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Genomes and Diversity


A photograph of Mark L. Siegal

Professor Mark L. Siegal

  • Associate Professor, Department of Biology and Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University.
  • Ph.D. 1998 (Biology), Harvard; B.S. 1993 (Biology), Brown.
  • Bio & Publications

About the Course

Millions of species of animals, plants and microbes inhabit our planet. Genomics, the study of all the genes in an organism, is providing new insights into this amazing diversity of life on Earth. We begin with the fundamentals of DNA, genes and genomes. We then explore microbial diversity, with an emphasis on how genomics can reveal many aspects of organisms, from their ancient history to their physiological and ecological habits. We follow with examinations of animal and plant diversity, focusing on domesticated species, such as dogs and tomatoes, as examples of how genomic methods can be used to identify genes that underlie new or otherwise interesting traits. Genomics has also transformed the study of human diversity and human disease. We examine the use of DNA to trace human ancestry, as well as the use of genomics as a diagnostic tool in medicine. With the powerful new technologies to study genomes has come an increased power to manipulate them. We conclude by considering the societal implications of this ability to alter the genomes of crop plants, livestock and potentially humans.


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Course Readings

Required Text

Rob DeSalle and Michael Yudell, Welcome to the Genome: A User’s Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).

For those students wanting an extra resource for learning about the basics of DNA, RNA and other aspects of molecular biology, I recommend this book:
Rene F. Kratz, Molecular & Cell Biology for Dummies (Wiley, Inc., 2009).

Required Multimedia DVD

DNA Interactive (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2003).

Required Articles

  • "Meselson and Stahl: the art of DNA replication", Davis TH, 2004, PNAS 101:17895-17896
  • "Entering the postgenome era" Novak R, 1995, Science270:368 371
  • "From genome to proteome: looking at a cell's proteins" Kahn P. 1995, Science 270:369 370
  • "Interpreting the universal phylogentic tree" Woese CR 2000, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:8392 8396
  • "Is it time to uproot the tree of life?" Pennisi E. 1999, Science 284:1305 1307
  • "Small dogs evolved in Middle East", Wogan T. 2010, Science NOW, 24 Feb. 2010
  • "The taming of the cat" Driscoll CA, Clutton-Brock J. Kitchener AC and O'Brien SJ, 2009, Scientific America 300:68-75
  • "The Genes We Share with Yeast, Flies, Worms and Mice" Howard Hughes Medical Institute 2001
  • "Diversifying selection in plant breeding", McCouch S. 2004, PLoS Biology 2:e347
  • "The genetic, development, and molecular bases of fruit size and shape variation in tomato" Tanksley SD 2004, The Plant Cell 16:S181 S189
  • "The molecular genetics of crop domestication", Doebley JF, Gaut BS and Smith BD 2006, Cell127:1309-1321
  • "Facing your genetic destiny (part I)", Pistoi S. 2002, Scientific American Digital, 18 February 2002
  • "Facing your genetic destiny (part II)", Pistoi S. 2002, Scientific American Digital, 18 February 2002
  • "A genetic melting-pot", Feldman MW, Lewontin RC and King M-C, 2003, Nature 424:374
  • "Off the beaten path: an interview with Spencer Wells", PLoS Genetics 3:e44
  • "A decade of cloning mystique", Cibelli J. 2007, Science 316:990-992
  • "Couples cull embryos to halt heritage of cancer" Harmon A. 2006, The New York Times, 3 September 2006
  • "That wild streak? Maybe it runs in the family", Harmon A. 2006, The New York Times, 15 June 2006

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