Dig into DNA

Explore the latest research and delve into the intriguing ethical issues surrounding the study of genomics.
Register now:
October 31, 2016 - December 11, 2016
The Brain: Structure, Function and Evolution, Climate Change, Evolution, The Diversity of Fishes, Genetics, Genomics, Genethics, The Ocean System, The Solar System
See the full calendar.

Authoring Scientists

Rob DeSalle
Dr. DeSalle is curator in the Museum's Division of Invertebrate Zoology.
Claudia Englbrecht
Dr. Englbrecht studied biology, with a major in zoology at the University of Munich.

About the Course

How will our growing knowledge of the genome affect our health, our societies, and the natural world? How do heredity and the environment interact? This course explores a scientific frontier: how scientists are investigating and applying the information contained in genetic codes. Examine the tools and techniques used in a molecular biology lab, learn about the Human Genome and the emerging field of metagenomics, and discuss the ethical issues involved in emerging fields like genetic enhancement, biotechnology, and cloning. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

Gregor Mendel's groundbreaking work on pea plants provided a foundation for modern genetics and molecular biology.

While our genome has all the genetic information necessary for us to be humans, both nature and nurture are important in determining who we are.

People are genetically similar to other people and to other organisms. For example, 45% of the genes found in a fruit fly are also found in humans, and we share approximately 96% of our genome with chimpanzees.

The Human Genome Project, which made history by mapping the human genome, is has revolutionized basic medical and pharmaceutical research and its clinical application. Today, researchers are hard at work on the Human Microbiome Project, tracking the bacteria in our bodies.

Next-generation DNA-sequencing approaches - a field called metagenomics - provide tools to identify most of the microbe species in a sample without requiring the individual species to be cultured.

New technologies such as microarrays and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), give scientists advanced ways to study living things.

Geneticists study model organisms (such as mice, fruit flies, worms and bacteria) to understand how genes function. Many genes in these model organisms are also found in humans and can be used to study genetic disorders.

Increased knowledge about genetics will confront individuals and society with ethical decisions. Sound decisions require an accurate understanding of the science involved, a careful consideration of all the stakeholders' views and a strong ethical framework.

Course Textbook

Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future
Author: Rob DeSalle and Michael Yudell
Publisher: Wiley
Edition: September 2004
Hardcover: 240 pages
ISBN: 0471453315
Buy online: Amazon

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Adams State UniversityCity University of New YorkFramingham State UniversityHamline UniversityNorthwest Missouri State UniversityWestern Governors University

Related Courses

Interested in more from Seminars on Science? Consider these related offerings:

Modern Evolutionary Biology
The Diversity of Fishes
Classification, Anatomy and Morphology

Course Preview

Explore an interactive of making copies of DNA, read about nature versus nurture, and explore a sample discussion.

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"I enjoyed the ethical debate and the opportunity to develop a lesson plan to teach students about controversial issues."
—elementary Challenger Center teacher
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