Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summer Assignment: Cotton Swab?

Inside Higher Ed reports that the University of California at Berkeley has decided not to assign summer reading to its incoming freshman class and transfer students. Instead, students will be asked to return a cotton swab covered in cells collected from their inner cheeks. Why? It's an introduction to genetic analysis and to the emerging field of personalized medicine. Of course, results will be kept confidential. Throughout the term, students can turn to a website for optional readings—and there will be a lecture delivered by Jasper Rine, a professor of genetics, genomics and development and panel discussions on legal and ethical issues related to the emergence of personalized genomic technologies.

This sounds innovative and interesting, but why not ask students to read The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution of Personalized Medicine by Francis S. Collins or Matt Ridley's Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters?

For those Berkeley freshmen who would like to know more before the fall semester, Dr. Francis Collins—director of the National Institutes of Health—gives a quick overview of where personalized medicine is now.

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