"Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" All branches of knowledge address these fundamental questions. This course examines how DNA informs the structure and function of humans, and how humans have in turn used DNA as a source of information to solve mysteries and improve lives.
We will introduce the structure of DNA and show how it influences physical traits and is passed on from parent to child. We will review the original goals of the Human Genome Project and discuss how the surprising results that emerged from it have altered the way we view the role of genes in human development. We will examine how breakthroughs in DNA technology have allowed us to answer questions about human origins, worldwide migrations and personal genealogy while aiding criminal investigations and medical treatment.
This course will also use the specifics of DNA investigation as examples of science in action. The study of DNA provides abundant examples of how science, as a social process, progresses to better approximations of reality through modeling, technological improvements, paradigm shifts and steady accumulation of knowledge. Fundamental to any core discussion of science is how objective knowledge emerges from the activities of humans who are often prejudiced, egotistical and even dishonest. The goal of the course is to provide students with an understanding of both DNA and the methods of the scientists who study it.