Debates in Genetics

Department of Genome Sciences
University of Washington
Spring Quarter

Instructional staff

Please click on the links above for email addresses and office locations.

Meeting times and location

Course goals

The overall goal is that each student will learn

Students who complete the course will have the skills to evaluate other controversial topics with a similarly factual, critical approach.

Format and grading

The course will be divided into units, and each unit will take three class periods, as follows:

  1. An introductory lecture/discussion. Assigned reading will be handed out before each unit. These papers must be read before each introductory class.
  2. The formal debate. Each debate will include two teams of two people each. Students will be assigned by lottery to partners and to an affirmative or negative position for the debates.
  3. An open discussion of the various issues raised during the debate.

Class attendance is required, and active participation constitutes an important part of your grade. In addition, each student will be graded on

Details on how the debates will be structured are available here.


Juniors and seniors who have taken any one of the following courses may enroll:

Online discussion

An online discussion board is available via Catalyst here.

Class schedule

Date                Unit Instructor Topic Reading
Mon Mar 28 Antibiotics as growth promoters Noble MacCoss Intro to the debate format and expectations for the class
Demo debate: "Use of antibiotics as growth promoters in agriculture should be prohibited in the US."
Affirmative: Mike MacCoss. Negative: Bill Noble (Ballot)
Wed Mar 30 GMOs Noble Introduction: What genetic modifications are commonly introduced into plants and animals? How is this done? What do the novel genes do? Moellenbeck Huang Paine Stokstad
Mon Apr 4 GMOs Noble Debate 1: "Growing and selling genetically modified organisms for human consumption should be prohibited in the US"
Foege S110 Affirmative: Shima Khalil Manesh, Lisie Thayer; Negative: Kenton Nakamura, Sophia Carbone; Audience: Debaters for Debate #2 (Ballot)
Foege N303 Affirmative: Jen Wright, Nahum Smith; Negative: Julia Olsen, Phuong Nguyen; Audience: Debaters for Debate #3 (Ballot)
Wed Apr 6 GMOs Noble Discussion: What are the main issues that are raised in favor or against genetically modified organisms? What social and political influences are evident? How do these differ in various countries and regions? Why do you think there are such large differences? Carpenter Fiester Lu Maxmen Pollack
Mon Apr 11 Genetic transfer MacCoss Introduction: What is the purpose of nuclear genome transfer? How does it work? Is the procedure effective, and what risks are involved? Craven Tachibana Paull
Wed Apr 13 Genetic transfer MacCoss Debate 2: "Nuclear genome transfer in human oocytes to eliminate mitochondrial DNA variants should be banned in the US."
Foege S110 Affirmative: Shuchi Gaur, Kendra Ferrier; Negative: Crystal Shin, Leo Dudley; Audience: Debaters for Debate #1 (Ballot)
Foege N303 Affirmative: Peter Loeffler, Anna Schorr; Negative: Julia Proctor, Troy Layouni; Audience: Debaters for Debate #3 (Ballot)
Mon Apr 18 Genetic transfer MacCoss Discussion: How much testing of a new technology must be done before it is applied to humans? What are the potential detrimental effects of this procedure? Is nuclear transfer fundamentally different from other IVF procedures?  
Wed Apr 20 Personal genetics Stessman Introduction: How is genomic information determined? What information is accessible to the individual from current platforms? 23andMe HumanOmniExpress HapMap Rosenberg Discussion Optional: 1000 Genomes Standards
Mon Apr 25 Personal genetics Stessman Debate 3: "Genome wide personal genomic information should be released to patients only with collaboration of professional medical experts"
Foege S110 Affirmative: Samantha Ferrell, Ashley Krzeszowski; Negative: Lisie Thayer, Jaclyn Adams; Audience: Debaters for Debate #1 (Ballot)
Foege N303 Affirmative: Leo Dudley, Victoria Kasprzak; Negative: Jihad El-Saadoun, Dylan Moore; Audience: Debaters for Debate #2 (Ballot)
Wed Apr 27 Personal genetics Stessman Discussion: Who should have access to your genomic information? How much professional explanation is needed when people access their own genomic profile?  
Mon May 2 Forensics Turner Introduction: The role of genetics in forensics Aronson Bulman Butler Jeffreys Katsanis
Wed May 4 Forensics Turner Debate 4: "The use of personal genetic information to infer phenotype of a perpetrator of a crime should be prohibited"
Foege S110 Affirmative: Shima Khalil Manesh, Sophia Carbone; Negative: Kenton Nakamura, Jihad El-Saadoun; Audience: Debaters for Debate #5 (Ballot)
Foege N303 Affirmative: Jen Wright, Phuong Nguyen; Negative: Julia Olsen, Nahum Smith; Audience: Debaters for Debate #6 (Ballot)
Mon May 9 Forensics Turner Discussion: Use of genomic information in forensics Cho Claes Gymrek Wallace
Wed May 11 Precision medicine Noble Introduction: What is "precision medicine"? How is precision medicine used to treat patients? What do we know about the genetics of race? Bristow Temple Taylor
Mon May 16 Precision medicine Noble Debate 5: "Self-reported race should be used by physicians for precision medicine treatment of patients"
Foege S110 Affirmative: Shuchi Gaur, Victoria Kasprzak; Negative: Crystal Shin, Kendra Ferrier; Audience: Debaters for Debate #4 (Ballot)
Foege N303 Affirmative: Peter Loeffler, Troy Layouni; Negative: Julia Proctor, Anna Schorr; Audience: Debaters for Debate #6 (Ballot)
Wed May 18 Data sharing MacCoss Introduction Bermuda Principles Shendure Steen
Mon May 23 Precision medicine Noble Discussion: How accurate is self-reported race from a genetics perspective? How important will it be in precision medicine to consider other epidemiological phenomena that also stratify with race (e.g., obesity, low-income, quality-of-care)? What will the fully realized precision medicine treatment team look like (i.e., is a primary care physician enough)? What might the social and political ramifications of precision medicine be?  
Wed May 25 Data sharing MacCoss Debate 6: "All raw data collected using federal funding must be made immediately available to the scientific community as outlined by the Bermuda Principles."
Foege S110 Affirmative: Samantha Ferrell, Jaclyn Adams; Negative: Dylan Moore, Ashley Krzeszowski; Audience: everyone else (Ballot)
Mon May 25
Memorial Day Holiday
Wed Jun 1 Data sharing MacCoss Discussion   Rowen Bell Hyman Kaye Hayden
Fri Jun 10
Annotated bibliography due (Submit here)

Why Debate?

We have chosen the debate format for this course for several reasons.

Resources and planning

Annotated bibliography

Although the debates are collaborative efforts, the annotated bibliography should be your work alone. The bibliography will document the range of scientific articles you used in preparing one of your debates. In addition to simply listing each article, you should make clear how you used the information as evidence to formulate arguments for or against the resolved statement.