Genetics is not like most subjects in Biology. While there are certainly plenty of terms to memorize, you will discover that an important part of Genetics is problem-based. You must be able to organize information, draw conclusions from that information and find solutions (answers) to problems. Genetics is more like Algebra and less like Anatomy. Some students study Biology because they like Science but do not enjoy the math problems in Chemistry and Physics. Some students want a degree in Biology because they want a career in which they can swim with dolphins, cuddle cute critters, or get a tan on the job. For many of these students, Genetics is their first contact with the realities of Biology as a science and it can be disturbing.
Self learning (or self teaching) is not as easy as you might think. Most people read and comprehend their reading much more slowly than listening to lectures. Most lessons in our courses are based upon my one hour ("in house") lectures but they will take you more than an hour to read and understand. You can quickly read anything but understanding what you read takes time. Just because you read it doesn't mean you understand it. (Just attending lectures doesn't mean you understand them. Right?) The Study Guides will slow you down but their purpose is to force you to focus on what you are reading. The SAQs (Self-Assessment Questions) will consume a lot of your time but they are the "homework" you must do in order to learn. The Workshops also take time but you will get a great deal out of them. Time is always short and some students wait until the last minute to do things and put things off. Self-learning courses require self motivation and discipline. The bad news is that self learning is different and often difficult. The good news is that I am an expert in self teaching, I have produced these courses entirely and specifically as self-learning courses and I have been creating self-learning "hypertextbook" courses, like this one, since 1996.
I want to make you aware of the potential problems and point out that we (you and I - working together) can teach you Genetics.
Dr Jamie Love
A brief resume about Dr Love (relevant to these courses)
Postgraduate Certificate - Teaching & Learning in Higher Education (2000) from the Education Development Unit, Napier University, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK).
Project - "A Web-based Self-study Program Teaching Evolution".
PhD - Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (1990) from Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans, LA (USA).
Dissertation: "Avian Repetitive DNA".
2001 to present. Adjunct Associate Professor (part-time) at the University of Maryland University College, MD (USA).
Via distance learning teach "Selection and Evaluation of Biotechnology Projects" to students working towards a Master of Science in Technology Management.
1995 to present. Virtual Instructor (part-time) at Merlin Science.
Create self-paced, self-learning "hypertextbooks" in Chemistry, Astronomy and Genetics (so far) specially designed for home schoolers and other distance learners.
2001 to 2005. Vice President of Business Development and Marketing
Worked at a small biotech company that manufactured microarrays and provided gene expression profiling services.
1998-2000. Teaching Associate (Permanent post = "tenured") at Department of Biology, Napier University, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK).
Responsible for developing the department's flexible (distance) learning modules including editing or co-authoring self-learning materials ("Molecular Genetics", "Food Microbiology and Biotechnology" and "Monographs for Higher Still Biotechnology"). Taught Genetics (sole instructor) and parts of Biochemistry.
1997-1998. Laboratory Consultant for Ross Breeders Ltd, Newbridge, Midlothian (Scotland, UK).
Developed a high throughput (6000 samples per month) PCR-based screening procedure to detect avian retroviruses in the blood or feathers of stock poultry (chickens).
1997. Associate Professor at Saba University School of Medicine, Saba, Netherlands-Antilles.
Sole instructor for Medical Genetics and parts of Physiology and Biochemistry.
1994-1996. Post-doc. Department of Surgery/Urology at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK).
Characterized and isolated growth factors responsible for the development of prostate bony metastasis. Developed bioassays (tissue culture). Purified specific proteins.
1994-1996. Lecturer (part-time) at Department of Biology, Napier University, Edinburgh (Scotland, UK).
Sole instructor for Bio-Medical Investigations (undergraduate) and Pathobiology (graduate).
1990-94. Post-doc. Department of Reproduction and Development, Roslin Institute, Roslin, (Scotland, UK).
Created transgenic chickens by DNA microinjection. Team member in chick embryo culture. Independently and exclusively provided all molecular biology support.
1986-1990 Research and Teaching Assistant (part-time as a graduate student) at Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, LSU Medical Center. New Orleans, LA (USA).
Used a variety of techniques in genomic analysis to determine phylogenetic relationships with an emphasis on studying repetitive DNA in birds. Team taught Biochemistry.
1985-1986. Research Assistant. Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA (USA).
Studied the molecular evolution of alpha-globins in Equids (horse family) using a wide variety of molecular genetic techniques (Southerns, in situ hybridization, etc.).
1984-85. Research Assistant. Department of Virology at University of California Medical Center, San Diego, CA (USA).
Identified changes in the population dynamics of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in various types of leukocytes collected from men infected with HIV.
1983-84. Research Assistant. Hematology Department at Scripp's Clinic and Research Foundation, La Jolla, CA (USA).
Raised and purified MAbs. Used them to analyze the enzymology and immunochemistry of phosphofructokinase from humans and dogs.
1982-83. Research Assistant. Gene Mapping Unit at The Agouron Institute, La Jolla, CA (USA).
Determined the position of naturally occurring DNA fragments (mostly oncogenes) and sites of integration of retrovirus on human and ape chromosomes, by in situ hybridization.
1981-82. Research Assistant. Human Cytogenetics Department at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN (USA).
Identified chromosomal rearrangements involved in leukemia. Cultured, synchronized, and harvested cells from patient's peripheral blood and bone marrow. High resolution G-banding.
1978-1981. Teaching Assistant (part-time as a graduate student) at Department of Biology, Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, MN (USA).
Assisted in teaching General Biology and Genetics. Taught "fly genetics and husbandry", human blood typing and some cytogenetics.
This section explains the courses and how to get the most out
of them so please read it carefully BEFORE starting your coursework.
There are five courses (sections) and they increase in difficulty
as you work through them so do them in the sequence in which they
are presented. Each section has its own particular emphasis and
"target student". For example, students who already
have an advanced education might find the course starts a little
slow but I encourage them to work through all the courses, in
sequence, in order to get the most from them. A better example
would be students new to Genetics (or perhaps new to Biology)
who try to go too far too fast. Work at you own pace and remember
that you are here to learn Genetics not to simply "finish"
I assume all students have at least a fundamental knowledge of cells (such as, "What is a nucleus?").
If you have not done so already, leap over to the "Recommended Websites" page (genwebs.html) to learn about ancillary readings and activities you might find helpful (but they are only optional).
Reading and scrolling down the screen is no way to learn (anything). You must interact with the reading. The Study Guides will help you to do that but I also encourage you to keep a (proper) Genetics Notebook. Taking notes is a great way to learn. Jot down ideas and definitions, draw your own Punnett squares and do your own math. There is no substitute for a notebook that YOU create as YOU learn. You might want to use one that allows you to place sheets of paper into it (that you print out and use during the course).
The bulk of the courses is in the Lessons (Lectures). As you will see, the lessons are not like a standard textbook. Instead, my style is in keeping with the best methods of self-learning courses. The reading is more "friendly" and "relaxed" with some light-hearted moments. Indeed, I try to make the courses read like my lectures but they are not transcripts.
Before you start a lesson, print a copy of the Student's Study Guide so you can fill in the blanks as you read and learn. (There are no Study Guides for the last course, Medical Genetics.) These guides are meant to help you "interact" with the lessons. They are NOT intended to cover all the information presented in the lessons. They are to help you focus on the salient features by encouraging you to fill in the missing information. Once you have finished the lesson, check the completed Study Guide (the Teacher's copy) to make sure you have filled in yours correctly. Note - these study guides are NOT what an exam will look like.
Another way to learn is through self assessment. After you have completed a topic (lesson or workshop), answer all the Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) by writing them in your notebook. The answers to your self-assessment questions are found by clicking the hyperlink at the bottom of each question. The SAQs will not be graded but you would be wise to use them to solidify your understanding of the subject and prepare for the exams. Unless you feel particularly confident with the materials, it is best to do each question one at a time. That is, write your answer to the question, in your notebook, then check the answer immediately. (Some questions refer to previous questions and their answers.)
There are four Workshops scattered throughout the course.
Some are designed to reinforce the lessons and SAQs while others
prepare you for the SAQs - that means, some workshops are done
after the SAQs and some are done before the SAQs.
Do the workshops in the correct order by following the instructions
telling you what to do next (which are either at the bottom of
a lesson or obvious from the main page). Each workshop begins
with a short introduction and instructions to print out a copy
of the workshop worksheet (which is NOT the Study Guide).
These workshops are based upon "tutorials" I give during my "non-virtual" (classroom) teaching. Take these workshops seriously! (If you are pressed for time, skip a few SAQs but NEVER miss a workshop.) They review the most important parts of the lessons (lectures) and address the main problems students have with the topics. Some workshops are particularly heavy in math but they are designed to walk you through the process, step by step. As you progress through our workshops you are expected to attempt each question (step) before moving on to the answer that appears immediately below the DNA strands that say "Answer that before paging down". (You'll see what I mean.) Feel free to take a break during the workshops. When you come back just pick up the topic where you left off. Work your way to the bottom of the workshop. At the end you will find a link to the workshop answers which you should compare to your own. Make sure you are comfortable with the answers.
After you have completed each course you will be challenged by an Exam! Each exam consists of 20 questions with 4 (multiple) choices. When you choose an answer, a "pop-up" response immediately indicates whether the answer is right or wrong and provides some feedback. This instant feedback is a learning tool so read each reply carefully. The first time you take the exam, read the pop-up response but stick with your original answers, complete the test and submit it for a grade. This will give you an idea of what you have learned so far and is more like a "regular" test. (Whatever that is. ) Your answers will be graded and each one will be scored Correct or Wrong. Once you have the score and the list of incorrect answers, use the "Back" button of the web browser to return to the exam and correct the errors. (If you click the "Refresh" button or the exam no longer has your answers, try the "Back" button again. If that still does not generate your original answers you might have the misfortune of owning a strange browser - and you will have to input all your answers again. ) This second time with the exam you should carefully read each response, learn from it and choose the right answer - then submit the perfect answers for a final (perfect) grade.
No textbook is required or even recommended for this course. All the materials you need are provided here.
By the way - these courses are owned by Dr Jamie Love (©) and all copyright laws apply. You are allowed to print out the Study Guide and Worksheets BUT you are NOT allowed to redistribute these materials or any part of these materials.
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 SAQs (and 33 SA 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 it 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 frequently used by US medical schools to gage their students' knowledge.
How does this pertain to our course? 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. Those of you who know nothing about medical school may not appreciate the value of a teacher's notes. "Lecture notes" are the life-blood of a medical student. Medical students are hard pressed for time and few of them are able to take good notes. Many schools arrange for a series of students to take notes which are distributed to all the other students (for a fee). Some teachers abhor this behavior because it discourages students from attending lectures. I, however, will do anything to help students learn the materials - so I wrote and distributed detailed notes for all my Medical Genetics lectures. Quite soon (because med students are quick learners) many students simply got a copy of my notes and did not attend my lectures! Some teacher would go "nuts" with those results but I take it as a compliment that my notes are stand alone lessons that helped my students. Indeed, feedback from teachers in advanced courses (Pathology, etc.) and the results of the USMLEs vindicate my strategy - my students were well prepared by my notes. (Although they may have missed my sparkling personality! )
I decided to include Part Five as an "add on" to our
courses for several reasons. First, it was not too difficult turning
my 30 hours of lecture notes into 16 additional lessons (notes).
Second, this course in Medical Genetics starts with a fast-paced
review of material so it acts as a good summary. Third, it gives
me an excuse to include some additional information that you will
find interesting (such as common techniques in molecular genetics and cytogenetics)
as well as information that some Genetics teachers might feel
I have left out (such as linkage analysis). Fourth, you will get
a feel for how genetics is applied.
On the other hand, I had some doubts about adding a Medical Genetics course. First, some students will not like learning from notes (even very good notes like these) and be disappointed but I remind them that Medical Genetics is "extra credit". Second, the details and "matter of fact" way in which awful disorders are presented might put some people off but I hope they will understand that's the way things are taught in medical school. Third, I decided to include medical terminology in the notes in spite of the fact that most students are not going to have the detailed knowledge of pathology or anatomy to fully appreciate or understand what I am talking about! Ignore those "big words" or feel free to "goggle" them. Fourth and finally, I worried that presenting medical information to a non-medical "audience" might be considered uncouth and precipitate nagging concerns. However, I decided that a six year-old can easily find this kind of information all over the Internet so I couldn't be doing any additional harm.
Allow me to expand upon that last point because it's important. It is
HIGHLY UNLIKELY that you or anyone you know has any of the medical
conditions that I will be teaching. Anyone who has taught medical
courses knows that some students will see in themselves, friends and
family what they perceive as symptoms and signs of disorders. This can
lead to serious "misunderstandings" that can be emotionally traumatic
and completely unnecessary. Let me give you two examples of what I mean
based upon some first hand stories from lab situations (not lectures).
Many years ago (when it was considered safe to "play" with the blood of
classmates) as part of our undergraduate Genetics course, we
would look for Barr bodies in the lymphocytes of a few women who
volunteered a couple drops of blood. These structures, called
"drumsticks", are tiny blobs at the edge of a woman's nucleus and are
not easy to find because a lot depends upon how lucky you are at
finding lymphocytes whose Barr body is positioned along the side of the
nucleus (as seen through the microscope) instead of on top or underneath
(where they mostly end up and are impossible to see).
In a similar lab course we tested blood types from students - most of whom don't know the blood types of their parents. But some did and (perhaps you know where I'm going with this) one student's blood type meant that his genetic (biological) father was someone other than the man he called "daddy". What happened? Well, the antibodies we use to conduct the tests had been back contaminated (students not following directions). Perhaps the antibodies had simply been in the heat too long and been damaged. Later, he was correctly tested, while donating blood to the Red Cross, and the results confirmed his family was what he had been told all his life. (Phew - again.)
My point : only well-trained technicians should be trusted to conduct diagnostic tests and those tests should only be interpreted by a properly-trained doctor (not a Genetics teacher like me or a Genetics student like you)!
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