Biotechnology, People, and the Environment is an introductory class that focuses on the emerging role of biotechnology in human society and the global environment. The field of genetic engineering is introduced in a relatively non-technical way as a foundation for studying the implications of biotechnology in agriculture, food, medicine, industry, and environmental management. Controversies about biotechnology are also addressed, especially as they relate to public policy and environmental decision-making.
Biotechnology, People, and the Environment course fulfills the Environmental theme of the Council on Liberal Education. Plants, microbes and animals developed through biotechnology — especially through genetic engineering — need to be considered in terms of their impact on the natural landscape, biodiversity, agroecosystems, and pollution. Many applications of biotechnology directly affect the environment. Decisions about the judicious use of biotechnology require citizens who understand the underlying scientific principles and their implications for environmental sustainability. Specific examples include the impact of genetically engineered organisms on non-target species, the impact of biotechnology on the use of environmental chemicals, the interrelationship between biotechnology, biodiversity, and the patenting of living organisms, and the potential for biotechnology to remediate environmental damage.
Sequencing Plants, Pets and Pathogens: The Genomics of Non-Humans(PlPa 1902) is a Freshman Seminar that examines genomic insights into plants, animals and microbes. Students explore DNA sequencing of crop varieties, animal breeds and disease pathogens, the genetic basis of domestication, primate genomes, genome engineering, de-extinction, the DNA Tree of Life, and metagenomic sequencing of microbial communities and epidemics. Student learning comes primarily from videos, contemporary press articles, in-class practicums, group activities, and debates.
Plant Genomics is intended for graduate students and advanced undergraduates interested in recent discoveries and emerging technologies in genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics applied to the study of plants. Students learn strategies for structural and functional genomic analysis by exploring the genomes of model systems, comparative genomics, evolution of interesting gene families, microarray and DNA chip expression systems, and gene tagging. Students also learn the fundamentals of sequence analysis, databasing, and data-mining, especially through independent projects. Lectures, discussions, and small group activities are complemented by field trips and guest scientists.