Spelman College Students Explore Genetics
Spelman College is a part of a companion program to the "Finding Your Roots" curriculum based on Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s acclaimed PBS documentary series of the same name. The college-level component, "Personalized Genetics and Genealogy Exercises to Enhance Introductory Biology Courses," funded with a $304,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, launched in 2015.
The innovative research-based program is led by Aditi Pai, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and co-director of the Teaching Resources and Research Center; and it is conducted at Spelman in association with Wallace Sharif, Ph.D., assistant biology professor at Morehouse College, and Joseph Graves, Ph.D., associate dean for research at North Carolina A & T State University.
"The project aims to promote science education through an interdisciplinary approach of using genealogy, and for learners to engage in biology concepts through exploring their personal DNA," explained Dr. Pai.
"Students will be taught the basics of genetics and evolution by exploring their own DNA with a genetic testing kit, and ways to investigate their family history using the genetics and DNA tools of biology as well as the tools of history.”
The most exciting aspect of this project is that first-year biology majors will be initiated into the discipline through a very personal, interdisciplinary, and relevant exploration of their own DNA," she said. "Whereas we teach students evolution, natural selection, population genetics, migration, etc., with textbook examples – in this new approach their own DNA will be the script they read.