Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications

Course No. 1533
Professor David Sadava, Ph.D.
City of Hope Medical Center, Claremont Colleges
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Course No. 1533
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What Will You Learn?

  • Beginning with a cell, explore the physical and chemical environment of a gene.
  • Follow the Human Genome Project's past, present, and future - starting with the 24,000 genes expressed in every human.
  • Explore how scientists can extract DNA from fossils to learn about extinct creatures.
  • Delve into the implications of stem cell research and cloning, and what they could mean for our future.

Course Overview

We use it routinely to cure diseases, solve crimes, and reunite families. Yet we've known about it for only 60 years. And what we're continuing to learn about it every day has the potential to transform our health, our nutrition, our society, and our future. What is this powerful mystery?

It is DNA—deoxyribonucleic acid, the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms. Award-winning teacher, author, and cancer researcher Dr. David Sadava unlocks its mysteries in his new course, Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications. He guides us through decades of scientific discovery and the weighty implications for us, as individuals and as a society.

< p>Genetics: The Science of Heredity

How are the traits of an organism—be it a fern or a human father—passed on to its offspring? This course outlines the history of the science of genetics and explains in detail what we have learned in recent decades about the building blocks—DNA.

Dr. Sadava, a working scientist who draws on examples from his own research, shows us how understanding genetics allows us to improve medical treatment and nutrition, vastly improving our health and quality of life.

Understanding genetics is also a critical step toward understanding our human identity. Examining our DNA—how it works and what happens when something goes wrong—enables us to see the roots of how our bodies work, why we get sick, and how traits are passed through families.

Enjoy this rare opportunity to peer over the shoulder of a working scientist; learn how he puzzles through the problems of genetics to find meaningful solutions that can save lives. Dr. Sadava shares cutting-edge research guided by his passion to help laypeople understand the meaning and importance of genetics.

Genetics' Long and Fascinating History

Our understanding of human development has certainly evolved since ancient Greek times, when Aristotle thought that the ingredients in semen were reorganized by menstrual fluid during intercourse to produce an embryo. And as late as the 17th century, Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek thought he saw tiny, fully formed babies when he looked under a microscope at sperm.

Other past civilizations, however, knew more about genetics than we might think. For example, Egyptians successfully bred the date palm 4,000 years ago to improve the quality and quantity of their fruit crop. In Asia and the Near East 3,500 years ago, horses were bred for speed in racing.

But while humans have worked to improve plant and animal characteristics for thousands of years, we've only come to truly understand what genes are made of and how they work during the past century.

Insight into a Puzzle

Understanding genetics is like sitting down to work a massive puzzle. With each piece you examine, think through, and solve, you glean a new and amazing insight into humanity. Put several pieces together, and you can treat or cure a disease, save a developing fetus from a fatal birth defect, catch a criminal, or reunite a family.

DNA, genes, proteins, amino acids, and enzymes are the vocabulary of our being—what goes on inside our bodies and how our genes are expressed. To learn this vocabulary is to be conversant in who we are and what we can become.

To help us understand the role of proteins in DNA, Professor Sadava cites the example of boiling an egg. A protein's shape is sensitive to its surroundings and can be changed by heat. When you boil an egg—made of a protein called albumin—the heat of the water changes the albumin's structure to create a completely different consistency. As Professor Sadava reminds us, "You can't unboil an egg; changes are irreversible." Next time you're making egg salad, just think—you've transformed a protein!

Dr. Sadava loves to tell tales, and the stories he uses to introduce each lecture are the highlight of the course. He weaves in history, true crime, case studies of people with life-threatening diseases, and phenomena from the natural world to make genetics come to life. Then he steadfastly supports each story with explanatory science.

Professor Sadava deftly introduces us to the puzzle that is genetics, and shows how unlocking each piece helps solve significant real-world problems that affect everyone.

Each lecture begins with a helpful story that illustrates the importance of genetics. The course explicitly outlines the connections between the science of genetics and the health-related problems that plague us in modern society, and illuminates how studying genetics can be instrumental in solving those problems.

While Understanding Genetics is a vigorous and briskly paced course, you won't need a background in biology or chemistry. You'll feel challenged, but you won't be left behind. Professor Sadava is passionate about his subject and extremely knowledgeable.

Genetics in the News

Should we allow cloning? How can we treat obesity? Why do different ethnic groups have higher rates of particular diseases than others? Countless questions of biology prompt heated discussions in the classroom, the legislature, and the courtroom. Obtaining a basic and current knowledge of how genetics works helps inform our ideas and opinions on these important issues.

Many of us are touched by diseases caused by genetic mutations or flaws—such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, cancer, and sickle cell anemia. In the face of life-threatening, debilitating diseases, Professor Sadava gives us hope through research and discoveries made every day in the field of genetics.

He tells the story of one couple whose young son had cystic fibrosis, the most common inherited disease. Genetic testing prior to their next pregnancy enabled them to implant an embryo without the cystic fibrosis genes into the mother's uterus. The result: the couple was able to have a healthy daughter.

Only in the past few decades have scientists begun to discover and isolate the particular genes that cause certain diseases or conditions and to conduct the research that enables us to actually change genetics.

As Professor Sadava reminds us throughout the course, genetics is not destiny. How we grow and develop is strongly influenced by our environment. But understanding genetics provides us with a wealth of information that can help improve the health and quality of life for everyone.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Our Inheritance
    From earliest history, humans have bred plants and animals for desirable and productive characteristics. And they have wondered how it all works. Professor Sadava gives us a brief, fascinating history of genetics and introduces us to the three major unifying ideas in biological science, ideas which form the cornerstone of this course. x
  • 2
    Mendel and Genes
    Monk and scientist Gregor Mendel, working in the late 1800s, learned through pea-plant experiments that each parent's characteristics were particulate, that is, chemically independent. His meticulous research—the beginning of modern genetics—languished for nearly 40 years before its value was discovered. x
  • 3
    Genes and Chromosomes
    Where do you find a gene? Within each living cell is a nucleus, within the nucleus is a chromosome, and on that chromosome is the gene. Beginning with the cell, the unit of biological continuity, this lecture describes the physical and chemical environment of the gene. It shows us that you don't have to be a geneticist to figure out genetics, as a group of rabbis in A.D. 500 learned. x
  • 4
    The Search for the Gene—DNA
    How did research on smoking and lung cancer help scientists figure out that DNA, the genetic material, was damaged in the tumor cells? Professor Sadava tells us how scientists first determined what they were looking for and then found the circumstantial evidence that pointed to DNA. x
  • 5
    DNA Structure and Replication
    The double helix model for DNA is one of the most recognizable scientific icons of our time. This lecture details how Watson and Crick built on the work of earlier researchers to solve the puzzle of the structure of DNA—the double helix. x
  • 6
    DNA Expression in Proteins
    Proteins are made up of chains of 20 amino acids ordered in a particular sequence for each protein. Humans cannot produce eight of those 20 amino acids, although we still need them for proper nutrition. Professor Sadava explains what proteins are, how they relate to DNA, and why they're significant to us. x
  • 7
    Genes, Enzymes, and Metabolism
    Enzymes, which are encoded in our genes, are responsible for most chemical conversions in our bodies. An enzyme sends a signal that creates a biochemical pathway for the process of changing something we consume into something else we need or must get rid of. This lecture explains how metabolism is hard-wired into our genes. x
  • 8
    From DNA to Protein
    In 2004 traces of a poison called ricin were found in a U.S. Senate mailroom. Only 1/10,000 of an ounce of ricin can be fatal. Ricin's enzymes inhibit gene expression; as a result, when ricin is introduced to animal cells, the cells die. This lecture explains how gene expression happens. x
  • 9
    The 24,000 genes that are expressed in humans represent only 2 percent of the entire genome. This lecture explains the history of the Human Genome Project, which grew out of scientists' studies on the effects of radiation on the survivors of the atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. x
  • 10
    Manipulating Genes—Recombinant DNA
    By studying how bacteria successfully protect themselves from an attacking virus, scientists discovered that bacteria make an enzyme that recognizes a particular DNA sequence in the virus and cuts the DNA strand at that sequence. As a result of this discovery, scientists learned to splice DNA, creating recombinant DNA, which was initially controversial and now holds vast possibilities for the future. x
  • 11
    Isolating Genes and DNA
    Learn how genetics is used to understand and work toward the cure of a particular disease. After methods for analyzing DNA and chromosomes were developed rapidly in the 1980s, the scientific community tried a new approach called reverse genetics. As a result of this work, scientists isolated the gene that is missing in individuals who have muscular dystrophy. x
  • 12
    Biotechnology—Genetic Engineering
    Insulin that treated individuals with diabetes, whose bodies don't create insulin (or enough of it) on their own, used to come from animals. Animal insulin, however, contains a different sequence of amino acids, so some people's bodies rejected it. The method of manufacturing insulin developed at a California hospital is how all insulin used to treat diabetics is now made. x
  • 13
    Biotechnology and the Environment
    We can use bacteria to solve man-made problems, such as landmines, oil spills, toxic waste, and pollution. Scientists are working to genetically engineer organisms whose traits can be useful in cleaning up our world. x
  • 14
    Manipulating DNA by PCR and Other Methods
    What's the real science behind the dinosaurs that come to life in the movie Jurassic Park? Professor Sadava explains how scientists extract DNA from fossils, and what we can learn about ancient creatures from their genes. This lecture also covers DNA sequencing methods. x
  • 15
    DNA in Identification—Forensics
    In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, hundreds of children were separated from their parents. When several couples were claiming one baby as their own, DNA testing enabled doctors to reunite the real parents with their baby. This kind of testing is frequently used in crime-solving today. x
  • 16
    DNA and Evolution
    Charles Darwin's travels to the Galapagos Islands helped him understand that different species come from a common ancestor. This lecture explains the genetic components of Darwin's theories. x
  • 17
    DNA and Human Evolution
    Sickle cell disease is more frequently found in African Americans than in Caucasians. After studying this incurable condition, scientists discovered that carriers of sickle cell disease were resistant to malaria, a far more life-threatening sickness. Why? In this lecture, Professor Sadava explores the role of genetic adaptation in human evolution. x
  • 18
    Molecular Medicine—Genetic Screening
    How do scientists detect particular genes that cause certain diseases? Professor Sadava details chemical processes used for genetic screening, and gives several examples of successful genetic tests and results. He describes testing for the effects of genes on drug susceptibility as the next frontier in screening technology. x
  • 19
    Molecular Medicine—The Immune System
    George Washington stemmed a smallpox epidemic by ordering his soldiers to be inoculated during an outbreak. Fifty years earlier, the slave Onesimus had advised Cotton Mather, the Puritan minister, of the practice in his homeland of rubbing dried pus from a smallpox carrier onto a cut of a healthy person. This process created antibodies that resisted the disease. Professor Sadava uses these illustrations to explain how our cells fight disease. x
  • 20
    Molecular Medicine—Cancer
    Cancer develops when cells lose control over their normally regulated reproduction. Only 10 percent of cancers are inherited, but it is a genetic disease. This lecture explains how cancer cells are created and how they can be treated. x
  • 21
    Molecular Medicine—Gene Therapy
    So far gene therapy—the process of adding protein-coding DNA and a promoter sequence for its expression to an organism for medical benefit—has experienced some success in animals and small gains in humans. Professor Sadava shares cutting-edge research and experimentation. x
  • 22
    Molecular Medicine—Cloning and Stem Cells
    Stem cells and cloning are both controversial topics in the news. How do they really work? What is the science behind these genetic procedures, and what are their implications for us? x
  • 23
    Genetics and Agriculture
    Just three crops—corn, rice, and wheat—make up two-thirds of the world's food supply. Learn in this lecture how genetic experimentation on grains has resulted in significant increases in crop yields, which has meaningful ramifications for feeding the world's hungry. x
  • 24
    Biotechnology and Agriculture
    Changes in our environment affect the plants we grow and thus the food we eat. Biotechnology has enabled us to manipulate plants to adapt to different conditions, such as tomatoes that grow in salty soil. This final lecture explores the opportunities and controversies surrounding genetically modified plants. x

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  • 184-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

David Sadava

About Your Professor

David Sadava, Ph.D.
City of Hope Medical Center, Claremont Colleges
Dr. David Sadava is Adjunct Professor of Cancer Cell Biology at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, CA, and the Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at The Claremont Colleges. Professor Sadava graduated from Carleton University as the science medalist with a B.S. with first-class honors in biology and chemistry. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he earned a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of...
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Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 64.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too light I was disappointed in the lack of depth in this lecture series. Perhaps I didn't read the synopsis well enough. The general series on Biology (Prof Nowicki) has a much better description of Genetics and DNA than this dedicated course.
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of Genetic Progress The course gives insight into how "we got here" and the way forward in bio-physics. Am looking forward to an update when it is available.
Date published: 2018-01-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Really!?!? Sadava - the savant of Genetics - gives his entire series of lectures about genetics standing in front of a poster displaying a Left-Handed Double Helix! The irony!!
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent job delivering a complex subject I just finished the final lecture and feel this is an excellent introduction to genetics for a layperson, which I am. I am kinda sad it's over - now on to nanotech. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information! I am not all the way through yet, but am very pleased with the material and the manner in which it is presented. Very clear and concise.
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A step outside my comfort zone As a retired engineer/applied math guy, biology is not one of my areas of expertise. Of course, that is why I purchased this very interesting course! One quick negative before going to all the "pro's". Dr. Sadava is not the most engaging speaker, seeming a bit uncomfortable in front of the camera. I do wish he would have spent more time early on describing the DNA structure in detail. However, the pieces came together for me as the lectures went on. The cell nucleus is absolutely the most amazing chemistry set in all of science. The 24,000 human genes (on 23 chromosome pairs) each consist of short snippets of the DNA helix, each segment having 100's of thousands base-pair "rungs" on the spiral ladder. These rungs combine to form a total of 20 amino acids in a practically infinite possible set of sequences on the individual genes. The numbers are mind boggling. Each cell nucleus (except red blood cells) contains a total length of 2 meters of DNA snippets. There are 10 trillion cells (+ or -) in a human, thus the length of DNA in a human is 20 trillion meters. Yes, that is 25,000 rounds trips to the moon! The course goes into many aspects of genetic manipulations, sequencing methods, genetic diseases, plant modifications. The details are too involved for this review; just realize that it was essentially all new info for this non-biologist. There is no understanding the concept of how incredible complexity evolved into this entity of DNA that can replicate, repair and occasionally mutate. Starting with mainly C H and O atoms, their assembly into this complexity called life must surely have involved the hand of a Creator beyond my understanding.
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Get a better teacher A fascinating topic poorly delivered, He means well but I felt like in a sophomore high school class, please get a better teacher.
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful presentation of a challenging Subject A complex and difficult subject to unwind. Professor Sadava is excellent in his ability to make the subject understandable and interesting, at the same time. It has been a great for both me and my wife.
Date published: 2016-10-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just OK I found this course a little on the short side. I was hoping for more lectures, I guess. Furthermore, the info is a little dated due to the rapid development of this field. I found the animations to be very disappointing. They were helpful, but could have been much clearer, detailed, and illuminating, like those in the Greek and Roman Technology course. These seemed very half-hearted.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good – with a few reservations Professor Sadava gives an excellent presentation on the basics of genetics, yet I wondered about the following: 1) Unless I missed it, I never heard Dr. Sadava use the term "codon". As the name of a nucleotide triplet along DNA that represents a literal code-word for an amino acid, it's obviously an important term. 2) In his presentation of abiogenesis, Dr. Sadava described the famous Miller-Urey experiment but never mentioned the fundamental problem that plagued it: Miller used a mixture of gases that was "reducing" (ammonia, hydrogen, and methane) in order to chemically finance the reactions that would be necessary to produce organic building blocks like amino acids; but geochemists pointed out that the evidence shows the early atmosphere was not reducing, and in fact, was rather inert, similar to the present atmosphere. Miller himself admitted his results depended on a reducing atmosphere, and repeated the experiment with a mix of gases more closely resembling the present-day atmosphere. The results produced a tar with no amino acids. Although later researchers have tried to save Miller's original results, they have done so by means of "ad hoc" assumptions; e.g., electric discharges near erupting volcanoes (which produce some reducing gases, but which still emit mainly CO2 and water vapor), or adding buffering agents like carbonates or iron to neutralize destructive nitrites that would otherwise stop amino acid formation; etc. In any case, Miller's experiment can scarcely be used as convincing evidence that the molecular building blocks of life first appeared on earth by this means. 3) Dr. Sadava described Bernard Kettlewell's famous experiment on "industrial melanism" ostensibly demonstrating natural selection in action. The problem is that recent research has shown that Kettlewell falsified much of his data; e.g., the photographs he took of black peppered moths resting on sooty trunks of trees were staged – that species of moth does not alight on tree trunks but likes to rest high up on trees under leaves. The problem with Kettlewell's photos was first noticed by a biologist at the University of Massachusetts named Ted Sargeant, who also repeated Kettlewell's experiment with very different results. The story of the peppered moth and the eccentric Bernard Kettlewell who studied it is clearly and entertainingly told in a book by Judith Hooper titled "Of Moths and Men."
Date published: 2016-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough but not complete In researching this subject, I used two Teaching Company courses. This course provided a good organization and structure but left out missing pieces of information. Professor Silver's "The Science of Self" provided the missing information, and having taken both courses, I was able to get all the information I was looking for. Genetics is new and wide-ranging and growing subject. With this kind of subject it takes at least two courses to get the big picture.
Date published: 2016-02-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Way beyond me. The first three lessons were great, just what I was looking for. Beyond that it was far more than I could comprehend. I would suggest it to others but tell them what I experienced so they could know ahead what to expect.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Genetics Explained! A superb course masterly taught and presented. The graphics animations and video clips were outstanding. Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth a recommendation.
Date published: 2015-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very good introductory course in genetics I want to understand DNA and genetics, but am probably not as intellectual as some of the reviewers. I'm fairly smart but kind of lazy, so I'm usually passive when I take a course here -- I hope something will stick but don't work too hard at it. The lectures were easy to watch and pretty interesting, but the surprising part was outside the course when I would come across some article or an investment offering regarding some "leading edge" company offering advanced diagnostics that sounded like magic -- I realized that I actually understood what they were talking about, and it wasn't magic, it was known science, and I could make a rational evaluation of their offering. It also overlaps in some other Great Courses I am taking, so things are really clicking. I'm glad I took the course and might view it again.
Date published: 2015-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening presentation Dr. Sadava does an outstanding job of presenting the course concisely with sufficient detail. His communication style is engaging and at times humorous. He provides excellent examples that facilitate understanding. Very enjoyable course.
Date published: 2015-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This can change everything Understanding DNA and the genome is a seminal event that will affect humanity from this point forward. And this is an excellent course from which one can learn the basics and gain some insight to speculate about the future. In the past I have used my Y-chromesome DNA to verify my genealogical connections. And I have been exposed via television - as have most of us - to the power of DNA matching in solving criminal cases. But this course brings forth so much more! The double helix of DNA is explained beautifully and its methods of duplicating itself, in spite of its complication and size, is just elegant in its simplicity. And it even has error correction capabilities! But there is much more to the DNA story, as those who take this course will discover. I applaud Professor Sadava for his due diligence in preparing and presenting this material.
Date published: 2015-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Perfect Introduction to Genetics Usually, when I’m watching an introduction, I allow myself to relax through it. But that wasn’t the case with this introduction. It requires passionate interest and attention to go through David Sadava’s course. Essentially, the lecturer elaborated on what I’d learned in high school biology, except that he made the science fascinating. The presentation lacks enthusiasm, but the ideas and concepts taught are fresh and inspiring. As I progressed through the course, genetics quickly became a new way of seeing humanity and the world. I would recommend the audio format, but anyhow, this course is worth every second.
Date published: 2014-11-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mendel & Darwin Mendel and Darwin NOT reconciled Eye opener, world our children will live in. World undiscovered not too long ago. Excellent teaching. Captivating. But I expected more scientific approach in lesson 16 and 17. It is not science. Am I missing something? Is decease evolution? What good it is if I have greater resistance to malaria if I am suffocating and in pain for lack of oxygen. It seems that if I was born blind, could I say "good, light will not harm me". Professor says that it is not that penicillin would challenge bacteria to deal with it. He said that the gene to resist penicillin is there before hand. We last gene to manufacture vitamin C? Because we did not need it? Did we ever have one? Where is randomness in mutations about which he is speaking if there is "because". Mendel and Darwin did not read each other. That could be so. I think, If Mendel read Darwin, he would still be father of genetics. If Darwin had read Mendel, he might not published his work. Bu lab science is amazing.
Date published: 2012-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THOROUGH, DETAILED, CLEAR This review refers to the DVDs. For the lay person with no scientific background who desires an understandable introduction to this complex subject, TGC has scored another winner with this series of lectures. Dr Sadava leads you into the field with a brief touch of history and then lays a groundwork of the basic issues one must grasp in straight forward, clear explanations. I agree with the other reviewers that his leading off his lectures with a brief story to illustrate the nuances of what he proposes to cover is helpful. With this background, the later lectures, containing detailed descriptions of some of the frontiers where this relatively new field of science is on the cutting edge become more exciting to learn about. This series is highly recommended to everyone. I would suggest obtaining it with the visuals because they are important to follow his explanations.
Date published: 2012-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course was excellent. Just the right level for a scientifically-minded, non-biologist..
Date published: 2012-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Prof. Sadava explains the topic quite well. He is easy to listen to and is obviously enthusiastic about his subject. He raises many new and thought-provoking issues. E.g., even in the evolution lectures, I had never heard the concept of walking upright being a single mutation. The course starts off slowly, but really starts moving in lec. 8. In fact, the partial (?) unraveling of DNA and the transcription to mRNA went by way too fast. I also never quite got the "big picture" of base pairs/genes/chromosomes. I.e., is a chromosome just one long strand of DNA? Where does a gene start and stop? How do you know how many genes there actually are on a chromosome? A few other questions: > Where did the subgenes in the immune system come from in the first place if you've never seen the antigen? > How does the human genome project make sense if everyone is different? A suggestion for an additional lecture: some cross discussion similar to the end of the "Major Transitions in Evolution" between Profs. Martin and Hawks. In fact, maybe a 3 way conversation.
Date published: 2011-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Barely scratches the surface I bought this course after finishing another TC course called Biology, the Science of Life. I was hoping that I would learn genetics in a much greater depth. To my disappointment, I didn't learn that much new knowledge from this DVD. 2/3 of the contents are already covered from Biology, the Science of Life and that DVD did a much better job in much greater detail. The other 1/3 is new to me but the teacher barely scratched the surface and he left too many questions unanswered. Question like "after inserting genetically modified cells to a human body, what would happen to the remaining cells which are not genetically modified?" The material from this DVD is not that much better than one would see from a typical magazine or science article like those from National Geographic. Moreover, the guide book doesn't have any pictures at all which is very annoying. I would still recommend this DVD but if and only if: 1. You don't know anything about genetics AND 2. You have a very limited time to spare to learn genetics. If you have more spare time, get Biology the Science of Life. About half of the materials, about 36 lectures, in that DVD are related to genetics.
Date published: 2011-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb introduction to genetics I am a physician, but deal very little in genetics. When I bought this course, I was hoping to get a review of the fundamentals that I had forgotten over the years. Not only did this course achieve that, but Prof Sadava does in it in an enjoyable, captivating manner. I loved his format of starting each lecture with a short story. His delivery style is easy to follow and certainly professorial. He presents several examples of real-world applications of the techniques that he describes. Despite my medical background, my understanding of many concepts has been enhanced. I am hoping we will hear more from Prof Sadava.
Date published: 2011-04-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Genetics This course reviews genetics in a compelling and interesting way, but is limited in its depth and coverage. If you have an understanding of High School Biology this course will not add anything
Date published: 2011-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating Stories I listened to the audio-only version of this course and found it to be truly excellent. Professor Sadava’s stories at the beginning of each lecture really make the subject matter come alive. The stories had the intended effect of keeping the student on the edge of his seat wanting to hear more. These were not just made up anecdotes to illustrate lecture points, in many cases they were either well researched historical pieces such as one about George Washington and Smallpox or very personal stories about a family finding out about a child’s genetic disorder. Although I have listened to other Teaching Company courses with genetics and biology content, I don’t believe any of my prior knowledge was needed to get a first class introduction to genetics from this course. The explanations were concise and clear and involved only enough of the mechanisms to get the point across. The course was also an excellent introduction to the language of genetics and DNA. Everyone who may someday serve on a jury should know about Short Tandem Repeat sequences which are the basis of DNA identification. An illustration of DNA forensics is the first story in the introductory lecture and appears again in lecture 15. I found this treatment especially informative because of the review of predecessor methods of identifying trace evidence such as blood type. The lectures on Gene therapy and Stem Cell Research are very informative as are the semi-historical lectures on the Green Revolution. Gene science has made huge strides very recently and Sadava makes it clear that this is only the beginning. I highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn the language of modern medical or genetic research.
Date published: 2011-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. The presentation, content and organization is excellent. Each topic starts with a story related to the concept to be discussed. Though the material is technical, it is presented in a way that is understandable even for a non-science/math major, but with enough depth to be appeciated with someone possessing a science & math background. I enjoyed each and every segment of the course and would have wished that it is longer than 24 topics. Thank you!
Date published: 2010-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Intro to Genetics This was a great course that delivered exactly what the title promised: I came away from it not only with a clear understanding of genetics, DNA, genes, and the mechanisms by which genes translate into observable characteristics, but also with a pretty good grounding in medical and agricultural applications of molecular biology. Dr. Sadava's presentation was superb: the combination of introductory stories, history, great graphics, and crystal-clear explanations worked really well to drive complex information home. His enthusiasm for and excitement about his field was contagious: I'd love an entire course from him on either the medical or agricultural applications of genetics.
Date published: 2010-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Genetic Gem Professor Sadava has a very well-presented course on genetics. It is loaded with examples and stories that help the material to gel. After a few lectures on genes in general, there are several on DNA: the search for the gene carrier and how DNA works to replicate and to produce proteins. (If this search for DNA is of interest, Professor Nowicki’s "Biology: the Science of Life" has a very good series of lectures on that.) This is followed by a number of lectures on manipulating DNA, biotechnology (inserting new genes into a genome) and ways of using DNA for identification (of individuals, of close relations, and estimating time since species divergence). The last seven lectures on molecular medicine and agriculture were very interesting and left me wanting more. I was sorry to have the course come to an end.
Date published: 2010-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Tour de Force I bought this course expecting an interesting survey of genetics a la Mendel with some supplementary material discussing DNA discoveries. Instead, I was treated to a remarkable and lively description of the revolutionary developments in genetic biology following the discovery of DNA. These include new medicines created with the aid of gene splicing; the reasons DNA markings are now used in crime detection; the engineering advances that permit researchers to order up their choice of DNA sequences in a single afternoon. The professor starts each lecture with a personal story to illustrate a theme for that day and to lend a human touch to what is a highly technical field. Prof. Sadava is clear and enthusiastic. This ranks as one of my favorite Teaching Company courses.
Date published: 2010-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A General Practical Perspective Prof Sadava starts each lecture with an interesting and relevant human story to introduce the topic. I liked this approach. He explains the ideas, concepts and key developments well. He also uses clear diagrams and animations which promotes understanding. It is a bit of a whirl wind tour focusing on real world applications but i liked it. Many ideas were briefly explained and I can see that many people would want greater detail - but I think this is for another coure. During initial lectures there is a bit of a problem with Prof Sadava's glasses reflecting into the camera, this is a bit distracting. I've noticed this with other Professors too. Also Prof Sadava has a tendancy to sort of shout through the lecture, it shows he is very passionate about what he does but a little more contrast in voice tone would improve the lecture. Prof Sadava has a very dry sense of humour which I liked. For those with little knowledge about genectics and applications i would highly recommend Prof Sadava's lectures.
Date published: 2010-03-17
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