Study Guide

Genetics Introduction

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Genetics Introduction

You have heard that your nose is just like your dad's, but your eyes are like your mom's. And, you're probably tired of your grandma saying how much you remind her of her brother when you smile. But, why do they keep saying these things? It all comes down to heredity: kind of like an inheritance, but rather than money or land, you inherit genes. You share 50% of your genes with your dad, 50% with your mom, and up to 12.5% with your grandmother's brother. Yet, you are a unique human being, unlike any other in the world. Unless you have an identical twin sibling—and even identical twins are rarely truly identical—the chances of someone else turning up the same way you did are practically 0.

A large part of how an organism looks, functions, and behaves is determined by its genotype, a sort of genetic "blueprint," much like the ones you would have for a building. This collection of genes, in conjunction with the environment, determines everything about all living organisms. Specific rules determine how heredity works, and these principles are the basis of evolutionary theory, the development of transgenic crops, and, of course, lots of the forensic science you love on CSI.

Genetics Resources


The Human Genome Project
Information on the Human Genome Project includes major findings, history, goals, and discussions on the various implications and possible issues associated with the data this project has generated. No gnomes here.

Wellcome Trust Human Genome Resource
This human genome site contains a wealth of information on human genetics, including topics on genetics, health, society, and recent research findings. Welcome to Wellcome!

The International HapMap Project
The International HapMap project hopes to identify genes connected to human health and environmental issues.

How Stuff Works
The goal of How Stuff Works is to "demystify the world, and do it in a simple, clear-cut way anyone can understand." From Discovery communications, or the same people behind Discovery Channel. Shark Week, anyone? Anyway, check out their life sciences section.

The Biology Place: Mendelian Inheritance
From Pearson Education, The Biology Place offers thorough information on various biology topics, awesome simulated online labs, and problem sets that will help you ace the material. Check out the link for an X-Files-style coverage of Mendelian genetics. You can analyze crosses between different alien types to uncover the basic rules of genetics.

The Biology Place: Simulated Genetics Lab
Try out the simulated lab using Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit flies.

Scitable is produced by Nature Education. As stated on their main page, Scitable is a "free science library and personal learning tool brought to you by the Nature Publishing Group, the world’s leading publisher of science. Scitable currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of organisms." You can find the latest on research, review key-concepts, and even ask experts questions.

Dolan DNA Learning Center
The Dolan DNA learning Center has many resources aiming to "prepare students and families to thrive in the gene age."

North Dakota State University Course on Genetics
Who doesn't want detailed course materials from an intermediate genetics class at North Dakota State University?

WikiGenes is a collaborative encyclopedia on genetics.

Information on Genetic Diseases
Check out peer-reviewed information on genetic diseases.

DNA Forensics
The DNA all sounds so serious. This site has tons of good information on DNA forensics.

Using DNA for Identification Purposes
Recovering the Romanovs: More about how mitochondrial DNA and other forensic techniques helped to solve the fate of the Romanov family (amongst other great workshops).

Biography of Mendel
This is a brief biography of Gregor Mendel that puts his work into its historical context.

Mendel's First Paper
Here is Mendel’s original research paper, translated into English and annotated.

DNA to Darwin
A site looking at the genetics of evolution, with lots of case studies, including one on lactose tolerance and one on color blindness. Watch out for a picture of John Dalton’s preserved eyes!


Pea Plant Rap
A rap about Mendel’s work on the height of pea plants? Yes, please.

Horrible Histories: Charles Darwin
A little song about Charles Darwin and evolution, from the wonderful folks at Horrible Histories.

TED Talk: Craig Venter
Craig Venter talks about how and why his lab created a synthetic organism at TED.

How could we forget these guys?

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