Biology Students Wrestle with Thorny Issues for Genomics Project

Students enrolled in Genomics (BIO428W) this spring, a Core Capstone offered through the Biology Department, confronted some of the complex ethical, legal, and social issues in the discipline as they worked on projects to create educational media productions.

genomicsWhat is Genomics?

Genomics is the study of genomes, the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism. A person’s genetic information is very special when compared to other kinds of medical information. There are a number of reasons for the exceptional nature of genetic information. For example, DNA is shared between family members. Genetic conditions and predispositions are issues affecting families, not just individuals; thus, a diagnosis in one individual has implications for the genetic status of that individual’s family members. In some cases, some members of a family may not wish to know their status with regard to a condition or predisposition, and so individuals undergoing genetic testing have a responsibility to consider the implications of discovering their own genetic status on other family members. When discovering one’s own genetic status may mean inadvertently discovering the status of family members, how should we balance the rights of individuals to know, or to not know, their genetic status?

Questions and Implications

Genetic testing may impact the ability of an individual to gain employment or life insurance. How do we mitigate the potential for discrimination based on genetic status? How should we use information from genetic testing in family planning decisions? What boundaries should we set in terms of how genetic information is used? These are just some of the many ethical, legal, and social implications associated with genetics and genomics.

Our Genomics Educational Media Projects

As individuals and as a society, we must carefully consider such ethical, legal, and social implications of genomics. Students in Dr. Cameron’s Genomics course collaborated in groups to research and understand a specific topic of their choice regarding the ethical, legal, or social implications of genomics and then to create an educational media production to teach their classmates and the wider community about their chosen topic.

Genomes Beyond the Grave (Podcast)
Tackling the use of unclaimed bodies in Genomics research
Ben Antill, Ali Messinger, & Alyssa Stillman



Gender and Ethnic Disparities within Genomics (Children’s Audiobook)
What Makes us Different (also available in powerpoint)
Aly Bilyk, Kate Hunt, & Annalise Koup


The Link Between Implicit Bias, Racism, and Genomic Research
(TED-like Talk)
Rosie Cuomo, Bailey Delp, and Nate Raffier


Disease Predispositions (Documentary)
How and When to Give Genetic Information to Individuals At Risk
Sophie Lear, Jill Verrelle, & Logan Yoquinto



Sprinter Genes, Blonde Hair, and Cancer: Do You Really Want to Know Your Kid’s Future (Podcast)
Inequities in Genomics Research: Episode 1
Sydney Bowman, Alex Klemmer, Ken Sprankle, & Andrew Vogelei