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Why Do We Have to Learn This Stuff?”—A New Genetics for 21st Century Students

  • Rosemary J. Redfield mail

    redfield@zoology.ubc.ca

    Affiliation: Department of Zoology, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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  • Published: July 03, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001356

Reader Comments (24)

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Genetics education does need to be revitalized!

Posted by gerryho on 07 Jul 2012 at 04:04 GMT

Thank you for a very relevant article. Your perspective mirrored the genetic analysis course feedback I gave as a undergraduate a few years ago.

I'm not for making a subject 'sexy' or dressing it up to draw in a larger studentship, but the most frustrating thing I experienced then (and still do, now as a postgrad) was trying to make sense of the more recent articles in genetic/molecular journals. For example, I had no idea why authors adopted protocols as they did, particularly in the '-omics' areas. It was also quite disconcerting to find out about gene complexity after years of 'clear-cut' Mendelian genetics.

I am heartened by your approach, with a couple of suggestions:
– Complement human genetics with that of a model organism e.g. three-spined stickleback. The research done on such taxa is a vivid demonstration of advancement in genetics, and (to me) is more interesting from the interactive factors in natural systems;
– Adopt e-technology to complement wood-based texts.

Classical genetics will always have its place (I think – even now I'm re-learning meiosis to understand apomixis in plants.) Genetics may never undergo the theoretical fragmentation of ecology, but the risks of neglecting classical theory is well covered by Belovsky et al. (Ten suggestions to strengthen the science of ecology, Bioscience 2004 54:345.)

No competing interests declared.

RE: Genetics education does need to be revitalized!

redfield replied to gerryho on 08 Jul 2012 at 17:44 GMT

I agree that we can motivate interest in genetics research by choosing one good model system. But sticklebacks??? These frumpy little fish are one of the least charismatic model systems I know of. (And yes, I am aware of all the excellent research being done - at this moment I'm sitting in an evolution symposium waiting to hear from Dolph Schluter, a member of my own Zoology Department at UBC.) Surely we can find something with more obvious relevance for our students.

No competing interests declared.