Melinda Pittis-Leitch                                                                                           Return to Biology Menu

BOCES Southern Westchester

Blind Brook High School

Summer 2001







The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy joined forces in 1990 to embark on a long-term project to decipher the overwhelming amount of information contained in our genome.  The Human Genome Project (HGP) is proceeding much faster than previously expected, and can provide invaluable information related to gene and cellular function, pathways of evolution and cell differentiation.  Additionally, knowledge gained from the HGP is already providing new ways to prevent, treat and diagnose disease. 

The HGP is generally mentioned in passing in high school biology classes, despite its importance to the scientific and medical communities.  This is a group research project intended to supplement a genetics or recombinant DNA unit from a high school biology class.  Teachers can choose to use part or all of the topics, or divide up questions as deemed appropriate for your class.  It is important that each student be given specific tasks, and grading should hold both the individual and the groups accountable for their work for whichever evaluation method is chosen.


Evaluation Suggestions

1.      The teacher can create a test from all of the groups’ research.  Students should ultimately be held responsible for all of the information. 

2.      Each group can present during a poster session mini-conference when the research is finished – all members from each group should participate in some way to the final product.

3.      Each group can create links for a common web page, or links from a school web page.

4.      Each group can make a chapter for a book, to be bound and distributed to other younger classes.

5.      The class as a whole can create a newsletter for the school, with each group producing “stories” or articles about their topic of research.

6.      Particular hot topics can be selected and used as the subject for a class debate. 


Group Topics and Suggested Questions


I. What is the Human Genome Project

1.      What are the general goals of the HGP?

2.      Develop a timeline showing the progress and milestones of the project.  Include future dates.

3.      What are some of the ways the information and new knowledge will be shared with others?

4.      Who are the primary players in the HGP? Which groups are the sources of major funding for the project?

5.      How will new information from HGP be used?

6.      Give five examples of how knowledge from HGP can be used in beneficial ways.

7.      What are the biggest current research topics?

8.      How can you access the working draft sequences?

II. Basic Science Behind the Project
  1. Summarize the relationship among cells, chromosomes, genes and DNA
  2. What is the function of DNA in our bodies?
  3. How do the order of bases determine protein function?
  4. Explain the function of single nucleotide polymorphisms.
  5. Which DNA regions in animal genomes cannot be cloned or assembled?
  6. What information can you get from an individual’s karyotype?
  7. Which other organisms have already been sequenced?
  8. What is the difference between heterochromatic and euchromatic DNA?
  9. Genes are what percent of the total genome?
  10. How much DNA is conserved from individual to individual?
  11. How can sequenced information be used?
  12. Differentiate between sequence and length polymorphisms in the genome.
  13. What are BACs and why have they become so useful?
  14. What kind of information can you find in a cloning library?


ELSI: Ethical, Legal and Social Implications
  1. Why is legislation necessary related to genetics privacy?
  2. Describe some ways (and by whom) that genetic information may be misused.
  3. How do current state policies differ from federal policies related to privacy issues?
  4. There are many existing federal anti-discrimination laws.  List several and choose one to explain in detail.
  5. Who should have access to personal genetic information, and for what should it be used?
  6. Who owns and controls genetic information?
  7. What are some of the pros and cons of genetic testing and screening?
  8. CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) is a national DNA databank.  It is currently used for solving crimes.  How do you think this system should be used, and can it conflict with individuals’ fourth amendment rights?
  9. What are some of the considerations in evaluating gene tests? (i.e. test quality, clinical utility and treatment options)
  10. Discuss some of the current problems with gene therapy.


Technological Development
  1. Explain how gel electrophoresis works.
  2. What information do DNA chips provide? (explain sequencing hybridization)
  3. Briefly summarize the steps to sequencing.
  4. Which databases are used to allow people to access the sequencing already completed?
  5. Describe how RFLPs can create a DNA “fingerprint” for an individual.
  6. DNA is frequently used for forensic studies.  How can DNA typing be useful for crime scenes?




This activity aligns well with the following learning standards for New York:

English Language Arts:

Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding

Standard 2: Language for Literary Response and Expression

Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation

Mathematics, Science and Technology:

Standard 2: Information Systems

Standard 4: Science

Standard 5: Technology

Standard 6: Interconnectedness/common themes

Standard 7: Interdisciplinary problem solving

From the New Standards:

S2a: understanding of the cell

S2d: matter, energy and organization in living things

S4d: understanding of technology’s impact

S4e: understanding of science’s impact

S5f: works individually and in teams to collect and share ideas

S6d: acquires information through multiple sources

S7(a-e): all of scientific communication

S8d: demonstrates scientific competence through research