Sunday, January 06, 2008

HapMap for beginners?

This year I'm going to use the human polymorphism map (the HapMap) as part of the framework for thinking about genetics and evolution in my first-year biology course. I haven't done this at all before, but I can see a lot of places where it would fit naturally. Most of the other instructors in this course seem to be content to teach the standard Mendelian genetics, but I think students need to learn about the modern resources and issues that the popular media will expose them to.

Classes start tomorrow, but we won't get into the HapMap until next week, when we start talking about DNA and genes and genomes and chromosomes. Monday these will be introduced, and Wednesday we'll consider how they vary. Then on Friday we'll consider how human variation corresponds (or doesn't) to conventional views about human races.

In some ways using the HapMap will mean moving the level of understanding up a notch, but in other ways it may help students make sense of what their genes and chromosomes are.

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