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Course Descriptions

BIOL 31200 Great Issues: Genomics & Society

Session Offered:

Fall Credit 2.0


 Restriction:  4th-8th semester students only, must be enrolled in the Colleg of Science.   Permission of Department is required.  This course fulfills the Great Issues requirement.  This course DOES NOT fulfill a biology elective requirement.


The course will revolve around genomics, the science and technology involved in determining the sequence of the entire DNA complement in an organism.  Almost everyone has heard of the human genome project, but fewer are aware of the spectacular technical progress in this field and the fact that over 1,000 different organisms have had their genome sequenced.  Until recently, most of these have been microorganisms, but technological and computational progress has made it progressively easier and cheaper to sequence the genomes of higher organisms.  This field may have more of an impact on your future lives than almost any other field of the life sciences-mostly because it touches on all areas of study.

The course will focus on the impact that genomics will have in selected areas.  It will begin with a basic understanding of the science and technology that gave rise to our current capabilities in sequencing and the fact that technology continues to provide greater capacity and cheaper prices.  You will soon see that every field in the College of Science is well represented in the science and technology.  We will then go on to see how genomics influences many topics that affect our daily lives and can possibly provide answers to some critical questions (or at least pose better questions):

  • What is the basis of personalized medicine?
  • What does genomics tell us about the genealogy of mankind?
  • What impact will genomics have on our future food supply and our ability to feed a population of 9 Billion people?
  • What is the human microbiome and what does that mean to me? Similarly, what is the gut microbiome, the mouth microbiome, etc?
  • What impact will genomics have on the development of alternative energy sources, especially biofuels?

In every area, we will discuss the scientific challenges, but also the ethical and societal implications.  In most cases, there is no one right answer, but a series of choices that can be guided by ethical considerations.


Louis Sherman



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