Genetics for Social Scientists

Genetics and Social Science: Expanding Transdisciplinary Research, from the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics, with support from NIH, is an online course dedicated to helping social and behavioral scientists learn about genetics so that they can engage in interdisciplinary research with geneticists.

Many researchers focus on either nature or nurture in their investigations, but this site promotes collaboration between social and behavioral scientists and geneticists in the study of how genes and environmental factors interact to produce outcomes. For example, some cancers result from environmental factors, such as radiation, damaging our genetic material. And in a small proportion of people, obesity is the result of the body failing to produce enough of a hormone that lets us know when we’re full after eating—but that specific genetic condition doesn’t account for most cases of obesity. As such, it is important to study both the genetic and the social and behavioral aspects of a condition in order to get the full picture.

The course is set up as a series of case studies under the “Research in Action” link, which can be followed in order or stand-alone. It also allows you to choose what to read about by topics such as gene-environment interaction, clinical and population issues, and variation.

It also has a glossary, some resources for faculty looking to include genetics as a topic in their social and behavioral science courses, and information on networking and collaboration.

<submitted by Vicki Burchfield>

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