Teaching

1st year lectures: Heredity and Gene action / Chromosomes and Gene function

This course aims to provide a wide range of students with a basic understanding of how the flow of biological information from DNA to RNA to protein gives rise to the recognisable, inherited attributes of living organisms. It uses seminal experiments to introduce the students to basic classical and molecular genetics, and then expands on these themes to include genetic engineering and genomic approaches to these phenomena. We explore how the structure of DNA molecules allows inherited genetic information to be stored by means of a code, undergo change (mutate), be passed from one generation to another replicate) and become associated with genetic information from other organisms(recombine). We then explore the roles played by chromosomes in mitosis, to ensure the faithful transfer of biological information from one generation of cells to the next, and in meiosis to produce millions of genetically unique haploid gametes. Chromosome segregation during meiosis is then used to explain Mendel’s laws and to understand inheritance patterns in humans. The lecture course concludes by providing a basic introduction to how genetic information is regulated in cells, manipulated by genetic engineers and explored using computers.

 

2nd year lectures: Evolutionary Genetics

Lectures cover: Evolution of sex. Genetic diversity: cheetahs in Africa, gulls in Britain, Partula in the Pacific. Reconstructing evolutionary history from genetic data. The geographic distribution of Cepaea genes: neutralism, frequency dependence in selection, founder events, environmental grain. Pre and post zygotic reproductive isolation, speciation illustrated by Hawaiian Drosophila. Polyploidy: occurrence, barriers and consequences. DNA amount: variability and ecological effects. Meiotic and mitotic defects, tri and monosomies, B chromosomes, ‘parasitic’ chromosomes. Evolution of the human genome.

 

3rd year lectures Population and Chromosome Genetics

This module will introduce strategies and methods for identifying the molecular genetic basis of inherited human disorders and other traits in particular how linkage disequilibrium (LD) is used to identify the loci involved. It will use examples from the current literature to better understand genetic variation at a population and species level. It will examine quantitative traits in humans and other species; in particular the heritability estimates to infer the relative contribution of genes and the environment to important quantitative traits and disorders. Together the information will lead to an understanding of genetic drift and natural selection acting on the DNA sequence, the chromosome and genome organisation.  The course will explore the evolution of genomic sequences and of chromosomes. Particular attention is paid to evolutionary processes observed at repetitive DNA sequences and the role of chromosomes in transmitting genetic material through mitosis and meiosis. It considers polyploidy in detail. It explores the role and evolution of sex chromosomes, the evolution of sex and of sexual selection. The course should students to achieve a critical understanding of thinking and research in the genetic processes of evolution.