Yep, course starts today. I am happy I did as much as I could before the Spring Break, as primitive camping and offroad driving does not lend itself very well to science. I did read one of my chosen articles for the first week about the definition of a gene from a historical perspective, and was very content with the choice.The article by  Gerstein et al, titled Gene post-ENCODE, is indeed an ideal article to start the discussion of a molecular biology course. How the perception of the concept of gene has changed from the abstract “units” of hereditary information envisioned by Mendel to the code of a biological (and slightly sloppy) operative system! The full text of the article is available free online here.

The other choice was not as satisfying. My idea is to combine classic articles with some newer and even controversial articles, so the classic was one dedicated to the details of meiosis. Meiosis in particular seemed a good topic as in general bio classes we tend to go over the results of meiosis, but not so much of the hows. Roeder’s excellent and detailed article goes really deep…very deep. I gave up reading it after the third page, as I had to read each sentence three times due to the high information density. I am skipping it the first week- maybe later, depending on students’ topic choices. Here is the article, available for free.

Which takes me to a reflection that I hope to discuss with students today: scientific communication. I hope this newer generation of scientists realize how important is to be able to communicate science effectively, across disciplines and even to the lay public. While there is a place for condensed scientific writing only understandable for the initiated ones, the times have a’changed, and scientists need to become better communicators and educators. And here is a long but worth to listen reflection on the matter: Professor Vincent Racaniello’s acceptance speech of the Peter Wildy Prize for Microbiology Education.

He talks among other things about social media. I visited my Twitter feed yesterday and one of the scientist I follow was tweeting about genetic Cell reviews, great each and every of them, and one caught my eye: a review of epigenetics. The article is available here, and I decided to bring it to class today for discussion, as it seems the perfect complement for the gene article.So far so good! Looking forward today 🙂