Classroom Discovery Guides
In textbook form, science can often seem fixed and unchanging. But the truth is that science, like life, is constantly changing, with new discoveries opening new paths to understanding human biology and disease — sometimes upending prior knowledge in the process.
These curriculum guides follow a series of talks presented by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and were developed with the goal of demonstrating for students how key fields of science and medicine evolved in the two decades after the human genome was first sequenced.
Each curriculum guide is mapped to the Next Generation Science Standards to help educators integrate the materials in high school biology classrooms. The themes and big ideas discussed in the talks are summarized and identified by timestamps so that users can choose from parts of the discussion that are relevant for their purposes. The talks and associated educational materials may also be useful for freshman or sophomore biology undergraduate classes and community colleges.
Have a question about the guides? Send an email to email@example.com.
Cancers result from a variety of genetic mutations. Our ability to treat cancers effectively relies on developing therapies that are targeted to specific cancers. In this lecture, students will learn how studying the genetic makeup of cancer cells can help scientists develop modern, targeted cancer drugs.
Key terms: cancer, tumor, genome, genomics, gene, chromosome, therapy, chemotherapy, mutation, biopsy, oncology, immunology, DNA sequencing, molecular mechanism
One of the primary goals of genetic research is to treat human disease, but how do we translate our understanding of the genetic basis of human diseases into much-needed therapies? Students will learn about how new tools and approaches in biology and chemistry have led to breakthroughs in the development of medicines in the genomic era, and look ahead to what the future might hold.
Key terms: Drug, medicine, molecule, drug target, protein, cell, tissue, organ, disease, DNA, gene, genome, mutation, model system, pharmacology, therapy (as in disease treatment), antibody, drug safety, efficacy, toxicity, metabolism, excretion, clinical, monogenic, polygenic, attrition, organoid
The ability to precisely edit the genome of a living cell holds enormous potential for accelerating life science research, biotechnology, and treating human disease. Students will learn how gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR have transformed science and medicine, and the ethical questions that have been raised along the way.
Key terms: DNA, RNA, enzyme, mutation, gene, chromosome, variant, genome, nucleotide, base, CRISPR, gene editing, sequence, primer, reverse transcriptase, somatic, germline, embryo, immunity, phage, phenotype, genotype
In 2003, scientists sequenced the first human genome, a process that took 13 years. Now, we can sequence entire human genomes in one or two days. Students will learn how genomic sequencing technologies have revolutionized our understanding of science and the treatment of disease.
Key terms: gene, genome, phenotype, genetics, heredity, codon, amino acid, protein, Mendelian, polygenic, biochemistry, correlation, causation
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities across the globe, and other infectious diseases, from antibiotic-resistant bacteria to malaria to Ebola, impact millions of people every year. Students will learn how scientists develop chemical and genomic tools to fight infectious diseases by working with individual patients and global communities.
Key terms: pathogen, infection, disease, antibiotic, genomics, diagnostics, DNA sequencing, Gram negative, Gram positive, PCR (polymerase chain reaction)
Mental illness has reached epidemic levels in the US, and psychiatric disorders have a major impact on health, socioeconomic status, and human rights around the world. Students will learn about the development of modern psychiatric treatment, and how genetic technologies have given scientists new tools and new hopes for treating psychiatric disease.
Key terms: genetics, genomics, gene, mental illness, schizophrenia, mutation, variant, locus/loci, neurological, neuron, synapse, microglia, sequencing, transcript
Genome sequencing technologies are getting faster and cheaper, fueling a surge in the volume of data produced worldwide every year — and sending engineers and data scientists scrambling to create the infrastructure that can store, share, and analyze it. Students will learn how researchers use computational tools and data science to comb through the massive amounts of genetic data available from modern DNA sequencing tools, and what they can learn from them.
Key terms: gene, genome, variant, mutation, genetic marker, sequence, algorithm, biopsy
The average adult human has 37 trillion cells. Despite centuries of study, we still don’t know how many different cell types there are, their properties in health and disease, and how they work together. The technology to sequence just one individual cell and reconstruct entire organs, like the brain, has revolutionized science. Students will learn about efforts to characterize all of the cells in the human body, and how these efforts are being used to shed light on rare disease, cancer, and COVID-19.
Key terms: Gene, genome, phenotype, genotype, sequencing, gene expression