BIOSCI202

GENETICS

Course Breakdown

 

Module quizzes: 10% 

Mid-Semester Test: 30%

Laboratory Component: 25%

Exam: 35%

 

To pass this course, you must pass the theory (attain 47% of available theory marks (75%)). 

Course Information

 

Recommended textbooks:

1) An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (11th ed) - Griffiths et al.

 

2) Genetics: A Conceptual Approach (6th ed) - Pierce and Freeman 

Many copies of these books are held in the Kate Edger Information Commons (KEIC).


Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

BIOSCI 202 was held three times a week at 8am smack bang in the middle of the winter season, however, thankfully all lectures were video-recorded and uploaded onto Canvas.

 

The great news about BIOSCI 202 is that like your other stage 1 BIOSCI papers, the content you are taught in the first two blocks during the first half of the semester are not re-examined during the final exam, meaning you will have a 30% Mid-Semester Test and a 35% Exam. 

 

This paper does have quite a reputation as being one of the harder stage II BIOSCI paper and in my personal opinion, it is mainly because this is probably the first BIOSCI paper you encounter where pure rote memorisation of content will no longer guarantee you good marks even if you can reproduce the lecture slide notes perfectly. Although we were allowed a double-sided A4 cheat sheet for the final exam, there won’t be much point to it if you don’t understand the genetic concepts that the questions are examining you on. The lecturers WILL emphasise in their lectures that they will examine you on particular genetics problems and you MUST practice these to become confident in the test and exam. For those who are good with mathematical problems, the problems sections should come easier to you, but I will emphasise this again: simply rote learning the slides will do you no good if you do not understand the underlying genetic concept behind it. 

 

Also, it helps to think critically about what you are being taught - it can be very easy to fool yourself into thinking that you understand a concept(s) after watching the lecture recordings when in fact, you actually do not and this is what can catch you out during the exam. 

 

Directly emailing lecturers your most pressing questions, practising past exam questions and those given to you in the prescribed textbook (available at Short Loan at KEIC) will serve you immensely well towards getting that much coveted A+.

 

Laboratory Component

In 2020, there were six labs total throughout the course of BIOSCI 202. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no after-lab assessments - so everything, including your experiments and hand-in sheets must be completed within the laboratory session.

 

The first two labs were taken by Dr. Craig Millar, where you will do a microscopy analysis of somatic chromosomes. In the second lab, you will do a tetrad analysis of meiotic chromosomes. These experiments are not difficult to do, and please do ask for help when you need it - he and the demonstrators are very friendly people - but do move at a steady pace as you don't want to find yourself running out of time at the end!

 

In Dr. Austen Ganley’s labs, you will perform a one-step growth experiment and then carry out a deletion mapping analysis. In 2020, these labs had to be completed online due to Auckland being under lockdown at the time, with Dr. Ganley providing us with Zoom tutorials and a series of videos where he talked us through the relevant theory of the lab. The lab assignments were also handed in online, meaning that students got some time to complete the assignment sheets after the lab resources were made available on Canvas. Accounts of his labs from previous years (when they were in-person) note that he will spend some of his lecture time going over the lab content and recommend that you revise them before going into the lab. They also noted time management is vital as there is a lot to do during these two labs - but thankfully the first lab was only necessary for performing the experiments to generate the data you need for analysis, so it’s recommended to take advantage during the first lab in-between waiting times to ask lots of questions! 

 

Professor Russell Snell and Dr. Anna Santure led the last two labs on plasmid DNA preparation and restriction enzyme mapping, respectively. While the fifth lab had to be held online due to the ongoing lockdown conditions, the last lab could be done in-person with restrictions having eased by then. Like Dr. Ganley’s labs, a Zoom tutorial and videos explaining the theory were provided to us for Professor Snell’s lab and the assignment sheets were to be completed online. But for Dr. Santure’s lab, students were given the choice between attending the lab in-person and handing in a hard copy of the assignment sheet at the end or completing the lab and handing in the assignment sheet online. From my memory, most people did well in Professor Snell’s lab, but markers noted that there was a lot of confusion among students in labelling the gel electrophoresis photograph - so make sure to ask lots of questions in the lab or on Piazza if you are confused about anything. 

 

Lecture Content

1. Organisation & Genomic Structure 

Dr. Craig Millar, who is a top bloke and also your course director kicked off BIOSCI 202 with a 9 lecture + introductory block which included content on:

  • Chromosomal structure

  • Genomic sequence organisation

  • The concept of the gene, meiosis and linkage

  • Recombination & chromosome mapping

  • Tetrad analysis & crossing over (links to the first two labs) 

  • Mapping human chromosomes 

  • Chromosomal mutations

  • Sex determination & sex-linked characteristics

 

​His content and lecturing style is much like what you have already encountered in BIOSCI 101: very clear, thorough descriptions of exactly what you need to know and how to go about approaching the genetics problems which, as mentioned above, (and he will state this during his lectures to do pay attention) WILL be tested in the mid-semester test, worth a whopping 30%. His slides, as well as the slides given out by all the other lecturers in this course like first year also contain extremely good notes to study from.

 

2. Gene expression & Mutation 

Dr. Austen Ganley took over from Dr. Millar with his block of nine lectures, covering the following content:

  • Variation in genotype & phenotype

  • Regulation of gene expression in bacteria (links to lab 3) 

  • Regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes

  • Mutations and their effects

  • Transposable elements (links to lab 4) 

 

Dr. Ganley is a fantastic lecturer and from my memory, the content he introduces is mostly straightforward as he provides all the information that you need to know on his slides. But if you find that you do not understand something, don’t hesitate to approach him and ask! 

 

At the end of their modules, Dr. Millar and Dr. Ganley also provided us with practice genetic questions that test your understanding of each of the modules - these were quite helpful in revising for the mid-semester test, so make use of them! 

 

3. DNA Technology

Dr. Suzanne Reid, your lovely course coordinator, taught this section in 2020. Consisting of 8 lectures, her module included the topics: 

  • Technologies of DNA sequencing 

  • Finding mutations 

  • Gene cloning and plasmid vectors (links to lab 5/6) 

  • Expressing recombinant proteins 

  • Library construction, screening and gene synthesis

  • Discovering DNA markers 

  • Gene transfer & genome editing

  • Animal models of human disease 

 

Her content moved away from the emphasis of learning about the molecular side of genetics which Dr. Millar and Dr. Lear taught you and more towards a focus on how genetics can be used and manipulated in the industry to achieve a variety of aims. Personally, I found her content to be quite difficult to understand at times because most of the DNA technologies introduced were very new to me, and I was only able to achieve a better understanding through peer collaboration - so working with your fellow classmates is highly recommended here should you find yourself stuck.  

 

4. Population Genetics & Phylogenetics 

Dr. Anna Santure taught this final block of lectures for BIOSCI 202. She is an extremely friendly, approachable and passionate lecturer and like all the other lecturers in this course has extremely well-detailed lecture slides. Another nice thing about her lecture series was that she gave a summary of the content in her previous lecture in each new lecture, which was a good chance to see if you had any confusions about that lecture and ask her questions. Her content (8 lectures) covered the following:

  • Population genetics 

  • Quantitative genetics 

  • Linkage & association mapping

  • The theory of neutral evolution 

  • Phylogenetics 

  • Evolution of traits 


As you can probably tell, Dr. Santure's focus is more on the genetics of populations and evolution. From my experience, I found her section to be the most conceptually difficult of the four, with very new population genetic concepts where I found myself spending a lot of time trying to understand through reading the recommended textbooks and online resources. But being a very friendly and approachable lecturer, her emailed or in-person answer replies to student questions are extremely detailed and thorough, so don't be afraid to get in touch should you encounter difficulty in your content. Calculations are also required for her questions but they will be nothing more than high school arithmetic. It would be a good idea to bring your calculator along to her lectures so you can follow along as she explains the steps during lectures.