Super Humankind: An Exploration of Human Diversity
What Anthropological Genetics Can Teach Us About Human Biological Variation
Superheroes like Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and the X-Men spark the imagination: what if we could have superpowers like these heroes? While we may not be able to fly or climb tall buildings without the aid of technology, humans are in fact quite marvelous members of the animal kingdom. In this course, we will take an anthropological genetics lens to human variation to explore what makes humans so unique.
In this course, students will:
- Learn basic genetics concepts and what they tell scientists about human similarity and difference
- Extract and analyze their own DNA (Note: this activity is optional; if a student opts to not extract their own DNA, another sample can be provided to them or they may just observe)
- Explore human evolutionary history (ancient DNA!) and how humans are able to thrive all around the world
- Consider the ethical implications of human genetics research, including the effects of medical racism and biological determinism
By the end of this course, students will have a more nuanced understanding of human biology and genetic diversity. They will expand their knowledge of the sciences of human genetics, anthropology, and biology, preparing them for college courses on these topics. This course will touch on the many applications of human genetics research, as well as the professions students interested in this field can pursue. Future pre-med students will find this course useful for understanding the real-world implications of human genetics research, both beneficial and harmful. This course encourages students to think critically about human similarities and differences, and to apply what they’ve learned about human genetics to real-world problems.
- Dr. Deborah Bolnick is an associate professor in the Anthropology Department at UConn. She is an anthropological geneticist and biological anthropologist who explores how sociopolitical forces, historical events, and social inequalities shape human genomic and epigenomic diversity, as well as human biology more broadly. In her research, Dr. Bolnick analyzes DNA from ancient and contemporary peoples, in conjunction with other lines of evidence, to help reconstruct population histories in the Americas.
- Christina Balentine is a PhD candidate in Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior at UT Austin and a researcher in Dr. Bolnick’s lab at UConn. In her research, Christina analyzes DNA from ancient and contemporary individuals, as well as archaeological and historical data to help uncover the social and biotic forces shaping genetic diversity in Indigenous peoples who inhabit extreme environments in the Americas. Before starting her PhD, she worked for several years at science museums, designing and teaching STEM curricula to students around her hometown of Phoenix, AZ.