Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

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Description

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A whirlwind introduction to evolution and genetics, from basic principles to current applications, including how disease genes are mapped and how we leverage evolutionary concepts to aid humanity.

About the Course

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution gives interested people a very basic overview of the principles behind these very fundamental areas of biology. We often hear about new "genome sequences," commercial kits that can tell you about your ancestry (including pre-human) from your DNA or disease predispositions, debates about the truth of evolution, and why animals behave the way they do. This course provides the basic biology you need to understand all of these issues better and t…

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

A whirlwind introduction to evolution and genetics, from basic principles to current applications, including how disease genes are mapped and how we leverage evolutionary concepts to aid humanity.

About the Course

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution gives interested people a very basic overview of the principles behind these very fundamental areas of biology. We often hear about new "genome sequences," commercial kits that can tell you about your ancestry (including pre-human) from your DNA or disease predispositions, debates about the truth of evolution, and why animals behave the way they do. This course provides the basic biology you need to understand all of these issues better and tries to clarify some misconceptions. No prior coursework is assumed.

About the Instructor(s)

Dr. Mohamed Noor is the Earl D. McLean Professor and Associate Chair of Biology at Duke University. His expertise is in molecular evolution, and a large part of his research has been devoted to trying to understand the genetic changes that ultimately lead to the formation of new species. More recently, his research team has used fruit fly species to understand the causes and evolutionary consequences of variation in rates of genetic recombination/ exchange.
Dr. Noor has received several awards for research, teaching, and mentoring, and has been active in the scientific community, including serving as president of the American Genetic Association, chair of the NIH study section in Genetic Variation and Evolution, and editor of the journal Evolution.

Course Syllabus

  • Evidence for evolution
  • Introduction to basic genetics
  • Recombination and genetic mapping simple traits
  • Complications to genetic mapping
  • Genes vs. environment
  • Basic population genetics and Hardy-Weinberg
  • Gene flow, differentiation, inbreeding
  • Natural selection and genetic drift
  • Molecular evolution
  • Evolutionary applications and misapplications
  • Adaptive behaviors and species formation

Recommended Background

No prior coursework in the subject is assumed. It would be helpful for the application of some concepts to have a working knowledge of High School level math, including basic algebra. While useful for solving the assigned problems, this is not essential to understand and follow the general concepts and otherwise enjoy the class.

Suggested Readings

Although the class is largely self-contained, students wanting reinforcement on some of the lecture topics and/ or to expand their knowledge beyond what we cover in class can find a compelling treatment of the evidence for evolution (as well as related topics) in this short book:
  • Coyne, Jerry. 2009. Why Evolution Is True

For assistance with the genetics and more in-depth evolutionary concepts, these textbooks may be helpful as a supplements to the lectures:
  • Griffiths, Anthony, et al. 2010. Introduction to Genetic Analysis
  • Freeman, Scott, and John Herron. Evolutionary Analysis

Course Format

The class will consist of watching multiple lecture mini-videos which are roughly 10-15 minutes in length. These contain 1-3 integrated quiz questions per video. There will also be 2 test assessments, including a non-cumulative final exam.

FAQ

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • What background in biology is needed for this course?

    The course does not assume any college-level background in biology. A few introductory genetics topics are covered somewhat quickly, such that those who did not learn basic heredity in grade-school may struggle with the pace, but students who had literally no biology have succeeded in understanding the material from just this treatment and a little bit of internet searching.

  • What if I don't believe in evolution? What if it conflicts with my faith?

    The course presents evidence for evolution in the first lecture, and delves into extensive detail on evolutionary processes later. Enrolled parties need not in any way modify or abandon their belief system, but test questions will be based on the material as it is covered in the lectures.

  • Will the lectures cover macroevolution, or talk about the diversity of past (e.g., dinosaurs) or present life?

    The present version does not cover macroevolution or the diversity of life. There will not be anything about dinosaurs. The evolution topics covered in the present course are largely confined to "microevolution," though we hope to add some new topics spanning macroevolution to future course iterations.

  • Will the lectures cover any molecular biology, or applications like PCR or next-generation DNA sequencing?

    No. The genetics lectures are limited to transmission genetics, recombination, genetic mapping, and basic quantitative genetics. We refer interested parties to the course "Introduction to Genome Science," also offered in Coursera, for coverage of some of the other topics.

  • What if I'm not interested in evolution but want to just learn about how genetics intersects my personal life?

    This course has a significant evolution component, though many of the topics span genetics and evolution. If you would prefer a genetics class focused on personal applications of genetics without an evolutionary context, you may be interested in the course "Useful Genetics," also offered in Coursera.

  • Will the lectures discuss human cloning or the use of embryonic or pluripotent stem cells?

    No.

  • Does Prof. Mohamed Noor ALWAYS talk that fast?

    Yes.

Provided by:

University: Duke University

Instructor(s): Mohamed Noor

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