on the Genographic Project − a five-year, worldwide project undertaken by the National Geographic Society to map humanity’s migratory history. In 2012, she was awarded the Gabriel Ward Lasker Prize for the best paper Mitochondrial DNA Variation in the Khoe-San published in Human Biology in 2012.


In 2017, she was rated as one of the top-ten most visible scientists in South Africa in a study by the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University.

An ASSAf Member since 2003, she was elected to the ASSAf Council in 2011, and appointed General Secretary in 2014 in which position she has been active in drafting of several strategies and young scientists’ activities.

As a highly profiled ambassador for science in South Africa and internationally, Soodyall brings with her experience not only in top-quality research, but also a knowledge of governance and public administration, as well as engagement at all levels of community in Africa and abroad.