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6-week course

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Molecular Evolution: Tracing genetic footprints through time

This Pod will meet once per week for 6 weeks, starting on July 17, 2024 at 7:00pm EDT/4:00pm PDT, with the last session being Wednesday August 21, 2024.

By enrolling you confirm this time works for you.

Date and time

Wednesday, 7:00pm EDT/4:00pm PDT

Group size

3-6 students


A published article or report in a pre-print research archive.



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Cornell University PhD in Genetics

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Molecular Evolution: Tracing genetic footprints through time

The field of evolution has come a long way since Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in part, due to breakthrough advancements in genetics. With tools to study evolution on the molecular scale (e.g., DNA, genes, and allele frequencies), we are able to understand adaptive traits on a new level. This Pod will cover the basics of molecular evolution, as well as more advanced topics in population genetics and phylogenetics, and touch on how our understanding of genetics and evolution has implications in other fields, such as the social sciences.



Cornell University PhD

I am a PhD candidate in genetics with research roots in ecology and environment science. I love exploring the interconnectedness of the world, both biological and philosophical, and believe approaching questions through different lenses makes for fascinating answers and incredible stories. I grew up in the lower Hudson Valley of New York where I had two irreplaceable high school teachers, inspiring me to be an educator. There, I was lucky to be able to jump start my research journey and compete in science fairs across the country. I then graduated from Haverford College where I rounded out my liberal arts education with time enjoying the outdoors working at the college arboretum and playing varsity softball. My time culminated in two theses involving research on a developmental gene in the C. elegans model organism and research on Aristotle's ideas of teleology. I have since settled at Cornell where I am growing my passion for education and outreach. Here, I am researching the evolution of fruit fly genes through its interaction with an intracellular bacterium.

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Molecular Evolution: Tracing genetic footprints through time

Week by week curriculum

Week 1

Foundations of genetics and evolution - A crash course on DNA, genes, adaptation, and evolution to understand the fundamental terms and concepts in molecular evolution.

Week 2

Mechanisms of molecular evolution - We will cover how genes can change, how gene expression can change, and how entirely new genes can arise.

Week 3

Population genetics - A critical subfield in evolution, population genetics address questions on how new mutations spread in biological populations, how populations are genetically structured, and how new species can arise.

Week 4

Identifying molecular evolution - We will learn how scientists today use genetic, computational, and statistical tools to identify genes that are under selection and traits that have adaptively evolved.

Week 5

Case studies of adaptation - We will take a deep dive with a few pivotal examples of adaptation, looking at both the molecular side and the phenotypic side of the adaptation. Examples will include adaptations seen across the spectra of life, including modern humans.

Week 6

What molecular evolution can teach us - It can be interesting in and of itself to study the evolutionary paths of certain traits and organisms, but how has the study of genetics and evolution impacted aspects of our societies? Here, we will discuss broader implications of what we have learned from the field, touching on topics in medicine and race.