McMaster Experts Explain the Mysteries of DNA to the World in a New Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC

Newswise — HAMILTON, ON, Feb 2, 2018 – The public conversation is loaded with references to DNA through news and drama featuring criminal investigations, home-testing kits that tell us about our health and ancestry, and new advances in science.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It’s the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms, yet many people don’t know much about it at all.

Two McMaster University biochemists are working to put those mysteries to bed through a novel new public course, called DNA Decoded, which is available to everyone.

DNA Decoded is a Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, and was created by McMaster’s Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching.

The institute provides leadership in teaching and learning at McMaster and beyond to strengthen and enrich the university’s reputation as a national and global leader in the field by using innovative, evidence-based approaches.

In the course, biochemists Felicia Vulcu and Caitlin Mullarkey explain what DNA is, how it works, and why it’s so significant, introducing students to the techniques scientists use to analyze our genetic risks, to manipulate DNA, and to develop new treatments for diseases.

The course takes students into a virtual lab to perform their own forensic analysis of DNA samples from a murder scene.

Vulcu is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, and Mullarkey is Assistant Professor of Health Sciences.

DNA Decoded is offered via Coursera, a California-based, education-focused technology company that offers online courses to the more than 30 million users on its platform.

The course uses gamification elements from Labster to stimulate students’ curiosity and facilitate learning.

A trailer for the course is here:

New sessions of the four-week course start every two weeks, beginning Feb  5.

To arrange an interview with the MacPherson Institute’s Arshad Ahmad, please contact him at and 905-525-9140, ext. 22618.

McMaster provides a high-definition broadcast studio that can connect with any television broadcaster around the world. To book an interview please contact:

 Wade Hemsworth Manager, Media Relations McMaster University 905-525-9140, ext. 27988

289-925-8382 (c)

Michelle Donovan Manager,

Media Relations                              

McMaster University                                       

905-525-9140, ext. 22869

905-512-8548 (c)

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