Introduction to Genetics
Genetics occupies a central position in modern biology. A knowledge of genetics is fundamental to an understanding of how organisms, populations, and species evolve. It has reshaped our ideas about food, medicine, and identity. It enables the criminal justice system to identify suspects and helps scientists better understand where humans came from as a species. The ability to manipulate genes has also created a host of new ethical problems that the world has never dealt with before.
This course is a discussion of heredity, from molecules to populations. It begins by exploring the principles of heredity—the rules that determine what characteristics we pass on to our children. From eye color to height, health, and longevity, genes make us what we are, but how much of who we are is genetic, and how much is shaped by the environment? Students will inspect the DNA and RNA molecules and learn how transcription and translation go from genotype to phenotype, as well as the ways in which genes are turned on and off. Students will also look at population genetics, gene sequencing, and technology. Although the course will concentrate on human genetics, students will learn why calico cats are always female, why some dogs have curly hair, and why elephants never get cancer.
Live Classes: Wednesdays, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, from January 15th to May 13th
Assignments: Every Wednesday, there will be a list of the assignments and activities for the next week posted on the online classroom. This will include reading from the textbook and fun videos or websites. Each week students will also be asked to complete various activities based on the readings, such as posting to class discussions or answering poll questions. All required assignments are due the following Wednesday before class. A paper on the student’s choice of genetics stories in the news is due in May.
Student Support: The instructor is available by email.
Feedback/Assessment: Feedback will be provided on written assignments.
Materials/Supplies: Students will need to purchase the textbook Human Heredity by Michael Cummings. This book is in its 11th edition, but students are encouraged to purchase the 10th edition, which is available used on various internet sites at a much lower cost and is not much different from the 11th edition.
Prerequisites: The only prerequisite is curiosity! This is an introductory course, and students are not expected to have any background in biology or chemistry, but they should be able to read and engage with scientific material and participate in course activities.