Parts Unknown: The Dark Matter of the Genome

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2021

Amanda J. Whipple (Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
Freshman Seminar  52F 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Prerequisites: This seminar is recommended for students with a basic background in biology and genetics (high school equivalent), but more importantly, with a keen interest in learning about how our genome works and the consequences of it not working correctly.

Note: There will be a required trip to tour an active research laboratory with no cost to the student.

Did you know that genes, traditionally defined as DNA encoding protein, only account for two percent of the entire human genome? What is the purpose of the remaining 98% of the genome? Is it simply “junk DNA”? This seminar will explore the large portion of our genome that has been neglected by scientists for many years because its purpose was not known. We will examine research findings which demonstrate non-coding sequences, previously assigned as “junk DNA”, play crucial roles in the development and maintenance of a healthy organism. We will further discuss how these non-coding sequences are promising targets for drug design and disease diagnosis. We will then visit a local research laboratory (either virtually or in person as deemed appropriate) and engage with active scientists regarding the scientific research enterprise.

A thorough understanding of the human genome not only provides a foundation for any student interested in the life sciences, it enables one to engage more deeply in related political and societal debates, which is expected to become even more central as scientists further uncover the dark matter of our genomes.

 

See also: Fall 2021