CB 399: Genetics, Development, and Evolution Spring 2014

Genetics, Development, and Evolution

Nanocourse Director: Dr. Fred Winston
Curriculum Fellow: Emily Gleason, Emily_Gleason@hms.harvard.edu and Abha Ahuja, Abha_Ahuja@hms.harvard.edu


  • Dr. Elena Kramer, Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
  • Dr. Cassandra Extavour, Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
  • Dr. Terence Capellini, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

The principles of evolution provide a powerful framework to probe and understand biological phenomenon. Many approaches in biological and biomedical research rely on an understanding of underlying evolutionary relationships, from using animal models to study human diseases to modeling tumor resistance and running sequence similarity searches such as BLAST. In this course we will discuss some of the basic concepts of evolutionary theory, and introduce a variety of approaches and tools for evolutionary analysis that can be applied to many research questions. Using examples from their own research, lecturers will highlight how an evolutionary context can inform hypotheses and guide experiments addressing basic developmental and genetic pathways. Topics will include reconstructing phylogenetic trees, searching for orthologous genes, detecting patterns of selection, and understanding and interpreting homology, gene lineage evolution, and the evolution of regulatory elements and their function(s) and consequences within selected haplotypes.


First Session: Monday, April 14th, 9 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: TMEC Building, Room 209
Second Session: Friday, April 18th, 10 AM – 12:30 PM
Location: TMEC Building, Room 109


For the second session of the course, we will be holding a ‘grant panel’. Students will consider how they might apply basic evolutionary concepts and techniques to their own research projects or interests. Students will write a 1-page single-spaced proposal (maximum 500 words) describing a project applying some of the concepts and tools discussed in the first session.

 Proposals should contain the following elements:

  • A title
  • A brief introductory paragraph that describes the question you are asking, your hypothesis and introduces the model system you are working with.
  • 2 or 3  specific aims
  • A synopsis of the experiments you plan to conduct to address those aims.

 Proposals should be e-mailed (as either .doc or .docx files) to Emily Gleason (emily_gleason@hms.harvard.edu) no later than 7pm on Wednesday, April 16th. Please DO NOT include your name on your proposal.

 The anonymous proposals will be compiled and e-mailed to the class on Wednesday evening. Please read through your classmates proposals prior to coming to class on Friday. We will discuss the proposals in the second session on Friday and at the end of class we will vote to ‘fund’ one of them. 


DROP DEADLINE: Monday, April 7, 2014