Genetics, Genomics and Evolution

Course Number: 
MCB 533
Course Type: 
Currently Offered: 
Meeting Time: 
T TH 1:30 - 3:00
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Peichel, Katie
Class Size: 
Course Description: 

An understanding of evolutionary processes is becoming increasingly important in biomedical research. The purpose of this course is to introduce graduate students with backgrounds in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology to evolutionary approaches. A combination of lectures, workshops, discussions of primary literature, and “hands-on” projects to provide training in comparative and genomic approaches will be used during the course.

Instructors: K. Peichel, H. Malik

Learning Objectives: 
  1. Introduce classic concepts and approaches in evolutionary genetics
  2. Familiarize students with evolutionary and genomic approaches, tools and resources
  3. Demonstrate how these evolutionary approaches and modern genomic tools can be brought to bear on important biological questions
Course requirements, examinations and grading: 

Class participation (10%): Students are expected to contribute questions, answers and ideas during lectures, workshops, and paper discussions.

Assignments (10%): Students must turn in a 1 to 2-page summary of the papers read for in-class discussion at the beginning of the class. Summaries should include (1) major question addressed by paper; (2) approaches used; (3) results; (4) conclusions; and (5) suggestions for future research directions.

Projects (60%): The first five projects will be based on data provided by the instructors. For the sixth project, students will be asked to chose their favorite gene and use the methods learned in the course to look for molecular signatures of selection within that gene and to perform a comparative genomic analysis of that gene. This analysis may provide preliminary data for the final project.

  1. BLAST/alignments
  2. Building a phylogeny
  3. Detecting selection using DnaSP
  4. Detecting selection using PAML
  5. Comparative genomics with VISTA
  6. Evolutionary analysis of your favorite gene

Final project (20%): Develop a mock grant proposal focused on a question that is of interest to you, but that incorporates the approaches you have learned in the course to address the question.

Sample schedule

Weeks 1-2:   Alignments and phylogenetics

lecture, workshop, project

Weeks 3-4:   Introduction to population genetics and molecular evolution

lecture, workshop, project, paper discussion

Week 5:         Comparative genomics

lecture, workshop, project, paper discussion

Week 6:         Genotype-phenotype mapping

lecture, paper discussion

Week 7:         Genome evolution

lecture, paper discussion

Week 8:         Human genetics and evolution

lecture, paper discussion

Week 9:         Evolution of infectious disease

lecture, paper discussion

Week 10:       Evolution and cancer

lecture, paper discussion

Areas of Interest: 
Genetics, Genomics & Evolution
Elective Area: 
Cancer Biology