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Dr. Aditi Pai Uses Genetics to Help Students Understand Biology

December 2019

Aditi PaiStudents really get to know themselves in a first-year course taught by Aditi Pai, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and co-director of the Teaching Resource & Research Center. Through DNA testing, Dr. Pai’s students receive their genetic profiles and study them to understand the evolutionary factors that influence biological traits or conditions, such as a predisposition to certain diseases.

“The information can help influence lifestyle decisions,” said Dr. Pai. “But, of more immediate value, the information helps students get more engaged in their study.”

The research is done in Dr. Pai’s class, which is in its fourth year and was funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Pai was inspired to develop the class and curriculum by “Finding Your Roots,” a popular PBS show hosted by Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, with whom she collaborates on her research.

“(Dr. Gates) wrote a beautiful note praising the work and encouraging me to keep it up,” said Dr. Pai, who recently had her article, “Increasing Personalisation in Scientific College Courses,” published in Research Outreach.