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Genetics learning works best when personal

Posted by djlee on 08 Jul 2012 at 15:40 GMT

The problem with Mendel's principles is not their importance in biology, its the peas.

I enjoyed this article because it drives home the message that genetics learning works best when it is personal and relevant..where the motivation is to better understand the living things that are important to our lives.....rather than memorize the facts that geneticists have discovered which may be included on the exam.

Many of my students are aiming for careers in agriculture, veterinary medicine, and natural resource management. Many of the organisms they are passionate about and will work with professionally provide excellent stories for connecting the biology of phenotype with genotype.

Stories we work through in class include plant breeders determining if a phenotype controlled by expression of a transgene segregates as a single locus or if a combination of traits needed in the new seed variety will assort independently. The importance of dominance is relevant when the hybrid crop breeder must decide if one copy of a gene provides enough protein to detoxify a herbicide or if the farmer's field is is an environment that demands a homozygote. We can learn from animal breeders who would like to use genetic testing for every important trait, but must still rely on linked markers mapped to the genome with the current pace of QTL discovery. Mendel and Morgan still leave leave an impact on my students neural pathways even though we spend little time with peas and fruit flies.

The NOVA program "Cracking your Genetic Code" was an excellent story collection for our genetics final this spring. I wonder if 23 and Me would provide a student rate and generate population and family data on selected loci for a genetics class?

No competing interests declared.