Principles of Genetics

is a series of five self-paced, self-learning courses in Genetics
Cytogenetics, Mendelian Genetics, Advanced Genetics, Molecular Genetics and Medical Genetics
created by Dr Jamie Love

Although intended for university-level studies, Principles of Genetics assumes only a minor amount of prior knowledge (only basic biology, chemistry and math), so it can be enjoyed by anyone interested in learning Genetics. A variety of educational methods are used including Study Guides, self-guided Workshops and plenty of Self Assessment Questions. Each course ends with a computerized, self-evaluation exam composed of 20 questions answered by multiple choice providing instant feedback and computer scoring.

Dr Jamie Love created Principles of Genetics.
Jamie took Genetics in 1975 as an undergraduate and loved it. During his Master's program he was made Lab Assistant for Genetics where he taught students how to conduct fruit fly experiments, type blood and identify Barr bodies. After receiving his MS, he worked as a technician in cytogenetics, where he learned to identify each human chromosome by G-banding. Later he went on to map the location of genes by in situ hybridisation, purify plasmids by ethidium bromide gradient centrifugation, digest DNA with restriction endonucleases, run gels and produce Southerns. In 1986, at the age of 30, he started a PhD program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Louisiana State University Medical Center (New Orleans). In his thesis, titled "Avin Repetitive DNA", Jamie demonstrated how to isolate and characterise taxa-specific DNA and produce DNA "fingerprints" from a diverse group of animals (alligators, horses, tortises, iguanas, parrots, etc.) When he graduated in 1990, Dr Love, accepted a post-doc position in Scotland, a part of The United Kingdom. (The best part! ) The UK is home to the oldest, biggest and most distinguished distance-learning university in the world - The Open University. Jamie spent several years studying its methods while working towards his diploma in Information Technology.

Jamie touching a rock from the moon
(National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC).
After four years as a post-doc at the "Poultry Research Centre" - which was later renamed "The Roslin Institute" ("Home of the Clone" - Dolly the sheep) - Dr Love and his team created the first transgenic bird by DNA microinjection. As the molecular biologist on the team, Dr Love was responsible for engineering and isolating the plasmids to introduced into the chicken genome and identifying birds carrying the transgenes. Following his second post-doc position (studying prostate cancer) Jamie moved to the tiny, tropical island of Saba (Netherland Antilles) where he taught Genetics to medical students. It was hot and humid and Jamie grew "homesick" for Scotland, so he returned to Edinburgh and joined the faculty at Napier University where he taught "Biomedical Investigations" and "Pathology". Later, Jamie was asked to be their Genetics Instructor and to help develop the department's flexible (distant) learning modules. In that role Dr Love acted as editor and coordinator of several distance learning books - teaching Genetics, Microbiology, Immunology and Biotechnology. In June of 2000 Napier University awarded Dr Love the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. This certificate is awarded to those who complete a series of classes, workshops, peer review and an educational project. Jamie chose as his project to create a web-based, self-learning minicourse in evolution.

Later, Dr Love held senior posts at a series of biotech companies (making microarrays for gene expression profiling, GPRC cell lines for signalling studies and magnetic proteins for purification, identification, imaging and therapy) where he was responsible for business development and intellectual property. Dr Love was also an Adjunct Associate Professor (part-time) with the University of Maryland University College where, via distance learning, he taught "Selection and Evaluation of Biotechnology Projects" to students working towards a Master of Science in Technology Management. In the last few years before retiring, Dr Love worked at the University of Edinburgh helping graduate students to set up businesses based upon their discoveries.

Dr Love started Merlin Science in 1995 - teaching chemistry over the Internet. The following year he published "Principles of Alchemy", his first self-paced, self-learning "hypertextbook". It was very well received and has become particularly popular among home schoolers.
Being an amateur astronomer, web master and with growing experience in distance learning, Jamie began delivering astronomy courses over the Internet in 1997, as part of "Science Explained". Thousands of eager students visited his website, asking questions about astronomy and getting answers. Several professional astronomers visited the website and congratulated him on his work. With curious students asking plenty of questions and professional astronomers helping him, Dr Love was able to create a first class astronomy hypertextbook, "Principles of Astronomy".
Dr Love's third and final hypertextbook, "Principles of Genetics", is his most advanced course.

When he is relaxing, Jamie enjoys bird watching, fossil collecting, and stargazing.


In 2017, Dr Love formally retired from his post at the University of Edinburgh and the following year decided to give his courses away for all to enjoy. His hypertextbooks (courses) are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    This means you are free to:
  • Share copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
  • Adapt remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.
    under the following terms:
  • Attribution You must give appropriate credit and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor (Dr Jamie Love) endorses you or your use.
  • ShareAlike If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

These five courses are designed so that you can stop at the level that meets your goals - but I hope you will try to complete all five sections eventually. Here is an overview and explanation of the five courses.

Cytogenetics is a fundamental course comprising six lessons. High school or Freshman university students find that Cytogenetics mixes well with Introductory Biology courses offered at most schools. However, I go into much more detail to build a base upon which to understand the subsequent courses (sections). There is one workshop in Cytogenetics and some students "complain" that it is too childish because it requires that you draw cells - but I have learned (from my "non-virtual" students) that drawing cells in various stages reinforces the details that I am teaching, so it's critical to understanding cytogenetics. There is no math in this course (unless you think that multiplying or dividing a number by two is math). There are 33 Self Assessment Questions (and 33 Self Assessement Answers) that will reiterate the most important parts of the lessons to make sure you are on track. Like all courses, there is a self-administered exam at the end to test your newly acquired knowledge.

Your second course, Mendelian Genetics, is also often covered in Introductory Biology courses. Here you will be introduced to the most important principles of inheritance and learn how we solve genetic "puzzles" using logical deduction and diagrams (called "Punnett squares"). The first workshop is broken into three different pieces and walks you through increasingly more complicated Mendelian Genetic puzzles. Pay attention to the instructions at the end of the lessons so you will know when to do a workshop before trying the SAQs. It is very important to do both the workshop and the SAQs because it takes practice to master these puzzles and understand what is happening. (By the way, "what is happening" was taught in the Cytogenetics course but here you see how it applies.) Math skills in this part of the course are limited to ratios and simple fractions. The last lesson in Mendelian Genetics is the chi square and it is followed by a chi square workshop. For most students, this is the first time they will use "advanced" math skills to find answers. (Don't panic!) I will walk you through this step by step. You will need a calculator. By the end of this course you will have mastered one of the most important statistical test commonly used in Genetics (and other areas of research). There are only five lessons in Mendelian Genetics and 28 SAQs but be sure to do the appropriate workshops before working them. An exam concludes the course.

Advanced Genetics is composed of seven lessons that form a collection of important subjects often taught in Freshman Biology courses. After the lesson on Hardy-Weinberg you will have a Hardy-Weinberg workshop. That will require a calculator - and perhaps some courage. (Just kidding. ). No college level Genetics course would be complete without this important topic because the Hardy-Weinberg equations are fundamental to understanding the genetics of populations and evolution. Like the chi square, I will walk you through the process and teach you how to approach each problem. There are 35 SAQs and, of course, an exam finishes this course.

Having completed these first three courses (Cytogenetics, Mendelian Genetics and Advanced Genetics) you will have completed the equivalent of a university level Freshman course in Genetics but a little weak on the molecular side of things - and that is why you have a fourth course!

Your fourth course is Molecular Genetics. Sometimes you will find these topics briefly covered in an Introductory course but I frown upon that kind of course structure because it waters down important information in order to fit it into the framework of an Introductory course. Instead, my course in Molecular Genetics teaches more details and prepares the student to learn more so as to understand this exciting area of research and technology. This course in Molecular Genetics would be equivalent to a Sophomore (or higher) university level course so there are some important differences between this course and the previous three courses.
First, there are no workshops because that format is not useful in this setting. Instead, there are 74 SAQs!
Second, I assume that you have an understanding of "descriptive chemistry" (as opposed to the more difficult "quantitative chemistry"). That is, you should feel comfortable with the idea of molecules and structures. [My course "Principles of Alchemy (Chemistry)" is for a much younger student but teaches far more chemistry than I assume in our Molecular Genetics course.] By the way, I (worked very hard to) provide detailed drawings of nucleic acid molecules but they must be shrunken down to a size that fits well on the computer screen. So, I have set up special images throughout the course that you can click on in order to see clearly the details of the molecules. It is not necessary to learn them in this kind of detail but it might help you to understand the basic chemistry and appreciate the complexity of these molecules.
Third, our six lessons in Molecular Genetics are much, MUCH longer than previous lessons. Each one of the lessons in Molecular Genetics would amount to several hours of lectures presented over the course of a week. I decided to stick with a broader lesson group - the six "lessons" - because breaking them up along the way would have made for some "messy" splits and lose the consistency that is useful in each topic (lesson). However, to help you work through these "mega-lessons", I provide breaks along the way and hyperlinks to each "chunk" of information. Importantly, you should allocate two to three times as much time to work through Molecular Genetics as you allowed in your previous courses. (Molecular Genetics is a course equivalent to all three previous courses combined.)

The "lessons" in Medical Genetics are very different from previous lessons because they are for a different type of student and different type of course. Specifically, these lessons are derived from the Medical Genetics course I taught to medical students at a medical school! ( ) All those students had passed undergraduate courses, including Genetics, so they had a genetics education similar to what you learned from our previous four courses. However, due to the amount of information they are expected to assimilate, Medical Genetics (like most medical courses) is very "high density". There is no "hand holding" and students are expected to digest complex materials presented in a succinct manner. Also, the goal of Medical Genetics is to provide the student a foundation on which to understand more advanced courses (such as Pathology, Obstetrics and Pediatrics). Another, less well-publicized goal is to prepare the student to pass the United States Medical License Exams (USMLEs) which are exams foreign-trained doctors must pass in order to practice in the US and sometimes used by US medical schools to gage their students' knowledge.
Unlike the previous materials, there are no Student Guides to fill in and no series of Questions and Answers. Instead, I have rewritten my Medical Genetics Notes into a series of "lessons". I put the word "lessons" in quotes because they read more like notes than lessons.


Collect your FREE hypertextbook by downloading this zipped file - "FREE PofGene.zip"

Choose "Save File". Remember where you download the file. "PofGene.zip" is about 2.3 MB.
Create a specific (new) directory. Name the directory whatever you want ("genetics" is a good name). Copy or drag "FREE PofGene.zip" into this directory.
Unzip the course packaging with decompression software. Most operating systems already have decompression software installed, but if yours does not, you can use software such as WinZip or Stuffit. Note: Windows will let you browse into a Zip file without unzipping, but the links will not work.

Online Course - Table of Contents Homepage How to get a FREE copy of the entire course (hypertextbook) Frequently Asked Questions