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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

DNA: Decoding the British Legacy

Instructor(s): Jennifer Bonner, Neuroscience

An exploration of the rich and controversial British discovery of DNA with London as our classroom.  From multiple perspectives, we will examine who contributed to this discovery and whether information was ethically sourced.  Biographies, autobiographies, and case studies will guide our explorations of how this history is depicted in public spaces in London and Cambridge. In museums, we will examine whether all perspectives are presented and determine whether controversy is appropriately portrayed.  As we gather in the very places where these scientists worked and lived, we will walk the halls of their universities, eat in their pubs, and visit their graves. In each of these spaces, we will interrogate decisions made over half a century ago and explore their impact on the modern-day legacy.  We will relive their discoveries in the classroom through DNA experimentation and data analysis, with a culminating museum exhibit assignment.  As we confront the uncomfortable British history of eugenics in London, we’ll address how this movement could be emboldened by DNA technology.  Finally, using global ancestry as our model, we will examine the intersection of DNA technologies, identity, and ethics.

Course Offered: