8/13/2013

Useful Genetics

Useful Genetics is the first course I enrolled for with Coursera. Instructed by Prof. Rosie Redfield from the University of British Columbia, I signed up because the introductory video brimmed with the promise that I'll learn stuff that's useful and cool. Being a nerd, this course was right up my alley and I was very enthusiastic. 

The course duration was 12 weeks; every week there's a new module comprising several lecture videos (5-9 videos, each about 15-40 min long) and at the end of the week there's a graded quiz to test our understanding of the module. Supporting aids include practice quiz and free online textbook. There are discussion forums where students took to analyzing the lecture videos, the quizzes and even discuss genetic issues or news. 

There's also a student wiki and peer-wise, done by students for students to aid the learning process. Unfortunately I only focused on watching the video and completing the quizzes due to my busy schedule; I'll always remember cramming for a quiz during my last night in Siam Reap! :D One thing I liked was despite being an online course, there was plenty of interaction between educator and student, we're encouraged to post questions and even point out mistakes, I appreciate that Prof. Rosie and her assistants worked to improve the content quickly, making it a vibrant and seemingly "live" classroom. Plus her cool hair color helps me pay attention! :D

I'm proud to say it was a great experience and I received a certificate of accomplishment with a final score 64.3% woot! I really enjoyed the videos; Prof. Rosie is great in building up the points and providing real-life advice as well as evidence from journals and other white papers. 

In summary, I learned that:
1) not all advertisements about pills/injections that promise youth and longevity are genuine
2) there are loose DNA, ie the tiny strands floating about in our blood stream, not necessarily bound in the cell nucleus
3) these loose DNA can also be transferred between a mother and the child in her word thru the placenta. Since DNA is a relatively stable molecule, a woman can carry her child's loose DNA in her body for many years!
4) DNA imprinting ie expression of some genes are selected based on the gender of the parents. 
5) X-chromosome inactivation is a clever way to ensure gene dosage from this bit chromosome isn't doubled in females
6) females are a mosaic of cells with different X-chromosome activated
7) chimeras are not monkeys
8) the economics behind DNA sequencing and how you can now sequence your DNA and learn the risk factors against the normal population for genetic diseases and various phenotypes
9) Mendel was a really insightful monk for his time
10) mutations, hybridization and the origin of life

Obviously, the course covers more than just the top 10 items above, there's serious technical knowledge to be absorbed and I highly recommend this course if you're interested in genetics. The course will be offered again in November so don't hesitate to sign up! Be prepared to commit some time to go though the videos and going the extra mile in practice always helps! 

Joined Coursera already? Feel free to share your experience!

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