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Aberdeen’s Team-Taught Genetics Course Popular Among Study Abroad Students

Aberdeen, Scotland GeneticsThe Genetics course at Athena’s Scotland’s Program, hosted at the University of Aberdeen (GN3502), is open to study abroad students who go to the university during spring semesters, but it’s also a core course for third-year students in 28 of the university degree programs—ranging from genetics to immunology, developmental biology, molecular biology, and 24 others. 

The course, which the team at Aberdeen says has been offered for more than 20 years, has turned out to be particularly popular among U.S. study abroad students in Aberdeen. The course’s official description says, “The course covers the principles of genetic analysis; genetics of a simple eukaryotes; genome-enabled genetics; population genetics; medical genetics, including simple and complex genetic diseases.”

The course’s official overview says it’s a “comprehensive course, providing an essential foundation for all advanced studies in genetics and molecular biology.” It explains, “the principles of molecular genetics and population genetics will be covered, with an emphasis on their application to the understanding of human biology. The teaching material will integrate information arising from the recent explosion of genome sequence data, equipping students with the necessary skills to engage with this rapidly developing field.”

The learning objectives of the course are, “To provide fundamental and theoretical principles on which to form an integrated view of genetic processes; To enable you to experience first-hand some of the laboratory procedures, which have been introduced to genetic analysis. This will also serve the general function of increasing your level of experience at performing laboratory work; [and] To demonstrate and emphasize, where appropriate, the relevance of academic science to the well-being of our species, i.e. the application of genetics to the benefit of mankind and the environment.”

Aberdeen pulls off this important, comprehensive course by having it team taught. Dr. Jonathan Pettitt teaches the genetic analysis section, the population section, the complex genetic disorders section, and the genes, genomes and evolution/ bioinformatics section; Dr. Alexander Lorenz teaches the Mendelian genetics section, the chromosome biology section and the fungal genetic section; Dr. Alasdair MacKenzie teaches the vertebrate developmental genetics section; Dr. Andreas Kolb teaches the medical genetics section; and Dr. Martin Collinson teaches the gene hunting and human genetics section. Other professors involved in the course are: Zosia Miedzybrodska and Dr. Andrew McEwan.

Lorenz, the course’s coordinating professor, emphasizes that all professors who teach the course are “active researchers in the relevant disciplines,” which he calls “a major benefit of the course.” Lorenz explained, “This ensures that the course content is up-to-date and takes into account the most recent developments in the Genetics discipline. It also affords undergraduate students access and networking opportunities with laboratory scientists, and gives them an idea about state-of-the-art academic research.”

The course’s students also are encouraged to attend relevant research seminars at Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences.

And it’s not just a science course. Lorenz says,

“Students will also develop practical skills in genetic analysis and data interpretation, as well as interpersonal and team-working skills. These represent transferable skills that will benefit students across a range of disciplines.”

Prerequisites for the course include at least level 3 (junior) standing and having passed either BI2002 Genes and Evolution, BI2017 Genes and Evolution, or BI20M3 Molecular Biology of the Gene, or their equivalents. Overall, Lorenz says, “A good fundamental understanding of molecular biology principles is recommended, as the course builds upon these conveying advanced concepts in general, molecular, and medical genetics.” 

The recommended textbook for the course is: Genetics – Genes, Genomes, and Evolution (1st Ed.), by Meneely, Dawes Hoang, Okeke, and Heston (Oxford University Press, 2017). Students also are encouraged to read The Practice of Statistics in the Life Sciences (4th Ed.), by Baldi and Moore (W.H. Freeman and Company, 2018).

Students in the Genetics course are graded based on two laboratory reports, one essay, an in-course assessment, and a one three-hour essay exam (students choose to answer four questions from a list of seven).

For more information on this course and Athena’s Aberdeen, Scotland study abroad program as a whole, visit Athena’s website.

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