Our genome is the blueprint to our existence: It encodes all the information we need to develop from a single cell into a hugely complicated functional organism. But it is more than a static information store: Our genome is a dynamic, tightly regulated collection of genes, which switch on and off in many combinations to give the variety of cells from which our bodies are formed. But how is the genome constructed and how do we identify the genes that make up our genome? How do we determine their function? How do organisms differ or match and what does genomics teach us about the evolutionary relationships between different organisms? What does our understanding of genomics mean in terms of our future health and well-being?
This course aims for students, who will not necessarily focus on a career in science, to acquire an understanding of how the genomics revolution has transformed many facets of our society. From the more obvious impacts on the way we conduct scientific research, to its impacts on the medical practice, which is moving towards human genome-based personalized medicine; from its impacts on agriculture (domestication, genetically modified organisms) to ethical considerations regarding genetic discrimination; and from genomic insights into the microbial inhabitants of our body to genomic insights into the microbes that sustain our planet’s environmental health.
Textbook and a limited number of additional required readings from the popular and scientific literature. Group-based documentary presented the last week (30%). This project will allow students to actively investigate the impacts of genomics in today’s world of science, ethics, policy, art, law, anthropology, journalism, medicine, agriculture, etc.
In addition to the group project, the grade will be based on a mid-term (15%) and final exam (30%), and active participation, quizzes, and assignments in discussion sessions (25%).
Students who may not focus on a career in science but are interested in the natural sciences, especially in exploring a multidisciplinary approach to current societal challenges.
Two hours of lectures per week. One hour of discussion per week that will involve both discussion and "dry-lab" exercises that make use of basic bio-informatics tools to allow students to explore how genomics is used in for example paleontology and forensics.