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Genetics for Life (BIOL 233)

Detailed information about Genetics for Life (BIOL 233)

Genetics for Life (BIOL 233) is one of the two introductory genetics courses available to UBC students.  The information on this page is provided to help registering students choose between it and the alternative course, Fundamentals of Genetics (BIOL 234)

Who might choose Genetics for Life:

  • Students planning careers in such health professions as medicine, dentistry and pharmacy: It emphasizes human genetics (no fruit flies), and covers the genetic basis of human differences, personal genomics, and how mutations cause disease, especially cancer.
  • Students planning to take upper-level courses in ecology, evolution or conservation biology: Genetics for Life puts strong emphasis on natural genetic variation, and on how genetic processes act on natural populations.
  • Students interested in the personal and societal relevance of genetics: Genetics for Life provides students with the genetics background to understand personal and societal issues such as ancestry, gene editing, forensic DNA analysis and the differences between people from different parts of the world.

Format:  Genetics for Life has a ‘flipped’ format, with short online video lectures and weekly face-to-face tutorials.  It satisfies the Biology Program genetics requirement, and the genetics prerequisite requirements for advanced courses.  Its prerequisites are BIOL 112 and BIOL 121 (the same as for BIOL 234).

  • The video lectures are continuously available online; students may access any lecture at any time. Lecture videos are also available on the Useful Genetics YouTube channel.
  • Transcripts and slides for each lecture can be downloaded for easier offline studying.
  • Many practice problems are also provided online.
  • The weekly tutorials use a problem-based learning approach; students work in teams to analyze and explain genetic phenomena.
  • To maximize flexibility for students, one of the tutorials has been scheduled for 5:30-7:30 pm on Thursday evenings.  (The others are Tues. 1:00-3:00 pm, Tues. 3:00-5:00 pm and Thurs. 3:30-5:30 pm.)
  • Assessment is by online problem-solving quizzes, short writing assignments, tutorial tasks and written (paper) midterm and final exams.  All assessments are open-book.

In Fall 2019 Genetics for Life will be co-taught by Professors Rosemary Redfield and Judith Mank of the Department of Zoology.  If you have any questions we haven’t answered above, you can post them as a comment below or directly email Dr. Redfield or Dr. Mank.

Week-by-week Syllabus:

  1. How different are we?  Introduction to DNA, genes and chromosomes and the relationships between human populations.
  2. How DNA molecules change.  The causes and immediate consequences of mutations.
  3. DNA differences and gene functions.  Protein structure and function.  How mutations that change gene activity or function affect the properties of organisms.  Interactions between different alleles.
  4. Genetic interactions.  Sex determination and genes on sex chromosomes.  Interactions between different genes.  How mutations cause cancer.
  5. Natural genetic variation.  How natural genetic variation is studied, and how it differs from the variation usually presented in textbooks. Heritability and genome-wide association studies.  Genetic variation for cancer risks.
  6. Personal genomics.  Kinds of DNA typing and genome analysis, and what can be learned from them about health risks, personal attributes and ancestry.
  7. The mechanics of inheritance.  How genes and chromosomes are transmitted through the generations (including the molecular mechanisms of mitosis and meiosis).
  8. Genetic analysis.  Using genetic crosses as a research tool to investigate how genes work and what they do.  Sex-linkage, pedigree analysis, and hypothesis testing.
  9. All about breeding and inbreeding.  More about heritability and GWAS. Inbreeding in humans, crops and livestock, and evolution. Hybrids and genetically modified organisms.
  10. Chromosomal changes.  Polyploidy and aneuploidy, chromosome rearrangements, and genome evolution.
  11. Selected advanced topics.  The origin of life, mitochondrial genes and mutations, genetic mosaicism, fetal DNA in mothers, epigenetic inheritance, gene editing using CRISPR and other techniques.


Information about Fundamentals of Genetics (BIOL 234) for Fall 2019

Fundamentals of Genetics (BIOL 234) is one of the two introductory genetics courses available to UBC students.  The information on this page is provided to help registering students choose between it and the alternative course, Genetics for Life (BIOL 233).

  • The goal of Fundamentals of Genetics is to develop a deep conceptual understanding of the mechanisms of inheritance to investigate how genotypes affect phenotype.  The emphasis on genetic analysis builds problem-solving skills.
  • Prerequisites are BIOL 112 and BIOL 121.
  • The format involves lectures three times a week, and a once-a-week 2 hour tutorial. The lecture time is generally active: students are engaged in applying concepts, solving problems, and discussing with their peers. In tutorial students will further practice problem solving and applying their knowledge.
  • Two sections will be offered in Fall 2019, with lectures MWF 10:00-11:00 am (section 101) or 3:00-4:00 pm (section 102). There are also two sections in Spring 2017, with lectures MWF 10:00-11:00 am (section 202) and 12:00-1:00 pm (section 201). Each section has many tutorial times to choose from.

Course Overview

  1. Gene and chromosome function.    How do gene and chromosome structures influence function in terms of inheritance and phenotype?
  2. Mutation.  Predict the effects of mutations on gene function.
  3. Phenotype.  What is phenotype? How do interactions between alleles of a gene, and genotype-environment interactions influence phenotype?
  4. InheritanceHow genes and chromosomes are transmitted through the generations.
  5. Genetic Analysis. Using genetic crosses to investigate the role of various genes and alleles on phenotype.  Pedigree analysis and hypothesis testing.
  6. Sex-linkage.  Comparing the inheritance of autosomal to X-linked genes.
  7. Genetic linkage.  When genes are close together on a chromosome they are often inherited together. This includes identifying the location of genes in a genome by mapping with molecular markers.
  8. Mutant Screening and Complementation How are mutations found that affect a specific process. Once new mutations are identified do they affect a new gene or a gene for which other mutations have previously been found?
  9. Gene Interaction.  Investigating how multiple genes can affect the same phenotype. This can include using mutagenesis to identify novel mutant phenotypes, and elucidate genes interactions.
  10. Cancer and changes to chromosome number.  Exploring some of the genetics of somatic mutations and cancer.  What can happen when there are changes to chromosome number?
  11. Genomics, including genome structure, expression and evolution, plus organelle and maternal inheritance.